An analysis on whether women’s relationship status shape their attitude towards housework in the UK

RTB DISSERTATION SUMMARY BY GRACE LANLOKUN

I was first introduced to the Sociology of Housework in my first year of my Sociology degree and I was fascinated that something that is done daily, could be studied and reveal so much about the society that we live in. This falls under the umbrella of Sociology of the Everyday Life. Studying the everyday is an integral part in understanding the daily routines that we all partake in. The Sociology of Everyday Life is seen as a new perspective in Sociology that proposes the idea that the everyday can be viewed as complex though it is experienced daily, and it is seen to be ‘seemingly unimportant’. Another quote that highlights why everyday life has to be studied is ‘making the ordinary strange’.

This quote perfectly depicts the core essence of the Sociology of Everyday Life, focusing on the things that we do repeatedly and making it ‘strange’ through the process of it being analysed, in this case that was housework. The everyday remains the same regardless of what happens in society. An example for this is the fact that there has been the global pandemic going on however, things such as housework still have to be completed. There would be an increased amount of housework being performed as everyone has been on lockdown.

Housework is often an area that is overlooked and seen to be something that is a woman’s job. Research has shown that in relationships it is still the female counterpart that does majority of the housework. Once I had become aware of this information, I wanted to delve deeper into how the women who are performing the housework feel towards it and whether their relationship status has an impact on their views.

A major contributor to the Sociology of Housework was Ann Oakley a sociologist who for her PhD in 1974 studied attitudes that housewives had towards domestic labour. Her study intended to show that housework was not just a task that women had to do to maintain the home however, it is a job. To emphasise this, a study that was conducted on women’s domestic labour highlighted that if married women who do housework were paid, the household income would increase by 60%. This shows the importance housework is that it even holds economical value. Ann Oakley’s study showed that most of the housewives that she interviewed were dissatisfied with their domestic labour, deeming it to monotonous. This study was conducted over forty years ago, so I wanted to investigate how the modern woman feels towards housework but, I wanted to see whether their relationship status had an effect on their views; something that previously had not
been researched yet!

I interviewed 14 women that had various relationship statuses: two single, two cohabitating, seven married (one of these women had remarried), one engaged and two in a relationship and in between homes. The research found that relationship status does indeed have an effect on women’s attitudes towards housework. This was as the single ladies that were interviewed had the range to treat housework the way that they wished to because they did not have anyone relying on them and it was their own space. For the women that were cohabiting it did have an impact on their attitude towards housework as they had families and partners relaying on them to maintain the home – similar to married women.

Overall, my research demonstrated that the division of labour in the home is still gendered. The expectant roles of men and women has a big part to play in what is done. The themes showed that traditional gender roles exist and are being are active. Housework is still something that is regarded to be a “woman’s thing”, and a part of a woman’s essence. Even though women have entered the workforce, housework remains a chain that they cannot break free from. This research has shown that in this new era women are seen as the housewives they used to be. In order to truly liberate women and give them the freedom to be who they want to be in the home, people must be aware of this and a change must be made.

As housework should not be a “woman’s thing” but housework should be the literal meaning. Work that is done to maintain a house by all members of a household.

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