“Women Work While Men Socialise”: My Thoughts on Stats SA’s findings

This is the title of a recent article by the Mail & Guardian, following a release of data gathered by Statistics SA in 2010. I’m not sure why this particular batch of data has got me so riled up but it has. I’m SO cross. Mad. Spitting.

What’s even worse is this article by The Cape Times titled “Cape Women lousy at housework” which leads with this particularly intelligent rhyming statement: “If you want a tidy house for the rest of your life, never make a Western Cape women your wife”. I mean, seriously? I can’t believe a “journalist” looked at all the valuable data that came out of Stats SA’s findings and decided THAT was the angle they were going for.

They could have written about the fact that irrespective of whether men are formally employed or not, they still do less work around the house. Or that women who do work spend TWICE as much time as men doing work outside the office, such as housework. This means that these incredibly hardworking women not only earn a living for their families all day but then return home to just carry on working, often into the night.

If they’re working twice as hard as men outside the office, what are the men doing? Socialising apparently. I’m not sure if these are concrete findings but the article suggests that they are “watching television, chatting to friends and doing other social and cultural activities”.

What is wrong with our society? So, so much. Not only are our women exhausted, overworked and supporting their families, but they’re also victims of abuse, rape and domestic violence. When I look around me in South Africa, I kind of wish I’d only had sons. I worry for my daughter. She’s been born into a patriarchal society where men rule the roost, no matter how little they contribute to their families or society as a whole.

Of course, there are exceptions. My husband helps a lot with childrearing and other domestic duties but in no way is it exactly equal between him and me. It is still assumed that childrearing, cooking and many other jobs are the prerogative of the female, i.e me. Some of this is to do with instinct or skills, some because of our cultural history and some of it is definitely my fault.

I am part of an educated, middle-class group of friends, so why every Friday evening are the men all sitting in the pub and the women taking care of the children at home? If we want to change the status quo (and if we are lucky enough to be able to), we all need to do our part in our own relationships. This means being gentler on ourselves and also ASKING FOR HELP. It means organising time off, whether it’s a night out with friends or simply ordering takeaways for dinner. It means making a concrete plan to delegate some of our responsibilities even if we feel like we can do it all (trust me, we can’t).

If we don’t make some changes, we’re going to get burnout. Feminism may have liberated us, enabling us to have a career, vote for a government and given us many other social and economic rights, but it hasn’t always been our friend. Don’t get me wrong, I would never advocate how it was before, but I do envy the simplicity of the equation. Men earned the money. Women looked after the home. Now all the lines are muddled and smudged and us women are left liberated yes, but also confused and overworked.

And mad about it all, very obviously.

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