Essay on The Gendered Division of Labour Within the Domestic Sphere

Essay on The Gendered Division of Labour Within the Domestic Sphere

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Sociological study on the gendered division of labour within the domestic sphere has perennially been characterised by evidence of a clear inequality concerning the allocation of unpaid chores within the home between men and women (Warren, 2003:734). While men have traditionally been regarded as primary breadwinners, the management of home-maintenance has remained largely women’s responsibility (Breen & Cooke, 2005:47). A number of theories exist to explain this unequal distribution of domestic labour, in particular the economic exchange model (which argues that women perform domestic duties in ‘exchange’ for financial support from their husbands), and the gender display model, which asserts that household labour is divided on the basis of the symbolic importance of gender (Baxter, 2002:401). While this paper will argue the inherent features of both models, it will also discuss the importance of gender stereotypes in maintaining the unequal distribution of household labour, despite women’s increasing involvement in the workforce. The paper will also demonstrate that the issue of a gendered division of labour holds great significance for sociological study, particularly surrounding issues of power, dominance and authority in the gender regime.

The basic assumption of the economic exchange model as a mechanism for the gendered division of labour is that those who contribute more to the economic worth of a household (traditionally males), contribute less to the mundane household tasks that are routinely required (Brines, 1994:653). Thus, it is argued, women are forced to perform housework in exchange for economic support (Baxter, 2002:403). As recently as the mid-1990s, men were far more likely to be involved in full-time paid em...


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...’s Saying?”: Investigating Domestic Discourse in Young Cohabiting Heterosexual Couples. Gender Issues, 2, 59-77.
West, C. & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing Gender, Gender and Society, 1, 125-151.
Dempsey, K. (1997). Women’s Perception of Fairness and the Persistence of an Unequal Division of Housework. Family Matters, 2(48), 1-11.
Berk, S. (1985). The Gender Factory: The Apportionment of Work in American Households. Plenium Press, New York.
Ritzer, G. & Goodman, D.J. (2004). Sociological Theory, McGraw-Hill, New York
Natalier, K (2003). ‘I’m Not His Wife’: Doing Gender and doing Housework in the Absence of Women. Journal of Sociology, 39(3) 253-269.
Macionis, J.J, & Plummer, K. (2005). Sociology: A Global Introduction, Pearson Education Limited, Harlow
Ritzer, G. (2000). The Blackwell Companion to Major Sociological Theorists, Blackwell Publishing, Massachusetts.

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