Friday, May 4, 2012

Tedious Tasks

"Girls like doing tedious jobs." This statement, offered by a peer, was the reason why women were drawn to housekeeping, child-rearing, and other womanly pursuits.

As one of three women in the class of twenty, I unsuccessfully tried to bite back a scoff.
Tedious tasks. Really. I shared an eye-roll with my nearest female classmate.

My inner feminist started to offer counterpoints.
"Just because women can stay focused on difficult or mind-numbing tasks for long periods of time, doesn't mean we're best suited for every tedious task."
"We just prefer to use our brains over our muscles."
Fortunately, I am pretty good at censoring out my inner feminist, so none of these reciprocal sexist remarks made it to the open air.

I started to think about my interests. Was this an instance where a sexist remark was based in a kernel of truth?
I enjoy crafts such as latch-hooking, cross-stitching, simple crocheting, sewing and scrapbooking. All involve a need to pay attention to detail.
I enjoy baking, with its precise measurements, and the satisfaction that comes from keeping a clean house. Once more, a need to pay attention to detail is present.
I get joy from sorting my kindle books into their distinct categories, despite the time-consuming nature of this task.
I typed 22 pages of recipes, in order to be able to reduce my number of cookbooks in my house.
Is it possible that I enjoy tedious, meticulous, time-consuming tasks?

Granted, enjoyment from tedious tasks is not a valid reason to restrict the career choices of women, but in economics, there is a concept called comparative advantage. Essentially, people, businesses, and countries should produce what they're best at producing.

In my household, I track the budget, (primarily) do the dishes, make menus, go shopping, fold the laundry, and do general house cleaning. My husband is the one to wash and dry the clothes, because my back makes it hard for me to do that. He works more hours outside of the home, so I work more hours inside the home. He handles interactions with bill companies as necessary and filing for taxes is his domain. He typically takes out the trash, but I'm able and willing to when the trashcan is stinky, full, and he's not home yet. We both drive, but he's typically the one to fill up the vehicles and perform general maintenance as needed. We split the household and work tasks not based on male-female jobs, but based on our strengths and preferences.

So maybe my peer was partially correct. A large amount of tasks that I enjoy to do, do turn out to be tedious in nature, but I'm not necessarily representative of women everywhere. Some women do enjoy tedious tasks, but so do some men. Some men like physical tasks, but so do some women. I like the balance my husband and I struck in our marriage. We play to our strengths, passions, and amount of time at home. This balance would look differently, in different households, with different strengths, preferences, passions, and external time commitments. No one can define a "normal" balance of tasks within a household. So maybe I do prefer tedious tasks, but only because that's where my personal interests are (not because I am a woman).

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