MEN, WOMEN AND WORK
Sacks. [March 18, 2003]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] One of the staple feminist claims heard every
during International Women's Day and Women's History Month is that "women
do the work of the world."
This myth was publicized by the United
Nations during the 1970s ("Women constitute one half of the world's population
[and] do two-thirds of the world's work") and reinforced in 1995 with the
release of its "Human Development Report" and the presentation of the report
at the UN International Women's Conference in Beijing.
claim that women do more work than men was reported widely and uncritically
by the US media with headlines such as "It's Official: Women Do Work Harder"
and "A Woman's Work is Never Done."
who does "the work of the world" in a world of over six billion people
is a gargantuan task, but let's begin by asking two questions:
works the most hours (inside or outside the home) in the average family
does the most demanding and dangerous work?
question is much easier to answer than the first, so let's start there. According to the International
Labor Organization, an estimated 1.1 million workers are killed in
industrial accidents each year, exceeding the number killed from war, violence,
road accidents and AIDS.
accidents occur primarily in mining, logging, heavy agricultural labor,
construction, fishing, heavy manufacturing and various other overwhelmingly
male jobs. The ILO estimates that 600,000 lives would be saved every
year if available safety practices were used. The ILO also estimates
that there are approximately 250 million victims of occupational accidents
160 million victims of occupational diseases each year.
The ILO doesn't
keep figures by gender, but in countries where such figures are available
(such as South Africa, England, Australia and Canada), the fatalities and
serious injuries are usually over 90% male.
breakdowns in the US are little different. According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, there were over 125 million workplace injuries in the United
States between 1976 and 1999. Nearly 100,000 American workers died from
job-related injuries over the past decade and a half, 95% of them men.
25 most dangerous jobs listed by the US Department of Labor, all of them
are between 90% and 100% male. According to the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration, more than 3 million workers a year
are treated in hospital emergency rooms for occupational injuries, and
nearly 50 American workers are injured every minute of the 40-hour work
week. On average, every working day 25 workers die, 24 of them male.
is no doubt that the most dangerous and demanding jobs are done by men,
in most if not virtually every society, and that men shoulder the burden
of dangerous labor in the US.
consider the other question: Who works the most hours (inside or outside
the home) in the average family unit worldwide? It's a much harder
question to answer but, as best as can be told, the average man is doing
at least as much as the average woman is.
issues author Warren Farrell explained in his 1999 book Women
Can't Hear What Men Don't Say, the UN report upon which most claims
of "women work more" are based was deeply flawed. In fact, UN official
Terry McKinley admitted in February, 1996 that the UN misrepresented the
study in several important ways. For one, the information provided
by the UN to the press only applied to countries where women were found
to work more hours than men; the countries where men were found to work
more hours than women were deliberately excluded.
when the data provided by researchers in some countries (including the
US) did not fit the UN's intention to show that women "do more," researchers
were asked in a private communication to amend their studies. Researchers
were asked to include women's voluntary community work as well as hobbies
in order to increase women's perceived workload.
not asked to include these items or new ones in men's labor. As a
study of men and women's labor, the UN findings are worthless.
one could possibly do an effective study on how many hours the average
man and woman worked inside and outside the home worldwide, a finding that
women work more hours would not mean that women work "harder" or "more"
because such a study would still not account for the more difficult and
dangerous nature of men's work.
have made similar claims of "women do more" in relation to the division
of labor in the United States. The idea of what Farrell calls the
"second shift woman and the shiftless man" was brought into vogue in large
part by UC Berkeley professor Arlie Hochschild's best-selling 1989 book The
Second Shift. In it she wrote (and the media uncritically repeated)
"women work an extra month of 24 hour days each year."
as Farrell notes, Hochschild arrived at her "women do more" conclusion
through a variety of disreputable gimmicks. For one, she compared
the housework burdens of full-time employed males with those of part-time
employed females, portraying men working 50 hour weeks as lazy and selfish
for not doing as much housework as their wives who were working a 20 hour
Also, she claimed that men did no more housework in the late
1980s than in the pre-feminist era, but, with one minor exception, she
used data on male housework from studies done in the pre-feminist era,
rendering it worthless. In addition, she also defined "housework"
to include chores usually done by women, ignoring many of the household
tasks generally performed by men.
objective, scientifically credible studies have shown that American women
are not working more or harder than men. For example, the UN's survey
on the United States showed that American men work three more hours a week
on average than American women.
Journal of Economic Literature reports that the average man works five
hours more, and a study released last year by the University
of Michigan Institute for Social Research, the world's largest academic
survey and research organization, put the disparity at three more male
hours per week.
these surveys (both the serious ones and the feminist advocacy ones) count
only hours worked. A man doing eight hours of dangerous construction
in the 100-degree heat is credited with no more "work" than a woman who
works in an air-conditioned office or who, in the comfort and safety of
her own home (and without a supervisor breathing down her neck), cooks
breakfast, takes the kids to school, packs her husband's lunch and folds
the laundry while chatting on the phone.
as Farrell notes, negative references to men and housework litter our popular
culture. "The Myth of Male Housework: For Women, Toil Looms From
Sun to Sun" was a headline in one major publication, over a cartoon depicting
a woman juggling (and struggling) with a baby, a roasted turkey, and a
house pet, while her husband watches TV and "juggles" his beer and his
Other major publications have highlighted women's alleged
burdens under headlines such as "For Women, Having It All May Mean Doing
It All," and "The Trouble with Men," with one even commenting, "A woman's
work is never done, a man is drunk from sun to sun."
are correct to be concerned about the plight of the women in the underdeveloped
nations of the world. Their error is that they blame men. The
enemy of most of the women of the world is not the man who works hard to
provide for his wife and children, but instead the grinding poverty that
wreaks devastation on everybody: men, women and children.
Copyright © 2003 by Glenn Sacks.
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