It is true to say that often through out time, in various circumstances and situations, individuals have been discriminated based on their gender. We would think that after numerous years of battle for equality, we would have reached the point where the role of men and women at home merged and the different responsibilities shared. Although there is no generally accepted way of measuring inequality between husbands and wives, different researchers have measured it in different ways. However, most find little evidence that inequality in marriage has been significantly reduced.
Willmott and Young used the word ‘symmetry’ to describe the duties of husbands and wives as the idea of symmetry describes a ‘sense of balance’ between the tasks which are carried out. They believe that women took the major responsibilities of domestic labour and child care, men are spending an equal amount of time on home centred activities. Relationships of this type are known as joint conjugal roles whereby tasks are shared.
However Willmott and Young have been severely critisized on their assumptions being based on ‘typical, metropolitan white families’ over looking family diversity present in society. The term ‘symmetry’ does not represent the idea of equality it is intended to. Evidence illustrates the diversity of modern family structure and so the idea of any family being typical in not very realistic. Apparently their sociology same about from a very ‘male stream sociology’ so a woman who worked outside the house is believed, is still responsible for the home. There is some support for their work where Gershuny, who studied the amount of time spent by couples on domestic labour found that the ‘proportion of housework performed by husbands has increased as wives have taken on paid employment’. Combining work and family is an important issue not only because it concerns a great part of the population and because it is one of the key issues of equality. It is also a big problem in the everyday lives of people, because both women and men may have full time jobs.
Edgell examined the decision making between husbands and wives and found that women tended to dominate in choices made on the basis of domestic spending and children’s necessities where as men in areas that were considered more important such as moving homes and finance in general. The study of money management carried out by Pahl illustrated that just over a quarter of the couples in her study had this system in which there was a fair degree of equality. According to Duncombe and Marsden many women in their study expressed dissatisfaction with their partner;s emotional input into the family and most men did not acknowledg that emotion work needed to be done and it again, shows the responsibility placement on women.
Concluding evidence on the inequality within family life as suggested by a study by Dunne shows that women are still a long way from achieving equality within marriage. Her enquiry into lesbian households showed that an equitable domestic division of labour can be achieved however it is harder when in a culture that differentiates so clearly between masculinity and femininity stereotypes.
Traditional roles that were once adapted to suit the changes from extended families to nuclear have survived into our own century and as much as some of us would like to see the developments of equality, this will be a slow process. Working life sets conditions on people’s use of time far beyond the workplace and the working hours. We know that integrating these two parts of life is one of the greatest challenges parents face in their everyday life. The daily schedule of any family with children is probably among the toughest.
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