There are crumbs all over the counter. The electric stove top is spattered with oil from cooking last night’s dinner. The bins need taking out. The limescale around the sink is starting to build up again…
How about grocery shopping and those other little, little errands that can’t be ignored.
Philosophers have tried to come up with an answer for why men seem to be so undiscerning. They call it “affordance theory”, in which an affordance is defined as a “possibility of action,” according to The Independence.
Writing in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, academics from Cambridge University suggested that people’s perception of affordance in a domestic environment is gendered, with women more likely to see an action being invited, or afforded, than men.
It means that, when a woman looks at a dirty stove top, her thoughts immediately go towards how it can be cleaned, and then she feels the need to complete the task. But when a man looks at a dirty stove top, his thought stops there.
Globally, women take on three times more care and domestic work than men
According to the British Medical Journal, women all around the world take on three times more care and domestic work than men. During the pandemic, despite the fact that everyone spent more time at home due to lockdowns, the “increase and intensity of [care and domestic] work has been far greater for women”.
Because of how gendered domestic work is, women and girls often find themselves struggling to carry most of this invisible labour, on top of full-time work or school.
According to academics from Cambridge University, the “gendered affordance perception hypothesis” is not about absolving men of their slack in the home, and sensitivity to domestic affordances in women should not be equated with a natural affinity for housework.
Dr Tom McClelland, from the university’s Department of History and Philosophy of Science, said: “Men should be encouraged to resist gendered norms by improving their sensitivity to domestic task affordances.
“A man might adopt a resolution to sweep for crumbs every time he waits for the kettle to boil, for example. Not only would this help them to do the tasks they don’t see, it would gradually retrain their perception so they start to see the affordance in the future.”
In essence, men simply have no excuses not to take on their equal share of invisible labour. If more men resolved to think about what they’re seeing in the home, rather than seeing and simply looking away, we could have more equitable domestic lives, more balanced relationships, happier women, and better times for everyone.