tl;dr version: Your Humble Narrator is a sexist pig apologist for the old school heteronormative stultifying patriarchal system, hates women, resents his spouse and would leave his kids with the dogcatcher at the slightest excuse.
More after the jump....
If you don't want to watch it, the essence is that @MTomasson is breaking down the myth of 50/50 sharing of workload between two professional spouses and pointing out that it is really a 75%/75% breakdown of effort and labor. In essence, each spouse thinks that they are doing about 75% of the shared tasks. He then goes on, critically, to describe why this is the case. It is because each spouse has their own ideas about what the shared tasks consist of and these sets do not entirely overlap. Even more critically, he points out that spouses not only find some of the important things on their partner's list to be irrelevant but they think they are actively detrimental to the partnership, the shared workload and should be shed.
In this clumsy Venn representation, I've depicted Happy Unicorn Fairy Land in which there is tremendous overlap in the things that the red and blue spouses find important in their partnership. They both contribute to a majority of the stuff on their own priority list and, since this happens to overlap with the spouse's list, equal effort approximates an equal perception of contribution from red to blue and from blue to red. Good, right? For the little bit that is left, we just ignore that under cover of "it's a partnership" or "there's going to be some variability" or some such. Mature people, are we.
Naturally, in the real world, the spousal overlap is rarely so good. Or at least inconsistently so good. In this less overlapping depiction, imagine that the red spouse is doing all of their own red stuff and as much as half of blue's blue stuff (at times). The blue spouse is happy because the partner spouse is trying to reach 50/50, and hitting about 30/70, on those things that are important to blue. Good effort red! And from the perspective of the red spouse, likewise blue is coming through. But gee....there is still an awful lot of stuff on red's list that blue ignores. And a great deal of highly important stuff on blue's list that red never seems to get around to helping with. Grrrrrr. And here red is doing half of blue's stuff and all of red's stuff but somehow blue is only doing 25%...maybe 15% really, of red's stuff and....GRRRRRRRRR.
ProfLikeSubstance had the same reaction that I did, i.e., that @MTomasson's points on this issue were some of the most important things to emerge from 80 minutes of discussion.
@DrLabRatOry heated things up on the Twitts, which is where we find the title equation for this post:
— Jeramia Ory (@DrLabRatOry) August 14, 2013
Ahh, yes. Those of us with a certain theoretically 50/50, sex-equality shared labors approach to the life-partnership are fond of pointing and sneering at some man, usually it is the man, who is not pulling his fair share on the domestic front (it's always the domestic front). Not doing enough childcare, not scrubbing the toilet enough, not dusting the blinds. No idea what grade his kids are in, nevermind that Johnny is failing math. ThatGuy.
It is easy to ignore the fact that we cannot determine from the outside what partnership arrangement the two people have struck. There are, I am here to tell you, ALL kinds. Some happy, some unhappy and some just getting by. Within all sorts of Venn structures that you might care to draw. Maybe, as here, the red spouse's list of what is important to do AT ALL, shared or unshared, is a lot smaller. This harkens back to @MTomasson's point in the video that he thinks some of his partner's items on the need-to-do list are really on the we-shouldn't-do list.
Where it gets fun is that even within the partnership, one spouse may be unhappy with the fact that the other spouse has a smaller list of shared obligations. In any one particular arena or across the entire spectrum of things the pair of them do from day to day.
You may have noticed something fascinating by this point in the story. The issue was raised by a man. A man, me, chimed in that this was the critical part of the entire show.
— Drug Monkey (@drugmonkeyblog) August 14, 2013
Another man did the same. I'm pretty sure the Tweep mentioning 30%ers above is a man.
I have yet to hear much about this comment from any woman.
This is no accident whatsoever. It is because many of us men in science who start from the theoretical 50/50 partnership perspective have arrived at this understanding the hard way. It is unclear to what degree our spouses have had to learn the same lessons. And it is where we stand to make the most progress in understanding one another. I offer my remarks from my usual position of heteronormative bigotry and approximately mean USian acculturation. Yes, I'm sure there are all sorts of exceptions. But still.
Notice that @MTomasson was apologetic about his "prattling" on this topic and in the end felt obligated to offer up his own ratio of 65-70% against a definitive 75% for his partner. Notice that when these matters of equal spousal participation come up it is invariably in the realm of housekeeping and childcare. Invariably.
Professional women, particularly those in academia exist in a world of martyrdom in which they are put upon, make all the sacrifices, do all the work, keep shit together and fail to obtain equal help from all but the most astonishingly amazing male spouse. This popular meme is not as true as you all #scimoms think and your unthinking adherence to it is detrimental to your respective partnerships.
I'll wait while you clean your keyboard.
Now the meme is indeed true. For very good reasons, of course. From many perspectives the dominant reality is of oppressed women in professional lives who are still expected to hold down a June Cleaver style household while Ward shows up at 6pm to tut-tut at the Beav over some minutia. But there are other perspectives that are equally valid. This, btw, is why 75% and 75% can, and do, sum to 30%. We are in the land of spousal partnerships which is a very BizarroLand indeed.
We can start with a comment from InBabyAttachMode who wrote:
For me, having a baby was an entirely different desire than wanting to be a kick-ass scientist (preferable in academia). I know I would be very sad if I would be forced to leave science because I cannot work hard enough/publish enough papers/get enough grants, but I would have been heartbroken if I didn’t have kids. So for me it’s not kids or career, it’s kids and then see how far I can get in my career.
Not uncommon prioritization, I would say. Many who have it, of course, do reach the "heartbroken" stage for many reasons- infertility, unavailability of appropriate spouse, accidents of life and career, too-late realization of this fact. But what if one spouse has an entirely different approach? What if he could take or leave kids...or actively doesn't want them. Suppose this is a labor he takes on for the sake of the partner's happiness? This is typically where the dominant meme of academic women takes over to insist that child bearing is not a choice, exactly. The man derives benefit! And he enjoys the ever loving fuck out of his kids now, so that proves he always wanted them all along! Aha, shared-task. Not a one-spouse priority, this now goes in the "we" box. Dusts hands.
Except it doesn't.
You can use this belief to sneer at Prof Smith across the hall for his lack of participation in his family all you want. You can use it to feel put-upon in your relationship. You can use your cabal of local woman professionals to mutually reinforce your whinging. But this may not ultimately be as healthy as recognizing the Venn diagrams and the shared-labor lists for what they are in the long term.
I'll let you in on a little secret, #scimoms. You know all those "expectations" of family and society that you rail against? The ones having to do with a clean house and offspring and keeping all of the birthday cards arriving on time and what not? Men have this for job and career. I know, you think you do too. A career is a good thing. We work for a living, etc. But there is a difference, particularly for the upper-middle class aspirational types such as dominate our academic circles. A career is a choice for you, it is not an obligation. InBabyAttachMode spelled it out. At some point, somehow, vaguely or explicitly the possibility of not working while someone else pays the bills is in your mind. It is not and never has been in mine, nor in that of many USian men. This is why you hear much less, comparatively, whinging from men about whether their job is fulfilling to them. Women are much more likely to treat their job as a vocation.
I say this not to judge whether one approach or the other is better, by the way. There would be many places in my career so far where I have put up with a lot of unpleasantness due in no small part to this cultural conditioning I labor under. I say it for you to consider whether this lets you understand your spouse any better. I really don't think that many of my closer women friends in this business really get the difference. Just in the exact same way my men friends really do not understand why their wife feels it is her responsibility that their (the mens') mom gets a birthday card. You can sort of understand it intellectually but you do not really feel it.
These are but two hot-button topics for which the confusion of one spouse's choices and preferences for needs and musts leads to unpleasantness.
If I have one bit of general advice in this post it is to rigorously avoid your own tendency to define your own desires, preferences and choices for obligations. This is a particular problem for women in the modern two-career endeavor. It usually pops up in the context of childrearing and housework. But we men have it too. In all areas, we can stand to think about our own Venn arrangements and where we place our own stuff.
Quotidian examples abound. Are you and your spouse in different places on the clutter/clean issue? I suffer from this tremendously. I know a guy who was an absolute nutter for keeping the cars washed, and he did it himself. I pay the $8 at the autowash when I remember to. Do you want the laundry done, if not folded, because at least you can wear wrinkly stuff...or would you rather it sit in the dirty bins because there is this pressure to fold and put away if it is washed? Do you like to sit down to family dinner or do you not give a crap who eats when? Punctuality? Lawn neatly mowed or meh, it can go another week? Flowers or xeroscape? Does that dripping faucet just eat at you, or could you let it go for months?
There's an extra special thing referenced in the Cognitive Daily fun-poll linked below wherein the red spouse sees the blue spouse's messes and vice versa whilst each remain blind to their own messes.
All of these little issues build into the perception that ones own self is doing all the work and one's spouse is barely contributing 30%.
Work and career issues are no different.
Suppose you are a professor at Local State University wherein you are mostly just expected to teach your classes and educate undergraduates. The workload, as in every career, involves choices. You may think you "have" to freshen up your lectures and course materials every semester but your spouse can't possibly understand why you don't just teach it the same as you did last semester. Number of laborious grading assignments....are they really necessary? Kinda convenient you have to lock yourself in "grading jail" every night while I do the dishes, isn't it? Do you really have to start up a new academic specialty or program of focus? Can't someone else do that? Why does our podunk U really need a distinct "neurosciences" major anyway?
In another realm of academia the questions continue. Is it really necessary for you to publish in Nature Neuroscience when J. Neuroscience would be perfectly acceptable? Really? Why? This is why you have never yet seen little Susie score a soccer goal. Sure, I understand you have to write grants to support this new project and postdoc but....you already have two. So why? Is this necessary? or a choice that you made?
The answer to all of these is yes. And no. These are choices made by one spouse, not obligations. But they very rapidly come to feel like obligations to the spouse doing the chosing. And if they are obligations than these are non-optional things in the partnership give and take. I "have" to do this professional chore so you will simply have to shoulder more of something else in the shared-task list.
Turning our choices into obligations in our own mind contributes to the 75+75=30 inequality.
This post is dedicated to ScientistMother.
Dr Isis on 50/50 (see comment from sciwo, especially)
Cognitive Daily Blog: Casual Fridays: Who cleans up after who? And who’s angry about it?
MIKULA, G., RIEDERER, B., and BODI, O. (2011). Perceived justice in the division of domestic labor: Actor and partner effects. Personal Relationships DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-6811.2011.01385.x, via this.