To the Editor:
In her review of Arnie Hochschild’s The Second Shift [Books in Review, November 1989], Charlotte Low Allen does men a great disservice by constraining them to a stereotype of slovenly imbeciles incapable of cooking a good meal or understanding what makes a home attractive. Men have traditionally dominated both the art of cuisine (how many world-class chefs are female?) and that of interior design. Why are men capable—even brilliant—at such tasks in the professional arena but dunderheads when it comes to doing them around the house?
Mrs. Allen’s argument rests on the assumption that not only do women actually enjoy housework, they in fact have been born with some gene which gives them, and them alone, the “hand and heart to make a house a home.” Not all women are gifted at homemaking, any more than all men are domestic imbeciles. Furthermore, asking a man to share in housework does not require forcing him to “learn to love scrubbing the tub”—women certainly don’t. It simply requests of him that he sigh, as women have done for hundreds of years, and plunge his hands into the muck of a job he doesn’t particularly like because it is one of the responsibilities that comes along with maintaining the home in which he has the luxury to live. Mrs. Hochschild’s agenda is not, as Mrs. Allen claims, “to force men . . . to do the housework of women.” It is to ask men to take a portion of responsibility for the housework of a home.
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