Women’s magazines continue to promote domestic work as if it were a gender-specific task. Martha Stewart Living has published special editions devoted entirely to clothes-keeping, with tips on laundering, ironing and properly storing clothes. And the lead cover story of the April issue of Real Simple magazine is headlined, “A cleaner house in less time: 23 breakthrough tools and tips.”

A spokeswoman for Real Simple said the housekeeping article was not aimed exclusively at women.

“We’re pleased to say that every month we receive letters from both women and men, telling us that they find our stories to be useful in their own lives,” said Kris Jones Connell, the magazine’s public relations director. “We hope they’ll pass on any helpful or inspiring articles to others who can benefit from it.”

Yet, Real Simple’s managing editor Carrie Tuhy makes clear in her letter to readers who the magazine believes is its audience.

“For our cover story this month,” Tuhy wrote, “we unleashed half a dozen editors and reporters to scour the cleaning industry and find not just what is new but also what works and what doesn’t, what’s fast but still lasts.

“We shot our cover in suburban Connecticut, at the home of a busy wife and mother of two daughters. But first we washed her sink following the tips of cleaning guru Marla Cilley. The homeowner was amazed. We were amazed,
too–and not just because of the sparkling sink. The photo evoked something that all of us have done at some point in our lives: washed dishes while gazing aimlessly out a window . . . daydreaming about something wonderful. Now, that’s the kind of multitasking I like.”

The publication of Real Simple’s April issue arrived nearly 15 years after sociologist Arlie Hochschild reported on the unequal division of housework among married, working couples in her landmark 1989 book, “The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home.”

In an update to be released in May, Hochschild cites a 2001 study indicating that while men are doing “somewhat more” housework and their wives are doing far less housework than in 1989, a housework “gender gap” still exists.

That gap amounts to 675 hours annually, or 19.9 hours a week.

“Whatever happened to that vision–part-time work, job-sharing, men active in the life of the home–we need that back!” Hochschild said.

— Darryl McGrath.

For more information:

Real Simple magazine:

Arlie Hochschild: