As long we still say there are ‘boy jobs’ and ‘girl jobs’, we'll never reach gender equality

Theresa and Philip May outside Number 10 [Photo: PA]

In an interview on The One Show , Theresa May and her husband Philip said that there are “boy jobs and girl jobs” when it comes to chores in the home.

When asked how difficult it is to win a negotiation with his wife, Philip joked that “I get to decide when I take the bins out, not whether I take the bins out” to which Theresa chipped in “there’s girl jobs and boy jobs, you see”.

It’s a strange thing to hear from Theresa. Considering she’s in a role that was held solely by men until 1979, if she truly believes we should stick to our traditional “boy jobs and girl jobs”, she wouldn’t be in office at all.

And more so, it’s depressing. While so many of us fight to be able to break out of the traditional roles assigned to us – women to housework and men to the workplace – having the Prime Minister and her husband warmly chuckling about retaining the status quo on national television feels like being transported back forty years.

Philip said taking out the bins was a ‘boy’s job’ [Photo: PA]

And what “boy jobs” and “girl jobs” in the home are Theresa and Philip referring to, exactly?

Philip mentions that “the taking of the bins out” is a “traditional boy’s job” twice – mentioning Theresa’s excellent cookery skills on the flip side – but fails to give any example of another household chore traditionally carried out by men.

Oh, because there aren’t any.

Since the 20th century, a women’s traditional role has included cooking, sewing, laundry, cleaning, dusting, ironing, childcare, tidying, bed-making, grocery shopping, sweeping, mopping – you get the picture.

And a man? Getting up, doing a full day of work, then coming home and starting the process all over again.

In which case it’s impossible that the Mays are upholding traditional values down to the finest detail – Theresa is in work, after all, and as Philip says, “if you’re the kind of man who expects his tea to be on the table at six o’clock then you are going to be disappointed”.

A Bristol housewife hangs up washing in 1954 [Photo: PA]

So why are they promoting them? Being endearingly traditional may seem harmless, but women and men today already have tradition pulling us one way and reality the other, which hypocrisy like this worsens.

We may have careers, but women are still doing 10 more hours of housework a week than men. Men may now have shared parental leave, but only 1% are taking it up.

And more often than not, it all stems back to what we think is expected of us. A man might not take up shared parental leave for fear of being judged by his colleagues as a women might do more of the cleaning as it’s what she was brought up believing to be – consciously or unconsciously – her responsibility.

If you’re happy with your gender role as tradition decides it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But for the sake of others being able to choose, even passing comments like the Mays’ should be held to account.

Breaking the mould isn’t easy, so being told that there are “boy jobs and girl jobs” by someone doing the most “traditional boy job” of all – a world leader – puts those of us daring to try firmly back in our places.

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