Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Gender(ed) “Equality” in the Home: Online Verbalizations of Experiences Dividing Household Labor

Gender(ed) “Equality” in the Home: Online Verbalizations of Experiences Dividing Household Labor

Elizabeth Watson

As more women enter the workforce and discussions of gender equality continue, household task allocation becomes a salient topic for considering how gender influences our daily lives and norms. American culture traditionally considers household labor a feminine activity, but what justifies and enables household labor division today stirs frustration and debate. Drawing from previous literature on language, gender, and online communities, this paper applies an extended qualitative case study approach to two Reddit threads to explore how desires and gender power dynamics of household labor are represented. The website Reddit allows Internet users to publicly share experiences and opinions on household labor by commenting on discussion “threads.” The threads come from widely viewed communities (subreddits), Am I the Asshole (AITA) and Ask Women. Analysis pays attention to how “fair” or “equal” are conceptualized and whether words labeling contributions to the household are gender-based. Both threads reveal predominantly collective, gender-neutral labels like “partnership” as ideals. With AITA inciting judgment of what household labor division should be and Ask Women prompting descriptions of current household labor division, differences include more weakening adverbs used alongside “fair/equal” and a defeated tone of associating “invisible” or “emotional” labor with women’s abilities on Ask Women. These linguistic clues demonstrate that despite explicitly stating awareness of how norms of “feminine” household labor do not suit contemporary social and economic life, Redditors’ perception of “fair” household labor experiences is still partially contingent on gendered expectations for household labor contribution. Men maintain more power to be excused from some obligations, even if they are not excused from gendered views of household labor. The confrontations and dissonance between desires and experiences verbalized on the Reddit threads support previous scholarship on household labor as inherently gendered, despite rising egalitarian values and agendas outside the domestic sphere.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. The study of the subreddit threads is interesting but sadly not surprising that the results confirm gendered division of household labor.

    Comment by Shannon Yee | April 22, 2020 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: