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Today’s personal account of trying to engender equality comes from Lev R.

In a previous post on The Power of Humility the linked video of Sheryl Sandberg includes the following statistic: “If a woman and a man work full time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of housework the man does, and the woman does three times the amount of child care the man does.

So she’s got three jobs or two jobs and he’s got one. Who do you think drops out when someone needs to be home more?”

This statistic affected me deeply. I thought, “Oh, Negin [my wife] and I are both working; we’re both committed to this idea of equality… But wait — so are most of those couples in the statistic, right? If I look with a detached eye – if I look at our circumstances with justice, might it be the case that Negin is doing 2 or 3 times more housework than I am? And if so, what does that say about the lack of correspondence between my deeds and my words?” 

I shared my concern about this with Negin. I told her that if we were going to have a child, this was not the example I wanted to set – saying that I believed in the equality of women and men, but failing to shoulder my share of the work in the household. So the last two weeks, I’ve increased the acts of service I engage in at the household level, and we’ve also begun to reflect on how we conceive of housework differently.  One way we have advanced in our understanding is realizing that neither of us enjoy cleaning – we both see it as a chore that we’d rather avoid. However, Negin was taught that she had to clean up before she could do other things – a lesson that I somehow avoided. We’ve learned to not see each other through the lens of a false dichotomy: “You’re the clean one, I’m the messy one,” but instead to see that within each of us lies the capacity to engage in acts of service for the progress of our marriage and our household.

So what do you think? How does thinking about the kinds of work that are recognized as work relate to advancing the equality of women and men? What assumptions underlie the popular notion that women are clean and men are dirty? What spiritual capacities are at work here, and how can they be nurtured?

Interested in sharing your experience promoting the equality of women and men? write a post and send it to engenderingequality@gmail.com

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