Gender stereotypes. Women Are Neat.

Gender stereotypes. Women Are Neat.

Marcus rushed home from the airport, hoping to get the computer room organized. This was his quiet place of refuge after a long day, and he considered it his home office. Normally, he knew exactly where everything was, and everything had its own place.

His business journals were stacked on the upper right corner of the desk. The stapler and tape dispenser were neatly aligned just below the journals. A small, framed picture of his family was positioned on the upper left corner of the desk. The top drawer of his desk contained all of his home finance files, including previous tax returns and financial statements. The bottom drawer was filled with clearly marked files that ranged from “Current Projects” to “College Cost Comparisons for Children” to “Consumer Reports.” Normally, when Marcus walked into the computer room, everything was exactly as he left it. But this day was different.

Marcus had been out of town for five days, and his sister had come to visit his wife, Carmen, while he was away. His sister had two teenage daughters who loved to spend hours on MySpace, and Marcus knew they probably ransacked his computer room. Carmen didn’t seem to understand his need to have everything perfectly arranged, and she let her nieces hang out in the computer room while he was away.

When Marcus walked through the front door, he immediately tripped over a backpack. Trying to hide his frustration, he picked up the backpack, set it on a chair, and proceeded to give his wife a hug.

“How was your trip?” Carmen was excited to have him home.

“It was the same as always.”

“Did you get to show them your new ideas for the software updates?” “Yeah. They liked them.” Marcus smiled but seemed a little distracted.

God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.

 – anonymous

“That’s great, honey. Listen, your sister went to the mall with the girls to do some school shopping. Do you want to have some coffee and catch up on what’s been going on?”

“Actually, can we do that later? I would really like to get some things organized in the office and get a couple of things off my plate so I can relax.” Carmen forced a smile and nodded understandingly as Marcus turned toward the computer room.

His steps slowed as he neared the door. His heart started to beat a little faster as he feared what might be behind that door. His hand reached for the doorknob as he drew in a long breath. He held his breath in anticipation as his hand turned the knob and inched the door open. He could no longer stand the suspense, so he thrust the door completely open. The music from Psycho rang in his head as his eyes darted around the room. His worst nightmare was unfolding. The stapler was on the floor. His journals were scattered across the desk. Pens were out of their container. Yellow sticky notes with drawings and smiley faces were plastered to his computer screen. He could feel the veins protruding in his neck!

As Marcus began to put everything back in its place, Carmen entered the room.

“Is everything all right, honey?”

“Yeah it’s fine, Carmen. I just need to get some things done.”

“Okay. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Nope.” Marcus didn’t even look up as he continued to reorganize his office.

Carmen left the room thinking, Typical male. Comes home, goes into his cave, and doesn’t even want to talk.

Unraveling the Scenario

As we look at this real-life scenario, we begin to see how some unhelpful gender stereotypes were perpetuated while others didn’t fit. For example, this situation would appear to confirm that women talk more than men, women want relationships and men want to accomplish tasks, women pursue and men withdraw, or women want to talk at the end of the day and men want to retreat to their caves.

A deeper look into social style better explains the actions that are taking place. Additionally, once we examine and evaluate Marcus’s and Carmen’s social styles, we can start to understand why they are behaving the way they are. As we do this, we see that gender is not the driving issuesocial style is.

I conducted a social style evaluation on Carmen and Marcus to confirm their respective social styles. I had a pretty good idea of what their social styles were by listening to their scenarios and observing their behavior, but the confirmation helped them understand why they do the things they do.

The evaluations revealed that Marcus is an Analytical and Carmen is an Expressive. They are complete opposites.

Opposites in social style
Opposites in social style

When we look at their situation with their social styles in mind, everything starts to make sense. Analyticals are very organized people. They don’t like their stuff moved, and they don’t like chaos. The Analytical knows exactly where to find everything, and he wants it left there. Analyticals are by nature task oriented, which means they gravitate toward getting tasks completed before socializing. In fact, Analyticals would prefer to stay clear of intensely social situations because they feel uncomfortable and awkward in those environments. Analyticals also avoid conflict and prefer to just keep things inside because they are introverted and think some things are better left unsaid.

Those proud of keeping an orderly desk never know the thrill of finding something they thought they had irretrievably lost.

 – Helen Exley

Marcus is a very strong Analytical. He told me he actually felt immense stress when things were disorganized. He felt frustration when Carmen left things lying around, let the kids leave things strewn throughout the house (like the backpack at the door), and tolerated a constant state of chaos.

Carmen saw things a little differently. She said their home wasn’t in a state of chaos at all. It just wasn’t important to her to have everything in its perfect place. She hated routines and schedules and wanted lots of spontaneity. She said she was frustrated with Marcus and his need for routine, predictability, and constant order. She wanted to have more fun, talk more, and socialize with their friends more. Carmen is a typical Expressive. Her desire to be more social has nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman. She simply has an Expressive social style. Her disorganization defies the gender stereotypes that men are slobs and women are neat. Maybe some would argue that she is an anomaly. I would respectfully disagree.

Expressives who do not have a strong element of Driver or Analytical to them tend to be disorganized. (See appendix B: “Secondary Social Styles” and appendix C: “You’re Some ofAll Four.”) Their priority is to save energy for much more fun things than keeping everything in its exact place.

Why Women Are Complaining About Slobs

Men across the world have taken a bad rap for being slobs. Sitcoms perpetuate this gender stereotypes, as do many movies. One of the main reasons you hear women complaining about men being slobs is that more women in the world live under the cultural gender role, or social norm, of keeping things clean. This is shifting as more and more wives work full-time outside the home.

Helene Couprie, a labor economist with the Universe of Toulouse, conducted a study on time allocation within the family that included how many hours men and women spend on household chores. In a study of more than 2000 people, here is what she found:

  • Single women spend an average of ten hours a week on housework.
  • Single men spend an average of seven hours a week on housework.
  • Women living with a man spend an average of fifteen hours a week on housework.
  • Men living with a woman spend an average of five hours a week on housework.

So why do men do less household work than women when single and even less when married? One might conclude that men are slobs and women are neat. Helene Couprie asserts that social norms are the reason. Men grow up watching women do all of the household chores, and guys are not taught how to keep a house clean. As a result, when they are single, they do less cleaning than single women who were raised with the social norms of women cleaning. Once a woman is living in the house with a man, he does even less housecleaning because he assumes she will do it. She now has to clean for two people, not just one, so her housework time increases.

My second-favorite household chore is ironing. My favorite chore is hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

 – Erma Bombeck

In a different study conducted by the University of Maryland, the same type of trend emerged. The amount of time women spend on housework is down 40 percent over the past 38 years. This study showed men spending four and a half hours a week on household chores in 1965 compared to nine and a half hours a week by the year 2003. On a side note, a surprising result of the survey showed the amount of time mothers spend with their children actually went up from ten hours a week in 1965 to fourteen hours a week in 2003. (“Time spent with children” was defined as reading to them, playing games with them, feeding them, bathing them, and the like.)

I am very proud to be called a pig. It stands for pride, integrity, and guts.

– Ronald Reagan

So as women entered the workforce in droves, the time spent on housecleaning dropped for women and increased for men. The man and the woman in a household may both work full-time, but women still clean more. Again, this is not because women are neat and men are slobs; it’s because social norms place most of the burden of cleaning on women. Social norms give other responsibilities to men, such as mowing the lawn, maintaining the car, cleaning the garage, and doing home repairs.

I have known plenty of women who are horrible cooks and men who are great in the kitchen. Conversely, I know plenty of women who are handy with tools and some men who don’t know the difference between a wrench and a screwdriver. These things are determined largely by your experience growing up and what you were taught.

We had some friends over for a barbeque a number of years ago. One of the men decided to tell his favorite joke. He asked, “How many men does it take to clean a toilet?”

Someone humored him and said, “I don’t know. How many?”

“None,” he replied. “It’s a woman’s job.”

I think he’s still single today.

Who Works More, Men or Women?

Let’s look at another myth. According to social norms, women care for the children and continue to do most of the household chores. Many of these women also work outside the home, so many people assume that women now work more than men do.

This is a pervasive assumption and has even been the topic of some popular talk show television programs. In a survey where the respondents were asked who they thought worked more, women or men, 70 percent of sociologists, 54 percent of economists, and 62 percent of economics students all said they thought women worked more. This survey was conducted by three economists (Michael Burda, Daniel Hamermesh, and Philippe Weil) who also examined the data from surveys from 25 countries.

The myth: Women do more household chores than men and also work outside the home, so women must work more than men.

The truth: A 2007 study revealed that men and women work about the same amount of hours.

The results of this 2007 study might surprise some people. In the United States, men spend an average of 2.7 hours each day on work in the home and 5.2 hours a day on work outside the home, totaling 7.9 hours a day. Women spend an average of 4.5 hours a day on work inside the home and 3.4 hours a day on work outside the home, totaling 7.9 hours. Interesting-the totals are exactly the same. (The averages included weekends, which brought the overall daily hours down.)

So this widely spread myth is apparently inaccurate. Social norms are changing the dynamics of household chores, so some of our gender stereotypes will probably change in the future. As men are given responsibility and credit for more of the housework, the idea that men are slobs and women are neat may change.

One Size Does Not Fit All

You will see josh and Bri pop up in quite a few examples. One of the reasons is that they have distinct social styles. Also, they defy many of the gender stereotypes and would appear to confirm other gender stereotypes if you didn’t understand social style. Besides, I have frequent interaction with them, so I am able to observe their behavior on an ongoing basis.

The gender stereotypes of men being slobs and women being neat seems to fit Josh and Bri. She keeps the house very clean. When it’s not clean, she feels stressed. When Josh doesn’t pick up after himself, she feels frustrated. Josh can’t seem to understand why Bri needs to have the dinner dishes cleaned and put away before everyone has even left the table. He offers to do the dishes later, but to Bri, that just means she has to look at them stacked in the sink, and that stresses her out. She wants them done right away.

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch on fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one cares. Why should you?

 –  Erma Bombeck

Josh leaves his towel on the bathroom floor; Bri hangs hers on the hook. Josh leaves clothes lying around the bedroom; Bri puts them in their respective places. Josh leaves his hair gel and shaving cream sitting out on the counter; Bri prefers to have the bathroom counter clean. Josh leaves his mail sitting on the kitchen table; Bri bought him a mail basket, but he doesn’t like it he needs to see the mail to remind him that it needs to be processed. They adore each other, but they can’t always understand why they are so different.

An outsider might say, “Well, Josh is a guy, men are slobs, and women are neat, so just deal with it.” But that’s not the whole story. Josh is an Expressive, and perfect organization is not a priority for him. Bri is an Analytical, and she can be obsessive about having things clean and organized. So the problem is not with gender but with social style. Fortunately, even though social style is innate and ingrained, we are free and responsible to choose our behaviors.

Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established.

 – George Carlin

So even though having things clean isn’t as high a priority for josh as it is for Bri, he still makes an effort to go beyond his comfort zone and put things away or do the dishes sooner. And even though Bri’s natural reaction is to want to have everything clean and perfect immediately, she still makes an effort to socialize and have fun with josh when she can hear the dishes calling her name.

Understanding social style helps you identify innate differences and make behavior changes to accommodate each other. If you continue to attribute gender stereotypes to the opposite sex, you may find yourself trying to make accommodations that don’t apply.

Survey Says

In my survey, I didn’t ask people how many hours a week they spend on household chores. Instead, I asked respondents to mark the following statement true or false: “I keep things very neat, clean, and organized.”

More men than women said they were neat, clean, and organized. In all fairness, more men than women responded to the survey (219 males versus 203 females). One sector that I sent an e-mail announcement to regarding the online survey was the fire service. There are predominately more males than females in the fire service.

Most of the respondents who said they were neat, clean, and organized were either Analyticals or Drivers. The vast majority of those who said they were not neat, clean, and organized were either Expressives or Amiables. Some of the secondary social styles played into the responses, but gender did not appear to determine whether people were neat or slobs.

It’s More About Social Style

Being neat, clean, and organized has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with social style. It may appear to be gender related because of socially constructed gender roles, but the actual innate tendency to be organized is based on the social style you were born with.

Analyticals are normally very clean and organized people. Drivers also tend to have things neat and are sometimes even militant about being organized. Amiables are not as concerned with having everything perfect and tend to be accused of being too lazy and apathetic. If an Amiable thinks a messy house or work area may cause too much conflict with others, she will keep it clean to please other people. Expressives just don’t care. “The clothes on the floor aren’t hurting anybody, and I will eventually figure out where I put those files on my desk.” Take a look at figure 2B for the tendencies of each social style.

Analytical Driver
task oriented task oriented
slow-paced fast-paced
organized organized
Amiable Expressive
relationship oriented relationship oriented
slow-paced fast-paced
disorganized disorganized

So if you’re a guy who has been throwing his clothes on the floor, you don’t get to use the excuse that men are just slobs. And whether you’re male or female, you don’t get to use the excuse that you were just born that way as an Expressive or an Amiable. Show some consideration by adapting to the needs of the people you live with. Try to understand the stress Drivers and Analyticals feel when you leave things in disarray.

If you are an Analytical or a Driver, try to curb your obsessive-compulsive need to have things in perfect order. Drivers need to relax on the control issue, and Analyticals need to relax on the perfectionism issue. Lighten up a little and make accommodations for the Amiables and Expressives around you.

As you can see, creating more cohesive relationships requires plenty of compromise. Everyone needs to adapt to the social styles of the people they live and work with if they hope to improve their relationships.

Gender stereotypes. Women Are Neat.
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