Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 16th January 2022 Updated on 23rd May 2022

For most women, when her workday ends she returns home to an unpaid second job – domestic labor. From cooking to washing up and from cleaning to helping the children with homework, all of these tasks are unpaid and unaccounted for. We’re not saying men do none of this work, or that this relates to all men, but in the midst of fourth-wave feminism, we must be realistic about the divisions that still exist. We wanted a vote, we wanted reproductive rights but overall we still need equality. Let’s face it, the disproportionate division of domestic labor that still remains in 2022 speaks volumes about the prevalence of purplewashing in society. Until men are expected to (and willingly) carry out the same amount of domestic chores as women, we can’t celebrate equality. 

What is purple-washing?

The color purple has a longstanding association with feminism and combined with the concept of whitewashing we have purplewashing. It refers to the co-opting strategies that use minority rights to maintain or enhance structural forms of discrimination. So while large corporate brands push feminist messaging (ever opened Instagram on International Women’s Day? YAWN) we’re left wondering, has anything actually changed? Are they actually doing anything valuable? Feminist gestures in politics and marketing might give the illusion that an individual or organization is a supporter of feminism, but what are their maternity rights? Do they have a history of gender pay gaps? What are they actually doing to address inequality between the sexes? Often, unfortunately, the answer is not all that much. 

The pandemic that highlighted the domestic labor division

During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, Covid-19 forced each and every one of us to operate our daily lives in ways that we couldn’t have previously imagined. Children were being home-schooled, a huge section of society was working from home, and people were made redundant. 

And guess what? These lifestyle changes disproportionately affected women. The Economics Observatory reported that women on average took on over 60% of additional household tasks. Go figure. And to add insult to injury, women were 5% more likely to lose their jobs than men in the UK and 8% more likely in the US, therefore ‘allowing more time’ for these additional tasks. Why were they losing their jobs in the first place? Was it because they were carrying out 60% of the domestic labor in the house? Was it because they were being expected to homeschool their children while also being a present employee? 

The disproportionate distribution of unpaid labor was stretched even further during the Covid-19 pandemic, so we have lots of wrongs to right, now. 

The problems with stay-at-home dads

At Elvie we stan the Dads who have settled into a role which was once dominated by their female counterparts, but we’ll never heap more praise on them than we do on women. Because we stan the women who choose to be stay-at-home moms, too. Why should we celebrate a man at the park with his kid? Why should we celebrate a man on the school run? Why should we congratulate a dad for taking his kids to the supermarket with him? Sure, there might be more dads at playgroups these days, but when you actually look at the stats, it’s still pretty bleak. 

Pew Research Centre reported in 2021 that stay-at-home dads account for just 17% of stay-at-home parents in the US. And perhaps the most shocking part? This percentage has risen by just 1% since 1989. So in 32 years, we can expect 1% progress. If that’s the case, it’s going to take a hell of a long time to get that number up to 50%. So excuse us if we don’t jump for joy every time we hear about a stay-at-home dad doing something moms do every day. Often with a full-time job. 

Why we must keep pushing

Debating with men about feminism, it’s not unusual to be met with a ‘well you got everything you wanted’ or ‘if it swings too much the other way, women will be at an advantage’. And we’re here to call bulls*** on that. Don’t let anyone tell you that the division of domestic labor is now equal. Just because there are a few more stay-at-home dads setting the example, they’re still very much the exception, not the rule. This is a topic of conversation which should not be diminished, even in the wake of supposed shared responsibility. So speak with your partner about it. Mention it to your colleagues. Ask your dad what he thinks. And don’t allow society to kid anyone that the division no longer exists when it’s very much still prevalent.