Gendered affordance perception and unequal domestic labour

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming)
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The inequitable distribution of domestic and caring labour in different-sex couples has been a longstanding feminist concern. Some have hoped that having both partners at home during the COVID-19 pandemic would usher in a new era of equitable work and caring distributions. Contrary to these hopes, old patterns seem to have persisted. Moreover, studies suggest this inequitable distribution often goes unnoticed by the male partner. This raises two questions. Why do women continue to shoulder a disproportionate amount of housework and childcare despite economic and cultural gains? And why is there a widespread one-sided misrepresentation within different-sex couples about how domestic and caring work is distributed between the two partners? We answer these questions by appealing to affordance perception – the perception of possibilities for action in one's environment. We propose an important gender disparity in the perception of affordances for domestic tasks such as the dishwasher affording emptying, the floor affording sweeping and a mess affording tidying. We argue that this contributes not only to the inequitable distribution of domestic labour but to the frequent invisibility of that labour. We explore the consequences of this hypothesis for resistance and social change.



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Author Profiles

Tom McClelland
Cambridge University
Paulina Sliwa
University of Vienna

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Doing Gender.Don H. Zimmerman & Candace West - 1987 - Gender and Society 1 (2):125-151.
Cognitive Penetrability of Perception.Dustin Stokes - 2013 - Philosophy Compass 8 (7):646-663.
Objectification.Martha C. Nussbaum - 1995 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (4):249-291.

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