Classic Studies: The Sociology of Housework (Ann Oakley)
Addresses the misconception that housework is not just unskilled labour, and
thus worthy of little attention.
RESULT: housework began to emerge as a type of legitimate, difficult, and
worthwhile work, not just the labour of love.
Drew attention to domestic inequality and its relation to other forms of
Studied a small sample of middle and working class homemakers. All hated
housework but viewed homemaking as central to their identity.
Oakley concluded that women are disempowered and imprisoned by their
beliefs about the proper role of women, especially of mothers, in modern
society. Despite their unhappiness, many housewives feel obliged by their
culture to play a basically alienating and frustrating role. They have been
socialized by a patriarchal gender ideology into accepting slavery in marriage
o Housework is the visible symbol of this submission.
Sex the biological characteristics that make a person male or female; a
biological fact at birth.
Kids learn about what being a boy or girl means through their families,
through a process called socialization.
o Kids are also socialized into gender roles by learning to cooperate
with family members of the opposite sex.
o Kids are also socialized at school. E.g. splitting a class into boys vs.
girls for an activity leads to a belief that gender is a basis for
distinction among people.
Reference groups – groups from which we gain ideas about proper
Hidden curriculum – the types of courses and subjects that girls and boys are
subconsciously encouraged to pursue. In this way, schools develop gender
regimes, which produce masculinity and femininity and attach certain
practices to these labels. This also varies between social classes.
Mass media reinforces gender stereotypes. Also, objectifies women. Men are
expected to be successful and career-driven.
o Move towards less macho men in ads and such – some argue this is
the sexualisation of men (i.e. portraying metrosexual men)
The Beauty Standard
Appearance issues and conformation to beauty norms interest sociologists
because they shed so much light on the boundaries between deviant and
conforming behaviour and the measures people take to control and shame
o This forces women to take a stand on “natural aging”
Appearance norms – ideal features that our society values. Often measurable
(e.g. dress size).