The tension between gender equality and doing gender : Swedish couples’ talk about the division of housework


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Publication Details

Author list: Reinikainen, Lasse

Publication year: 2018

Start page: 36

End page: 46

Number of pages: 11

ISSN: 0277-5395

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wsif.2018.01.010


Sweden is considered as one of the most gender equal countries in the world and most Swedes claim to embrace gender equality. Yet, the majority of couples still organize their family lives according to traditional gendered patterns. This article aims to investigate how gender plays a role for how couples in Sweden talk about, articulate and frame their arguments regarding their division of housework. We identify three practices that act to support and reproduce a traditional gender order. These practices are: constructions of (un)suitability, placement of responsibility and comparison. Through these practices the couples’ uneven division of housework is made into something other than a question of gender (in)equality, and change of the present order is made into a non-issue. We argue that the tension between striving for gender equality on the one hand and doing gender on the other, characterizes everyday interaction in modern couples. Recognizing this complexity is important for understanding the slow changes in gendered and gendering patterns and for the slow movement towards greater gender equality. The analysis brings the complex, interwoven and contradictory processes of doing gender to the fore.


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