In his recent interview with the Sunday Times, Russell Brand explained why he was not a hands-on parent to his two baby daughters.
“I’m sensitive and awake and aware,” he said, “so I have to dial a lot of shit down to go through normal life.”
It’s an interesting feat of intellectual gymnastics. The inference that sensitivity and awareness might not be conducive to the practical care of an infant demonstrates exactly the kind of emotional dissonance that once saw men excuse themselves from hands-on parenting because of their manly detachment.
It’s also outright idiotic, considering that whatever their disposition, people who do not have a choice – overwhelmingly women – manage to care for their children.
Men making excuses for not pulling their weight at home, for all Brand’s feints at enlightenment, is an archaic form of toxic masculinity. It’s also really expensive.
Last year, an Oxford University paper showed that women in the UK spend an average two hours and 12 minutes per day doing household chores, compared to the one hour and nine minutes contributed by men. That time spent on unpaid labour, over time, puts women at a huge economic disadvantage.
Men are paid for a higher proportion of the work that they do, and that pay is better than women’s.
Women on maternity leave do the most unpaid labour at home, averaging up to 60 hours per week.
In 2015, the Office of National Statistics found that if people were paid for work they do at home – that work being defined as tasks that households could employ someone else for – women would earn £259 more per week, while men would earn £166 more.
Women on maternity leave do the most unpaid labour at home, averaging up to 60 hours per week. When men are involved in childcare, it tends to be in a “masculine” capacity, like giving lifts, rather than nappy-changing.
(By way of further proof that his attitudes to parenting are utterly ordinary, after revealing that his wife Laura would never trust him alone with his children for 24 hours, Brand interjected earnestly: “Yesterday, like, I drove Mabel to the play school and I drop (sic) her at the play school.”)
The trend of women doing more work at home is consistent irrespective of male availability to do that work. Research published by the British Sociological Association in 2017 covering 27 European countries and Israel found that when men are unemployed, they tend to avoid housework to protect their “masculine” identity.
The burden of housework and care isn’t just harmful to women’s finances – it’s damaging to their health.
So, having an unemployed partner meant more housework for women, even if they themselves were employed. Unemployed women across all 28 countries were prone to overcompensate and do a far greater proportion of the housework.
This puts women at a massive professional disadvantage, with less time available to look for work, network, or accrue skills which might be useful to them in the job market.
The burden of housework and care isn’t just harmful to women’s finances. It’s damaging to their health. Women are more likely to die from heart attacks than men, because they return to household chores and caring roles sooner.
Single women, who have no-one to care for – but also, no-one (theoretically) to care for them, recover from heart attacks better than married women. Men on the other hand, are more likely to have someone to look after them after surgery, and recover better. Essentially, marriage sees men benefit to the cost of women.
Russell Brand might kid himself that he’s a feminist because he appreciates the “mystical connotations of [his daughter] Mabel’s beauty and grace” but unless men like him start pulling their weight at home, they will continue to ensure that daughters like Mabel enter a world where, should they choose to settle down with men, they will likely remain at a financial, physical, professional and emotional disadvantage.
Fathers who profess to love their children must do better than that.
Photo credit: Jessie Essex on Flickr