The unequal treatment of men and women on social media requires no further elaboration, but allow me one example – the “tradwives.” These are women who embrace the devoted, perfectionist and aesthetically pleasing image of housewives from the 1950s and 1960s, who extol submission to their husbands in impeccably styled videos reminiscent of a Doris Day film. These women are subjected to relentless criticism and derogatory labels – slaves, social climbers and financially dependent spouses. But when househusbands showcase their domesticity on platforms like TikTok, all they get is support and admiration from the online community. “Would you still work if your wife had a seven-figure salary?” asks one in a viral video as he switches on a robot vacuum cleaner. “Me, taking care of the house while my wife makes 100K a month,” says another proud husband who dances while he cleans house.
In reality, this type of content is not much different from what the tradwives are creating. They are all based on the same (debatable) premise – that no one would work if their partners earned enough to support them. While tradwives are often criticized for their financial dependence, no one chastises househusbands for the same reason. Seeing a man wield a vacuum cleaner is strange and wonderful, and a man cleaning windows is uproarious comedy. One very popular video compares a man’s domestic chores to the ancient discipline of karate. Other videos are just an excuse for a man with sculpted abs to take off his shirt in front of a camera. One video shows a very surprised woman arriving home to find that her husband has done all the housework while she was at work. “By her reaction this was a once in a year thing,” commented a sarcastic “Texas Dad.”
Néstor Maillard is a graphic designer who made the choice to stay at home and advocate for the fair sharing of housework. Known as Amo de Casa (Househusband in Spanish) on Instagram where he has nearly 900,000 followers, Maillard says it’s good to spotlight men doing work that was once seen as the purview of women, with a few caveats. “Doing stuff around the house doesn’t make you less of a man, but it also doesn’t make you a saint. I don’t think we should be reversing roles either. To me, the house belongs to everyone living in it, along with the responsibility. Regardless of the family or home setup, we all need to chip in and take care of it. I’m not singling out men or women or any specific family type. My social media posts are there to help anyone and everyone.”
The (unequal) sharing of housework
The TikTok trend coincides with the recent launch of the Me Toca (My Turn) app by Spain’s Ministry of Equality. The app aims to measure and fairly distribute the time that each family member spends on domestic tasks. According to a recent survey by Spain’s National Institute of Work Safety and Health, women spend 12.5 more hours per week than men doing unpaid work, which leads to 5.8 fewer hours at their paid jobs compared to men. A recent survey of Spain’s working population by the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE) indicates that 76% of part-time contracts are held by women, who increase their unpaid work time to 30 hours a week when working part-time. Men only spend 14 hours per week on unpaid work regardless of their work hours (part-time or full-time).
Laura Sagnier, an equality researcher and activist, conducted a study on the gender gap in Spain and found that 62% of women who live with a man feel that they carry most of the household burden, by far. Only 31% of the men surveyed acknowledged this imbalance in their relationship. The humorous, romantic and devoted househusbands in all those TikTok videos are clearly a rare breed.
“The issue of expectations has significant implications. Without achieving equity on the home front, it’s unrealistic to expect that women will have the same opportunities as men,” said Sagnier. Néstor Maillard wonders about many of the househusbands posting videos. “I’m curious, is their task distribution real and do they have children? Because that’s where things get complicated. But the good news is, most couples with children understand the importance of sharing household chores and taking care of the kids. It shouldn’t be all on one person. It would be awesome to see more men in movies doing household chores and normalizing the idea. You often hear women saying it’s impossible to keep up with housework when they have husbands and children to care for. I’m trying to change that mindset because it assumes that responsibility solely rests on women. Couples should share the load and set a good example for their children.”
An ode to domesticity
Begoña Pérez Díez de los Ríos, known on social media as “La Ordenatriz” (The Organizer), has more than a million followers who look to her for advice on household cleanliness and organization. “It’s true that there’s still a mindset that women have to take care of everything and juggle it all. It’s often challenging for couples to keep track of the children’s extracurricular activities, vaccinations, school schedules. People nowadays seem to appreciate that sharing housework is getting more recognition, and my colleagues and I have given it a more professional touch. As society evolves, I believe that just like we all live in and enjoy a home, we all should also contribute to keeping it clean and orderly.”
Beatriz Gimeno Reinoso, director of the Spanish government’s Institute for Women, recently wrote, “A discussion of domestic work entails addressing the inherent issue that it is often undervalued and lacks the same level of socio-labor protection as work outside the home.” The Organizer is very clear about the reason for this view. “It’s because the work isn’t paid. Work that isn’t paid simply isn’t valued, as if time were free. This issue should be addressed as a society. We have to value people who dedicate themselves to caring for parents, children, sick and dependent people – all for free.” Néstor Maillard notes that these tasks have traditionally been associated with women and are typically done in private life. “Men’s work was done in public and made money, and has historically overshadowed and devalued women’s work. This mirrors the lack of recognition given to housewives and domestic workers.”
While househusbands boasting of their domesticity on social media are applauded, the tradwives are subjected to scorn and ridicule. Yet their videos are strikingly similar. Maillard thinks that the gender of these influencers should be a minor, anecdotal element of their videos instead of the focal point. “My posts help break down some myths and stereotypes about housework. But I hope we move towards a world where it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a man or a woman giving laundry tips. It shouldn’t attract attention – it should just be normal.”
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