Good morning, Broadsheet readers! President Biden chooses a nominee to serve as ambassador to Ukraine, Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter could affect the future of content moderation on the platform, and becoming a breadwinner comes with a caveat. Have a great Tuesday.
– Double duty. Changing gender norms around parenthood and work have allowed women to become breadwinners for their families. But some gender norms are particularly stubborn, as Joanna Syrda, a professor at the U.K.-based University of Bath School of Management recently discovered.
In her research, analyzing the relationship between spousal income and the division of housework between partners, Syrda examined more than 6,000 North American dual-earner, mixed-gender couples between 1999 and 2017. She found that as the gender pay gap closes between a husband and wife, the gender housework gap rises—with the woman taking on even more housework as she begins to outearn her husband. The surprising inverse correlation reflects deeply held beliefs about who should be a breadwinner and who should take care of the home, Syrda argues.
See the statistical analysis below from her study “Gendered Housework: Spousal Relative Income, Parenthood and Traditional Gender Identity Norms” published in the journal Work, Employment, and Society. The chart shows a mother’s housework decreasing from 18 to 14 hours a week as she goes from earning no income to about half the household income—and then ticking back up again to almost 16 hours as she exceeds her partner’s salary. The husband’s housework starts around six hours a week when he’s a father and the sole breadwinner, reaching a maximum of just under eight hours before declining as his wife takes on additional housework with her rising income.
It might sound counterintuitive that women breadwinners spend more time on household chores when they earn significantly more than their husbands—and worse still, the data doesn’t even account for gender gaps between time spent by mothers and fathers on childcare. Syrda speculates that heterosexual couples are, perhaps subconsciously, compensating for deviating from the male breadwinner norm. (Past research has shown that men are more likely to exhibit signs of “psychological distress” when their wife earns more money.)
“This is a non-traditional outcome in that she is earning more money than him,” Syrda says. “So to compensate for that, they [follow the norm] traditionally for housework.”
Syrda’s analysis brings to mind a 2019 study I covered for Fortune. Researchers found that married women did more housework than single moms—despite theoretically having a partner at home to share the load. They also found that “marriage remains a gendered institution that ratchets up the demand for housework and childcare through essentialist beliefs that women are naturally focused on home and hearth.”
The question, as Syrda frames it today, is what housework means to us. “Is housework just a sequence of tasks we perform?” she asks. “Or is it a way of constituting and enacting a gender?”
The combination of parenthood and marriage seems to be the defining element here: Syrda didn’t measure the same uptick in household chores for high-earning women who are not mothers. Similarly, the 2019 study focused on motherhood, measuring the difference in household chores for married and single mothers. Parenthood can have a “traditionalizing effect,” Syrda argues, causing even the most progressive of women to adjust their adherence to gender norms as they feel internal and external pressure to excel at motherhood.
By one measure, Syrda’s study could denote progress; there are enough women breadwinners in the dataset to come to these statistically significant conclusions. But it’s hard to celebrate women as their household’s primary financial provider when doing so comes with a performative obligation to do the dishes.
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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
- Anything goes. Now that Twitter has agreed to Elon Musk's $44 billion bid, all eyes are on how the billionaire Tesla CEO will handle content moderation. Musk has shown resistance to anything that impedes "free speech" on the social media platform. Twitter's content restrictions, ramped up in recent years, currently bar harassment and abuse. NPR
- Job opening. U.S. ambassador to Slovakia Bridget Brink is now President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to Ukraine, a position that's been empty since former President Donald Trump removed Marie Yovanovich from the role in 2019. Brink holds over 26 years of experience in foreign service, including serving as deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs from 2015 to 2018, where she focused on ongoing tensions within former Soviet Union territories. Washington Post
- Air Force first. Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley faces up to seven years in prison and dismissal from the Air Force after he was found guilty of one of three sexual misconduct claims made by his sister-in-law. Cooley is the first Air Force major general to be court-martial trialed and convicted in the military branch’s 75-year history. His sentencing is scheduled for Monday. New York Times
- Life-saving decision. A Texas court ordered that the state halt imminent plans to execute Melissa Lucio, who received the death penalty after jurors convicted her of capital murder in the death of her 2-year-old in 2007. New evidence has cast doubt on Lucio's guilt. Her case now returns to a lower court, and her execution is postponed indefinitely. NBC News
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: YouTube has hired former Amazon vice president of Alexa Toni Reid as VP of YouTube Shorts, the platform’s TikTok competitor. Zappos, an Amazon business, has appointed former Amazon marketing director of worldwide access point Ginny McCormick as chief marketing officer. TikTok owner ByteDance has appointed lawyer Julie Gao as chief financial officer.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- Working through it. Minnesota state senate primary candidate Erin Maye Quade raced against the clock last weekend to win a general election nomination from her party. Then, she went into labor while Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party held its convention. Though she earned cheers during her speech, and even sat through the first round of voting while experiencing contractions, she ultimately withdrew her nomination as she left for the hospital. Her supporters wonder: why couldn't convention leadership have instead postponed the event? HuffPost
- It’s not over yet. Far-right politician Marine Le Pen is setting her sights on Parliament following her defeat by French President Emmanuel Macron. Though her party only holds eight of all 577 seats in the National Assembly, Le Pen is already strategizing how to subtract from Macron’s majority in upcoming June parliamentary elections. Independent
- 119 years and 107 days. Kane Tanaka, the oldest person in the world and Japan’s longest-living person in recorded history, died on April 19 at the age of 119. Tanaka lived through both world wars, the Spanish Flu, and COVID-19. She was slated to carry the Olympic torch through her village during the Tokyo Olympics, but ultimately pulled out due to COVID-19 concerns. Wall Street Journal
- Dangerous shortage. The U.K. is experiencing a shortage in hormone replacement therapy products, often prescribed to women experiencing menopause. Women are resorting to rationing and sharing their prescriptions, but such rationing can lead to side effects including suicidal ideation. Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s secretary of state for health and social care, is now looking to appoint a hormone replacement therapy tsar to address the shortage. Sky News
ON MY RADAR
Audrey Gelman pivots to cottagecore The Cut
The long, scary history of doctors reporting pregnant people to the cops Mother Jones
My best birth partner was an epidural Romper
"I was about to become 30, and I knew I was about to expire, and wanted to protect myself with a contract that would guarantee I kept working for years to come."
-Model Lauren Hutton, now 78, on her industry-shifting 1973 Revlon contract.
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