This week — why I never trust survey results.
Women, please take note: According to the media, we have officially made peace with domestic chores. Indeed, according to a story circulated a while back, we have not only made peace with them, we now *embrace* them as “mentally therapeutic.”
I’ll pause here a moment to allow all my male readers to say, “Yes!! I’m saved!” while all my female readers say, “Ha!”
Now, I can think of several ways to describe housework. These include “mind-numbing,” “tedious” and “a necessary evil,” but definitely do not include “therapeutic.”
However, if I were to believe this survey, I’d feel I were quite alone. It claims that 59 percent of women think that cleaning makes them feel in control of their lives, while only four percent believed cleaning to be a waste of time and effort. And fully one third of respondents claimed that cleaning gave them more satisfaction than sex.
I’ll pause again, to allow all my male readers to stop giving each other high fives long enough for that last statistic to sink in.
Since the article claims that, “Where 20 years ago housework was seen by many as a sign of female subjugation, the tide appears to have turned.” I decided to look a little more deeply at this survey.
First, it was commissioned by Discovery Home and Health TV, and conducted online. While I don’t have figures on this channel’s audience, I’d be willing to bet that it consists of people who would make Desperate Housewives’ Bree Van De Kamp look like an amateur. After all, if you watch the channel and also surf the website, chances are you are already very interested in matters of hearth and home.
This is kind of like surveying Martha Stewart’s audience as to whether they like pine cone wreaths versus braided twig wreaths, and then claiming that 68 percent of *all* women preferred pine cone wreaths. There needs to be a third question, for people like me, which is: What’s a wreath?
Second, the most touted results of the Discovery survey don’t tell the whole story. Elsewhere it says that some 58 percent of respondents said that they felt depressed if the house was a mess, and 59 percent said that untidiness made them feel tense. Well yes, a messy house depresses me too. A messy house can make me angry, because when I step on one of my kids’ Lego bricks, it bloody well *hurts.*
Read just a *little* bit further and it says that 57 percent of women found that cleaning exhausted them and that… wait a minute… only 22 percent actively enjoyed the cleaning and tidying itself. (I’ll bet that number drops even further when they learn that the average woman spends roughly nine *years* of her life cleaning things.)
So… what the survey is actually saying is not that women enjoy housework, but that they like a clean house. This is akin to saying that men like a perfectly manicured, green, lush and weed free lawn. They don’t necessarily find pushing a heavy lawnmower around on a 42C summer day “therapeutic.” Heat-stroke inducing, perhaps, but not therapeutic.
I think the headlines on this story might have been different had the survey included questions like:
1) If you could afford to pay someone to make your house spotless every day, would you?
2) Would you support research into robotics technology designed to clean your home?
3) If you were granted three wishes, would one of them be to have a self-cleaning house?
Although knowing the way things get spun in the media, the headlines would likely be:
The Impatient Modern Woman: I Want It All With The Push of a Button
Lazy Luxury? 97 Percent of Women Would Pay to Have Housework Done for Them
Which just goes to show you: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. And even worse, humour columns about statistics.