Should we separate household chores between men & women?

Irish Examiner's Victoria White argues a recent controversy over a school uniform label is "storm in a teacup territory"

Should we separate household chores between men & women?

Picture by: Patrick Semansky/AP/Press Association Images

A label on Marks & Spencer school uniforms has led to a fresh debate about gender stereotypes.

The label - which read "reinforced hems stay up for longer, so that's less work for mum!" - was criticised by consumers on social media.

Yesterday, the British retailer apologised, saying: "It was never our intention to offend parents. In fact, we had already changed our packaging for the new range, which will be available from May."

Victoria White, columnist with the Irish Examiner, told Pat Kenny she was not offended by the label.

"I think it was a bad day at the office for whoever wrote it," she said. "It's not good publicity for Marks and Spencer.

She suggested: "This is just, in my view, storm in a teacup territory. I mean, who actually does sew up the hems in anybody's house?

"The wider issue here is that I don't think the vast majority of younger women don't know to thread a needle, and don't have a needle in the house. They'll just go down and spend a vast amount - probably as much as the trousers themselves in the first place - in an alteration shop," she suggested.

"The wider thing is we don't know how to repair anything - and so we buy really cheap clothes, and that causes terrible social injustice and also environmental degradation."

She also discussed the division of household chores in households.

"There's a Nobel prize winning economist called Gary Becker who has looked into this internationally," she explained.

"Virtually all couples specialise, because it's efficient. If a woman even has a slight advantage over her male partner in any task, she will continue to do it - that's what makes the household move more smoothly.

"It has to be said that women's fingers are smaller typically - and that's more suited to sewing. Sorry, but it is."

Could messages such as the one on the offending label have an impact on the children themselves?

Victoria argued: "The bottom line is nobody is a slave to the needle & thread now, because how many people even have a needle & thread these days?

"But the other side of that is we're all slaves to some degree. If you're a slave to, say, working in the toll booth, that's 'Adam's Curse'. We all have to work."