I find it to be very common among couples for women to ask their significant other to take out the trash or the recycling and I’ve often wondered why, so I took a look at my own life.
I totally expect my husband to take out the trash. Usually I will prepare the bag for him and have it sitting at the door when he comes home. And I’m not the only wife with this expectation, I’ve discovered. We’ve even seen it in movies. It’s not an unusual phenomenon.
Perhaps in historical times there were wild animals outside, or some other threat. We generally don’t have this level of threat today, although there might be the occasional raccoon or stray dog hanging around. So it makes little sense for this to be designated as a man’s job, when a woman could just as easily do it.
I’ve decided it boils down to three things. Division of labour, responsibility and participation.
When a man takes out the trash, it is often the last step in cleaning up the house. Kind of like an exclamation mark. Done! I think the bottom line is that the woman likes to know he participated in some way in the process, so she divides the labour this way and he takes responsibility and carries out his part.
It’s really not a big thing, but it is. It’s little in the sense that it won’t take five minutes, and it’s not like it’s a hugely difficult task. But it’s big in the way of shared responsibility and participation.
Essentially it’s an act of love and appreciation. “I’ll do this for you, for all the other things you do for me.”
If a man refuses to take out the trash, or objects, a woman will clearly be offended. She might even be angry. From his perspective, he probably thinks he is only being reasonable. I mean, why can’t she do it? It doesn’t take long and it’s not difficult.
In a woman’s home–and a woman usually does the greater share of the home-making, therefore I call it a woman’s home–a woman carries the responsibility for creating a pleasant atmosphere. She wants to be appreciated. A man may show his appreciation in many ways by helping her out, but for some reason, the final test is the garbage. And it does seem to be a test. Admit it.
I can’t explain why I have not been able to relinquish my obsession with this, except to say that it doesn’t feel right for me to take out the trash. It’s as though I am leaving my domain, entering into the outside world, and this is his world. Maybe this is some sort of ancient carry-over into modern times and if a modern woman wants to insist on making a cultural change, this would be a good place to start. Probably a lot of women have. But I kind of like this old-fashioned tradition. It makes me feel loved and secure. So there you have it.