Italian men are warming to housework

Italian men, for years accused of shunning household chores, may be on the way to shouldering some of the burden of washing, cleaning and cooking. Then again, they may not.

A survey commissioned by Procter & Gamble found that, in the industrial northwest especially, a majority of men wholly agree with the idea of sharing the floor-scrubbing and pasta preparation with their partners.

Half the male interviewees claimed to be “competent” at housework and a staggering 66% went so far as to describe themselves as “thorough and careful”. Unfortunately, many of their spouses and girlfriends gave somewhat different answers, with 45% saying their men were willing but essentially ham-fisted with a mop and duster.

But, according to Astra Ricerche, the research institute which carried out the survey, the important thing was that most men saw a move away from tradition as desirable. “Italy is halfway along the path from a chauvinist past to a modern collaboration between partners,” Astra chief
Prof. Enrico Finzi said.

It appears that household technology may be part of the reason why Italian men are starting to lend a hand. It's unclear whether this is because they are simply attracted by technology or because jobs like washing dishes are less daunting if there is a machine to do it.


In fact, loading the dishwasher is apparently the area where men are most willing to step in. In the industrious northeast only 37% of men said women loaded the machine better than they did. Just over a quarter said they did it better and the rest said skills in this field were equally shared.

“In Italy something has changed since our parents' generation, when people used to say: 'He pays for the dishwasher, she uses it'” Finzi said.

But there is one glaring exception to the growing tendency for men to get to grips with household appliances: the washing machine. “This remains the exclusive domain of women. Men don't have anything to do with it”. Pacifico Ferrucci, who works in Rome as a civil servant, is an example of the modern Italian male who is not ashamed to be seen washing T-shirts or cooking his daughter's evening meal.

“I also tend to do the heavy duty cleaning, like scouring the lavatory every two weeks. I don't use the washing machine much but that's more a question of working hours,” he said.


There have been signs for some time that Italian men – or at least some of them – are starting to claim an active role in the day-to-day running of the family home.

A Tuscany- based association of Italian 'househusbands' succeeded three years ago in becoming the first male organisation to enter FEFAF, the European Union umbrella group of housewives' associations. They are campaigning for men to be allowed to write 'house-husband' on official forms. At the moment, many regional laws do not permit this and so men are forced to write 'unemployed', even if they have chosen to stay at home.

But this sort of initiative is the exception rather than the rule and Italian women remain, for the most part, unhappy with men's contribution in the home. Astra's survey found that 29% of women thought their partners were doing enough while some 57.7% expressed varying degrees of dissatisfaction. Just under 13% of women said they did everything but they were happy with that.


Other research confirms the Italian male's generally poor showing in the home. A Eurostat survey published earlier this year concluded that Italian women spend more time working in the home than any of their European counterparts. While the average woman in Rome or Milan puts in five hours 20 minutes a day, in Norway her peers put in an hour and a half less, the figures showed.

Men all over the EU do less work in the home than women, but Italians were bottom of the pile with one hour 35 minutes.

The situation has not escaped notice at the highest level. On March 8, when Italy celebrates 'Womens Day', then President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, begged his male compatriots to put on some rubber gloves occasionally.

The Italian housemen association is born

Pietrasanta 55045 Lucca Italy

Fiorenzo Bresciani

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