‘Can’t cook, won’t cook’: men’s involvement in cooking when their wives develop dementia.

Boyle, Geraldine (2014). ‘Can’t cook, won’t cook’: men’s involvement in cooking when their wives develop dementia. Journal of Gender Studies, 23(4) pp. 336–350.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2013.792728

Abstract

The division of household labour in heterosexual couples continues to be unequal, indicating that gender inequality persists in the domestic sphere. Yet, although there is a lack of gender equity in housework, this is less clear-cut in terms of cooking. This paper explores whether men are willing to cook when their wives develop dementia. The paper presents findings from a qualitative study in England (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)), which explored the everyday decisions made by married couples when one partner had dementia. The author examines the division of labour within the couples and identifies whether women exercised choice and control over who did the cooking. Although research into dementia usually focuses on the social competence of people with dementia (as determined by their carers), this study explored the domestic competence of both spouses, particularly husbands who were carers. It was found that men are often unable or unwilling to cook when their wives develop dementia or, alternatively, they take over cooking altogether, thereby excluding their wives from a task they enjoy. Gendered patterns of authority or control were apparent in the couples' decision-making dynamics, indicating that gender inequality in relationships persists even when women develop dementia.

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