Extreme Ironing & Masculinity

From 2003: Extreme ironing” — CBS Sunday Morning, 2003, 6:15https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ6Yo0cVMP0

Ironing clothes is coded as a feminine, but what might masculinizing this practice look like? This recently-uploaded news segment from 2003 looks at the “sport” of extreme ironing. The idea seems to be making ironing as difficult and ridiculous as possible. Unsurprisingly, it appears that extreme ironing is largely an activity taken up by men. This reminds me of research on the gendered division of household labor by Kristen Myers and Ilana Demantas (2015). They found (unemployed) men push household chores to an extreme lengths, arguably making the chores more arduous in the process. This allowed the men to perform masculinity while engaging in a traditionally feminine activity. For example, one man interviewed refused to use a mop to clean the floor, prefering to do it on his hands and knees instead (p.641). Other men interviewed would (re)clean areas of the home which were not dirty, kinda like ironing clothes for no practical reason. As such, I see this clip as an example of the masculinization of ironing… they push it to the max, turn it into a competition, and perform the activity in the public sphere (as opposed to the private confines of the home). Wouldn’t it be nicer if these men would simply do the second shift (the unpaid housework often expected of women) along with their partners? I bet if these men simply ironed at home in a normal manner, they would have more time to help out with cooking, cleaning, childcare, and other unpaid jobs which too frequently become the responsibility of women.

What other examples of “extreme chores” can you think of? How might these be explained through a gendered lens?

[Reference: Kristen Myers and Ilana Demantas. 2015. “Being ‘The Man’ without Having a Job and/or Providing Care Instead of ‘Bread’”. Pp.632-647 in Families as they Really Are (second edition). W.W. Norton & Company].

From the video’s description: It's not an Olympic sport (yet), but as correspondent Bill Geist discovered, adherents of extreme ironing go to herculean extremes as they wield their irons in ever-more challenging situations, pressing on in their quest to remove wrinkles. Originally broadcast on "Sunday Morning" November 7, 2003.