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It’s Time To Close The Snow Shoveling Gender Gap

Feminists find some gender gaps more troubling than others. Here are two worth focusing on: workplace fatality gender gaps and the snow shoveling gender gap


I’m a Colorado native living in exile inside the D.C. Beltway. I miss the people of Colorado. I miss the mountains of Colorado. I miss the fishing of Colorado. And I really miss the snow of Colorado. But this year we’ve had a couple of decent snowstorms, including this week.

Yesterday afternoon, after my husband shoveled our front walk and our elderly neighbor’s front steps and sidewalk, I went on a walk in the snow with my children. What I saw was so deeply disconcerting, I needed to tweet about it:

As we walked throughout Alexandria, Virginia, in one of the more progressive enclaves in the city, we saw man after man after man shoveling walks and steps. Sure, I helped out for a few minutes with one of the shoveling runs and I saw a woman helping her husband and son. I even saw a woman using a shovel — but the kind you use to dig a hole in the ground, rather than remove snow — to remove the snow from the bricks in front of her retail space.

But the vast majority of the snow shovelers were men. I know that we’re really concerned about gender gaps in this country, so I wanted to make sure we equalize snow removal STAT. If I’ve been following the gender gap debates correctly, I’ve learned that there are no noteworthy differences between men and women in any way. Not in their physical capacity. Not in their choices about education or any aspect of career — from hours of full-time work, time out of the work force spent on other less important and less worthy endeavors than paycheck-getting (e.g. child-rearing or home-keeping), physical risk associated with jobs, lack of flexibility, etc.

In fact, as one respondent noted, this gender gap has at least one unintended consequence:

Every winter, about 100 people in the United States die shoveling snow, according to the BBC.

A study looking at data from 1990 to 2006 by researchers at the US Nationwide Children's Hospital recorded 1,647 fatalities from cardiac-related injuries associated with shovelling snow. In Canada, these deaths make the news every winter.

And that’s just the people who die. Snow shoveling is a known trigger for heart attacks period.

This relates to another, far more serious, gender gap problem in workplace fatalities.

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That’s from the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Department of Labor. Males work 57 percent of the hours worked but suffer from a whopping 92% of the workplace deaths. Time for some equality of death, no?

Anyway, obviously the reason why I didn’t see so many women shoveling their stoops and sidewalks was because of patriarchal oppression but I’m not sure we need a federal program to fix it right now so much as a general awareness-raising from feminists and allies.

We can end the snow shoveling gender gap in our time. Let’s all commit to doing so immediately. If you don’t do this already, make sure you consistently and equitably tell your man to stay warm and cozy while you remove all that snow.