Are Women Cleaner than Men?

[This post is a spin-off from my Cosmo Claims Men “Lack” 12 Ablities post.]

Everyone seems to has a personal anecdote about the topic.  Are women more, less, or equally as dirty when compared with men?

There’s tons of messy girls out there for demonstration. I’m one of them. Clothes all over my floor. Smell test if I’ve only worn an outfit once. Desk drawers open with the contents sprawled about on the table. My friend’s mom has a “messy room equilibrium” theory where each person has their own messy quotient before they’ll start cleaning, and I think mine is pretty high.

I’m messy. But I’m not gross. I think this is an important distinction in the debate.

The layer of fecal coliforms that I scrapped off the inside of my boyfriend’s toilet does not exist in mine. (Baby, in all your last-minute toilet scrubbings before I show up, you’ve forgotten to really get under the inside rim.) In college, I had to harass the boys on our coed floor to cover their meat with aluminum foil so it didn’t funk up our fridge.

In organic chem class, my regular partner was sick. I was paired with two other boys for the lab. When prepping, they dumped the test tubes in semi-soapy water and then pulled them out to dry. “Don’t you want to scrub those on the inside first?” I asked. “No, it’s good enough.” We finished first before all the other girls, but also got contamination-caused false positives in the lab results.

False positives, hah, I’m not even trying with the dirty puns. Anyway, those are my stories that form my prejudices about cleanliness.

Let’s looks at the science:


The study that Cosmo quotes found that researchers discovered that men had 10 to 20 percent more bacteria in their workspaces than women.  Reasons the researchers hypothesized were that men were known from previous studies to wash their hands less, and they simply have a larger surface area on their bodies to shed germs off.Oh wait, here’s an infographic that says womens’ desks “have 3.5 times more bacteria.” Which one is right?

Well, an older study from 2007 that found that more women stored food in their desks than men, and that’s why there was more bacteria in the desks and on the keyboards. You know what? It doesn’t matter. I don’t even want to analyze the methodologies of the studies. We need bacteria anyway to build up immunity against more serious pathogens

You swab different people at different companies, and you’re going to find different results. It’s not a study that reproducible in a meaningful way. Just wash your hands when you scratch your ass or somebody else’s ass and you’ll be fine.

Despite the people that tend to pop on the TLC shows, men reportedly have slightly higher tendencies to become hoarders than women.

“Hoarding” is going to pop up under its own category in the DSM-V revision, but in my opinion, it’s just a different behavioral manifestation of OCD.  OCD, of course, can go the other way with obsessive cleanliness. It’s hard to find gender stats on that particular behavior, but I’m sure there’s plenty of men on that side of spectrum as well. The Aviator, anyone?

Children are just the incubi and succubi of viral plague. With parental tendencies to overuse Amoxicillin and Tamiflu on little Jimmy and Jane for every sniffle and then not finish the 10-14 day course (I’ve see this happen all the time in my line of work), it’s a recipe for breeding newly mutated forms of upper respiratory infection. Which the kids will pass around with the ball at recess and then bring home to mom and dad.

I’m still pretty sure women are still statistically the primary caregivers, so they are the next in line for exposure to the grossness. Even so, this is a cultural thing, not an innate tendency for sickness.

Personal Hygiene
This one is a clear win for the women in terms of bathing, washing clothes/sheets more often, and general fastidiousness to personal grooming.

Cleanliness and perceptions of cleanliness can vary so much by occupation, upbringing, and culture. Even from an evolutionary perspective of division of labor, it’s not like men never had to clean (weapons and temporary camp sites).

“Women are cleaner than men” is a reasonable argument. But like every argument that marginalizes the outliers and sets the stage for norms that divide the sexes, there’s no need to claim it makes them the better sex.


3 thoughts on “Are Women Cleaner than Men?

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