There is a series of articles this week in The Globe and Mail about housework. Only two installments in, I already have enough fodder to get me going on a good rant. First of all, they're calling housework "feminism's final frontier". They're using words like drudgery, and talk about individualising potential. The women interviewed for the article express rage (one women admits to feeling rage), frustration, and bitterness.
The series is called "Feminism's final frontier. Dirty work: the real toll of domestic drudgery". (By Erin Anderson)
This paragraph caught my attention:
"It would be a mistake to reduce the issue to a squabble over who folds the underwear. The gender gap in unpaid labour has significant implications in policy. It makes no productive sense for a chunk of the country's educated population to be spending disproportionate time on brain-numbing tasks because of their gender. If the family is a factory [as proposed elsewhere in the article] each worker should be performing at his or her best potential."
And this: "Whether or not they work full time and no matter how high their salary, women still get stuck with the crappiest jobs - the ones most likely to require rubber gloves and solvent - as opposed to strolling Loblaws in relative leisure with a latte in one's hand."
It seems that marriage reduces the amount of work a man does around the home, while increases it for women. Having children increases the amount of home labour even more for women.
I so badly want to discount this series as being biased and ridiculous. I want to say that women are more inclined to looking after the home anyway, that our feminine gifts include nesting and nurturing - which is true!
Yet I can't help but remember overhearing certain squabbles in otherwise happy homes concerning socks dropped on the floor, dishes left in the sink, hours he spends on the computer or in front of the tv while she does laundry at 10 o'clock at night. I myself have been frustrated with bottle caps left on the counter not a foot away from the kitchen garbage can, or male avowals of "I was going to do it..." after I'd waited two days for something to get done then finally did it on my own.
It's true that in most cases, the woman's standards of cleanliness and what passes for a well-kept home are higher than her man's. He's willing to let the bathroom go for one more day in favour of something 'more important' while she would forgo that something else in order to scrub the sink. He thinks nothing of inviting friends over into the house as it is, but she will dust and vacuum before an old friend comes in for a casual coffee.
If a woman works outside the home, is it fair that she then also has the bulk of the housework to do? Is it important to divide not just the number of chores to be done, but also evaluate the 'grossness' of the tasks? "I do the toilets, so you do the diapers"?
Not being married, I don't really have accurate insight into marital division of domestic responsibilities. I do know that as a single person, I have to do all the chores on my own. I'm not sharing the laundry or bathroom cleaning or dishwashing with anyone else. So I wonder, are women expecting that being married should reduce the amount of work they have to do around the house?
It seems to me that marriage is full of compromise. Everything from how to celebrate the holidays, how to prepare the perfect lasagna, where to hang the dish towels, toothpaste etiquette, whether to make the bed or fold back the sheets, to who takes out the trash is up for discussion. If each person's contribution to the home and the relationship is weighed and counted, with resentment at any imbalance, there is bound to be dissatisfaction... what were the words? Oh yes: rage, frustration, bitterness.
Love involves sacrifice and service. I know it's very simplistic and idealistic to suggest that people should suck it up and serve, but perhaps there is something to that approach? Also, I wonder how women, as educated and aware as we are these days, could really believe they can have it all - the thriving career and the perfect family life.
To me, it shows how much time and effort a home really requires. To keep a house clean, warm and welcoming requires more than a few hours a week. Perhaps the trouble isn't that women are relegated to the 'crappy jobs' of family life and that men are ridiculed for their contributions. Perhaps the trouble is that we don't value the daily stuff of family life enough. Maybe it looks like drudgery to plan and prepare meals every day, or clean the toilet yet again. But what if we teach our children that these are valuable tasks, work that should be respected and appreciated? What if we honoured women for raising children and acknowledged the skill it takes to do so?
However, even if those things were to come to pass, it would still be important for men to pick up their socks!
June 6, 2013