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housework

I just read an article published in 1970, titled "The Politics of Housework" by Pat Mainardi. It centers on the historical oppression of women (and the lower classes) especially in the area of housework, and the techniques that those in power (white males) exercise in order to maintain that state. Why would any man do this? For this one simple reason "They recognize the essential fact of housework right from the very beginning. Which is that it stinks."

As I read the article, I was glad to see that the loml and I don't encounter these situations very often, but yet there were still several items that were eerily familiar. The article is a quick read and I recommend it to everyone. But for those who think that this stuff isn't for them, I'll quote some examples of things that men say along with the author's interpretation:

  • "I don' t mind sharing the work, but you'll have to show me how to do it." MEANING: I ask a lot of questions and you'll have to show me everything every time I do it because I don't remember so good. Also don' t try to sit down and read while I'M doing my jobs because I'm going to annoy hell out of you until it's easier to do them yourself."
  • "I hate it more than you. You don't mind it so much." MEANING: Housework is garbage work. It's the worst crap I've ever done. It's degrading and humiliating for someone of my intelligence to do it. But for someone of your intelligence....

    and finally, my favourite:

  • "I don't mind sharing the housework, but I don't do it very well. We should each do the things we're best at." MEANING: Unfortunately I'm no good at things like washing dishes or cooking. What I do best is a little light carpentry, changing light bulbs, moving furniture (how often do you move furniture?). ALSO MEANING: Historically the lower classes (black men and us) have had hundreds of years experience doing menial jobs. It would be a waste of manpower to train someone else to do them now. ALSO MEANING: I don't like the dull, stupid, boring jobs, so you should do them.

Interestingly, the author also provides some points to consider when your man kicks up a fuss at having to do this shitty job:


  • He is feeling it more than you. He's losing some leisure and you're gaining it. The measure of your oppression is his resistance.
  • A great many American men are not accustomed to doing monotonous, repetitive work which never issues in any lasting, let alone important, achievement... Men have always had servants (us) to take care of this bottom stratum of life while they have confined their efforts to the rarefied upper regions.
  • In a sense, all men everywhere are slightly schizoid-divorced from the reality of maintaining life. This makes it easier for them to play games with it.

Now, this is a lot to lay on a man. And as I already stated, I don't really encounter many of these issues with the loml. We both work full time jobs, we both contribute to our shared way of life.. is it because we are a liberated couple? The sad answer is no. We aren't. The truth is that while the loml is wonderful at pitching in with household duties, I seriously doubt that we actually have an equitable housework arrangement (based on several years experience here, just trust me). The truth is that I just shifted the oppressive tasks to a maid service. So in some sense, I've just outsourced our shitty tasks. And I did it because of all the same reasons that man doesn't want to do the housework. And while I'm paying a fair market rate to my housecleaning crew, is this that much better than how things were 40 years ago?

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