I used to read lots and lots of self-help, self-improvement blogs. I quit them all cold turkey, in order to free up my mind for focusing on today, instead of focusing on how-things-could-be-better. One the blogs for relationship and marital advice is Project Happily Ever After. Unfortunately, there was this quote:
It doesn’t matter if you are a feminist who sought out an egalitarian man to marry. Chances are you will eventually come to the conclusion that you do most of the housework. For a while this will anger you. Eventually you’ll either reach a place of acceptance or you’ll have the means to hire a cleaning lady.
Unpacking the Quote
First of all, there’s a lot of assumptions here. The first one that’s easy to articulate is that, actually, unfortunately, not everyone will have the means to hire a cleaning lady. That’s a lot of class privilege there, thinking that you should hire someone (usually poorer and less privileged than you) to do chores, and that “everyone” has the means to do so. I’m sure anyone you hire goes home and cleans their own home.
Second assumption seems to be that somehow a professed belief in egalitarianism transmutes into enacting egalitarian ideas and ways of living. Or, that someone who professes these beliefs and yet does not act upon them are somehow still egalitarian.
Third, there’s a huge hetero-normative aspect to this, but I find that with almost all marriage literature, even stuff on the internets. (I’m not condoning the hetero-normative aspect to this, nor am I saying that the unequal distribution of housework is simply a man/woman dyad phenom. But I’m not the right person to do this analysis — I’m telling this story from the perspective of a cis woman in a heterosexual relationship.)
So, why did this really bother you, Kate?
I was really annoyed by this quote because I resembled it. I am a feminist, and I sought out an egalitarian man to marry, and I was finding myself saddled with the majority of the housework. I don’t have the means to hire someone, and I don’t think that I would want to.
But, as we explored two weeks ago, I was socialized to care more about housework than I imagine Tim ever was. And so I cared about things: I cared that there were hand towels in the guest bathroom when there are guests, I cared that the dishes were done each night and that we eat at the dinner table — and thus that the dinner table is cleaned off. I had expectations about the way our home should look.
And, surprisingly, Tim and I actually shared a lot of expectations — Tim, too, thinks that the dishes should be done each night, and that it’s usually pretty nice to eat at the table. And he actually likes straightening the apartment — and thinks it’s silly that some things (like my knitting and his DS) don’t seem to have homes. But we never talked about these expectations. And since we never talked about them, we never talked about who was responsible, or how to share the responsibility.
But things still weren’t quite fair, or equally shared. More soon. 😀