Saturday, January 07, 2006
An only partly light-hearted item about gender and housework, posted at Club Troppo and then cross-posted to Larvatus Prodeo by Nicholas Gruen, has generated a number of comments on both blogs and spun discussion off into others. So here's my two cents.
1) Ideology is the enemy of housework. As a feminist all my adult life I have always resisted the idea that making a mess and not cleaning it up is somehow worse if you're a woman, or that the many activities traditionally lumped under the heading 'housework' are in any way gender-specific. On the other hand, I also have political objections (weakening as I age, but still strong enough to prevent it) to the idea of employing a cleaner, particularly since almost all cleaners are women. I can't quite shake the idea that there is something simultaneously undignifed and anti-democratic about not cleaning up one's own mess.
2) I therefore live in a much bigger mess (speaking of undignification) than I would like. Nothing chez moi actually smells or festers, and the bathroom does not look as if I am developing a new species of penicillin in it, but the untidiness is chronic and in one room in particular the chaos would be regarded by some as a mental health issue. There's a proliferation of displaced or homeless items in this room that it would take three or four weeks to sort, deal with, throw out or find a home for, even if I could get the carpenter in to build the cupboards I can't afford in the space I don't have.
3) The bringing-up of children and the cooking of meals are both arts. Housework is a chore. Under no circumstances should they all be considered as part of the same deal.
4) If you're a woman, it's all about your mother. You have either internalised her standards and followed her example, or wildly over-reacted against them. This applies at both ends of the spectrum, whether she was an unutterable slob or Mrs Sparkle incarnate.
5) Ironing is less unbearable than cleaning the bathroom.
6) The piano looks better without the paw prints.