Is Housework Political?

Utah Metro Areas Have Worst Gender Wage Gap in the Nation

In a world where George Zimmerman roams free and forced sterilization continues in American prisons, it seems trivial to speak of housework, but something must be said, because it’s 2013 and women are still doing the majority of housework. The difference in hours spent cleaning is dwindling, but a gap still remains. Women still complete, on average, seven more hours of housework than men per week.

Put in terms of leisure, you are doing housework instead of: seven yoga classes, watching 9.7 episodes of Scandal, reading for seven hours, watching 420 minutes of cat videos on YouTube, etc, etc. Suddenly it seems like quite the disparity, huh?

In the 1970s Pat Mainardi (a member of the New York Redstockings collective) wrote a piece called “The Politics of Housework” that is still fitting today. Mainardi explained how conversations about housework unfolded between her and her husband. He wouldn’t protest the notion that they should have a 50/50 split of chores, but “the longer my husband contemplated these chores the more repulsed he became, and so proceeded the change from the normally sweet considerate Dr. Jekyll into the crafty Mr. Hyde who would stop at nothing to avoid the horrors of–housework.*”

Mainardi’s husband wasn’t a horrible partner. He wasn’t a horrible man. Men aren’t horrible for failing to complete the tasks they weren’t socialized to recognize. But it is horrible when a woman bring the disparity in participation to her partner’s attention and he balks. It’s unfair to think that you are above scrubbing toilets, doing dishes, and picking up dog poop.

Here are some excerpts of Mainardi’s husband’s cries about housework (do any of them sound familiar to you?) and her accompanying translations:

1.”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?).

2. “I’ve got nothing against sharing the housework, but you can’t make me do it on your schedule.”

Meaning: Passive resistance. I’ll do it when I damned well please, if at all.

Who does the majority of the work in your house? Do the chores fall along gendered lines? Do you want it to change?

*Mainardi, Pat. “The Politics of Housework.” The Essential Feminist Reader. Estelle B. Freedman. New York: Modern Library, 2007. 288-294. Print.

Comments

  1. In a world where George Zimmerman roams free and forced sterilization continues in American prisons, it seems trivial to speak of lawnmowing, but something must be said, because it’s 2013 and men are still doing the majority of yardwork. The difference in hours spent trimming is dwindling, but a gap still remains. Men still complete, on average, seven more hours of yardwork than women per week.
    Put in terms of leisure, you are doing yardwork instead of: seven band practices, playing 9.7 levels of Call of Duty, reading the newspaper on the toilet for seven hours, watching 420 minutes of 2 girls 1 cup videos on RedTube, etc, etc. Suddenly it seems like quite the disparity, huh?
    In the 1970s Pat Mainardi’s husband (a member of the New York Redstockings collective) should have wrote a piece called “The Politics of Yardwork” that would still be fitting today. Mainardi’s husband explained how conversations about yardwork unfolded between him and his wife. She wouldn’t protest the notion that they should have a 50/50 split of chores, but “the longer my wife contemplated these chores the more repulsed she became, and so proceeded the change from the normally sweet considerate Dr. Jekyll into the crafty Mrs. Hyde who would stop at nothing to avoid the horrors of–yardwork.*”
    Mainardi’s wife wasn’t a horrible partner. She wasn’t a horrible woman. Women aren’t horrible for failing to complete the tasks they weren’t socialized to recognize. But it is horrible when a man brings the disparity in participation to his partner’s attention and she balks. It’s unfair to think that you are above edging the lawn, hanging Christmas lights, and spraying for wasps.
    Here are some excerpts of Mainardi’s wife’s cries about yardwork (do any of them sound familiar to you?) and his accompanying translations:
    1.”I don’t mind sharing the yardwork, 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 killing spiders or oil changes. What I do best is a little light sewing, changing curtains for the right season, and telling you where to move the furniture (how often do you move furniture?).
    2. “I’ve got nothing against sharing the yardwork, but you can’t make me do it on your schedule.”
    Meaning: Passive resistance. I’ll do it when I damned well please, if at all.

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