One of the paradoxes of modern feminism is that it’s granted certain women freedom but at the expense of their ability to function as adults. Take a look at this article in – where else? – The Guardian:
It feels very personal, the fight you have with your partner about who does the laundry or cleans the bathroom.
But the second-wave feminists were right. The personal is political. The unequal division of labour at home is a systemic issue that needs structural social change to solve it.
Yes, we must restructure society because some entitled princess doesn’t want to clean the bathroom.
Housework, writes Megan K Stack in her book Women’s Work, is “a ubiquitous physical demand that has hamstrung and silenced women for most of human history”.
Until the invention of the washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, and vacuum cleaner. Which, coincidentally, is about the time feminists found the time and energy to complain how terrible their lives were.
Like many heterosexual couples, it was the arrival of children that set my husband and me on divergent paths at home. I’ve been an avowed (and untidy) feminist since I was old enough to say the word.
Western feminists like to boast they’re untidy, hoping it signals a carefree mind occupied by loftier matters than keeping the place clean. What it actually signals is she’s a lazy slob.
We were together for 10 years before the birth of our daughter – he knew his co-parent had zero aspirations to be a homemaker. So how did we end up so easily slipping into the prescribed gender roles that we’d dodged up until then?
Well, what happened when the sink got blocked?
There are a few reasons that come to mind, such as structural issues like the lack of parental leave for fathers and the gender pay gap.
I have another theory, related to the note at the bottom of the article which says “Nicola Heath is a freelance writer”. At a guess, you decided to indulge in a poorly-paid hobby rather than get a proper job, leaving your husband as the main breadwinner. Given he’s at work all day while you knock out boilerplate rubbish for The Guardian, it’s probably only fair that you clean the toilet occasionally.
Becoming a parent is already a huge transition. Your identity is reforged in the crucible of sleep deprivation and newfound responsibility. The pre-kid lifestyle of Friday night drinks, free time and sleeping in becomes a distant memory.
Having a baby changes your life. Who knew?
In this period of chaotic readjustment, it’s easy to fall back on what we know. Even in this era of dual-income households, women take the reins at home and men … carry on pretty much as they always did, with less sleep.
The complaint seems to be that when feminists have babies they adopt behaviours which work rather than stage a political protest.
But the tired and outdated breadwinner model is just as limiting for men as it is for women. The pressure men feel to provide for their families means they work long hours and miss out on time with their children in the name of economic security.
Indeed, driven by crippling mortgages to pay for houses they might not have chosen had they been married to a Filipina called Cherry.
A report by Deloitte put the value of unpaid work in Victoria at $205bn, half the gross state product,
How much of that was performed by men?
while PwC research from 2017 found that women performed 72% of unpaid work in Australia.
I hope that study was better than the one I cited here.
Some women don’t want to work outside the home – and that’s fine. But others do, and for them pursuing a career can be an uphill battle as they try to manage paid and unpaid work.
Because men don’t mow lawns, clear gutters, paint sheds, unblock drains, change car batteries, assemble wardrobes, replace loose slates, bleed radiators, and take care of the home insurance while pursuing a career.
If women want their partners to do more domestic tasks – which would free them up to do more work outside the home – it’s not going to happen without some uncomfortable conversations.
Such as: “Tell me more about this work outside the home, and how much money will it bring in?”
Change is difficult. We’re asking someone to give up their privilege, a sticking point articulated by pioneering New Zealand economist Marilyn Waring in her 1988 book Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth. “Men won’t easily give up a system in which half the world’s population works for next to nothing,” she wrote.
Ah yes, those 20th century miners, farmers, fishermen, labourers, warehousemen, soldiers, sailors, construction workers, all fighting tooth and nail to maintain their privilege.
For many women, this is a hard conversation to initiate. It requires saying, “my needs are important too, and what’s best for the family isn’t necessarily best for me” – something that goes against how we expect women to behave.
It goes against how we expect anyone to behave in a functioning relationship with children involved, to be honest. There’s a reason why it’s a hard conversation to initiate: you run the risk of being exposed as possibly the most selfish individual to ever progenate.
My eldest daughter is now six, and while my husband does a great deal around the house, I have never returned to working full-time. His career has forged ahead (to our collective benefit) while mine has adapted to the demands of childcare.
I can taste the oppression.
If we want women to flourish, we need to make some concessions.
Might I suggest you take this up with your husband rather than the general public?
But the result – men and women better fulfilling their potential inside and outside the home – is worth it.
If your potential outside the home was anything other than minimal, that’s where you’d already be.