all the unpaid unthanked work round the house - a feminist issue?

(104 Posts)
semirurallife Tue 15-Oct-13 18:08:01

AIBU for regularly thinking of quitting my job(s) as full time mum, part time worker, part time job hunter? what gets my goat (?) is the thankless tidying, cleaning, cooking, shopping, sock-pairing, ironing, drawer tidying, hovering, mopping, shoe-lifting - I could go on - that I do. I can't get a proper job coz have taken too much time off looking after the DH and DCs, so feel stuck. a separate issue! but isn't it (house and family care) a feminist issue, and why doesn't mainstream feminism seem to care about all this sh*t we do? they all seem glamorous media savvy Londoners rather than stuck in the sticks with boring mundane problems... anyone know what am talking about?...

Yes. Dunno where that gets me apart from a comrade in a keyboard.

SilverApples Tue 15-Oct-13 18:14:49

It is about respect, rather than feminism, and each member of your family working as a unit and appreciating what you all do to make the family work.
What are their manners like? Do they say thank you when you've cooked? Helped them with something? Given them their clean, ironed clothes to put away? Does your DH value what you do and tell you?
You don't say how old your children are, but even 4 year olds can pair socks and help you keep the house tidy.
Time to get bolshie if they just treat you like part of the furniture and an unpaid servant.

I think its a feminist issue inasmuch as housework should not automatically be seen as "women's work". It should be shared between the adult house occupants according to who is at home more/ who is happy to do what etc.

If this is an issue for you then have you spoken to your DH about it? (Sorry to sound simplistic). He should be thanking you if you're currently doing it all - if he's not then I think he's rude at the very least.

My DH and I both work full time and so share the housework pretty much equally. But I'll still say "thanks for clearing up the kitchen" when he does it after dinner - and he'd thank me too. Because otherwise you end up feeling taken for granted/ resentful. And it's just manners.

SilverApples Tue 15-Oct-13 18:22:37

^ ^


runningonwillpower Tue 15-Oct-13 18:23:17

I know of no job where you get thanked for every little thing you do. You get your job description and no-one notices your effort until you fuck up.

But in the home I do try to foster a spirit of togetherness. OK, I actually phrase it, 'we're all in this shit together'.

So, in the spirit of togetherness, I recommend concerted effort and respect in the interest of the common good. That is, get the family to help out and shout until they do.

Good luck.

Thinking about this more - the reason I think DH DOES thank me on a regular basis is because he doesn't see it as "my" job. It's just house stuff, that has to get done - and one of us has to do it. So if he has a big clear up, or cuts the grass, or cleans the bathroom, or whatever, I am gebuinely grateful that it's one less thing for me to do. And he feels the same when I do it.

It's when one person (usually male) believes that it is all entirely the other person's (usually female) responsibility, that they don't bother thanking them. Because they think, well, that's her job. Like I don't thank my DH for going to work every day, and vice versa.

God I'm rambling.

My point is, if your DH sees this as "just your job", and you don't, then you need to have a word and sort it out.

semirurallife Tue 15-Oct-13 18:34:26

thanks all!
minnieisthedevilmouse, you have a comrade.
as for respect (silverapples,)and sharing, i get that, and of course you are right. but the reality is a) the kids are small and I yell at them trying to instill respect plenty smile, b) husband is relatively modernized, but c) he works much longer hours than me and d) tho DH is better cook, etc, the point is the MULTITUDE of millions of tiny weeny things that no matter how much I try to instruct him, he will never get the kids lunchboxes right, or remember to empty the bins quite regularly enough... I think men's brains are inferiorly wired (although DH is an engineer so good at other kinds of wiring) coz he can't see the detail enuf... know what I mean?

Habbibu Tue 15-Oct-13 18:48:18

That's crap. Men's brains function just fine and can see detail. This is a behavioural issue, not biological.

Yy to the thanking. We thank each other a lot, and I do think it's because we just don't assume it's his or my job. We habitually do some things more than others, but it's not taken for granted.

FloraFox Tue 15-Oct-13 18:50:40

He can see the detail, he is not wired differently. He either doesn't care or knows you will pick up his slack. It's your job after all, isn't it?

What you are dealing with is a feminist issue, it's not just a matter of manners or respect. You are a member of the sex class which, in our society, is allocated responsibility for the home and family (i.e. women). You are supposed to find this sufficiently fulfilling that you don't need anything else (other than perhaps some volunteer work outside the home) and your husband can pursue his career without the distraction of home responsibilities.

I'm not sure, though, if you are blaming feminism or feminists for this? I certainly wouldn't agree with that. I do think there is not much help for you from some aspects of feminism because it was your choice to stay home, no-one forced you. It was an empowerfulising choice and if you don't like it, you can make an empowerfulising choice to change it. Of course, you can't though because you have commitments to your family, you won't just walk away. This issue of choice is not the only feminist view though, there are other views that recognise that choice is constrained and that women individually cannot choose themselves out of patriarchal structures in society.

Are you after some feminist analysis or practical advice about how to change your situation?

semirurallife Tue 15-Oct-13 20:09:12

florafox, good point. have read plenty of feminism, and I can read the situation theoretically. but in practical terms we have not progressed to where everything is respected for what it is. in part it makes me cross that childcare and the realities of all getting out the door clean, fed, educated etc are lumped into women's domain, and it ain't either remunerated, or respected, for what it is. so do other women not feel that way? i did choose to put my kids first, for a while, but why should that mean I am considered 'out-of-date' at work? after all, home life and can be a huge economic contribution. and it goes with a capitalist framework that 'hard' economic realities dominate and are considered important, whereas the impacts that we know life's tough realities have o children, their emotional lives etc etc, are relegated to the home/ women's work/ social work/ just don;t figure. maybe I'd like to see feminism that is concerned not just with symbolic degradation of women, e.g. the Romola garai anti pg 3, totally singed u to that, but if the world thinks women have been doing nothing until they got out to work in men's world, is that not a failure to acknowledged the productive things women have been doing all along? (rant over for now)smile

coldwinter Tue 15-Oct-13 20:54:19

Wifework is a great feminist book that addresses many of the issues you raise i.e. even when it appears both partners are doing the same amount of work, it is often the women doing all the little thinhs and taking responsibility for things e.g. booking dentists appointments, arranging play dates, etc.

I also read some research where they asked couples how evenly the housework and childcare was shared. Feminist women tended to think it was fairly shared. But the researchers observing found that feminist women were likely to underestimate the time they spent doing things, and over estimate the time their DP spent doing things. And their DP did the same.

Of course this is a feminist issue.

Keepithidden Tue 15-Oct-13 22:19:23

I think it depends on the population size: at a personal and relationship level then no, it isn't intrinsically a feminist issue. As SilverApples says it's about respect and equality between the members of a household. At a wider population level then the sex class stuff kicks in and societal pressures cause it to become a feminist issue. IMO. Wifework explains the latter but not the former...

Keepithidden Tue 15-Oct-13 22:21:43

Actually thinking about it a bit more, I'm not sure if you can separate out the personal and population level issues, they're likely to be intrinsically linked, so I'm probably wrong.

Arse, this is why I don't post much on FWR, it's too complex!

NoComet Tue 15-Oct-13 22:25:37

Oh fuckety Fuck, draw tidying, well actually bookcase sorting!

our bed is three feet deep in junk I need to go and move.

YANBU, no one else ever properly sorts anything angry

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Tue 15-Oct-13 23:27:58

House work and child rearing is massively underrated and is no where near respected enough.

I had an old boss who invoiced her husband for housework/childcare when she was a SAHM for a few years shock And he paid. And this was the 70'/80's! I hated the woman but really respected that!

Her career, industry status, earning potential, social life and body/health took a knock back. His didn't, so she felt entitled to compensation.

He got a clean house, laundry, meals and his share of loved, cared-for, nourished children.

Obviously not practical for everyone i.e. I'm a LP and work fulltime!

semirurallife Wed 16-Oct-13 08:50:47

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa - the story of your boss is brilliant.. I would invoice the DH but there is no money left in the pot sad
I was an LP for a while because DH#1 was un-reformed - he was macho and would watch me cry in exhaustion and refuse to get out of bed to pick up the baby because it was women's work - but your boss was too right. its not just funny its just. I read somewhere that women's work around the house if worth about £36,000 a year if you had to pay someone to do it Not that you could,, that's the point.

But maybe when our sisters in the 60s and 70s burnt their bras and grew their leg hair, and other forebears chained themselves to Buck Palace to get us the vote... they wanted out of the house. and in the house all that sh*t still has to get done, and its women who are doing it, as well as trying to work full time - and feeling like a half person.
read some of the feminist pub - wish it really existed smile so could talk this through more! (with something more interesting in hand other than re-heated coffee)

VerySmallSqueak Wed 16-Oct-13 08:58:43

I've mentioned this on here before - I remember the Wages for Housework campaign in the 1980's.
I'm thinking that behind it was the notion that behind every successful man there was a woman putting his life in order,everything on a plate for him,while she had to sidle up to him on nookie night for her housekeeping money?
So very sad that, for so many women,in thirty years not a lot has changed.

VerySmallSqueak Wed 16-Oct-13 09:00:23

I've never read Wifework.
It's a must for my (extensive) reading list now.

teatimesthree Wed 16-Oct-13 09:08:17

Semirurallife - I completely agree with you. Actually the 60s and 70s feminists thought and talked a lot about housework and other unpaid work. This is a brilliant article on "The Politics of Housework" and there was also an international campaign called Wages for Houswork.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 09:08:39

Keepithidden - 'the personal is political' is a feminist slogan smile

I'm interested in the idea that feminism has ignored these issues. I don't think it has - I think they've been central for a long time, and they certainly come up all the time at my local feminist group - but I agree they don't get an awful lot of media attention. The media likes focusing on young glamorous feminists talking about sex, basically, so the airtime different issues get is disproportionate to how important these issues actually are to real-life feminists.
I guess it's something it's hard to mount a concerted campaign over. It's an area where change has come through lots of individual women coming back home from feminist meetings or reading Wifework and starting to redefine their view of what is an acceptable relationship.
As a group you can attack things like adverts that show housework as a women's role, but not the individual men who aren't doing their share.

teatimesthree Wed 16-Oct-13 09:09:34

x-post with Very Small Squeak!

Socialist feminists in the 1970s talked a lot about women's unpaid work propping up capitalism. And of course radical lesbianism was all about withdrawing women's labour completely.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 11:48:43

But maybe when our sisters in the 60s and 70s burnt their bras and grew their leg hair, and other forebears chained themselves to Buck Palace to get us the vote...

Do you not think that it's all got a bit lazy now? People type on a forum or click on an E-petition. Where's the real stand up & take notice disruption that makes the 90% of the population that aren't bothered take note & think "actually, this needs to be addressed"?

Teenagers can stop everything in a major city by forming a flash mob, but where are the Feminist Flash Mobs, why aren't the news channels full of similar things?

Maybe today's Feminists have got just enough equality that it shuts most of them up & is not worth making a huge effort to reach for the rest? I don't know - but how many of the people that contribute to this forum from the comfort of their own homes have actually got up & demonstrated, marched, waved placards in the name of the cause?

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 11:50:24

Or maybe they can't get the time off work!! wink

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 12:02:32

DavesDads, I went to Million Women Rise the other year with a contingent of about 60 Mumsnet feminists. London was brought to a standstill by many thousands of women marching against VAWG. None of the news media bothered to mention it.
This year's MWR was actually reported on Channel 4 News, mainly because they found some slebs to talk about it <headdesk>

As a result of this topic I helped set up a local feminist group in my city and this year we held a march through the city for International Women's Week. It was ace.

I think there's a lot more RL activism than you realise but it tends to be quite hard to get media coverage for it unless you do a Slutwalk or emulate Femen and do it topless. And of course there are plenty of keyboard warriors - but in an internet age that can be the best way to get things done.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 12:08:06

You've inadvertently identified one of the main problems that feminism faces -the stereotypical idea that "real" feminists burn their bras and have hairy legs. Your idea of feminism seems to come directly from the media - which is the case for a lot of women. But it's worth remembering that the media is informed and run by a patriarchal society - it suits men very well if women think feminism is a bit crazy, unnecessary or dead.
In fact, a lot has been written about the very issues you identify - wifework and the politics of housework being the major works.
Op you clearly are a feminist and have plenty of worthwhile things to say. Don't be put off by the false images you've been fed.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 12:10:08

(when I say London was brought to a standstill, I just mean they had to stop the traffic in Oxford St and some other main thoroughfares for a few hours, obv. But it lasted quite a long time because there were so many people marching.)

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 12:10:26

Cailin - yes, spot on.

whatdoesittake48 Wed 16-Oct-13 12:38:42

This whole issue of housework really troubles me. Clearly running a household is a job which has to be done (we would all be waist deep in filth otherwise...) and for many reasons (not least the fact that women are underpaid in the workforce) women are left at home to do it.

But here comes the crunch - I don't think men consciously see the housework as womens work. I think they just feel that they do enough. Clearly this is so wrong. running a house is a 24 hour job and nothing like a nine to five.

Women also feel often that they should do everything around the house because their man works and provides for them. this is the brainwashing bit. We actually believe that this job the man has is so impressive and important that their needs should be catered for at all times.

A few of the comments here have also alluded tot he fact that some women think men are incapable to doing housework to the right standards. How very convenient for men. We need to nip that notion in the bud.

Why do we think that we can earn a living just as well as men, but don't think men can look after the home as well as us. that is crazy. it is like we are talking ourselves into being responsible for everything and not allowing any help.

coldwinter Wed 16-Oct-13 13:00:32

And even if both partners work full time, the woman still usually does more.

There is lots of feminist activism where I live. You wouldn't know it from the media though. And Million Women Rise march was great. Had no idea a contingent of MNers were there though.

SinisterSal Wed 16-Oct-13 13:21:23

I hate the notion that men can't do the housework to a high enough standard.
You hear 'Oh loosen up, let him do it his way'
'I tried, but she's like a sargeant major hanging over me. It doesn't matter as long as it gets done'

But when you examine it, it's often something like putting the wrong childs clothes in the wrong drawer. Result? Mum (usually) running around in frustration 5 minutes before school starts looking for the correct uniform.
Not hanging out the washing properly - Result, ironing takes twice as long.
A dirty cloth being used to clean the kitchen - well, obvious result is it's not actually clean.

If it's always been the woman who has done these jobs before, surely it's just basic respect for her expertise that you'd do it pretty much her way at least til you'd found your own rythym? Do these men come in with the attitude that their wives make up crazy overcomplicated schemes in order to provide pitfalls for men?
If he was getting the hang of any other job he'd follow procedure, he'd have enough respect for the task and the people performing it that he'd accept there was a reason for doing it this particular way even if that reason was not immediately obvious.
He wouldn't just tumble a pile of boxes into a ware house and think 'It doesn't matter as long as it gets done'
He wouldn't fling out pints and change behind a bar and complain that he's expected to use a till and clean glasses and keep track of the stock.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 13:57:24

The trouble with "written" feminism is that it's not going to reach those that need to hear it. Feminist boards are for feminists (or troublemaking MRAs) - "normal" folk won't go near them. (There's even a thread on this site about how unwelcoming the Feminist area is).

If the very people that should be involved don't feel they can be then surely you're on to a non starter?

You've got to be careful that you don't "posh" it out of reach. Someone that will cheerfully protest and fight for their right to equal pay in the workplace may not necessarily read a longwinded article/book on the detailed ins & outs of the subject.

"The Politics of Housework", "Wifework" - how many "normal" women - by which I mean not Feminist as such, but could/should be - would even consider reading them? They even sound boring intimidating.

Would a pamphlet campaign work better? If you can't get people interested in your message in a leaflet made of 1 sheet of folded A4 you're probably not communicating the right message.

The examples you gave above of non-events that weren't covered by the media sum it up TBH.

Stop the traffic on Oxford Street - woo. 60 (a whole 60) Mumsnetters turn up in one place - how many Mumsnetters are there? Oxford Street stops everytime BT dig up a cable!

I'll stick by my earlier comment - it's Lazy, Comfortable Feminism at the moment - no one is being challenged, no one is changing, no one is shouting...

semirurallife Wed 16-Oct-13 14:04:21

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically -yes, it is lazy to do it on a keyboard, but there is the practical issue -
so I went to V rising day, but locally - Norwich smile and it was great but small and don't think we made it on much local was great but felt like what it probably is,a small group of like minded women who DO have the time to go somewhere and make a symbolic protest. Maybe if we were topless... argh!
and couldn't agree more with analyses of why men can't do housework.
Sinister, if it was his workplace the socks would be ironed before being paired. at home, I find my daughter's knickers in with mine... (were but that my bum was that small! and you can tell he doesn't really notice what underwear I wear which is fine... No, if i get pi**ed off, his response is pretty much calm down dear, which then of course makes me stew twice as hot.. but I can't change him any faster than a tanker can turn round. you pick your battles, right, like with the kids... and on balance at least he's gentlemanly, in an old fashioned but sweet way

will go and read Wifework... but I hate the media's spin - even Women's Hour - on how women need to do x and y to get further ahead in business. I don't want to go and work full time because I couldn't pay anyone enough to do what I do for the kids; and I love them coz thier cute. most of the time. the feminist ethics thing comes into it because I don't like the way the world is run - my friend at college and I used to draw up fantasy cabinets, and re-order them - every member of the cabinet a woman - plus Jeremy Paxbaby because we had a soft spot for him then... anyway I digress, but no Teresa May does NOT get a job.

childcare would be universally available, if you wanted it; part time flexible jobs would be the norm; respect would be taught in schools and violence not glorified in stupid movies or x box games, but identified as a danger to anyone... i could go

LurcioLovesFrankie Wed 16-Oct-13 14:07:32

"Feminist boards are for feminists..." - well, who were you expecting? Trainspotters?

semirurallife Wed 16-Oct-13 14:28:13

teatimesthree - thanks for politics of housework link. brilliant. and short (always helpful when you have a pile of ironing to get through before the kids come through door with mud, messy bags and needing to be carted out again to a lesson). sigh.
nothing more liberating than knowing you're oppressed. smile
but you do get scary stuff. my mum, when I was a student, i bought her a mug because when i asked her if she was a feminist she says 'i;m not sure what one is'. so the mug had the quote from [can't remember whom] who said they were called a feminist every time they tried to differentiate themselves from a doormat. she still didn't get it...
and - as the article suggests - thinking about other oppressed groups - we need a feminist liberation theology (or similar) to get women to see how trying to be pretty is wasting their time - am trying to ban DD fom makeup (she's 9 going on 15) but how do I counteract the po stars she sees on telly, glossed and sexed up off their stilettos? ...

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Wed 16-Oct-13 14:31:28

A pamphlet Dave ?

Sheesh, why didn't anyone think of that?! Tell me more about how to do feminism properly...

I do so love to be patronised and criticised by someone who knows fuck all about me...just a lot of lazy assumptions.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 14:34:41

Wow, what a pity you're not in charge of the feminist movement, Dave. It would do so much better.

Out of interest, do you see yourself as part of this 'lazy comfortable' feminism? Or is it just the rest of us who are being lazy?

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 14:38:05
YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Wed 16-Oct-13 14:40:44

grin Tunip

semirurallife Wed 16-Oct-13 14:41:51

that's beautiful Tunip - but couldn't we get someone better looking - Brad Pitt, perhaps?

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Wed 16-Oct-13 14:42:27

<awaits to be informed 'its no wonder feminism never gets anywhere when you girls are so hostile'>

WoTmania Wed 16-Oct-13 14:42:50

Dave - obviously MWR isn't just 60 MNetters
If you're interested MWR:

MaddAddam Wed 16-Oct-13 14:43:13

Of course it's a feminist issue, feminists have always written and argued about housework. The Feminine Mystique had a huge impact from the 50s onwards. Wifework is a more modern version of the same theme. There's a lot of academic feminism devoted to these topics but maybe it's not so visible in the wider media.

As for it sounding boring, I find nothing boring about not feeling obliged to do most/all of the housework and childcare. It's one of the lovely perks of being a feminist. Less domestic drudgery. Another nice feminist perk is feeling entitled to stomp around making a fuss if people aren't pulling their weight on the laundry and mopping.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 14:44:40

Me - I'm not a feminist (yet) but might be one day.

I wasn't patronising LaLa genuinely wondering why Feminism isn't in the public eye more. It can't all be down to the "Patriarchal" empire surely?

OK, so maybe pamphlets are a bit 80's why not 2 page articles in Heat, OK, Bella etc? (not consciously being patronising but they are read predominately by women).

Feminists talking on Feminist boards to other Feminists doesn't sound like it's going to change much - that's all!

Anyway, off to fill in my application form for Supreme Feminist Leader (Keyboard Division)...

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 14:47:23

@ WoTmania - Thanks - looks interesting, will see if we can make it.

YouMakeMeWannaLaLa Wed 16-Oct-13 14:50:40

It is in the public eye confused (Malala, NoMorePage3, Lose the Lads Mags, Women on bank notes, Twitter rape threats, Femen, Affirmative Action debates etc.)

Not enough, obviously, but the internet has done a lot to educate and unite women. Surprised and confused you dismiss it. Petitions and campaigns are much stronger due to the internet.

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 14:59:25

I think change in the home has to come from the grassroots, the basics.
I'm a feminist, so I've always refused to settle for an unfair, sexist relationship. When people have been lazy and made assumptions, I've just not snuggled up into my pigeonhole and accepted that anything is my job because I'm female.
I have two adult children who will expect the same in any relationships they have if we've given them a good example.
You can have all the theories you like about Wifework and housework and child-rearing, but until women stand their ground and insist on a fair division of labour when they have to, little will change.

TunipTheUnconquerable Wed 16-Oct-13 15:04:19

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn't mean to be so rude, Dave smile

It is a truth very well known to anyone who knows about feminist history or has engaged in more than one piece of activism that whatever means of protest you use, whatever cause you focus on, there will be blokes sitting there telling you you're doing it wrong.
When the Suffragettes chained themselves to railings there was a lot of talk about how they were putting back the cause of Women's Suffrage by acting in such an irrational, unfeminine and hooliganish manner. Modern feminists constantly get told we should be more like the Suffragettes. When you do online activism you are told you're lazy. When you do RL activism you're failing to engage with the modern world. When you campaign for worldwide issues you're patronising, when you focus on domestic ones you're ignoring the much worse suffering of women in the rest of the world. The only sensible strategy is to ignore it all and get on with what you're doing, I find.

Why don't we get more media coverage? Well, we're consistently non-violent - that's one reason.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Wed 16-Oct-13 15:11:27

OK, Thank You, very much damned if you do, damned if you don't then...

VerySmallSqueak Wed 16-Oct-13 15:12:05

Very well put Tunip. Very well put indeed.

Tbh I think a little keyboard talk does a lot to involve women who might not ordinarily give feminism another thought.

Softly softly. This is the way the word will spread.

Women will read a bit here and a bit there and gradually the tide will turn.

teatimesthree Wed 16-Oct-13 15:16:58

Dave - The Politics Of Housework WAS a pamphlet.

semirurallife Wed 16-Oct-13 15:18:26
from the sisters across the pond...

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 15:43:14

I agree in principle silverapples although in practice it's rarely as simple as that. The idea that house and family is the woman's domain is very deeply ingrained, so much so that women can feel a failure if they don't do everything. What I see a lot on MN is women saying "I'm on maternity leave so I do most of the housework and all the night wakings..." This is where it all goes wrong for a lot of women I think. They become the proficient ones at running the new more complicated family household while the man just goes to work and is oblivious. So either he comes to expect the woman to do everything or he genuinely loses track of how everything works and feels defeated when he tries to join in.
I do think a woman on ML should maintain a basic level of tidiness but there is no reason for her to be washing or ironing a grown man's clothes or making him his lunch/packing his bags/buying presents for his family. I honestly think in some families when the woman becomes "mother" she takes on that role with her partner too. Not only is it unfair, it slowly kills the relationship. Who wants to sleep with a man-child?

youretoastmildred Wed 16-Oct-13 16:10:36

An attitude I often see on here is that if a woman is having her domestic labour taken for granted, it is up to her to do something about it. "it's about respect," these posts begin, and then go into a long rambling thing about how every member of a household has a responsbility to take an age-appropriate role blah blah blah, as if this was not the holy grail that the OP was perfectly capable of thinking about and articulating, BUT NOT GETTING.

The reason why is that many men simply refuse to. There are men who accept in principle that they should be doing it, and need a nudge; others who accept in principle but nudging somehow never gets anywhere, it was always mysteriously and subtly the wrong kind of nudge and he is upset now; and others who just don't even accept it in principle. The latter two categories account for huge numbers of men and huge numbers of relationships and no amount of talking is going to get those men to pull their weight.

We all know this (don't we?) yet we keep seeing women being criticised on here for how their men treat them domestically. It makes me sad. And cross.

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 16:23:00


So I'm victim blaming again am I? Feminism, I'm doing it wrong? hmm
I hope that if DD is in a relationship with someone who takes her for granted and doesn't respect her, then she'll walk. I think she has enough self-esteem, and that her education has taught her that she's worth more than that.
Yes, I do think that adult should take more control and responsibility for their choices. Being used, putting up with not only your partner, but your children treating you as a second-class citizen there to service their every need is not OK, and I won't facilitate that attitude. Or understand others that do.

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 16:25:40

Or to put it in a simple, non-rambling form...Why stay with a man who metaphorically wipes his feet on you?
What stops you leaving in this country where your rights are equal to his?
Leave. Dump him. Live like a free adult.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 17:05:59

Exactly silver, what is it that stops women from leaving?

coldwinter Wed 16-Oct-13 17:06:03

I agree with you silver that no women should stay with a man who does that. But many of us are brought up to accept it and it can take time and confidence, to say no, I am not going to put up with that any more. I actually think MN is great for helping women to get to that point.

And like many women who are active in feminism, I became a feminist through raeding stuff on the internet

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 17:21:34

I just hoped that the future would be different when I got there, I was a shiny-eyed newbie feminist in the seventies, when women's legal, work and social rights were so much more limited.
I didn't think that 40 years later, there would still be educated women unable to see how unfair their lives are and to challenge that at a personal level.
I don't have a problem with women who love being homemakers, caring for children and partner and home and loving it. My friend cooks and dusts and polishes and arranges flowers and has three children. Happy in that role she's chosen.
But why tolerate it if you feel undervalued, miserable and servile?

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 17:30:09

Why do you think women tolerate it silver? Genuine question.

BasilBabyEater Wed 16-Oct-13 17:44:07

Why do you think women tolerate it?

I know why I do: a combination of personal beliefs and societal factors.

But why do you think they do?

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 17:53:46

I think they lack courage and confidence, that many women want a life with a partner, any partner rather than being single.
That many are still afraid that if they stood up to their partners and pointed out that what was happening is unfair and needed to change, that he'd leave them, so they comply and facilitate until it's so ingrained that their children treat them without respect or appreciation and without any concept of the woman being anything other than a wife or a mother.
However much we pour into education and theory, it seems to make little difference to the reality.

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 17:56:16

I think I'd better just join the Red Hat society and accept that I'm one of the mad old bats that so many of MN seem to come across on a regular basis.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 19:17:37

Where do you think all that comes from Silver - the lack of courage, the desire not to be single?

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 19:26:56

The need to be part of the herd.
The acceptance of inequality as just how it is, how things are.
In the same way as many of the mothers I knew in the 60s when I was growing up accepted giving up their lives to become SAHM without an alternative, marital rape as necessary part of 'meeting a man's needs', and the shame of having an unfaithful husband because you as the wife were somehow lacking.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 19:41:26

So is it an inherent failing in women- the acceptance of inequality, the need to be part of the herd?

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 19:49:54

inherent : existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.

synonyms:intrinsic, innate, immanent, built-in, inborn, ingrained, deep-rooted;

No, otherwise change would be impossible, and huge change has happened in my lifetime.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 19:58:49

So if lack of courage, desire not to be single, need to be part of a herd and acceptance of inequality aren't inherent failings of women, where do those characteristics come from?

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 20:05:12

Are we taking this down to the basics of nature/nurture?
Why do you think that education and the other gains in equality have made so little differences to the way that so many teenage girls carry out their relationships?
Societal pressure? Conditioning by external forces? Why do some resist and some comply, and why does acceptance of a second-class status cross wealth boundaries?

SilverApples Wed 16-Oct-13 20:05:49

wealth and class boundaries.

CailinDana Wed 16-Oct-13 20:20:29

It's important to ask these questions because we can't change these things unless we know why they're happening. It's not useful saying "women should just leave." If it were that simple there would be no problem. Women put up with being treated badly. If that's not due to inherent female qualities then clearly women aren't solely at fault. Something else must cause them to behave that way. Identifying what that is will help us tackle it. Do you agree?

SinisterSal Wed 16-Oct-13 20:50:41

Who is going to leave just because he won't pick up his socks?

Housework is trivial, boring, have you nothing else to think about. Just chill. Why would you break up a family for a non reason such as this. Just tell him you're getting a cleaner. No, a dishwasher. It's not like years ago when you had to bring water from the well and wash clothes by hand. Young mothers today don't know they're born.

You hear that much more than you hear the Just Leave view.

BasilBabyEater Wed 16-Oct-13 20:55:25

"Why do you think that education and the other gains in equality have made so little differences to the way that so many teenage girls carry out their relationships?"

What education?

Teenage girls are told that they are all equal now and there is no problem anymore and no more need for feminism.

All the time being bombarded by male supremacist propaganda that they haven't a hope in hell of recognising as such, because they're being told we're all equal now and... etc.

What education?

youretoastmildred Wed 16-Oct-13 21:23:18

Great socratic stuff there, Cailin

Basil I agree with your last post too.

In fact I think it is more realistic to say that women should not get into committed relationships with men who do not treat them as equals, rather than to say they should leave. It is hard to cut your losses when you have love, a past, a future (you hope), children, materially and legally entwined lives, a chidcare schedule... much better to get to the younger ones and say "watch out for disrespectful socks. A sock on the bedroom floor, near, not in, the linen basket, is a punctuation mark on your life story: a question mark over your future happiness." We do not say this, we say: love conquers all; it is better to give than to receive; men need our love and support; the answer to everything is to give more; don't be petty; be the bigger person.

But yes I do agree you can't make them pick the socks up. If you can do anything, you can ltb. but that is pretty much it.

however it is not craven and weak to want love. I want love. I have fucked up big sections of my life by not admitting this and trying to be above love. Women who want love (nor men) are not to be sneered at. Attempting to be post-love is like attempting to be post-food. (I keep trying that too, doesn't work for me)

BasilBabyEater Wed 16-Oct-13 21:29:58

Yes, it is not unreasonable to want love and not to recognise what love isn't when you are surrounded by a culture which lies to you about it. Our culture tells us it's trivial to worry about a man not doing the laundry; our culture hasn't made it absolutely taboo for a man to talk about babysitting his own children; our culture tells women that they are dysfunctional, bitter and odd if they don't live with men.

I'm not going to blame women for that.

motherinferior Wed 16-Oct-13 21:37:58

I'm glad this thread has accepted that feminism has always been about housework! I was a feminist in Norwich in the early 1980s when I first came across the (actually quite dodgy but that's another story) Wages for Housework campaign...

VerySmallSqueak Wed 16-Oct-13 21:49:49

Yes I do seem to remember that the Wages for housework campaign became quite unpopular,but my memory fails me mother.
Do you remember?

motherinferior Wed 16-Oct-13 21:56:35

Kings Cross Women's Centre. Wilmette Brown and Selma James. Say no moregrin

motherinferior Wed 16-Oct-13 21:57:25

I am in fact engaged in a vociferous argument about housework on another thread...grin

VerySmallSqueak Wed 16-Oct-13 22:04:41

Yes I remember Wilmette being around at Greenham mother but I don't remember too much tbh.

youretoastmildred Wed 16-Oct-13 22:08:34

sorry motherinferior, but I don't understand the reference, would it be terribly bad form to ask you to explain?
Also - what thread?!

motherinferior Thu 17-Oct-13 08:51:17

Mildred, I actually feel a little worried about going into details here. The KCWC was quite malign energetic in rebutting criticism at the time.

The v short version: KCWC was the hub of a number of different campaigns including Wages for Housework, British Collective of Prostitutes, Women Against Violence Against Women, and others. Not all were started from there, but those that weren't very soon became run by a v particular, specific agenda spear-headed by Brown and James. Yellow Gate at Greenham became an outpost for a while. If you weren't with them, you were against them and a racist lackey of The Man.

My problem with the fundamental underpinning of the wages for housework campaign was the vociferous insistence that women in heterosexual arrangements had to do all the housework. Which was objectively not always the case, and ignored the work of a lot of women within the domestic sphere to change this.

This is the thread.

Habbibu Thu 17-Oct-13 09:21:56

"much better to get to the younger ones and say "watch out for disrespectful socks. A sock on the bedroom floor, near, not in, the linen basket, is a punctuation mark on your life story: a question mark over your future happiness.""

This is interesting - it rather gives the impression (and I don't think this was intended) that women are meant to care about socks on the floor, that overall tidiness is a profoundly desirable outcome. I'm not wording this well - would you say this to your sons? I guess in my case I'm messier than dh, but not by much, so sometimes our socks sit together on the floor. So maybe socky togetherness is what we're after?

Sorry, that sounds facetious, and it's not meant to be - I just rather feel women are expected to crave tidiness and order, and men to respect that, which doesn't quite sit right with me.

youretoastmildred Thu 17-Oct-13 09:56:09

ok habbibu you are right, but I personally do care so I guess I am projecting. I also think that more men care than will do something about it. I have heard a million flatmate-seeking young men say "we have a 3 bed house, and me and Gavin are in already, so now we are looking for a girl because houses with all blokes tend to be a bit, er".

Thanks motherinferior, didn't want to put you on the spot but thanks for the overview.

middleagedwoman Thu 17-Oct-13 10:22:16

Of course nearly everyone wants love and to be special to someone.

I totally agree with Basil that we are taught to ignore "petty" stuff like this, and to work at our relationships. Personally I think the work at our relationships, is a harmful message to many women who put up with a load of shit they shouldn't do. But I totally understand why women don't leave because their DP doesn't do their fair share of housework or childcare.

But I do think it is a sign of a lack of respect within the relationship if your DP does this. I don't think it actually is a petty or unimportant thing. People who truly love and respect each other, want to make each other happy and care for each other.

Habbibu Thu 17-Oct-13 10:24:15

Well, yes, the flatmate example is awful, and I'm with you. I think really what I meant is that it's about mutual respect, shared loads and communication. I do think, however, that girls are brought up to think that tidiness matters more, and that kinds of makes it default to them as a responsibility, iyswim?

Habbibu Thu 17-Oct-13 10:27:30

And also, yes, if you are the one mostly keeping the place tidy, then the sock thing is galling, absolutely, and it's actually keeping on top of the small irks (i.e. getting them sorted out and discussed, not ignored) that is the work on the relationship, in my mind. As I said upthread, DH and I do thank each other for stuff we do, and that does help, because it maintains the feeling of mutual respect, and the fact that household stuff is seen in terms of tasks rather than duties.

youretoastmildred Thu 17-Oct-13 10:49:06

Thanking each other is great, but it is not necessarily good advice for a woman in a man-taking-domestic-services-for-granted relationship because if she just starts thanking unilaterally, it reinforces that he is a special hero for hoovering, or whatever, and nobly taking the task that rightfully belonged on her list.

It's tricky - you want to do all the "positive reinforcement" stuff but some men will just receive all your gushing as an affirmation that they have to do very little to be a domestic god. If you ignore their minimal efforts, though, they get all bitter and twisted and "you can't please her why bother"

Habbibu Thu 17-Oct-13 11:10:50

Oh, Lord, no, not that kind of thanking, you're right. It really does need to be mutual respect, and if that isn't there from the start, I'm not sure how you create it.

semirurallife Fri 18-Oct-13 06:42:43

bad news here too... worrying about the socks can make you fat (fact). [hope these links work?]

I had a tesco fantasy relating to earlier bit of this conversation, where there was debate about how to get the feminist message out there - and Thanks motherinferior for that summary of whEre it can go, a bit wrong...?
basically what would happen if you made 1,000 copies of a feminist leaflet - explaining some basics, some history, and a web address and handed them out at Tesco - directing women to a site where you could poll them about how relevant they think it is to their lives and why not etc. - maybe I need to get out more?

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 06:59:14

I cant think of one task I have due to living with dh and do no extra work for him. Oldest dd who is 5 tidies all her own stuff so housework takes up a very small proportion of mine and dhs week

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 07:04:47

I will say I work full time and definitely dont spent my spare time running around after dg hmm Im not desperate

scallopsrgreat Fri 18-Oct-13 07:23:59

Did you mean to be so unpleasant there olive?

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 08:05:09

so your five yr old does all her own laundry and cooks for herself and washes up the mess and changes her bedsheets and makes her own lunches and sorts all her school stuff..etc eyc.

i am a sahm so when dp is at work (shift work so long variable hours) i do everything. but the minute he walks in the door its all hands on deck and he will cook dinner, wash up, do laundry, deal with kids. i can arrange to go out or away for the weekend and he just gets on with it.

he has a week off and so i am currently in bed and he is getting boys sorted for school.

he is not perfect and his standards are prob not as high as mine but his standards are fine.

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 08:10:43

semirurallife i am in norwich btw.

my mil is visiting at the moment and i was out with her and dd yesterday and mil was quite stressed that dp was at home on his own and i wasnt there to make his lunch!

he has this week off work and she is aghast that he is doing stuff around the house as he works hard so he should be resting...

thankfully dp is not a nob and sees the kids and the house as a joint responsibility.

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 08:31:18

I meant tidy all her own stuff etc 5madthings. The rest takes couple of hours max each a week in our place.

DavesDadsDogDiedDiabolically Fri 18-Oct-13 10:14:11

5mad - So when does he get a week off? Not being provocative, but I assume he gets time to lie in bed, go out etc. too & isn't either working at work or working at home?

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 11:09:25

well yesterday after he did school drop off i took little one out for the day so he had five hours with no-one to look after. he built some shelves which didnt take five hours and i have no idea what he did with the rest of the time. think he played xbox, read the papers etc.

today he took boys to school and i have brought dd to toddlers, no idea what his plans are.

re lie ins, he has the odd lie in but tbh he is a morning person and i am.not so he prefers to get up. i am normally up on his days off as well but its easier for him to hop in the car and take boys to school, its over an hour round trip if i walk it (which i do every morning he isnt here). i will still have helped get kids up and ready and i will look after toddler so he just has boys to take. obviously when i do it i have to take toddler as well. and when he takes boys i am not doing nothing i am dealing with toddler, tidying up from bfast etc.

we both just pitch in to get everything done and that includes the kids.

we have the odd evening out together or i go out with my friends and dp goes out with his friends seperately, or he will go watch motorbikes maybe on his own or maybe with the elder two boys

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 11:13:28

and he has had a week off work but neither of has had a week off from the kids/house etc as oddly enough we cant turn them off. we have just shared it between us in a way that works, i have done most pick ups, he has dropped off. technically as i have done pick ups he has had over an hour each afternoon 'off' as i have taken the toddler with me, unlike the morning where he has left toddler with me.

or are you suggesting he should have a week off from work and home life as well?

sashh Fri 18-Oct-13 11:49:23

This is not about housework.

This is about women doing all sorts of extra work to make men's lives easier, both in the home and in the work place.

I live alone and due to disability have a carer. A man. Who does the washing, cleaning, some cooking (I like to cook but I don't have to).

I find it quite insulting that you think I 'do' all this 'shit' - I don't.
Why not just leave it to pile up? The world will not implode.

Yelling at kids is not instilling respect, you are teaching them that everyone dances around daddy to make his life easier. Stop doing it.

If you can't get a 'decent' job then get a cleaning job. If you are going to do all these things do them for someone else and let them pay you.

If it stacks up at home then give dh an estimate for doing the jobs. If you are both out of the house several hours a day how can he not do his share or pay for someone to do it for him?

I actually believe that it is in the interests of society that as soon as you can afford a cleaner you employ one. You are then contributing financially tot he economy as a taxpayer and creating employment for another person.

semirurallife Fri 18-Oct-13 12:22:37

5mad - excellent! you ever go to Norfolk feminist get togethers (I haven't, yet..)
love the idea that DH has 5 hrs but didn't spend all of it building the shelves... a friend of mine once threw her DH's xbox out the window. was well proud of her, till heard she bought him another to say sorry...
Olive, how did you get your 5 yr old to do these things? you need to write the manual...! it takes me a week to bribe/threaten 9 yr old to pick stuff off the floor.
re why WOMEN care about socks on the floor is in 5mad's post - MILs and others - i used to live in Surrey and it was like desperate housewives, people really did care about the state of their kitchens. scary. knew one woman who would invite people round to admire her new kitchen. so its all these demands of women, some like it, like her, she wanted to wear a pinny and grow vegetables. .. or your mother in law, or your own mother.. a lot of the pressure is woman on woman, not meant to sound raunchy, its dull.

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 12:28:14

i havent been yet, where can i find details?

btw there are a few norwich/norfolk mnetters and we have a fb group as we organise nights out etc. pm me if you are interested, we are planning an xmas meal out which will involve lots of alcohol and setting the world to rights grin

5madthings Fri 18-Oct-13 12:31:12

oh and this morning whilst i was out with dd dp has done some more diy, tidied the kitchen and done some laundry. he has also been out bought a newspaper and read that and been uploading photos to photobox. he has sat on his arse and read for a bit as well. poor hard done by man that he is ...

oliveoctagon Fri 18-Oct-13 12:43:23

semirurallife - I work in a nursery and you have to tidy up so my children are trained from 1+

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