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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?...

Minnieisthedevilmouse Tue 15-Oct-13 18:11:00

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.

iwasyoungonce Tue 15-Oct-13 18:19:30

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.

iwasyoungonce Tue 15-Oct-13 18:26:44

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.

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