The Politics of Housework

  1. And Geopolitics of Russia. Federal Publication ".

It seemed perfectly reasonable. We both had careers, both had to work a couple of days a week to earn enough to live on, so why should not we share the housework? So, I suggested it to my mate and he agreed. You're right, he said. It's only fair.

Then an interesting thing happened. I can only explain it by stating that we women have been brainwashed more than even we can imagine. Probably too many years of seeing television women in ecstasy over shiny waxed floors or breaking down over their dirty shirt collars. Men have no such conditioning. They recognize the essential fact of housework right from the very beginning. Which is that it stinks.

Here's my list of dirty chores: buying groceries, carting them home and putting them away; cooking meals and washing dishes and pots; doing the laundry; digging out the place when things get out of control; washing floors. The list could go on but the sheer necessities are bad enough. All of us have to do these things, or get someone else to do them for us. 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. As he felt himself backed into a corner laden with dirty dishes, brooms, mops and reeking garbage, his front teeth grew longer and pointer, his finger-nails haggled and his eyes grew wild. Housework trivial? Not on your life! Just try to share the burden.

So ensued a dialogue that's been going on for several years. Here are some of the high points:

I do not mind sharing the housework, but I do not 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?)

ALSO MEANING Historically the lower classes (Black men and us) have had hundreds of years experience doing mental jobs. It would be a waste of manpower to train someone else to do them now.

ALSO MEANING I do not like the dull stupid boring jobs, so you should do them.

I do not mind sharing the work, but you'll have to show me how to do it!

MEANING I ask a lot of questions and you'll have to show me everything every time I do it because I do not remember so good. Also do not try to sit down and read while I'm doing my jobs because I'mgoing to annoy hell out of you until it's easier to do them yourself.

We used to be so happy! (Said whenever it was his turn to do something.)

MEANING I used to be so happy.

MEANING Life without housework is bliss. No quarrel here. Perfect agreement.

We have different standards, and why should I have to work to your standards. That's unfair.

MEANING If I begin to get bugged by the dirt and crap I will say "This place is a sty" or "How can anyone live like this?" and wait for your reaction. I know that all women have a

sore called "Guilt over a messy house" or "Household work is ultimately my responsibility." I know that men have caused that sore - if anyone visits and the place is a sty, they're not going to leave and say, "He sure is a lousy housekeeper." You'll take the rap in any case. I can outwait you.

ALSO MEANING I can provoke innumerable scenes over the housework issue. Eventually doing all the housework yourself will be less painful to you than trying to get me to do half. Or I'll suggest we get a maid. She will do my share of the work. You will do yours. It's women's work.

I've got nothing against sharing the housework, but you can not make me do it on your schedule.

MEANING Passive resistance. I'll do it when I damned well please, if at all. If my job is doing dishes, it's easier to do them once a week. If taking our laundry, once a month. If washing the floors, once a year. If you do not like it, do it yourself oftener, and then I will not do it at all.

I hate it more than you. You do not mind it so much.

MEANING Housework is garbage work. It's the worst crap I've ever done. It's degrading and humiliating for someone of my intelligence to do it. But for someone of your intelligence ...

Housework is too trivial to even talk about.

MEANING It's even more trivial to do. Housework is beneath my status. My purpose in life is to deal with matters of significance. Yours is to deal with matters of insignificance. You should do the housework.

This problem of housework is not a man-woman problem. In any relationship between two people one is going to have a stronger personality and dominate.

MEANING That stronger personality had better be me.

In animal societies, wolves, for example, the top animal is usually a male even where he is not chosen for brute strenght but on the basis of cunning and intelligence. Is not that interesting?

MEANING I have historical, psychological, anthropological and biological justification for keeping you down. How can you ask the top wolf to be equal?

Women's Liberation is not really a political movement.

MEANING The Revolution is coming too close to home.

ALSO MEANING I am only interested in how I am oppressed, not how I oppress others. Therefore the war, the draft and the university are political. Women's Liberation is not.

Alan's accomplishments have always depended on getting help from other people, mostly women. What great man woul have accomplished what he did if he had to do his own housework?

MEANING Oppression is built into the system and I as the white American male receive the benefits of this system. I do not want to give them up.

(From: "Voices from Women's Liberation")

1. As you read the text a) look for the answers to the following questions:

1. Why do some men agree to help with the housework, at least in theory? 2. Do you think "dirty chores" is a suitable heading for the list of work that follows? 3. Do you find the additional meanings to the first excuse accurate? 4. What sort of emotional blackmail do husbands use as an excuse? 5. Do you think playing ignorant is a good way of avoiding doing jobs you do not want to do? 6. Is it possible to let housework wait until you want to do it as the man implies? 7. What gives you the idea that this man has a superiority complex? 8. How accurate is the man's picture of housework?

b) In a paragraph of around 80 words, sum up men's attitude to sharing the housework, according to the writer of the text.

TOPICAL VOCABULARY | The Field of Folklore | C) Now discuss the opinions with your partner. | C) Make a speech on the American tradition to celebrate Halloween. | C) Make a round table discussion of the American holidays. | By Ch. Morley | ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY | Make up and practise a suitable dialogue using the phrases and word combinations. | Give a summary of the text. | Study the essential vocabulary and translate the illustrative examples into Russian. |

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