It seems to me that, even when great strides are being made toward leveling the playing field, the oppressive group will always cling to some semblance of “normalcy,” keeping them just a bit farther ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping their hegemony in place. That said, it can be quite interesting to observe what these things they cling to are.
According to many feminist scholars, there’s a reason why men aren’t making as much of a fuss when feminists lobby for things like equal pay for women and the deconstruction of the glass ceiling. That’s all going on in a world which doesn’t directly affect them, and even if it did, they know it’s wrong to be uncomfortable about that sort of thing in 2014. The point is, all of it’s happening outside the home. What continues to ensue inside–up close and personal in their everyday lives–is what’s consoling them. It’s the female labor they’re able to control. In other words: Housework.
Today, any kind of housework (that includes cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening–even childcare) is predominantly taken care of by the women of a shared household. You might ask: Are feminists really this neurotic? How is something as trivial as housework subordinating women?
Here’s a couple answers to this FAQ:
1) It’s degrading, dirty work that no one wants to do, but it’s expected that it will be taken care of by the woman–wordlessly implying that the man is above such work. If you walk into a household of a married couple and it’s a mess, you’d be much more likely to hear someone say, “Wow, she really doesn’t care about this place being clean, does she?” than any snide comment directed at the husband. It’s remains a societal norm that women keep things beautiful, and men cause a mess (although obviously this isn’t how it always happens). Therefore, women are often faced with more judgement in the overall way they physically present themselves and their home. This is reflected in our culture in how women often feel more anxiety over the cleanliness of their house/room/general state of appearance than men do. If you’ve never noticed this before, just ask around.
2) Housework is very time consuming work. This means that, while Mom is stuck at home mopping and vacuuming and running after the kids, Dad can go to work for nearly twice as long, or otherwise use his time in whatever way he pleases which doesn’t involve scrubbing his own dried urine off the toilet seat. Consequently, men who don’t do housework have much more time to pursue their careers and develop themselves economically, and the women who do do housework are deprived of this opportunity and instead must work for hours a day without pay, in a very grueling and under appreciated position. Not to mention that giving up her career to stay home, cook, clean, and take care of the kids means a woman ends up economically dependent on her husband, in essence binding a her to the relationship. (You don’t have to be a feminist to figure out why we don’t like that sort of situation).
Keep in mind that this can also happen the other way around: Women can be the breadwinners while men stay home and cook and clean. The reason why feminists are all up in arms about it, is that it’s much more likely for women to be in subordinated position than men–and that’s not always a choice they make for themselves. Luckily, this issue is beginning to become less of a problem as more liberal generations grow up, and men and women start sharing the household chores, although it has by no means vanished. Just keep in mind: if you’re in a relationship and you find yourself doing more than your fair share of the housework, don’t just mutter a complaint. Lay a couple of these points down on your partner. They may find that your arguments aren’t as “trivial” as they seem.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. Maid to Order, 2000.
Mainardi, Pat. The Politics of Housework, 1970.