«

»

Jun 15 2007

The post on the post on marriage

I am somewhat floored by the responses to my post suggesting that marriage is the primary unit of patriarchal currency. O me of little faith, I’d sort of expected a slew of matrimonial apologists to attack me with no small vim, but from a field of over 250 starters, only a few argue that marriage is anything but a hotbed of bogosity, and I think only one or two dudes tell the feminists to get a sense of humor.

Speaking of dudes: here’s a little test you can give yourself to see if you are qualified to interrupt the ladies with your unique male perspective:

1. Fill in the blank:

Remarks such as “Keep shaking things up. I don’t want to live in a world of sheep and I like being challenged when it comes to ideas and philosophy” are considered by radical feminist bloggers to be ____________.

2. True or false:

a. Feminists are likely to be unacquainted with the male point of view.
b. Feminists benefit from the balance offered by the male point of view.

But I digress.

A few glittering baubles of consensus caught my attention when reading the comments. For instance, most of the married blamers who responded — even those who described themselves as tolerably happily married to ‘good guys’ — said that they wouldn’t have done it if they’d known then what they know now. This was a self-selected sample, of course, but at least it doesn’t disprove my hypothesis, which is that marriage is a culture virus engineered specifically to indenture women in the service of male culture.

Also, blamers really don’t like doing housework. Amen to that, sister. Unsurprisingly, housework is only an issue when cohabitation is the domestic arrangement; people who live alone either do it or they don’t, but we are unlikely to consider it a feminist issue unless a more privileged entity stands to reap the benefits. Some women seem to consider that they have made a tolerable marriage because their Nigels do some or all of the housework. But, as blamer legallyblondeez counters, “doing the housework doesn’t magically erase his male privilege.” Housework, in other words, is a bit of a pink herring in the battle of the sexes, in that the fundamental power differential between oppressor and oppressed remains firmly in place regardless of who mops the floor.

Some women suggest that a marriage may be made tolerable with the introduction of a third party to muck out the filth. This bit of feudal reasoning, with its profoundly antifeminist essence, is problematic.

The implications of hiring a menial — always a woman — to perform low-status women’s drudgery suggest an unsophisticated grasp of feminist theory. Blamer Mearl agrees; I reproduce her eloquent remarks here to save me the trouble of having to paraphrase her exact argument.

[H]ere is where I quibble: “Our house cleaner, who is a woman, has a flexible schedule, gets paid well and seems to enjoy the ability to work unsupervised, while listening to music and watching TV.”

For fuck’s sake, does no one realise that there is zero integrity, no matter how you rationalise it, for paying someone else to clean up your garbage and dirty gitch? If every overprivileged feminist in the G8 countries did this in order to balance out our leisure time and work time and have happy feminist marriages, do you realise that you’re contributing to the increase of an already-existing and growing caste system with Untouchables at the bottom, and those Untouchables are doing the shit work of society, paid or not? Garbage men make 22$/hour where I live, benefits and pension and health care included (Canada here). Cleaning women get $7, and nothing else. They clean your bigger, better house to make money for kids they barely ever see. Many are poor or immigrants. Do you really want to contribute to a growing near-slave society in the interests of the patriarchal capitalism, on the pretense that you are leveling the playing field of marriage with your hubby?

Here is a snippet from Jan Wong’s “Maid for a Month” series from the Glob:

[Note: I selected this snippet, since Mearl provided only a link. --Twisty]

“On Feb. 1, Ontario’s minimum hourly wage rose to $7.75 from $7.45. For reasons that now escape me, I thought the best way to tell the story of that 30-cent raise was to work ‘and live’ at the bottom of the food chain. I would find a low-paying job, a low-rent apartment and, single-mom-like, take my boys with me for the month and see how we survived.

“Cool, what are we going to eat? KD?” said Sam, 12, who prizes Kraft Dinner because he’s sick of triple créme French brie. His brother, Ben, 15, was the embodiment of teen irony. “So I’ll have a urine-soaked mattress?” he said. “Is the floor going to be, like, concrete?”

Before I set out on this assignment, I assumed $7.75 an hour, at 40 hours a week, was a living wage. I began crunching numbers. My monthly pre-tax income would be $1,240, or $14,880 a year. To my horror, I realized I wouldn’t even reach halfway to the so-called “low-income cut-off line” of $31,126 set by Statistics Canada for an urban family of three.”

(Unfortunately, Wong learned nothing from her privilege except that she should “treat her own Jamaican housekeeper better and appreciate her more,” not that she should give up her dominant-class privilege, downsize, take the blow, and share the housework among herself, her husband, and her lousy little kids. I don’t know how to link the whole series, but it’s on the net somewhere. Please check it out.)

Make of this what you will, but I really don’t see why everyone can’t clean up their own fucking mess. That means men and women alike. There is no reason, aside from physical ableness, that everyone, male or female, can’t do whatever work is required to run a household or community. You transform “women’s work” into “shit work” and it just goes to a different level, to the women of poorer communities. That ain’t feminism. And don’t try to tell me that you’re giving someone a job. B.S., I say!

And so we see that marriage may be made palatable to women who view housework, rather than male privilege, as the primary agitator against equality in their relationships. To maintain the illusion that she can be married without simultaneously capitulating to the megatheocorporatocratic machine, the feminist wife cannot engage in stereotypical wifey-work behavior. Instead, she hires a surrogate drudge. Unfortunately, this merely demands that she oppress, in turn, women of a lower caste than herself, while doing nothing to address the power differential in her own relationship.

Just another pernicious little method — like the nuclear family’s dependence on cheap-crap-from-China — by which marriage perpetuates male dominant culture’s primacy.

As always, my answer to the question, “so, Twisty, what’s the solution?” is: revolution.

332 comments

2 pings

  1. kanea

    Twisty, thanks again for your wonderful posts. if you were floored by the marriage post, imagine what it would be like if the message boards were still up!

  2. Mrs. Kennedy

    Housework is one thing, childcare altogether another. Do I change my own children’s diapers, or leave the work to those at a daycare center while I go to work to earn enough to pay for daycare? That’s a fun decision.

  3. Patti

    May I have some kind of exemption? I’m a single mom, trying to maintain a house and yard and special needs kid – the few times I’ve had help with the housework, I’ve paid $15-20 an hour – this is why I can’t afford it now, I won’t hire someone for $7. But I could sure use the help. It’s not like I’m being lazy and just want someone else to do it whilst I eat bonbons and do my nails. And I promise to never marry again.

  4. dolia

    Hiring a cleaner is no “get out of jail free” card for a feminist if she or her partner do nothing else to change the power imbalance. But, if she really doesn’t like cleaning, there is nothing stopping her from deciding that she values the person who is doing the cleaning and the work they do, and will pay them an honourable wage regardless of what the patriarchy decreed minimum happens to be. Cleaning as an activity does not make the “underclass of women”; our attitude to women and women’s work makes the underclass.

  5. ekf

    To maintain the illusion that she can be married without simultaneously capitulating to the megatheocorporatocratic machine, the feminist wife cannot engage in stereotypical wifey-work behavior. Instead, she hires a surrogate drudge. Unfortunately, this merely demands that she oppress, in turn, women of a lower caste than herself, while doing nothing to address the power differential in her own relationship.

    What impact on the discussion is to be made by the hiring of men for housal duties? We have a man who cleans and maintains the yard. We have another man who fixes broken things in the house, like the plumbing or the HVAC. Another man changes our car’s oil and does whatever other automotive maintenance is needed. These are all tasks that would have been considered stereotypical husbandy-work behavior.

    It’s all surrogate drudgery, and it oppresses humans of a lower caste, but I don’t see the same sort of outrage at men (or women) hiring landscapers or “handymen” as an evasion of men’s duties as “man of the house.” To add to the anecdata, we also hire a woman to clean our house, and we pay her well in excess (per hour) of either the handyman or the landscaper (the auto dude is a union employee at a garage, so I have no idea what his per hour pay might be).

    It just seems to me that women are especially pilloried for relying on hired help when they outsource the stereotypical work for which they would be judged were it left undone, but men can leave the yard a mess and the faucet dripping without judgment, so long as they let their fingers do the walking and call someone to do the work. Sure, maybe it’s all the world’s wrongest thing for anyone to outsource anything to anyone and we should all do every stitch of work required to fulfill any need we have, growing our own food and knitting sweaters from the wool sheared off sheep grazing in the backyard. But when that doesn’t happen and we rely on the grinding gears of commerce, why are women the only ones guilt-tripped about being feudal exploiters?

  6. dolia

    I wonder if a group of feminists set up a group of “volunteer” cleaners, it would be possible to change the perspective of housework? If no-one thought of housework as inherently demeaning, or saw benefits and pleasures in the activity that went beyond having a clean house, would more people do it?
    My Twisty-topia wouldn’t just have a “fair division of labour”, but a complete absence of labour-as-exchange.

  7. TP

    Housework is not inherently demeaning. The inescapable dominance of either economic or sex privilege certainly is. Cleaning up after yourself and those you love seems to be an emotional statement about the importance of other people to you: This is what I do with my time. I clean after you, and myself, instead of doing something I like better, like laying around feeling sorry for myself.

    The patriarchy poisons this, and men poison it by refusing to realize that there are known psychological benefits from selfless works for others.

    God knows I dislike cleaning up after my wife and daughter. But how can I claim to have any love for them at all if I avoid it? So I do it anyway, and thus realize the benefits that come from doing something from a need to nurture rather than from a compulsion to adhere to cultural norms.

  8. PhysioProf

    I volunteer to take the dude quiz.

    (1) valuable encouragement for their little projects that helps keep them motivated

    (2)(a) True. Feminists rarely get to hear what men think because they are so busy hating them.

    (2)(b) True. Feminists need to focus on the bigger picture, including how tough it is to be a man.

    How’d I do?

  9. Professor Zero

    I liked the other post, my analysis exactly, but didn’t comment as I had nothing to add or ask. I do have a question about the housecleaning thing.

    1. I pay a man $45 every two weeks to cut down my large piece of grass. This is above the going rate. He brings the equipment and it takes him about an hour to an hour and a half to do it. Plus, he does many yards in this neighborhood which means he’s around, would call the police if my house got broken into or anything. Am I exploiting him, should I be doing my own yard? I work a 60 hour week for $15 an hour. I could cut my own yard but I prefer this arrangement. Am I exploiting this guy?

    2. I know I should fix my own car but I don’t really know how and I am not that interested. Ditto electricity and so on. I know people – men – who would do these things for me for free but they would expect more from me in exchange than a home cooked meal and a beer. I prefer to hire these jobs out. Am I exploiting these people?

    3. I would love to have the house cleaned professionally. Between my job, dealing with parents over 80, a lot of yardwork beyond cutting the grass, the mending, the this and the that, I just do not have a lot of time for recreation, and that is why I had house cleaners. However I dropped them last because she and her 2 minions (together) were $65 for 45 minutes of work – and wanted to change sheets and do laundry, not get dust out from behind furniture or clean ceiling fans and floors.

    $65 for 45 minutes works out to $82 for an hour, divided by 3 is $27 per person, plus I have to buy the fancy cleaning products they want (I use simpler ones). That is just about twice, to each person, what I make per hour in my own job, and they choose to do only the lightest of the housework, leaving the heavier work to me.

    I would like to know exactly how I was exploiting these people, and whether I am also exploiting the grass cutter, electrician, and auto mechanic, all of whom charge per hour for labor more than I myself am paid, but who *are in fact doing dirty work on my stuff that I do not want to do myself.*

    And *please* do not tell me that the auto mechanic has skills I am paying for, whereas the house cleaners do not. There *are* tricks to house cleaning, and I’ve got an instruction manual on how to fix my car, and friends who would lend me all the tools, so do not tell me I can clean the house but not fix the car!

  10. norbizness

    Oh boy, quiz time. I hereby solemn swear an oaf that I haven’t looked at any other answers.

    1. Scintillating
    2a. False, or they wouldn’t be feminists. They’d be humanists or progressives.
    2b. Absolutamnte si!

  11. Sunspots

    Prof. Z: All of your examples (apart from housecleaner and “minions” [er, sic]) are of jobs done by men who are considered “professionals” in patriarchal society. Yes, they DO have skills, for which many of them (mechanics, electricians, even plumbers) go to school and earn degrees.

    Alternately, housekeeping is considered a talent that gals learn to heart from birth — the vagina is all the cred you need! (Oh, and maybe a few of those “tricks.”) Despite the recent movement toward saying “housecleaners,” let’s be dead honest: We all know that people say the “maid” is coming on Tuesday. Not to be condescending and suggest that women can’t choose this career if they want to, but the reality is that unlike the yard guy, the electrician, etc., women generally don’t work as house cleaners because they loooove other people’s toilets. Not any of the ones I know, at least.

    PS: Twisty, I was late to the marriage debate, but this is just to say I’m hopelessly in love with your writing on this and plan to make is required reading for the beau who is pushing to be hubby #2.

  12. SkyGoddess

    I wholeheartedly agree with the folks who argue that, if one is going to hire a third party to clean one’s house, you MUST make sure they are getting a fair, livable wage.

    I have a cousin who cleaned houses for years, and she worked for herself–and she explained that that was the key, to not have to give a portion of her earnings to some larger agency. She always said how happy she was to make such good money and have such independence, and I hope it’s fair to take her comments to that effect at face value.

    With all this in mind, I recently hired an independent woman who does NOT work for a cleaning company, and her rate is $20/hour. I know it’s much better than the $7/hour she’d get working for a cleaning agency, and I’m happy to pay her this wage. I also like the idea of contributing to a woman’s ability to work FOR HERSELF.

    I feel the same way about child care. I don’t have kids myself, but if I did, I’d want to be paying a babysitter/nanny/caretaker $20/hour, too. I babysat my way through junior high and high school, and I’ll be damned if I’ll ever take advantage of me the way I was taken advantage of back then. (One relative in particular would leave me with her three kids for an entire WEEKEND, then get back and pay me $5. No shit.)

    The point is that, like so many things, hiring someone to clean (or babysit, or do other “women’s” work) is not inherently anti-feminist. Deliberate feminist intent is the key ingredient.

  13. Twisty

    The answer to this evidently burning question — “Am I exploiting the hired help?” is: fuck yeah. You think that guy is cutting your grass for his health? Because he just loves landscaping your honky lawn? Are you surprised that your maids didn’t want to stick their hands in your toilet?

    Everyone seems to love the idea of paying menials more than the going rate, as though this somehow absolves their capitalist ass from the gruesome truth of their complicity in the oppression. I hear this same argument from dudes who use strippers. What have they got to complain about? They make hudnreds of dollars a night, don’t they?

    Yeah, I know, the system’s set up so that white folks have no choice but to exploit brown folks, right? Our hands are tied! We don’t have the time or skills to maintain the infrastructure of our whitey lifestyles! What else can we do but hire servants from the underclass created by capitalist society precisely for that purpose?

  14. Coathangrrr

    Yay! quiz time.

    1. Annoying and pointless.

    2a. False. There is no way for anyone who has spent any time in the world to not be familiar with the (white, straight) male POV.

    2b False. The male view radically exceeds the radical feminist blogger POV in terms of the amount of exposure any given individual has to either.

    I would like to know exactly how I was exploiting these people, and whether I am also exploiting the grass cutter, electrician, and auto mechanic, all of whom charge per hour for labor more than I myself am paid, but who *are in fact doing dirty work on my stuff that I do not want to do myself.*

    It is not that you are exploiting them per se, it is that you are contributing to a broader system of exploitation, of which both parties are a part of and contribute to. This is true even if you are being exploited more than them.

    But then again, I’m an anarchist so I have all kinds of crazy ideas about what counts as exploitation.

  15. SkyGoddess

    p.s. Twisty, I think 2b a trick question. I can just hear the guys saying, “No fair!” But here’s why I think it’s a trick question. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Society is so dominated by the male viewpoint that the feminist perspective doesn’t benefit from it; we’re reacting to it, not trying to engage with it! Rather than offering “balance,” the insertion of a male point of view into feminist conversations merely reinscribes our culture’s dominant male perspective.

    That’s why we need a revolution.

  16. legallyblondeez

    Twisty quoted me! *does a happy dance*

    At such magical time as my Nigel is gainfully employed outside the home, he and I will have to redistribute the chores. But really, the chores are a symptom of the larger problems, and hiring someone else to do them won’t change that.

  17. ekf

    Despite the recent movement toward saying “housecleaners,” let’s be dead honest: We all know that people say the “maid” is coming on Tuesday. Not to be condescending and suggest that women can’t choose this career if they want to, but the reality is that unlike the yard guy, the electrician, etc., women generally don’t work as house cleaners because they loooove other people’s toilets. Not any of the ones I know, at least.

    This is chicken fried bullshit on all counts. First of all, we have never referred to the woman who cleans our house as our “maid,” or even our “housecleaner.” We refer to her by name, like we do anyone else we hire to do anything in or around our home. Sunday nights are generally when we say, “Shit! Eva is coming on Monday! We’ve got to clean up this place!” (because, well, we’re messy enough that we have to clean for the woman who cleans our house). She’s not our maid — she’s the full-on human who makes our lives possible, and that’s never forgotten for a second.

    And you really think the yard guy digs up my yard because he looooves it? A plumber works with toilets too — think he looooves rooting through toilets clogged with shit? If you want to act like the only think a woman who cleans houses needs is a vagina (an assertion with which I would strenuously disagree, BTW), most of what I’ve seen in terms of people hired to do the “male” house work, like landscaping and home repair, requires a strong upper body and that’s about it. The home repair foreman will be (relatively) skilled, but the guys who do the bulk of the labor are not. The use of a roto rooter attachment to a power drill (to clear a drain pipe) is no more complicated than a vacuum cleaner.

    I did not ask whether or not people are exploiting the hired help generally. The question I asked before is why women exploiting the hired female help to do stereotypically female tasks is somehow worthy of more vitriol then men exploiting the hired male help to do stereotypically male tasks. Haven’t seen much in the way of a satisfactory answer for that, and it disappoints me.

    After all, it seems painfully obvious that a patriarch is given license to abandon any task he so chooses, and it’s just another gear turning towards capitalistic progress. Both feminists and sexists see this as a form of okay, because the former write off the man as an exploiter of privilege anyway and the latter see no problem with exploitation. Neither holds men accountable. And if men won’t be held accountable for even their stereotypically male work, they sure as fuck won’t branch out into stereotypically female work, as there are cultural incentives for them to eschew doing laundry if they can instead go mow the lawn or wash the car and feel like they’re contributing to the upkeep of the household.

    On the other hand, women are held to a higher standard, both by feminists and sexists, because the former demand that we women be pure and not commit any crimes of the patriarchy, and the latter demand that women be as subservient as possible. But they both hold women accountable in ways that men are not accountable, and I think that sucks. It should be at least as bad — if not worse — when men do it, and yet I hear feminists decrying women moreso than men. WTF?

  18. Hawise

    Last person who complained about the way I kept my apartment got handed a mop. just sayin’.

  19. Coathangrrr

    Oh course Twisty say it before I do and far, far better than could I.

  20. LL

    I think there’s a difference between work one is unable to do and one is unwilling to do.

    And yes, unwilling might not be the best word choice there, but at the end of the day, given a choice between sitting down in front of a “Law & Order” marathon with a bottle of cheap red wine or cleaning my toilets, guess which one wins? I don’t use a cleaning service of any sort, but neither do I have the cleanest bathrooms in the world. (Please call before you visit so I can remedy this.)

    But I think bringing in the question of hiring electricians, mechanics, and plumbers to fix problems that most of us do not have the knowledge or tools to address on our own muddies the waters a bit, doesn’t it?

  21. Bird

    Although I agree that housekeeping work can be exploitative, I have one family friend who lives a fairly nice “whitey lifestyle” on the money she makes from her cleaning business. She cleans homes and commercial properties and even has a contract with a private aircraft hangar to clean planes.

    Her business gives her the flexibility to homeschool her daughter (a really cool and creative kid who is managing to escape so much crap thanks to her mom). Her husband also works for himself (hotshot oilfield trucker), so they can arrange their lives to be better parents and set their own rules for work. They live in a very nice area of town (just a few blocks from my dad, upper-middle-class executive type) and have a pretty nice life. She definitely makes more money than I do as an editor at a small publishing house, anyways!

    I know some women are exploited in cleaning work, but that’s not always the rule. For some people, it really is the chance to be an independent, self-employed person with more freedom than most. No, she doesn’t love toilets, but from what I can see, she does generally like her job. There should be no shame in doing that kind of work; the problem is that we don’t give it real value.

  22. LL

    the problem is that we don’t give it real value.

    I don’t have to tell y’all why this is so, do I?

    IBTP

  23. ekf

    But I think bringing in the question of hiring electricians, mechanics, and plumbers to fix problems that most of us do not have the knowledge or tools to address on our own muddies the waters a bit, doesn’t it?

    The electrical work done by most “handymen” is not hard, and the tools required together would be less expensive than a Swiffer WetJet. Changing oil (and air filters and such — the stuff they do at Jiffy Lube) is actually very easy — the only really complicated thing about it is what to do with the waste oil, as municipalities regulate waste oil disposal heavily (and with good reason). Doesn’t require tools beyond what any independent human should have — and again, not beyond the cost of a decent mop and a bottle of Murphy’s Oil Soap. Same with most plumbing tasks for which you’d hire a “handyman,” like snaking a drain line or fixing a leaky faucet.

    Anyone who buys a rather basic home repair book can learn how to do this stuff, and even a toolkit as wretched as the “Do it Herself” toolkit would have most of what you’d need for the above (okay, you’d need a plumber’s wrench too, and some plumber’s tape). I felt it incumbent upon myself to learn the basics of home ownership upon buying a house, and none of it’s that hard. Thing is, the tasks are time consuming, and I have more money than time…just like housekeeping.

    It’s true that running new electrical lines or putting in a new hot water heater would be beyond the average homeowner, but it would also require the services beyond the average “handyman” too. So to answer your question, no — I don’t think it muddies the water at all, because I think the average “handyman” (or oil changer or landscaper) performs tasks no more skilled and requiring tools no more expensive or exclusive than those of a house cleaner. As for the perceived difference in skill level and tool exclusivity that elevates “handyman” work above house cleaning work? I know who I blame…

  24. Flamethorn

    I am looking forward to this post going meta so that there is a post on the post on the post on the post on the post on the post on the post on the post on the post on the post on marriage.

  25. Professor Zero

    Sunspots, it sounds to me like you don’t have a lot of respect for work generally. You certainly don’t appreciate housework, and you appear to believe that men stuck being yard cutters have “chosen” this “career.” Most electricians, plumbers, painters etc. I know are *not* in their dream “career” but doing something they can. And are charging no less than the housecleaners. And I’m sorry, they are housecleaners, not maids, I guess your friends are real a**holes if that is how they talk.

  26. brooke

    Halle-fuckin’-lujah. The hiring/exploiting of other people to take care of YOUR OWN shit is totally beyond me. I see a lot of this here in southern California–”I simply MUST have an asininely overpriced house in the suburbs, but I couldn’t possibly cut the grass or plant the annuals or vacuum the floor or wipe up the dried baby puke myself!” People discuss their “help” as if it’s NORMAL to pay other people shit money to come and maintain your life for you.

    What’s even better is when I hear a sentence about “the lady who cleans my house” in proximity to a sentence about “going to the Getty/Huntington/whatever”. If you have time to make use of your season Dodgers tickets, might you not also have time to sweep your own goddamn kitchen?

    If you can’t or won’t maintain it, DON’T BUY IT. And don’t use your whitey-white suburban money to pay a “surrogate drudge” to maintain it either, capitalist pig-dog!

  27. Orange

    Well, if I could go back to 1991, knowing what I know now, I would absolutely still get married. I love the partnership and companionship I have with my husband. I would keep my own name, though.

    “Cleaning ladies” (horrible term!) in my neighborhood average $20 to $30 an hour, but no, that doesn’t include health benefits. I have a friend (our kids go to the same school) who cleans houses for a living, part time while her kid’s in school. It pays the rent, but there’s little in the way of extra cash, and I don’t think she’s got any health insurance. Her kid’s on public aid, fortunately, which keeps his asthma from killing him.

    Most of the housekeepers ’round these parts are Polish immigrants. The nannies–who make far less per hour–are a more diverse crowd.

    My housekeeper comes in once a week for about two hours and leaves with $50, which is not bad money for a 20-year-old with a high-school education and somewhat limited English-language skills. My house would be an abomination without a paid housekeeper, because I just don’t do it. Never have kept to any sort of schedule for cleaning tubs, sinks, and toilets. Can go years in between rounds of mopping or dusting.

    Do I have a point with any of this? I suspect not.

  28. josie my source of most frustration

    I am not being flippant, but I’m not sure why paying other people to clean one’s house is any worse than paying other people to sew one’s clothes, pick one’s fruit and vegetables, slaughter one’s meat or bus the tales or wash the dishes at the restaurants one frequents. All of these jobs qualify as “shit” work, but that doesn’t stop most of us from eating at restaurants, buying cheap T-shirts from Target or Old Navy or buying produce or meat from the supermarket. What makes paying a housecleaner any worse than using your money to subsidize any of these other types of exploitation?

    For what it’s worth, I’m not saying this out of any great sense of personal defensiveness. My Nigel and I clean our own house, but I am sitting here typing this in a cheap Old Navy T-shirt.

    And, yeah, I do also agree that the focus on whether you or your Nigel do the housework is a bit of (but not a total) red herring when it comes to the larger picture. Equal time scrubbing the toilet bowl doesn’t make a marriage or marriage itself a joining of equals. That would be impossible.

  29. Patti

    The class part of all this is interesting, isn’t it? I was thinking in the last thread that the women I know of who seem to be fairly content in their marriages have enough money to hire out all the drudgery.

    But, you know, I don’t have an asininely overpriced house in the suburbs. Nor do I buy season tickets to anything. I have an old house that is shabby and getting shabbier, which I’m hanging onto mostly because my ex creates such chaos in my son’s life, my son really needs the stability of staying here. It’s common for me to get up at 6:30, get him ready for school, start working at my computer by 7:30, take him to a doctor’s appointment, go back to my computer, take him to another doctor’s appointment, cook dinner, help him with his homework, put him to bed, then work until 10:30. I’d love to be able to afford someone to help clean the house. We’re both allergic to dust but there’s nothing I can do to keep up with it. I know my fucked-up life is this fucked-up because of the patriarchy, and a good revolution would change it. In the meantime, I’m doing what I have to in order to get by. MY job is drudgery – my life is really not thrilling. I’m barely holding things together financially. And I would feel no shame in hiring someone to help me out in any way. Whatever their color. And I do think that the difference between paying someone $7 and paying someone $20 is not insignificant in the whole picture.

  30. SkyGoddess

    I understand the problem with contributing to cycles of oppression. With all due respect to Twisty, who I think walks on water and can probably raise good feminist folk from the dead, I disagree with this argument:

    “Everyone seems to love the idea of paying menials more than the going rate, as though this somehow absolves their capitalist ass from the gruesome truth of their complicity in the oppression. I hear this same argument from dudes who use strippers. What have they got to complain about? They make hudnreds of dollars a night, don’t they?”

    Coming from a working class family, lots of people I love do (or have done) “menial” work: housekeeping, gas pumping, lawn mowing, bedpan changing in a third-rate nursing home. Yes, this is menial work. However, menial work is WORK–work that needs to be done, that has a value. Stripping is not work that needs to be done, that has a value. It is valued as entertaining by pervy wankers and as profitable by the honky white dudes who run your slimy neighborhood strip joints. The analogy therefore is pretty offensive.

    Feeling good about your stripper addiction because strippers make a lot of money = not cool.

    On the other hand, it’s reasonable to pay someone a fair wage to do menial work with the intention of screwing the system in which honky white dudes oppress women, selling them as housekeepers for minimum wage while clearing hefty profits. It’s a way of giving respect to the people doing that work, and communicating that one values said work as important.

    And hey, until the revolution actually gets here, paying a housekeeper well also potentially offers an out to someone IN that profession whose only other options are shitty McJobs: they can afford to pay for training for other jobs, if they’d like.

  31. Bird

    efk, I’m a little troubled by your attitude towards anyone who works in a physical labour job. My partner is a mover. He’s paid to be big and strong. Please don’t confuse that with stupid—he went to university. He reads a lot (including feminist books that he *asks* me to give him to read). He’s bright and funny. He also happens to pick up heavy things for a living, and he’s been fairly happy doing it. I also know a roofer who was in the same “gifted and talented” class as me in elementary school, and a woman who had a full scholarship to a prestigious university and chose to be a carpenter instead.

    There are many people (women as well as men) who are carpenters, plumbers, and the like because the work pays well, and many of them genuinely enjoy what they do. Being scornful of physical work is pure class snobbery.

    How come nobody here is scorning eating in restaurants when we can cook our own food? Or condemning paying teachers when we can show our own kids how to read? We’ve specialized work for centuries and traded skills with each other (contrary to popular belief, even in early societies people traded work/products rather than doing it all themselves).

    Perhaps we need to stop telling people that the work they have to offer in trade makes them less valuable as people. We don’t get anywhere by devaluing anyone’s role, regardless of whether it’s “women’s” or “men’s” work.

  32. Twisty

    You know, in my usual hamfisted way, I clotted up my point. Which is merely that our whole world — and by ‘our’ I mean us people privileged enough to have the internet access to read this blog — floats along on the top layers of a pool that gets increasingly fetid the further down you plunge. This is no news flash, of course, but everyone who ‘earns’ more than somebody else might benefit from revisiting this observation. In other words, because this is a capitalist society, everybody ‘earns’ more than somebody, and it’s no good pretending that paying your lawn guy more than the going rate makes you anything but another benevolently paternalistic mug floating in the swamp.

    I acknowledge that some who are themselves oppressed by the megatheocorporatocracy in its middle tiers do not have the luxury of living a privilege-free life. The only people who can enjoy that luxury are too oppressed to enjoy it.

    This is why patriarchy’s gotta go.

  33. ekf

    efk, I’m a little troubled by your attitude towards anyone who works in a physical labour job. My partner is a mover. He’s paid to be big and strong. Please don’t confuse that with stupid—he went to university.

    Bird, I’m a little troubled by you putting words in my mouth. I never said anyone who did a physical labor job was stupid, and I have no reason to believe that they are. However, there had been a comment made upthread by Sunspots that went as follows:

    housekeeping is considered a talent that gals learn to heart from birth — the vagina is all the cred you need!

    My point in reacting to such a comment was that, if all a person needs to clean a house is a vagina, all someone needs to do most physical labor (like that done by a “handyman”) is a strong upper body. In other words, I was being a little flippant. In any event, to the extent my comment had any truth to it, such truth did not go to the quality of the person, but rather it went into the skill basis for the job.

    In addition, another poster had asked if the waters were muddied by conflating housekeeping with tasks like electrical, plumbing or mechanic’s work, because average people can do the former but they are not capable of doing the latter. My point in describing how the non-housekeeping tasks are within the grasp of the average person was to indicate why it really doesn’t muddy the water at all to compare the two. That people may be more intimidated by minor household repairs does not mean that they should be, as the tasks required, while not always obvious, require little more than reading fairly simple instructions to complete.

    Again, this does not mean anything about the people who are “handymen” — it just means that an average homeowner can probably do the same work with a little reading and a pocket of time adequate to the task. In other words, the job is of average difficulty. I have no opinion whatsoever about the quality of the person doing the job.

    If I must so declare on the subject, as a general rule, when physical labor jobs are being performed by immigrant workers, I assume those workers are overqualified and overeducated for the work they’re doing. Most workers who come to the states have to do shit work that would have been beneath them in their home country, because language barriers and job certifications prevent them from doing the work for which they’re qualified in their new country. While I did not mention this earlier (because I wasn’t even talking about workers so much as work), I think physical laborers are rather smart, and certainly deserving of more stimulation than they probably receive in their jobs as laborers.

  34. Dawn O'Day

    “The answer to this evidently burning question — “Am I exploiting the hired help?” is: fuck yeah. You think that guy is cutting your grass for his health? Because he just loves landscaping your honky lawn? Are you surprised that your maids didn’t want to stick their hands in your toilet?”

    Twisty, until the anarchist utopia arrives, many of us have to work at jobs we don’t like just to pay the rent. Most of us take the best jobs we can. I am very sure that the women I have hired to clean house, and the men I have hired to do yard work did not feel exploited by me. I may be wrong, but only they – not you – are in a position to say so. It seems antifeminist (not to mention, mean) of you to override others’ reports of their experiences and feelings and substitute your own.

    Whether the topic is marriage or hired help, generalizations – even the brilliant ones you are capable of making – will only take you so far.

    btw, as a vegan I wonder at your sensitivity to certain forms of exploitation and oppression and not others. Even if you don’t give a damn about the animals – a philosophically indefensible position – both human laborers (in some cases, perhaps, the husbands of the immigrant “maids” you so vociferously claim to defend) and the environment are both pillaged for the carnist fiestas you adore and celebrate in your blog. Slaughterhouse workers are probably the most oppressed labor force in the nation – Human Rights Watch issued a report on it, their only report devoted to a U.S. industry.

    No one’s pure. Think about that before you go off blaming people who happen to make different choices than you would. Everyone reading this blog is probably at the top of both the economic *and* nutritional food chains – and most of our choices are thus inevitably going to be heinous for one reason or another. At the same time, most blamers are probably actively striving to live as moral a life as possible, and they should be applauded for that, not blamed for their lapses from your program. While I understand the tactical value of staking out a clear, unambiguous position, I believe in this case you do so at the expense of your blamers and the workers they may not, in fact, be exploiting.

  35. MzNicky

    Well, here’s the thing. I have a bad back. I’m still living, and will always live, with the long-term effects of the whole slash, poison and burn of breast cancer treatment. I’m 54 years old. I scrubbed my own toilets and vacuumed my own floors while raising children and working fulltime for 25 years or so. My kids are now grown and gone, so I can’t make them do household chores anymore. They now have their own households to run. My husband of 35 years has been battling thyroid cancer for 7 years and currently he still manages to make all the dough. I am apparently unemployable, despite my advanced academic degrees, so the house is currently my responsibility, to do with as I see fit. That’s the deal.

    I see fit to pay a cleaning service to come and clean my house. One of the crew regulars brings her infant daughter with her, which is cool by me. Sometimes I entertain her while the house is being made habitable. They work around my four cats and my elderly incontinent dog. I also see fit to hire lawn service to take care of the yard because neither of us can, or wants to, do it anymore.

    I’m a radical feminist, so if this all creates a problem for anyone, you can kiss my fat white privileged ass. As someone else pointed out upthread, if you’re living a life in the US of A (and, as Twisty mentioned, you are among the minority who have the luxury of posting comments about it on an Internet blog), you’re no doubt exploiting someone somewhere just by being in this particular life in this particular time. In the next lifetime we may not be so fortunate. What matters is how we do what we do now.

  36. Twisty

    See here, Dawn O’Day. I don’t blame individuals. I blame the patriarchy. I don’t have a ‘program’. I don’t argue that I or anybody else is ‘pure’. I merely point out inconsistencies in the patriarchy’s argument. One of which seems to be that the working classes are not really exploited because the middle and upper classes just can’t help exploiting them.

    But you’re right; I can’t speak for the Mexican landscapers. Possiby they are grateful for the opportunity to toil away on honky lawns in 99 degree heat all summer. A pity they can’t speak for themselves. Their views might be enlightening.

    You are very virtuous, though, for being a vegan. Applause!

  37. Dawn O'Day

    >You are very virtuous, though, for being a vegan. Applause!

    Wasn’t looking for praise, but will take it anyway! Of course the “freegans” think I’m scum: http://www.freegan.info . They point out that even a vegan lifestyle, when lived in the context of capitalism, is deeply exploitative. Can’t win… :-)

    I have an unfair advantage in this discussion because my day job is in the field of microenterprise and I work for a nonprofit that helps immigrants. So I actually help Mexican (and Guatemalan, etc.) landscapers, Vietnamese housecleaners, Moroccan auto detailers, etc., every day. And, yes, the landscapers are QUITE grateful to be toiling away on honky lawns in 99 degree heat – most of them have endured great deprivation and danger for that opportunity, and work hard at it when they get it.

    Do they wish they had better choices? Of course. I wish they did, too – and I’m not overlooking our society’s (and the patriarchy’s) role in the fact that they don’t. I wish I had better choices, too. But in the absence of the anarchist utopia, I can assure you that your average Mexican landscaper is HIGHLY grateful for the opportunity to earn a decent hourly wage through entrepreneurship as opposed to, say, earning minimum wage in a fast food joint.

    I am also not saying that entrepreneurship is the be-all, end-all answer. plenty of people get exploited that way, too. but I presume most of your blamers are typical bleeding-heart liberals who pay the help generously…

    All that said, being scolded by the illustrious TF is an honor. I have been lurking for a while and find your blog quite valuable. i have learned a lot and expect to learn much more…

  38. josie my source of most frustration

    Twisty, I am saddened to learn today that you don’t have a “program.” With summer stretching out ahead of me and no discernible cooking skills or knack for finding decent tacos, I was hoping that someone would give me a Scientology like ideology to devote myself to and a lockstep prescription for how to fill my days. Pity it won’t be you. Maybe I’ll just have to subscribe to that Rachel Ray magazine or something.

  39. wren

    I think the fact that we class handyman/plumber/electrician as “skilled” and housecleaner as “unskilled” labor is rather indicative of something, isn’t it?

    I mean, yes, an electrician has to learn how to set up and maintain wiring systems (and no, I don’t know anything about being an electrician), but when it comes down to it, it’s just a series of steps one needs to learn how to take.

    A housecleaner needs to learn how to wash certain fabrics, for example, or that you can’t use certain cleaners together, that bleach dark carpet = bad. When it comes down to it, it’s just a series of steps one needs to learn how to take.

    Yes, there are exceptions. There are things I would only hire an electrician to do (rewiring an entire house), just as there are things I would only hire a professional cleaner to do (clean up a murder scene, say, or get out the mold after a flood).

    The difference is that half of the population is forcefully indoctrinated with the skills needed to perform the one task, while the other half of the population has the option of choosing to learn the skills for the other.

    IBTP.

  40. eggbert

    Thank you Twisty for bringing this up.

    I used to be a “house cleaner”, and (surprise!) it was even more of a soul sucking drear than any other crappy job I have had since, including telemarketing, graveyard shift at Amoco, and teaching English to college freshmen.

    I cleaned regularly for this divorced older dude. He was used to being coddled (because, like many men, his coming of age consisted of a smooth transition from exploiting his mother to exploiting his wife), and thus he could not perform the most basic housekeeping tasks, such as putting a dirty ketchup encrusted plate in the dishwasher.

    Anyhow, I had to clean his calcified dung off of the base of his toilet with an ice scraper. After I was done, he paid me and remarked that hiring a woman to clean was more economical than being married. I think he meant it as a compliment.

    IBTP!

    And josie–I feel you. I hate being mired so deeply in the big P that almost everything I do-wear-eat costs someone else their health and dignity.

  41. Dawn O'Day

    PS – Twisty – even if you don’t mean to blame individuals, it’s pretty clear from the defensive comments here, including my own I suppose, that many blamers feel personally blamed. I’m not saying you did blame them but the comments indicate that there is perhaps a need for clarification, or further nuance is needed in the discussion…

  42. WillOTheWisp

    I thought marriage was the means by which women manage to rope in and bind the male to a lifelong obligation of the pursuit of power, aggression, competition so much so that he loses all sense of indivudual identity and becomss a mechanism for periodically delivering the big O, the moolah and the food in the service of the one who would rather not.

    Sigh! I guess its just better to walk dogs and play golf.

    WHy do I find it difficult to shake off the sense that intelligence and power are mutually exclusive?

    P.S. I do hope you like laughing at yourself in moments of peaceful solitary tranquillity when you scrutinise the text on your previous post. We have now evolved to the state of brainwashing ourselves.
    ;)

    The wonders and mysteries of nature and self-nurture never cease.

  43. Cunning Allusionment?

    Firstly,
    1) condescending, patriarchal “liberalism.”
    2a) False.
    Given that there is no interaction that two people could possibly have in an oppressive society of any kind that is not molded by or in reaction to that oppression, it is a gross understatement to say that any oppressed group is unacquainted with the point of view of their oppressors.

    2b) False.
    I think this is false for two reasons.
    1) Feminists (and everyone else) are so well “acquainted” with the male point of view, that it’s misleading to say that there is a “balance” between feminists’ own feminist ideas and the patriarchal perspective that they’re constantly bombarded with. It’s like saying that you can balance the noise input to your ears standing in front of a PA system at rock concert by humming a tune.
    2) No one “benefits” from what passes for the male point of view in our society. I put “benefits” in quotations because I’m using the term in a particular way that needs clarification. I’m not saying that men don’t profit from patriarchal oppression, because we do a lot. Rather, I’m saying that a world with less oppression is better for everybody than a world with more oppression. I think that it’s ultimately in everyone’s best interest to eradicate patriarchy because it will improve mens’ lives too. Male privilege isn’t worth the disastrous impact it has on our interpersonal relations, especially male-female relations, and it isn’t worth it to have such grievous trauma continue to perpetuate through the generations.

    Yeah, I know, the system’s set up so that white folks have no choice but to exploit brown folks, right? Our hands are tied! We don’t have the time or skills to maintain the infrastructure of our whitey lifestyles!
    -TwistyI wouldn’t say white people have no choice, but it is often difficult to find any aspect of one’s life where there exists a financially practical option that isn’t exploitative. The fact that it’s difficult doesn’t mean we should give up and carry on exploiting people because the system’s set up to make it easy. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek out and implement creative alternatives to exploitation. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t confront our community with larger scale the non-exploitative (or at least less exploitative) alternatives available to us as a community. I suspect that the fact that it’s usually very difficult for oppressor groups to avoid oppressing people does mean that those relatively conscientious members of the oppressor group who want to reject their privileged status as oppressors will probably be unable to do so completely. Most likely all of the hardware that makes this blogging community possible (from our computers, to the servers, cables, and Twisty’s camera) were made in sweatshops. So isn’t the very act of owning a computer, or posting to this blog exploitative? I think the answer is, “yes” and I think that this is one of the reasons why as a social system, oppression has been so successful. Resisting one aspect of an oppressive system will almost always support another aspect of it at least implicitly. Though I believe it’s possible for perfectly non-exploitive social and maybe even commercial organizations to exist, I think that implementing them within an oppressive framework is absurdly challenging. If the revolution were easy, it would’ve happened already. I’m reminded of a teaching from Hui Neng an old Zen Buddhist master. He said that students on the path should be as focused and determined as if they had lost an indispensable thing in the bustle of the marketplace, or as if their head were aflame.

    How come nobody here is scorning eating in restaurants when we can cook our own food? Or condemning paying teachers when we can show our own kids how to read? We’ve specialized work for centuries and traded skills with each other (contrary to popular belief, even in early societies people traded work/products rather than doing it all themselves).
    -Bird

    I think your point is especially interesting considering how distasteful of childrearing many people seem to be. Also, your related point about specialization is valuable I think because it’s the specialization of the workforce that is the foundation of urban civilization. Of course our particular global chain of urban civilizations have been all exclusively oppressive and violent (with perhaps a very few isolated exceptions), but in principal, neither of those properties are necessary parts of them.

  44. Cunning Allusionment?

    Whoops! Sorry about the shitty formatting.

  45. yankee transplant

    I love coming over here for a good read.

  46. CafeSiren

    Is the answer to question #1: “patronizing”?

  47. CafeSiren

    Is there anyone out there who actually cleans houses (or does other “women’s work” such as tending other people’s children) for a living? That’s a POV I’d like to hear on this thread.

  48. po-mosucks

    Revolution? I can just see how it’ll go off in so far as we’ve got priorities like perfectly groomed lawns and shiny toilets and pay them immigrants to keep it that way. As one brought into this world by immigrants I have many a humiliating memory to draw on in terms my parents doing shit work. I am sure they did not mind since it allowed the fat assed upper classes to contemplate bigger, more important things like overhauling degrading social structures.

    Let’s cut the crap! We’re all into “the revolution” so long as it does not inconvenience us.

  49. goblinbee

    I had a housecleaning service for a year; it met my needs perfectly. I would bid by the job, not the hour, then kick absolute butt on the house, cleaning in two hours what would have taken most people to do in three or four. I worked up a delicious sweat. I was going through several painful transitions in my life at the time and wanted a physical outlet. I loved that I could double up on getting a workout AND a paycheck.

    But I wouldn’t have wanted it to last indefinitely.

    As to child care, my daughter was once hired by a couple with a new baby to come all night while they were asleep and be the one to wake up when the baby woke up and give him a bottle. Not the first wet nurse in history, but I just thought it beat all.

  50. MzNicky

    CafeSiren: My daughter has devoted 10 years of her life to child care. She at one time owned her own day-care business. She now heads up the local university’s child-care center. I cannot speak for her, but I can say that it is her passion and her gift, and I can’t imagine she’d ever be as invested in anything else, career-wise.

  51. malalou

    I’ve done more crap work than I bet any of you could shake a stick at. One of the crappiest was stint at a carwash at age 16 – being ogled all day by rich old buffoons while sweating my ass off washing and vacuuming their stupid Cadillacs. Humiliating.
    Another shit job I got trapped into was roofing with a bunch of redneck assholes who thought it would be funny to have me carry 50 lb bundles of shingles up the ladder all day long in 90 degree weather every day to put me in my place. (and then tried to short my pay, which was a big mistake for them. I snicker fondly at the memory…)
    My feeling has always been that nothing will stand in the way of my providing food & shelter for the kid. Pride will not fill your stomach.

    At any rate, working for myself cleaning houses was actually kind of nice. The people I cleaned for were generally older, or couldn’t do it for themselves for whatever reason. They were always grateful and wanted to chat and even help out as much as they could. They never made me feel beneath them.

    I have also worked as a handywoman, and a welder… In both situations I was on the bottom layer and atethe bossman’s shit always (except for when I worked with other women contractors) Anyway – no I have no qualms about hiring someone and paying them a decent wage. They won’t have to put up with crap from me such as I’ve dealt with. I feel like maybe I can set an example that interdependence and equal treatment should be the norm… not hierarchy… And it’ll pay their bills til something more rewarding happens for them.

    Yes, I think I’d rather live in a collective where work, child-rearing and everything is shared… but it hasn’t happened yet…

  52. malalou

    … and also, I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned that working towards a goal, whether it’s working shit jobs while getting and education for yourself, or even just to have a job that tests your endurance (physical or psychological) builds character. Sure, I just complained about those shit jobs in my above post. Those were interactions with the patriarchy which taght me a whole lot about how I would and would not treat another human being. And they taught me that if I don’t stand up for myself and demand a decent wage, decent conditions, and fair treatment, no one will do it for me… lessons which have proven invaluable…

  53. Random Lurker

    There’s a huge difference between hiring an electrician, contractor, or plumber and hiring someone to clean your house. If you fuck up doing your own plumbing/structural repairs/electric you’re not only potentially violating county codes, but putting your life in danger. If you fuck up your laundry by throwing a blue sock in with the whites you wear blue socks and undies. One fuckup equals injury and legal troubles, the other gets you on What Not To Wear. I’m a lousy housekeeper and can honestly tell you that it’s very difficult to utterly ruin something by cleaning it “wrong”. Yes, I’ve heard of Nigels who ruined a designer dress/priceless antique/expensive carpet by their inept attempts at housecleaning. I’ve also heard Nigels exchanging tips on how to “accidentally” ruin things by cleaning so I’m inclined to dismiss those cases as deliberate acts of sabotage.
    Patti and MzNicky, I would much rather my tax money went to getting you the help you need than being pissed away on crap like missile defense systems we don’t need that don’t work. IBTP for that.

  54. Hukuma Xpyweb

    1. Patronizing and pointless.

    2a. False
    2b. False

    As to the rest, the critical point which appears to have been missed early on, is that it doesn’t matter how much you’re paying someone to do whatever job it is that you find for them to do. As long as you are participating in the economy, you are contributing to the oppression of the capitalist patriarchy. It doesn’t matter how you feel, how the workers feel, or how Twisty feels. It is something which happens.

    Society today is built upon a system whereby certain people do certain classes of jobs, in order to make things run more efficiently. The way that we determine who does what job is based on interest, aptitude, and a whole lot of inherent privilege. People are paid, for those jobs, whatever they can get, and whatever those paying will give them. The reason that sports players are paid as they are is that millions of people are paying their paycheck, 20-100 bucks at a time. The reason that men are paid more than women is that that’s how it has been done, and there hasn’t been that much of a stink raised about it. No profits are threatened by the actions taken against it.

    Twisty proposes revolution. What revolutionary acts have you taken? Not what incremental acts, not what acts to better yourself personally, what revolutionary acts. Personally, I have taken very few. I have not been, up to this point, a good revolutionary. This is not to say that I have not struggled against the status quo, that I have not felt the oppression which can come from rejecting your place in society, and acted against it. I rather suspect that is true for all of us. Revolution is hard. Going along with society is easy. Even the act of reading this blog and posting on it can be subverted, if we fall into the trap of thinking that this is action, if we start to feel safe knowing that others agree with us, and think of posting and reading as action. The man is out there, and he is laughing as we gather together and gripe to one another. It has been said that you need to allow the people outlets to let off some steam from time to time, that you can control them the rest.

    Everything is done in context, everything is seen in context. You all know the context. Let’s do something about it. Not something quiet, or something safe, let’s do something dramatic and dangerous.

    Let’s do something revolutionary.

  55. mearl

    I’m a white honky with white honky parents who have degrees and professional jobs, and they were never so swamped with their jet-set lives that they couldn’t take the fucking garbage out of their house to the edge of the lane. Maybe it’s because we didn’t live in a giant house with a giant lawn with an edge that required a Mecca-like pilgrimmage to reach. My diet was mostly home cooked, sometimes by me, since I come from a family with farm and immigrant roots. My grandparents used to kill their chickens themselves, and my parents have – under duress – resorted to buying free-range from local small farms to pacify me at family dinners. These things are possible, you know. If everyone quit defending themselves and just THOUGHT about it for a sec…

    Further quibbles: I suppose the elephant in the room would be the whole “It’s too much of a fight to try and make my stubborn Nigel share the housework, so I hire a Kenyan housecleaner (but I graciously pay her 15 dollars an hour, and everyone’s happy!)” argument. In response to this I am making the “W” sign with my fingers.

    Next, how often do you rewire your house as opposed to washing its floors? Wait, don’t answer.

    Furthermore, the value system is fucked. If I actually WERE Emperor, I would pay teachers, nurses, farmers, apple-pickers, tailors, weavers, people who cleaned sewers, mothers of infants and small children, as well as those women to whom the responsibility for the emotional stability of the nation falls (anyone who has sat for more than one minute listening and sympathising while anyone else complains), TEN TIMES as much as I would pay the jackass astronomer who spends all year glued to a UV ray gun, charting the movement of neutrinos. The astronomer’s job is only possible because his house is cleaned and meals are made and his gitches are washed by other people. It doesn’t work the other way, though.

    “Let’s cut the crap! We’re all into “the revolution” so long as it does not inconvenience us.”

    Thanks, po-mo sucks. And thanks, Twisty, for the compliment of being featured in a post!

  56. CD

    titter, the quiz is cute.

    i’m jumping in having read half the comments, so perhaps this has been said: consumerism sucks. it makes slaves of everyone. i’ve hired cleaners, been one, and there are aspects that suck to both sides. but should we also be speaking of why it is we “need” all this “cleaning?”

    i’m turning into a radical environmentalist as i age, and cleaning/killing nature is starting to become a sore spot with me. i live in a house with two other people, and there are days i’m ashamed of all the space we “have” to clean. i try so hard not to overconsume, and just being in the US makes that really hard. cleaning is one part of that. you *must* buy some cleaning products, regularly, or there will be consequences. very few people talk about the damage some of these chemicals do, over time and in large amount, to the environment. let me make it more direct: you’ve heard of all these drug-resistant diseases, like flesh eating bacteria? apply the same idea, to the things you’re killing as you’re cleaning them.

    anyway, i’m all for civilized standards of living, but we go about it all wrong in modern consumerist society. a thousand years ago, the japanese had an amazingly clean society without environmentally destructive petroleum derived products, and at least they were honest about it: the slave class knew it had no rights and the system was set up to exploit them. today, we kid ourselves into thinking that there is some kind of science or logic behind our definitions and application of “clean,” which just happen to enslave us, destroy our environment, and keep us divided and less likely to have the revolution.

  57. delphyne

    “I suppose the elephant in the room would be the whole “It’s too much of a fight to try and make my stubborn Nigel share the housework, so I hire a Kenyan housecleaner (but I graciously pay her 15 dollars an hour, and everyone’s happy!)” argument. In response to this I am making the “W” sign with my fingers.”

    Yup. I always thought that part of the feminist revolution would be that men would do their fair share of the housework. It would be interesting to know how many people here have male partners who do their share of the cleaning and how many employ someone to do it.

    And cleaning up after your own crap doesn’t require the skill level of being able to plumb or rewire houses, however anybody tries to spin it.

  58. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Ahhhhhhh. Somewhere in the murky bowels of my blog there is an essay or two on my struggles with these issues.

    While I was married I lived HIS suburban wet dream: Huge house, enormous yard in one of the most chi-chi neighborhoods in this high-rent town. White floors and carpets, people! Before we bought that house we had a privileged white college student come in twice a month to help swamp out our apartment. I never felt guilty because she seemed so happy about the money and the flexibility.

    When I extracted myself from that situation I made very deliberate choices in order to minimize my work, not to mention my ecological “footprint” on the world: A small townhome within walking distance to a grocery store/pharmacy, a teeny lawn I take care of myself (that I’m landscaping away in favor of a hardy, acid-loving Xeriscape) and a galley kitchen that was probably put in just for show because DAMN it’s small. I have two small cabinets for food.

    I ripped out the carpets and my boyfriend (at the time) put down (cheap!)floors that clean up with a Swiffer and a little bit of water. This place has no garage, no basement, no attic, and limited closet space. Enormous discipline is required not to amass too much sh*t, so I make frequent trips to my sister’s house and the local Goodwill to get rid of it all.

    Today I have the place fixed so that I could probably just hose the place down once a month and call it a day. Now I actually LIKE cleaning house. There is absolutely NO need to hire someone else to do my shitwork since there is so little of it to do.

  59. Supermouse

    Random Lurker wrote:
    There’s a huge difference between hiring an electrician, contractor, or plumber and hiring someone to clean your house. If you fuck up doing your own plumbing/structural repairs/electric you’re not only potentially violating county codes, but putting your life in danger. If you fuck up your laundry by throwing a blue sock in with the whites you wear blue socks and undies. (end quote)

    If you mix bleach with limescale remover, you can gas yourself. If you let gunge build up then spread it around with a wet cloth that’s been kept damp and fermenting for a week, you can spread e coli. If you use the wrong substance to clean a floor, you can create a slip hazard. If you put broken glasses away or dump things on top of glass in the washing up bowl or sink, you create a hazard. If you stand on stools to dust hard to reach places, you can endanger yourself. People slip, trip, fall, burn themselves and die in houses every day.

    I’ve worked in care work and my particular job was a mixture of housework, cooking and cleaning shitty bottoms. All of which had to be done correctly because you were trying to keep the ‘clients’ alive and healthy, and yourself too.

    Housework is skilled. Childcare too. It’s not the work that’s the problem, it’s the lack of value attached to it.

  60. Twisty

    “PS – Twisty – even if you don’t mean to blame individuals, it’s pretty clear from the defensive comments here, including my own I suppose, that many blamers feel personally blamed. I’m not saying you did blame them but the comments indicate that there is perhaps a need for clarification, or further nuance is needed in the discussion…” –Dawn O’Day

    Naturally, blamers are always encouraged to feel something when they read my posts. What they feel is more or less out of my hands. I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I had become fatigued sugarcoating my prose against the possibility that readers might be offended by it, and that consequently I was taking back my blog. Henceforth my essays will reflect my personal prejudices, and the comments will reflect the blamers’. The way I see it, it’s a win-win.

    In the case under discussion, I am advancing (in an apparently clumsy and incomprehensible way) the view that marriage (and its concomitant nuclear family) is instrumental in sustaining a racist caste system and an exploitative global economy. Although my point is largely a theoretical one, so far the arguments against this view have pretty much consisted of “I can’t help it” and one or two “my menials aren’t really oppressed.” Nobody has succeeded in making a case showing how the performance of traditional Western middle-class patriarchy-approved behaviors (like marriage and nuclear familyism) actually liberates any oppressed groups, so as yet there is no real disagreement here. Just some discomfort. Which, frankly, I am relieved to see.

    How come I’m not interested in trying to make everyone feel better about their participation in capitalist oppression? Why should I? Is capitalist oppression good or something?

    But Dawn O’Day. I would be very interested to hear the punctuational argument for ending your remark with an ellipsis rather than a period.

  61. Octogalore

    Twisty, much of what you say about marriage is true. The system, in our society, is going to skew towards putting women in various oppressive roles. But I wonder if it’s occurred to you that when you note that “from a field of over 250 starters, only a few argue that marriage is anything but a hotbed of bogosity,” this pool may be a bit self-selected. Anyone who feels marriage can work under certain conditions will be criticized and accused of Nigeling.

    I completely agree with what Spit and other have said about how, with all good intentions, marriage can turn to shit for women. No question about that.

    But I think it’s somewhat unfair to Rainbow Girl and others who are looking at their futures to paint a universally gloomy picture.

    I think the way marriage can work is for women to wait until they are comfortable that they’re financially self-sufficient, and until they can trust their partners to come up with an equitable method of child care and dividing housework. eg, day care with enough shared parent time during the week so that the parents feel comfortable about their level of involvement. Or if family members are nearby and can combine with day care. If a woman is not sure that her prospective partner is committed to equally sharing housework and child care, then yes, don’t do it, because yeah, there’s a trap ahead.

    The examples I’ve seen (and the one I experience) where marriage works are ones in which the woman waited until her 30s (not that there’s a magic number) and was equal or above her husband in earning power. This isn’t a class-based argument; some of these women were working class, but their husbands were too. Granted, in these situations, child care can be tougher. But then, poverty makes everything tougher, and marriage isn’t necessarily the bogeyman that makes it all worse, if the economic parity and trust components are there.

    Delphyne: “I always thought that part of the feminist revolution would be that men would do their fair share of the housework. It would be interesting to know how many people here have male partners who do their share of the cleaning and how many employ someone to do it.”

    My husband does probably 60% of the housework and I do about 60% of the childcare when my daughter isn’t at school, or with daycare or a relative. Yes, we do employ a cleaner — it’s actually a husband and wife team. They come twice a month and alternate, so each one is coming once a month, and they each get $100 a stint. I think it sucks that because of unequal economic opportunity, some of us are paying others to clean our houses. And yet a lot of that is a poverty issue rather than a gender issue. The bottom line is, paying someone fairly, given the underlying economic problems, isn’t the problem; poverty is.

  62. Twisty

    If you will permit another flight of theoretical fancy, I might suggest that the actual problem is this so-called ‘civilized’ habit of trading resources for labor. This is a system which works only when the resources traded are valued at less than the labor, because the end goal is always profit. What do you suppose causes poverty in the first place? Why do you suppose that the gulf separating the rich and the poor reaches new depths of abyssitude all the time? The average corporate CEO makes 8 million a year, corporate profits are skyrocketing, and guess what? There’s nothing trickling down! Laborers aren’t getting corresponding raises. If they did, minimum wage would be over $20 an hour.

    My other bit of prejudiced advice, to anyone who likes clean floors but is disinclined to sweep’em herself, is this: get a Roomba! It’s the first step toward Shulie’s sci-fi utopia of chick-leisure! Who doesn’t love a robot?

  63. PhysioProf

    “In the case under discussion, I am advancing (in an apparently clumsy and incomprehensible way) the view that marriage (and its concomitant nuclear family) is instrumental in sustaining a racist caste system and an exploitative global economy.”

    To the contrary, I think you have advanced your view quite clearly and effectively.

  64. V.

    Here’s a radical idea that will tide us over until the revolution is completed:

    Don’t have more stuff than you can take care of.

    No, seriously.

    House too big to clean?

    Live in a small one. Try an apartment.

    But what about the lawn?

    Have a teeny one. Or replace it with self-sustaining native plants.

    Or just don’t live in a place that requires you to have one.

    Maybe we won’t achieve the revolution right away.

    But we can all start to deconstruct capitalism/consumerism right now.

    Have less. Exploit less.

    For the record, I live with my kids in a 2 bedroom apartment.

    The neighbors and I all take turns shoveling snow, planting flowers, and cleaning the hallways.

    I clean my own damn toilet.

    It’s not perfection, but it works okay.

  65. Octogalore

    Well, certainly there’s a lot of truth to that. Yes, this system is corrupt, and I agree that trickle-down is mostly BS.

    The issue, though, is that your proposal seems indeed to be somewhat of a flight of fancy. How, actually, would you propose that we get rid of the trading of resources for labor (yeah, revolution, but how would that happen exactly)? It’s a worthwhile proposal, but what would it look like, how would one implement it? Would we lose any entrepreneurial creativity by doing so? I don’t know if we necessarily would, actually, but how we’d get there in the first place seems insurmountable. Looking at how things would work if we could get rid of various structures, as an exercise to see what we could be doing differently, is valuable, but does it really change the realities?

    I fear that incremental steps to change the current system are probably going to be the best solution we have. If there were a way of reconfiguring and setting caps on CEO and executive comp, so as to enact a higher minimum wage, I’d be all for it. And there are probably other such steps that could get lessen the “abyssitude.” These are far from ideal, but I’m not sure the ideal is achievable.

  66. Bitey

    Twisty: “This is a system which works only when the resources traded are valued at less than the labor, because the end goal is always profit. What do you suppose causes poverty in the first place?”

    Totally. Profit is theft. Capitalism is institutionalized theft.

    I am one of the ones who feels she has made an equitable marriage, and it’s not because he does most of the housework (although he does, and thank God, because otherwise we’d live in squalor (as my ex-husband and I did)). When Sweetie and I first got together, I could not believe how utterly gentle he was with me. He’s not a big guy–we’re about the same height, and he’s thinner than I am–but we all know that they don’t have to be big to be scary. When he touched me, he did so lightly and tentatively, as though he recognized and respected my person. What a thought, right? While I’m sure he would fight like a madman to defend me if that were called for, he is not and has never been what anyone would call a “protector.” And it occurred to me all at once one day early in our relationship that all the “protector” bullshit is nothing more than an implied threat of violence against the “protected.” Of course, we have to start with the idea that there’s something to be protected against, but that’s the premise of, oh, everything I can think of, from mainstream entertainments to politics to economics to dogs to religion. So we have a premise. Let’s have a syllogism, from the protector’s point of view:

    Major premise: He can hurt you.
    Minor premise: I can hurt him.
    Conclusion: You are safe.

    But that’s not really the conclusion, is it? The real conclusion is “We can hurt you.” That fawning “I just feel so safe with him” crap that some women spew about their Nigels is nothing more than an authentic fear response perverted to serve the patriarchy.

    Back to Sweetie. I feel safe with him because, to him, I am not an object on which physical force is to be exerted. At all. Ever. Not by him or anyone, for any reason. If he waves his hand and accidentally hits me, he flinches and apologizes and asks if I’m okay. I feel safe with him precisely because he is not a protector. We can never really know what’s in anyone’s mind, but from the evidence I’ve gathered, I am safe with him. I don’t feel “protected” with him. I’m an adult–my protection is my business. I feel like a person with him. Like a subject, not an object. He does not treat me as an entitlement, and does not seem to feel any particular privilege over my body or mind.

    This is great for me and all, but it’s sickening that the best thing a woman can say about a man is that he truly sees her as a person. It’s even more sickening that the best most women can say about their husbands in terms of whether and how he values her time and energy is that he does his share of the housework. Those fuckers want cookies for acting like human adults. Shit on them.

  67. Twisty

    “The issue, though, is that your proposal seems indeed to be somewhat of a flight of fancy.” — Octogalore

    But Octogalore, I haven’t exactly made a proposal (unless you count the Roomba). Have I?

    In this post it was my purpose to suggest that liberation from oppression — which I see as the goal of radical feminism — isn’t just about middle class Americans cleaning their own toilets. True liberation has ramifications that many white American feminists just don’t see, or are unwilling to see, because they are in many respects the direct beneficiaries of oppression, and stand to lose big (at least they’d see it that way) if justice for all were ever to actually come about.

    I’m more a boat-rocker than a go-to guy. I leave it to those without chemo-brain and radiation poisoning to spearhead the revolution. Plenty of people find boat-rocking to be of little value, but, like I always say, you get what you pay for at I Blame the Patriarchy.

  68. Sunspots

    Alas, as I went out into the wide world, so much has passed. Probably moot points by now, but here goes nothing:

    EKF: I’m glad you call your housekeeper by name. You are an exception. I do have plenty of friends who trained as electricians and auto mechanics, intentionally. Yes, they do love it. Yes, they have always wanted to do it. And I have a friend who abandoned a lucrative career in computers to go dig up yards because he likes it. It is because these guys are doing socially respected (read: traditionally male) careers.

    Note that when I say “traditionally male” I don’t mean that *I* think they are jobs for men, but that The Patriarchy reads their careers as male. Normally, I’d think such things go without saying on a board like this, but I see that my comment that all a person needs to clean is a vagina has actually been taken as my personal gospel. In case there is any doubt, let me clarify: IBTP for this MYTH.

    In any case, my goal was not to condemn to patriarchal hell anyone who uses a cleaning service, but to point out, as Twisty has done far more eloquently, that we all make compromises to the nasty system of exploitation that supports our culture. We shouldn’t try to will ourselves blind to this. There is a difference between one’s electrician and one’s house cleaner because our society grants one of them a whole lot more respect. Trying to equate the two means glossing over this very fundamental fact.

    The end. I’m off to clean my toilet. For more info, see posts by delphyne and V (who both rock).

  69. Feminist Avatar

    I think the problem with the exploititive nature of housework is that it is unpaid.

    Of course, Twisty is absolutely correct the concept of exchanging resources for labour is fundamentally explotititive so we are all exploited and exploit all of the time. But we live in a system where every other aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the clothes we buy to our jobs, is quantified and given a financial value. Why not housework?

    Then some women come along and try to put a financial value on housework, which is of course both impossible, yet achieved everyday in every other aspect of our lives. We all get scared because it opens our eyes to the nature of the exploititive system, and that fundamentally the person who does housework is at the bottom of the pile as their work isn’t even given a financial value.

    I think, until the revolution, all housework should be paid because then it might be recognised and valued as work, and perhaps if given a value it will be ‘unfeminised’.

  70. Emotenote

    I read this thread with great interest having been a house-cleaner myself, and having my best friends as gardeners. Now I’m way in the middle of middle-class and hiring house-cleaners and gardeners. I actually was very thankful for the housecleaning gigs, they helped me survive in tough times. People were always gracious and thankful and paid well, in fact I was treated with the utmost respect at all times. I found the toilet cleaning way less demeaning than many of the later office butt-monkey jobs, where some ass-hole would take credit for my creative work (all men I must say) and I was treated as invisible.

    In fact, I find being a wife sex slave much more demeaning and garnering far less respect. The Nigel I live with wants to be less of a Patriarchy stooge but the in-graining is so severe it’s everywhere he turns, and raising daughters has made me SO aware there’s no going back. Awareness came late so I’m finding the ways and means on the run, and I agree, revolution IS the answer.

    Ironically I’m a TERRIBLE cleaner of anything and so is Nigel (I love this nomenclature) the difference between us is that I will do what needs to be done whether I like it or not and he won’t, and I am soooo thankful to find someone who is good at organizing and cleaning up. I have no illusions, though, that the woman who helps me is doing the work that Nigel won’t do so he’s the one she’s really here for which sucks big. I still take up the slack. I think this is similar to someone hiring me to do computer work because they can’t. Sadly, most of the value people have for their household help grows from the frustration of having the family patriarch function as a giant piece of excrement around the household, just sitting there stinking things up waiting to be disposed of rather than actively participating in the living of life and all the messes that come with that. And somehow, Nigel has yet to realize that doing housework is not the passion of my life as he thinks it was for his mother. Bitter some? Yeah.

    On to the gardeners. My friends were immigrants and very educated and brilliant. Unfortunately to improve their lives in America, (going from being bombed all the time to not being bombed) they couldn’t continue their work because they would have to go back to school and redo all their education. They took up landscaping because they had been trained for this in their native country as part of daily life. They work in terrible conditions (even as the owners of the company) people are incredibly rude and obnoxious, and they don’t pay on time. It’s hard labor and hard on their aging bodies. They aren’t from Mexico so no one could say “It’s bias against Mexicans at work”.

    I think it’s safe to say they hate the work and the attitudes of their customers but in this case they feel it’s better than death. I’m not really trying to draw hard conclusion here, just give some points of view.

  71. malalou

    Yeah, I think the point has not gone unnoticed that hierarchy, classism, racism & sexism are all prominent features of patriarchy. However I do not feel that the act of hiring someone is playing into the system – it’s ‘how’ you do it. Hell, it’s ‘how’ you do everything in your life that makes the difference as to whether or not you’re a patriarchy darling, or a revolutionary. Some might argue that if we don’t hire those independent people who need the work (and we can afford their services), we’re hoarding resources for ourselves while others go hungry… just a thought. I think that placing value on a job validates the efforts of people to live and earn a decent wage. I think it’s very important to buy & do business locally, btw. See just because we have some kind of inherent classist aversion to cleaning other people’s toilets, should we project onto others our opinions? If we do that, we are then not valuing their services, or their humanity. It’s not like we are asking for someone to lick the toilet while we stand over them and laugh it up. Sure there are those people who really like to wield that authority… but leaving it up to each individual to decide whether or not the money is worth it in that case gives them – guess what- personal power. Evening up the playing field so that everyone can enjoy equal treatment won’t happen over night & there ain’t no magic bullet or law that’s going to do it. Just each person taking initiatave to be kind, and self-awareness enough to realize when they can adjust their behaviors…

  72. delphyne

    “My husband does probably 60% of the housework and I do about 60% of the childcare when my daughter isn’t at school, or with daycare or a relative. Yes, we do employ a cleaner — it’s actually a husband and wife team. They come twice a month and alternate, so each one is coming once a month, and they each get $100 a stint. I think it sucks that because of unequal economic opportunity, some of us are paying others to clean our houses. And yet a lot of that is a poverty issue rather than a gender issue. The bottom line is, paying someone fairly, given the underlying economic problems, isn’t the problem; poverty is.”

    Well it’s not a poverty issue from your point of view is it? Nobody is making you pay people to clean your house. What would your husband say if you asked him to take on the cleaning duties that the two of you are currently contracting out?

    I find it really creepy that as the gap between the rich and poor widens, a servant class is reemerging. We seem to be returning to the Victorian era.

  73. delphyne

    “See just because we have some kind of inherent classist aversion to cleaning other people’s toilets, should we project onto others our opinions?”

    I don’t think it’s a classist aversion. I think most people would prefer not to clean up after other people’s mess. Human beings, unless they are infirm in some way, are perfectly capable of tidying up whatever mess they’ve made, or maybe it would be better to say men are perfectly capable of tidying up the mess they’ve made. In other words men don’t have a classist aversion to cleaning other people’s toilets they have a sexist aversion to cleaning their own. Instead they’ve created a system where they don’t have to do any of the mundane, never-ending domestic work – they leave it all to women. And most women, instead of rebelling against this, either do it themselves or agree to pay another woman to do it.

    Imagine if CEOs had to vacuum their offices every night and do the dusting and water the plants when they came in in the morning – they’d have less time to set up systems of capitalist dominance and exploitation.

  74. po-mosucks

    In the age of gnat-like attention spans and waning imaginations I come to the rescue with this learning aid. The reality of immigrant lives. Guy and girl come over from Vietnam. She gets a job as… you guessed it: prostitute. The guy… see for yourself.

    The movie was made in 2004 and the title is The Beautiful Country.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0273108/plotsummary

    Also, accept your reality. If you can’t keep it up don’t get it! I am doing my PhD and I have no time to scratch my ass. So I live in mid-squalor. Rather that than load off on someone else.

  75. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Maybe the answer IS robots . . . sigh! Roomba, eh? My cats would just luuuuurrrve that!

    Now I’m thinking about THIS:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQpmiJnsC2I

    I just bought groceries; now I wonder how many people I just oppressed.

  76. Orange

    One of my oldest and dearest friends got married in England last month to a man named Nigel, so I’m also enjoying the genericization of the name here.

  77. Octogalore

    “But Octogalore, I haven’t exactly made a proposal (unless you count the Roomba). Have I?”

    I saw your proposal as “And it’s gotta go, I tell you,” with “it” referring to marriage. For this to go kaput, it strikes me that some of the underlying patriarchal foundations would have to yield – otherwise, we know it’s not going anywhere, beyond the various blamers who’ve decided they won’t do it, or they won’t do it again. And the underlying foundations yielding is what I’m wondering about. Do we try to work on this (and if so, how), or do we try to figure out how to make the existing institutions more palatable?

    Certainly, boat-rocking is valuable – but more so if there’s an alternative to drowning if the boat were to tip.

    Dephyne: “Nobody is making you pay people to clean your house. What would your husband say if you asked him to take on the cleaning duties that the two of you are currently contracting out?”

    I think the more important issue is, what would our cleaners say? If we’re looking at their best interest, they could care less about Nigel’s views. I think it’s somewhat patriarchal to suggest firing somebody without opening up another job opportunity. I have, in the past, helped people (like our ex-nanny) move on to more rewarding things. But it’s not always possible. Sure, cleaning other people’s houses sucks. But isn’t it up to the cleaners to determine if it’s preferable to going without the payment? For everyone who’s either gotten rid of a cleaner or determined to avoid hiring one, have you created or found another job for that person? Or are you willing to replace his or her income? We’ve tried to do what we can to contribute towards circumstances like the cleaners’ relatives in other countries’ medical issues, etc., in addition to the monthly payment. In all candor, I think if I suggested to them that my husband is going to take on the cleaning duties, they’d be pretty upset, and it would force them to work harder to find similar employment – which they inevitably would do.

    I agree with your statement, “I find it really creepy that as the gap between the rich and poor widens, a servant class is reemerging.” But refusing to employ lower-income people doesn’t solve that problem. I think paying over-market amounts ($25/hour isn’t bad for cleaning, all things considered, especially if you’re providing meals) plus additional expenses to contribute to helping individual people to some degree, plus doing what one can to combat the underlying problem from the activism standpoint, is an imperfect but reasonable strategy.

  78. Inverarity

    I think the more important issue is, what would our cleaners say? If we’re looking at their best interest, they could care less about Nigel’s views. I think it’s somewhat patriarchal to suggest firing somebody without opening up another job opportunity. I have, in the past, helped people (like our ex-nanny) move on to more rewarding things. But it’s not always possible. Sure, cleaning other people’s houses sucks. But isn’t it up to the cleaners to determine if it’s preferable to going without the payment? For everyone who’s either gotten rid of a cleaner or determined to avoid hiring one, have you created or found another job for that person? Or are you willing to replace his or her income?

    So, because people clean houses for money and are going to clean houses for money regardless of whether or not you hire a housecleaner, criticizing the practice of paying people to clean houses is oppressive to housecleaners?

    I’m squinting at this argument real hard and trying to figure out how it would stop applying if I substituted “prostitutes” or “strippers” for “cleaners.”

    (And I’m also being a bit of a devil’s advocate because I am not entirely convinced that paying someone to do something I don’t want to do myself is inherently oppressive. But your argument does sound a lot like the “If I don’t do it, someone else will ’cause it’s not going to just go away” defense that is applied to many less-than-cheerful professions.)

  79. CafeSiren

    I want to express my approval for a new word that Octagalore has added to the blamer’s lexicon: “Nigeling.”

    Or perhaps, “MyNigeling” would be better. A word to describe those moments when one of us becomes defensive when a post hits to close to the mark, but we are not yet ready to admit that our own relationship may be symptomatic of the larger problem, or perhaps (being charitable here) the exception that proves the rule. As in, “What you say about porn being bad for women can’t be true, because My Nigel watches porn, but he respects me.” A clear-cut case of MyNigeling.

  80. LL

    Going waaaay back up to ekf’s response to my comment – I guess I was specifically talking about electricians and plumbers, not general handymen (handymans? handypersons?) I agree – a homeowner should know the basics of home repair – how to change out a switch, fix a leaky pipe, and change your own oil. I don’t own a home, which is why I don’t do any of those things (apartments frown on car repair in the parking lot.) But when the ex and I were homeowners, did we do that stuff ourselves? Yes, we did – because that’s part of the responsibility of owning a home.

    I was using the unable label to refer to large jobs, such as replacing a water heater (thank you for the example), so I suppose I muddied my own waters. How awkward.

    And at the risk of opening a gigantic can o’ worms – I think the reason a class distinction exists between housekeepers and “handymen” is because there’s a perceived skill level there. The idea is that anybody can push a mop, but it takes some skill to change out a switch. Note – I don’t agree with this argument, because my first paragraph pretty much bats it out of the sky, so please don’t hurt me, OK? Thanks.

    I think I lost my original point in all of this.

  81. niki

    I, too, was bothered by the ‘Just hire another woman to clean up your shit’ attitude. My mother has this attitude as well and I always thought it odd, growing up, that other people would clean our house. Then again, I never had to (and never will have to) worry about doing the housewife and mother thing so maybe I just couldn’t fathom her personal workload.

    I actually love cleaning. I find it therapeutic. No, I will not marry any of you.

  82. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I like housekeeping too, niki. I believe it’s different when it’s just us doing it for ourselves, most likely because we’re not messy in the first place, and when we clean or organize something it pretty much stays that way (litter boxes excepted).

    It’s picking up for OTHER people I hate, OVER and OVER and OVER again, especially people who don’t appreciate it or do their share because they think they’re living at Hotel HPS. It was the same way at both of the (co-ed) boarding houses I shacked up in during my college years. Just wait long enough and HPS will do it! Yeah, I always blinked first.

    I SO love living alone. I will NEVER get married again. As for Bunny, I just close her door.

  83. niki

    Oh there’s a book you all might want to check out, it’s called ‘Gig: Americans talk about their jobs’.

    http://www.amazon.com/Gig-Americans-Talk-About-Their/dp/0609807072

    It’s firsthand accounts of jobs all over America, from brain surgeons to meat packers. Each first person voice gets a small handful of pages to tell their story. Very very enlightening.

  84. Octogalore

    Inverarity: “So, because people clean houses for money and are going to clean houses for money regardless of whether or not you hire a housecleaner, criticizing the practice of paying people to clean houses is oppressive to housecleaners?”

    Inverarity, I’m a bit confused, because I criticized this practice myself – “I agree with your [Delphyne’s] statement, ‘I find it really creepy that as the gap between the rich and poor widens, a servant class is reemerging.’ ” My point was: “refusing to employ lower-income people doesn’t solve that problem.”

    “I’m squinting at this argument real hard and trying to figure out how it would stop applying if I substituted ‘prostitutes’ or ‘strippers’ for ‘cleaners.’”

    I agree that you are being a devil’s advocate here, as you’ve admitted. “[P]aying someone to do something I don’t want to do myself” is NOT “inherently oppressive,” as you suggested. It’s really case by case, which is why substituting sex workers for cleaners doesn’t fit. Arguably, most people want clean houses, and cleaning is something most people do themselves to some degree and then pay others to fill in. (For example, we do all our dishes, laundry, windows, and most home repairs). Going to a sex worker is not by any definition a “need,” and sex work is something that most non-sex workers don’t do. Paying someone to do something you would not do is inarguably different from paying her/him to do something you sometimes do.

    Moreover, employing a cleaner is typically something done out in the open with no deception. Employing a sex worker often involves deceiving a spouse or significant other. It’s not a “no harm no foul” thing. So yeah, I think “refusing to employ lower-income people doesn’t solve that problem” applies to employers of cleaners and not to johns. Your analogy doesn’t work in the context of equating the two.

    Where I think your analogy does work (and I was thinking of bringing this up earlier but didn’t want to open up a can of worms) is analogizing the choice of cleaners to clean and the choice of sex workers to do sex work. I think saying “let’s get rid of domestic labor” without offering up other employment is similarly patriarchal to saying “let’s get rid of the sex industry” without doing that. Doesn’t mean I’m saying yay domestic labor or yay sex work. Just that it’s not my, or anyone’s, role to take away someone’s means of employment without being willing to reproduce her/his salary or find another job that will.

  85. LouisaMayAlcott

    Octogalore,

    You’ve been making some awesome posts here.

    Thank you!

  86. V.

    I’m still boggled by the argument that if I don’t pay someone to clean my house, I’m somehow oppressing them.

    If I don’t pay prostitutes, am I oppressing them, too?

    Look, inasmuch as I have white and still-clinging-by-my-fingertips-to-the-middle-class priviledge, I acknowledge that I have a role in perpetuating the oppression of others.

    But I’m sure not gonna justify it or pretend that there’s something benevolent about it.

    And sure, I’m oppressed by the patriarchy.

    Just doing my damndest not to pass that oppression along.

    Also, I hate cleaning my apartment.

    My living space is a damn sight messier than my house when I was married.

    I go now to clean out litterboxes and take out the garbage. Feh.

  87. maribelle

    Great reading to avoid housework with.

    Does hiring someone to clean your toilets exploit them?

    Exploit = “To make use of selfishly or unethically.”

    Thus re: paying for housework, I’d say “yes” to the first and “no” to second. Selfish? You bet. But I don’t think it’s unethical to pay for housework unless you re cheating the person, paying them too little or the abusing them in some way. (Imperfect system, we make our choices, yada yada.)

    But let’s not dismiss paying paying someone above the going rate.
    That is takes a big step toward equally the oppression divide. Because of the patriarchy we live under, money is one of the few avenues for equality-minded blamers to help even the “score”. I don’t currently have a housekeeper, but I apply this same idea to other aspects of my life (particularly tipping.) FWIW I have been both a housecleaner and the employer of same.

    Hi, mearl–

    I see your points (and agree to a point) but at one point you disparage the attitude of “graciously” paying a “Kenyan* housekeeper” , yet you then write:

    I would pay teachers, [et al] TEN TIMES as much as I would pay the jackass astronomer

    Yes, that’s exactly what some of us are saying–that paying the unsung, vital workers of the world MORE money will help even the (inherently unequal) playing field. It may not be much but it’s all some of us have for now.

    *(would it be okay if she were from the Valley?)

  88. delphyne

    “I think the more important issue is, what would our cleaners say? If we’re looking at their best interest, they could care less about Nigel’s views. I think it’s somewhat patriarchal to suggest firing somebody without opening up another job opportunity.”

    I think it’s pretty obnoxious that you twisted what I said to try and pretend I was advocating something I wasn’t and it’s one of the reasons why I asked you elsewhere to no longer address me. I’d be grateful if you could stick to that and I’ll do the same for you. My suggestion was in response to the idea that seems to be floating around here that the employment of cleaners has *nothing* to do with the fact that most men believe housework is beneath them and that women ought to do it. Asking a man whether he would consider doing the cleaning brings that sexist attitude into sharp relief because for many of them it’s simply unthinkable.

    As for firing cleaners, well no I’m not proposing that. On the other hand the self-congratulatory tone that people are using here becasue they employ poor people to clean up after them is a bit cringe-making to say the least, particlarly amongst a group of feminists. We’re seeing the return of the servant class and it seems that noblesse oblige isn’t too far behind it.

  89. Inverarity

    Inverarity, I’m a bit confused, because I criticized this practice myself – “I agree with your [Delphyne’s] statement, ‘I find it really creepy that as the gap between the rich and poor widens, a servant class is reemerging.’ ” My point was: “refusing to employ lower-income people doesn’t solve that problem.”

    I guess I am confused too. You criticized the practice but then admit you do it and think the alternative (not hiring housecleaners) is worse?

    I also didn’t see where anyone was suggesting we refuse to employ low-income people. I think there may be a rather thin line, though, between employing people and — by perpetuating a system that assumes that low-income people will always be available to do these shit jobs — exploiting them.

    I agree that you are being a devil’s advocate here, as you’ve admitted. “[P]aying someone to do something I don’t want to do myself” is NOT “inherently oppressive,” as you suggested.

    Actually, what I said was that I am not entirely convinced it is. I’m afraid the emphatic, unambiguous capitalization is your redaction.

    It’s really case by case, which is why substituting sex workers for cleaners doesn’t fit.

    Well, that’s the question, innit? I can see why someone who hires cleaners and not sex workers might want to insist there is an unambiguous line between the two practices, but they are both instances of people taking advantage of other people whose circumstances have left them with no other options but to provide services they almost certainly would rather not do for money that is almost certainly less than they need and less than the employer could actually afford to give them.

    Of course at some level, that’s true of every employer-employee relationship, which I guess is why much Blame is directed at capitalism to begin with.

    Still, using another analogy, since you don’t like the sex workers one, what about those migrant farm workers? Our entire agricultural economy depends on having a cheap pool of exploitable labor. If they were paid living wages with benefits, our grocery bills would quadruple. It seems to me that the entire system that allows people to hire housecleaners depends on the same infrastructure of poor people with limited opportunities, regardless of whether there are some exceptions like happy college students who get paid 25 bucks an hour to dust light fixtures.

    (Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed included a chapter on what the working situation is really like for most “Merry Maids.” In short — it sucks.)

  90. Border Heeler

    As Twisty has explained, housework is a political pink herring in the marriage debate (equal division of housework does not mean sexual equality in marriage; paying someone to do housework just moves this particular equality problem onto someone else instead of actually redressing it). In other words, this started out as a discussion of marriage, and, given the above, a discussion of housework as it politically relates to marriage is fruitless. But housework in its own right is an important feminist political and moral topic.

    Three points:

    1. I would not take the fact that housework in marriage is politically a pink herring to mean that a discussion of ethical choices as regards to housework is irrelevant. There is sometimes a fine but always a definite line between the moral and the political. Even in oppression, ethical choices can be made. The unacceptable alternative would be that moral discourse is pointless until after the revolution; that is, since we are almost all oppressors and oppressed, that fact trumps all else and, ethically, anything goes. Though sometimes clumsy and defensive, much of the discussion here about personal choices regarding housework is an attempt to work out the feminist moral implications of those choices, and that is relevant. Paying someone above the going exploitative rate, reducing one’s housecleaning needs by reducing one’s “stuff,” living cooperatively: these all have relevant moral points. One should not confuse those with political solutions unless and until they become institutionalized, but they are still ethically worth debating.

    That said, such ethical examination needs to be done with both honest self-scrutiny and emotional distance. In other words, be clear that you are examining your (and others’) choices ethically and be prepared to offer and accept moral arguments.

    2. Housework may be a political “pink herring in the battle of the sexes,” but it is not lavender or a gray herring in the larger world outside of marriage. Or a whatever-color-would-indicate-disabled herring. The historical and current model for addressing housework (e.g., Barbara Ehrenreich) assumes a straight nuclear family with plenty of youngish able-bodied folks around who should (morally) clean up after themselves, thus neither defining the work as women-in-the-family’s work nor dumping it on poorer women. Usually with some half-sentence afterthought disclaimer to the effect of “if said folks are able bodied.” But this, as a framework for discussing housework, is woefully inadequate. An ever-growing number of US households are no longer like this. More women are now never-married or divorced or openly gay. More are living alone. The population is aging, and that includes women overwhelmingly. Age brings age-related disabilities; and those who are disabled for non-age-related reasons are also living longer. One, the typical framework for this discussion is therefore anachronistic. Two, those of us outside that model deserve to be more than afterthoughts. It is not unreasonable for the discussion to start with those of us who do now or will in the future really need help with housework. Many of us at some point in our lives really can’t “clean up our own shit” and continually and (self-righteously) coming back to rest on that “choice” as the only morally or politically sound one becomes ever more exclusive and pointless.

    3. Several have raised the question about what privileges housework (or perhaps anti-privileges it) such that it is the one type of work that should be done by those who create the mess. I think this is a great question and deserves further examination. Yes, we do happily hire out all sorts of typical “men’s work” (plumbers, etc.). And, yes, many things that used to be considered “women’s work” are now hired out. When I was little, my mother made all my clothes and most of our food from scratch. No one suggests that we go back to doing that. We need to not do that in a politically acceptable way (not exploiting labor and the environment) but no one seriously suggests that we need to grow our own food and can it, bake bread from scratch, sew all our clothes, and so on. And childcare! Women have fought hard and long and consider it a big political and moral feminist victory whenever we can get state- or corporate-funded childcare. So, truly, why is housework any different? Because it is “icky?” That is not an argument! A lot of this stuff is icky in various ways. Present an argument about why this should not be hired out. And keep in mind point 2.

    I feel like some semantic sleight of hand goes on when we talk about housework and insist that it be done by us ourselves. “Oh no, it’s not women’s work. It’s just, um, domestic work that needs to be done by, uh, the domicile inhabitants. But not women’s work.” Yeah, OK, that clears it up.

    In re-reading this, it sounds very cranky, but, in fact, I think the discussion in this thread is extremely valuable. If crankifying.

  91. maribelle

    Isn’t it interesting how in two threads on marriage, the topic of housework predominates? Enlightening and depressing all at the same time.

    RE: other aspects of marriage (i.e. those long, desperate hours between toilet cleanings)

    Like a lot of women here, I married the most feminist man I could ever hope to find–and still agrees with Twisty’s original marriage post. I thought I could escape all that marital BS by joining up with a man who took my last name, accepted my son as his own, and canvassed for NOW in the 80′s.

    Ways in which his male privilege rears its ugly head:

    1. The privilege of always being right. This is HUGE. He simply cannot see himself as wrong about anything–from whether to make a left turn on Maple to how we raise our children. No large or small mistake can penetrate his consciousness. Even if he’s obviously, demonstrably wrong, (i.e. sinking in a bog near Maple) it is never talked about again. (Three years of therapy later there are grudging apologies, but usually so sour they are an insult in and of themselves. Best thing about therapy–he never yells now. I love that. They can learn. He told me when we married that he was “nothing if not trainable.” That has been generally accurate–about some things.)

    #1 alone ensures that our marriage will be forever unequal.

    But there’s more:

    2. The privilege of always being smarter. He has a PhD. I have a BA. If I happen to know some fact that he doesn’t, from some obscure fact about the Trojan war to Alberto Gonzalez’s latest DOJ outrage, it fries his ass and he has to look it up independently, then act as though my knowledge of a topic predating his were a freak accident.

    To this end, he will MAKE UP INFORMATION. I kid you not. Someone will ask a question and he will extrapolate on some subject on which he knows nothing. If I call him on it (in private) he shrugs it off as seeming reasonable or inferable from the facts at hand. In my book, I call it “lying.”

    3. The privilege of thinking he’s better at something than I am. Anything and everything, including my areas of professional and amateur expertise.

    4. The privilege of choosing his own work. Yes, he “helps” a lot around the house–some weeks he does more than I. But what chaps my hide is that he always picks the jobs he wants to do, and I am expected to pick up the rest. EX: He “cycles laundry” (puts in washer/dryer) but our daughter and I fold it. Yet every Sunday as he lists the chores he did that weekend ( a bizarre ritual at which I am expected to coo and bill) he lists “I did the laundry.” Whatever.

    He NEVER scrubs the pans because he “hates” it. (Me, I live for it.) He cooks because he hates to do dishes. He mows the lawn because he WILL NOT vac and dust. on and on.

    Whew. I am going to stop now because seeing it all written out is making me ill. (On the good side, he makes very stable living at a job I admire (college prof), is funny as hell and adores me, and doesn’t give me grief when I moved into my own room, or when I spend too much money traveling around the country taking my daughter* to women’s festivals and visiting my friends.)

    *Maribelle II is the patriarchy-blaming kick-ass pre-teen daughter of my dreams, who will be a squadron leader in the upcoming revolution.

  92. delphyne

    “Paying someone above the going exploitative rate, reducing one’s housecleaning needs by reducing one’s “stuff,” living cooperatively: these all have relevant moral points. One should not confuse those with political solutions unless and until they become institutionalized, but they are still ethically worth debating.”

    Or you know you could always GET THE GUY TO DO HIS FAIR SHARE. This topic is about heterosexual women being exploited by the men in their life or farming that exploitation out to other poorer women. Is it not possible to stick to that? Spain thinks that men not doing housework is such an important political issue that it has created a political solution to it by enacting laws -

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4100140.stm

    “Housework may be a political “pink herring in the battle of the sexes,” but it is not lavender or a gray herring in the larger world outside of marriage. Or a whatever-color-would-indicate-disabled herring. The historical and current model for addressing housework (e.g., Barbara Ehrenreich) assumes a straight nuclear family with plenty of youngish able-bodied folks around who should (morally) clean up after themselves, thus neither defining the work as women-in-the-family’s work nor dumping it on poorer women. Usually with some half-sentence afterthought disclaimer to the effect of “if said folks are able bodied.” But this, as a framework for discussing housework, is woefully inadequate. An ever-growing number of US households are no longer like this. More women are now never-married or divorced or openly gay. More are living alone.”

    Well those households may have other problems but they aren’t facing the problem that most heterosexual women with male partners have, that those male partners think a woman is there do their housework for them. Why do you want to take the focus off the specific issue that is being discussed here? It’s amazing how slippery the conversation becomes whenever men are put on the spot about their sexist domestic exploitation of women.

    “So, truly, why is housework any different? Because it is “icky?” That is not an argument! A lot of this stuff is icky in various ways. Present an argument about why this should not be hired out. And keep in mind point 2.”

    It is an argument it’s just one that you don’t care for. Part of being an adult human being is taking care of oneself and cleaning up after oneself wherever possible. Most women manage to learn this lesson and carry it out, but men on the whole don’t. Hiring out the work isn’t a solution to this sexist state of affairs.

    “I feel like some semantic sleight of hand goes on when we talk about housework and insist that it be done by us ourselves. “Oh no, it’s not women’s work. It’s just, um, domestic work that needs to be done by, uh, the domicile inhabitants. But not women’s work.” Yeah, OK, that clears it up.”

    Well I don’t know about anybody else here, but I think its *men* who need to be doing domestic work and at the moment it isn’t happening.

  93. maribelle

    Octo wrote:

    De[l]phyne: “Nobody is making you pay people to clean your house. What would your husband say if you asked him to take on the cleaning duties that the two of you are currently contracting out?”

    Octo responded “I think the more important issue is, what would our cleaners say?”

    Your point is taken, but I think Delphyne asked an excellent question. What would he say?

    And PS–

    …and was equal or above her husband in earning power.

    Being equal in pay doesn’t erase his male privilege any more than having him scrub the toilet.

  94. Queen of Spades

    Oh, housecleaning.

    There is a specific purpose served by housekeepers that no one has mentioned by name as of yet: to teach children learned helplessness, and to maintain learned helplessness in adults. And, honestly, I think that is the No. 1 reason that folks in the upper echelons of society get hired help.

    Learned helplessness is a powerful marker of class status. The learned helplessness of the privileged is also one of their most powerful tools in perpetuating that privilege, but that’s another topic. That it is impossible to maintain a household without hired help is a favorite myth (excuse) of the upper class. Yet, plenty of poor people manage to do it – and trust me, they’re not any less busy. Not by a long shot.

    I have met so many young people who are literally incapable of taking care of themselves that it’s not even funny. The simple fact is that no one in their lives ever made them learn how. The notion that ‘Lil Nigel Jr. should ever have to so much as make his bed is repugnant to some people – I’ve babysat for most of them, I think – and when you’ve got three kids who don’t do chores, of course you’re going to need extra help, even if you and/or your spouse are inclined to do a reasonable amount of housework.

    The rub is that when ‘Lil Nigel Jr. becomes an adult, he has learned no self-care skills except that crucial talent of the upper class — manipulating people into doing things for him. Sometimes these manipulations are (relatively) minor, like paying someone a dollar less than they’re worth to paint your house. Sometimes the manipulations are major.

    I worked in a children’s mental institution for a good while, and worked with many kids who had experienced torture beyond the realm of human comprehension. However, in my time there I only met three children who I would classify as true sociopaths, and all three had the exact same background: they came from upper-middle-class or upper-class homes, were spoiled absolutely rotten, and had never in their lives been required to do anything that qualified as actual work.

    IBTP.

  95. delphyne

    I guess this is going to go the same way that conversations about pornography and prostitution go – nobody ever wants to talk about men and their choices to exploit women.

  96. Bonnie

    I want a roomba.

  97. Border Heeler

    Delphyne, I am not sure how you could have missed my points more completely.

    “Or you know you could always GET THE GUY TO DO HIS FAIR SHARE.”

    Reread point 2. *looking around her own home* No guys here, for example.

    “Well those households may have other problems but they aren’t facing the problem that most heterosexual women with male partners have, that those male partners think a woman is there do their housework for them. Why do you want to take the focus off the specific issue that is being discussed here? It’s amazing how slippery the conversation becomes whenever men are put on the spot about their sexist domestic exploitation of women.”

    Read point 2 again. Not all households have men in them (and hooray for that!) so getting men to do their fair share will not work for everyone. And more centrally, I am deliberately questioning this (het family) as THE model for this discussion. And NOT because I am letting men off the hook. (I would never, ever let men off the hook for anything. Gracious, no, I believe a hook is a grand place for a man, while a home with women is not.) It is the wrong model – or at least an insufficient model – because the het family is (a) so otherwise broken as to probably not be able to fix this problem and (b) becoming ever less normative.

    “It is an argument it’s just one that you don’t care for. Part of being an adult human being is taking care of oneself and cleaning up after oneself wherever possible.”

    Again, the afterthought: “… whenever possible.” I am tired of being an afterthought.

    And, no “icky” is NOT an argument. WHY is cleaning up after oneself part of “being an adult.” “Weaving for oneself,” “caring for one’s kids all by oneself,” “baking for oneself” are not “part of being an adult.” We hire those jobs out. Why is “cleaning up after oneself” different? Just … because?

    Was I really this unclear?

  98. Red Robin

    I almost never comment, but Twisty’s advice floored me:

    My other bit of prejudiced advice, to anyone who likes clean floors but is disinclined to sweep’em herself, is this: get a Roomba! It’s the first step toward Shulie’s sci-fi utopia of chick-leisure! Who doesn’t love a robot?

    So instead of paying somebody a fair wage, you should just exploit the Chinese kids who build Roombas for five cents a day. I guess it doesn’t count as oppression because, hey, it’s a robot! While you’re at it, go ahead and purchase it from Wal-Mart. Sure, you’ll be burning fossil fuels every time you turn it on (in the most inefficient way possible, since it takes batteries), but who cares? AT LEAST YOU’RE NOT OPPRESSING ANYBODY YOU CAN SEE. Just clean your own damn home, and don’t let a man in it (or, if you do, don’t let him stay). I haven’t needed help since I was a very little girl, and that’s while working a full time job (or, at times, a full time and a part time).

    I particularly like how half the people who ‘must’ hire help also have kids. HINT: Selfishly reproducing is a huge reason why you have to oppress people to live your life. Don’t play the patriarchy’s game.

  99. Twisty

    Red Robin is correct; my Roomba joke is not funny. When will I learn?

  100. Bonnie

    Must we be grim and humorless lesbians ALL THE TIME?

  101. challenge

    Excellent post! Right on the spot with what is the main problem with cleaning and women and wives and duties.

    I mean, lots of men can obviously take care of their own household when they live alone so why automatically shift it when they live with a woman/wife?!?!?

  102. Red Robin

    Yes, let’s joke some more about how American imperialism lets us exploit brown people.

  103. Gayle

    “delphyne Jun 16th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    I guess this is going to go the same way that conversations about pornography and prostitution go – nobody ever wants to talk about men and their choices to exploit women.”

    I hope it doesn’t go that way, delphyne. I know it has on other threads and in just about every article I’ve ever read on domestic help and exploitation. Inherent in this is the idea that the wife is shirking her duties by farming out the work. Typically, no such criticism is aimed at the husband.

    But isn’t it his work, too?

  104. Octogalore

    Maribelle – as to the question of what my husband would say if I asked him to take on the cleaning duties that we are currently contracting out.

    Well, the underlying context is that he now does more of the housework than I do as it is. Per my earlier post, of stuff we don’t contract out, I do about 60% of childcare, he does about 60% of housework. So my shifting all the contracted-out housework to him would not go over too well. But why should it? I mean, yeah, he’s a guy, with privilege that comes with that, but he actually is carrying his weight. And if I’m being fair, probably a little more than that. Also, because I work from home, my hours are better without a commute than his. He has not brought this up in dividing the work.

    So I wasn’t trying to put off the question, but it’s kind of meaningless in this context. It’s certainly a fair question if the case were that he saw housework as women’s work, and that it should default to either me or someone I hired. That’s BS and it would create huge problems. But that’s not the situation. I didn’t want to get into this as it appears to be Nigeling.

    LousiaMayAlcott – many thanks.

    Inverarity: “guess I am confused too. You criticized the practice but then admit you do it and think the alternative (not hiring housecleaners) is worse?”

    Yeah, that’s unclear, isn’t it? I think the practice, in the sense of the fact that it’s part of our society, sucks. But I do it, because I like a clean house and I don’t think my hiring a cleaner represents a net loss in terms of that person’s happiness. If it did, I’d get off my lazy ass. The bottom line is, our cleaners are not going to earn $25/hour plus free meals anywhere else, in any more pleasant way. Because of factors way deeper than the existence of housecleaning as a job function.

    I don’t think NOT hiring housecleaners is worse, necessarily. I do think if someone has the means to pay well and knows someone who needs the funds, he or she should think about what makes most sense. If that person is currently doing something as or more unpleasant for lower wages, you’re helping them to pay higher wages if you can afford to do so. And I do think that having a cleaner and then firing him/her IS worse than participating in a practice that’s deserving of critique but that I cannot change by refusing to participate.

    The practice derives from the “abyssitude,” as Twisty put it, of the income gap, not from the people who hire cleaners. If those people stopped, the cleaners would have to find other income, and the means would likely would be as or more unpleasant. I don’t celebrate that. But unless I could solve the underlying problem (and I don’t flatter myself that I can), I don’t think it’s inconsistent to engage in the practice in a way that’s as pleasant as possible – attractive hourly rates, meals provided in a way that’s not dicatated bossily by me (I order out what the cleaner chooses from a place of choice of the cleaner), and healthy holiday bonuses. Yeah, it all smacks of gracious white lady, and I’m aware of that and hate it, but the bottom line is, it’s a net benefit.

  105. Bonnie

    You gonna give up your computer? Or not use the internet? Cuz sure as shit “brown people” made / assembled the components. As did “yellow people” and “black people” and “white people” and probably “red people.”

    Go ahead – live an exploitation-free life. No electronics (which also means no appliances – most have computer components in this here modern age), no multi-vitamin tablets, no pharmaceuticals, no fish except for what you can spear yourself, no HVAC, no transportation of any sort (gee, where does the rubber for your bicycle tires come from, anyway?)

    Just don’t blame the rest of us for the fact that modern life is real damn hard to live without some level of exploitation. No, I don’t like it, but I ain’t gonna live naked in a cardboard shack and eat dirt the rest of my life, neither.

    Cheeses she made a fucking joke. It wasn’t a joke about exploiting people. It was a joke about being lazy.

  106. Bonnie

    Also, what’s difference does it make if the labor-saving floor cleaning appliance is a Roomba or a vacuum? Someone still designed / assembled / packaged / delivered / sold it.

    No. More. Appliances. Evah!

  107. SkyGoddess

    Are Roombas the only kind of vacuum cleaner built by Chinese kids in sweatshops? I bet they’re not.

    So help me out. Is there *any* way I can clean wall-to-wall carpeting without exploiting somebody somewhere?

    In other news, I’ve been thinking on this thread some more since I posted yesterday. I personally love Twisty’s boat rocking and don’t think she needs to offer solutions. After all, there are no clear solutions.

    I think that her point about housework is just illustrating one tiny point in a much bigger framework of interconnected, interlocking systems of oppression. Hiring people to do housework, lawn maintenance, and so on are parts of the same system that makes it problematic to eat out (where waitresses and dish washers are grossly underpaid), eat meat or dairy (oppressing and killing other sentient beings), visit a nail salon (where manicurists are underpaid AND exposed to harmful chemicals all day), and shop at WalMart (where the devil lives).

    That’s why we all have to do the best we can to live ethically within our circumstances–and to not take cultural criticism so personally. (I recognize that this applies to me, since I’m one of the “I pay the cleaners WELL” folks.) Sigh.

  108. Bonnie

    So help me out. Is there *any* way I can clean wall-to-wall carpeting without exploiting somebody somewhere?

    Nope.

    And there’s no way to have wall-to-wall carpeting without exploiting workers in Appalachia (same with coal). Not to mention the workers who installed it.

    But you can’t have wood floors, either. Brazilian hardwoods are vanishing quickly (no joke!). But now there’s bamboo flooring! Sustainable, renews quickly, harder than rock maple. I’m sure someone is exploited there, too, though.

    Maybe concrete’s the way to go. Sux in a two story house, though. And they gotta be sealed. Bad ju-ju with the sealers.

    SkyGoddess, guess you’ll be naked in a cardboard shack with me. How do you like your dirt – red, or brown?

  109. Yeny

    Thanks for this post Twisty, it means a lot to me.

    I come from a single parent home and just as if we didn’t fill the stereotype of the hispanic familial model enough, my mum has been working as a cleaner for about 25 years. As you can imagine, we don’t have shit to our names in terms of property, rent and bills sucks up all the money and my mum leaves the house every weekday at 5am returning at 10pm or 9:30pm if she finishes early.

    I’m sure the white people she cleans for think they treat her well and they pay her a decent wage (which isn’t enough), but I know that everyday she goes to work and every time she has to clean a toilet she feels utterly humiliated.

  110. Bonnie

    Yeny – One more horrid exploitation is that (I would assume) the people who employ your mother pay neither social security nor workers’ compensation on her behalf. God forbid she should get sick or be injured or, you know, age.

  111. mearl

    Maribelle said, “But let’s not dismiss paying paying someone above the going rate.”

    To this, I bring in the whole supply/demand watershed report. The demand for MAIDS (usually women, usually immigrants) has gone up in the past ten years because less people want to clean their own dirty gitch and cook their own meals, and would rather be out rappelling or offroading in their SUV if they are at the top of the pile, or perhaps are swamped with work (this one is obviously due to economic changes). People also buy more things, and larger things, and different things more often, to keep up an economy that is largely based now on materialism. You can argue all you want, but I still say that instead of wasting time and energy making excuse after excuse, if more people just scaled down to a reasonable lifestyle and cleaned up after themselves, on a macro level, the maid industry (yes, that same industry that is fuelled by underpaid and sore-backed underprivileged people from countries with less money than the heavy hitters, like ours) would not be growing. Less people would be exploited. Don’t flatter yourselves into thinking that by doing your own laundry you have condemned some poor 56-year-old Somalian drudge to a life of being bombed and raped because she didn’t have the OPPORTUNITY to get a job as a maid in your oversized and be-gadgeted house.

    Perhaps advocating for reasonable work-weeks from the North American governments in order that you have time to regulate your home life, your childcare, and still get decent vacation would be one possibility. Expecting a fair share to be done by any existing live-in partners (husbands, boyfriends, roommates, girlfriends, wives, children, BDSM subs that live in your closet, whatever) could be another possibility.

    Scaling back on living while cleaning your own toilets is also better for the environment, like it or not. Two-thirds of the world’s population doesn’t use toilet paper. If they did, we’d have no trees. Think about the impact of your lifestyle for awhile. No one will ever be able to think of the perfect solution, but you can’t sit there and tell me with a straight face that you feel your choice to have a maid is an ethical one. You may be an exception to the rule and pay your housecleaner, whom you call by her first name, 25 bucks an hour, but guess what? The rule looks a lot more like Jan Wong’s experience in the G&M article series. And it can look a lot worse. I keep hearing about the rich fucks in New York who talk about picking out a nanny as though they were going to a vending machine and deciding that they feel like having a Mexican today rather than a Filipina.

    I’ve done cleaning work for a living, and I can tell you that it was NOT on my list of career choices in elementary school. It’s not fun.
    I will happily do it for my clients at my current job, because they are disabled and would not, under any circumstances, be able to make their own meals or fold their own towels. But ask me if I’d like to scrub the feces out from someone else’s shit-stained toilet for 7 bucks an hour while that someone, who has full use of her arms and legs and is young and healthy, is out having a pinot noir with her friends because “she worked hard all day and deserves the time off.”
    No one cleans MY toilet when I don’t have time. It’s also about money, because you can only have a housecleaner if you have the bucks. If you don’t have the money, you’re the one on the business end of the mop. How is that EVER ethical?

  112. Ruth

    “However I do not feel that the act of hiring someone is playing into the system – it’s ‘how’ you do it. Hell, it’s ‘how’ you do everything in your life that makes the difference”

    How ‘you’ feel is not the issue.

    “that’s exactly what some of us are saying–that paying the unsung, vital workers of the world MORE money will help even the (inherently unequal) playing field. It may not be much but it’s all some of us have for now.”

    So cleaning up after yourself is not an option. Good to know where your priorities are.

    “the bottom line is, it’s a net benefit”
    For you, yes.

    Just curious how many who pay their ‘domestic help’ more than “the going rate” are paying workman’s comp and social security taxes, etc for said ‘help?’

  113. Lara

    Thankyou Twisty for trying to bring to discussion the ways that patriarchy instersects with and involves race and class-based hierarchies to create the devaluation of cleaning work and for calling out privileged white feminists (maybe not all of you are white…) for their disgusting self-congradulatory tones. Let’s look at it this way: just because a black person is oppressed for being black, does it mean they can ascirbe to the racist and fascist beauty standards of American culture while being absolved of racist/fascist ideas and practices? Absolutely not! In the system of Capitalist White Supremacist Patriarchy everyone gets “screwed” while “screwing” someone else.
    The way people have patted themselves on the back for paying housecleaners more than most other middle or upper class people pay them smacks to me of “hey oppression exists, but it’s not my fault…I am not doing anything to contribute to that!” Pfsh! As a woman of color let me just say that not only have I been discriminated against because of my race but I have also oppressed others: every time I buy groceries, clothes, every time I use my damned Mac computer, for Goddess sakes. The only difference is that I am not getting defensive. I don’t see my privilege as something I should hold on to. I don’t feel the need to justify our wretched caste-system because there is NO justification for it.
    Now, people do raise good points about finding practical solutions. Ahem, okay, so here’s my solution: take all the middle-upper class “able-bodied” white males in America and Western Europe and force them to do housecleaning. There you have it! Problem solved!
    IBTP!
    That said I really need to do the dusting…..

  114. Virago

    “[...N]obody ever wants to talk about men and their choices to exploit women.”-delphyne

    Brava, delphyne. We should be asking why men aren’t pulling their own weight. But that question alone isn’t enough. We should also be asking why middle- and upper-class and honkey women are (proudly, defensively) acting like men in this situation. I mean, it’s not just men who are exploitative in a patriarchy. There are plenty of women who can and do get away with exploiting women in a patriarchal fashion.

    Do we need to clean our own houses first in order to bring about revolution? Yeah, probably.

  115. delphyne

    “Delphyne, I am not sure how you could have missed my points more completely.

    “Or you know you could always GET THE GUY TO DO HIS FAIR SHARE.”

    Reread point 2. *looking around her own home* No guys here, for example.”

    No guys here either Border Collee. So what? Really, so what? I’ll say it again, this discussion is about male domestic exploitation of women. Just because it’s happening in your or my households doesn’t mean it’s not a valid topic. I can’t bear this me,me,me-ism where if it isn’t happening to ME it’s not worth talking about or the parameters of the discussion must be completely changed in order to fit my needs.

    “Read point 2 again. Not all households have men in them (and hooray for that!) so getting men to do their fair share will not work for everyone. And more centrally, I am deliberately questioning this (het family) as THE model for this discussion.”

    Again, so what if it won’t work for everyone? It would definitely work for quite a lot of women – that’s why Spain, for example, passed laws to that effect. Where’s the logic in a one-size fits all solution, where one size can never fit all and the problem (sexism) isn’t even faced by all? Again, this discussion is about the sexism around domestic chores, where men shirk their responsibilities and the women they live with end up doing the bulk of the work or the problem is exported to a poor woman. I can’t understand why you don’t think that is worth discussing.

    And you know if we are going to expand the discussion let’s talk about the classism inherent in assuming that the answer to this problem is hiring the work out, as if most people could even afford to do that.

  116. delphyne

    “We should also be asking why middle- and upper-class and honkey women are (proudly, defensively) acting like men in this situation. I mean, it’s not just men who are exploitative in a patriarchy. There are plenty of women who can and do get away with exploiting women in a patriarchal fashion.”

    Well my guess (which is why I asked the people with the housecleaners to ask their male partners about doing the cleaning) is that part of it is that they are too scared to confront their male partners so the exploitation is passed downwards. Men are definitely top of this particular tree – either the woman partner does the cleaning or the hired help, almost never the man. For example with my ex our chores were divided so that he did the cooking every night and the food shopping and I did everything else (because I didn’t know how to cook, or at least that was what I told myself). After a few years I was beginning to feel a bit knackered and broached the subject of sharing all chores equally including the cleaning. His answer (and this was a working class lad, remember) – “we’ll get a cleaner”. We split up soon after so the issue was moot, but the idea of a cleaner was his not mine – I was planning on getting him to do his fair share.

    “Do we need to clean our own houses first in order to bring about revolution? Yeah, probably.”

    I’d say we needed to get men to do half the cleaning then cleaners won’t be required. I wonder how many women who don’t live with men hire cleaners – I reckon not many.

  117. Octogalore

    Mearl, you make a lot of good points. But I don’t understand this one:

    “if more people just scaled down to a reasonable lifestyle and cleaned up after themselves, on a macro level, the maid industry (yes, that same industry that is fuelled by underpaid and sore-backed underprivileged people from countries with less money than the heavy hitters, like ours) would not be growing. Less people would be exploited.”

    What would these people be doing, in that case? I’m not getting how getting rid of the industry gets rid of the exploitation. The range of opportunities in this country based on education level are still, unfortunately, going to remain what they are. I think one way to contribute is mentoring combined with charitable contributions, and am trying to figure out a way I could get involved with a mentoring or big-sister program to help someone on a road to having more options, in combination with helping out financially to improve the odds. We’re already contributing substantially, but I’m having trouble taking additional time away from my daughter right now. But as to “self-congratulatory,” I don’t feel that way. What I feel is that I should be figuring out ways to do more.

    There is certainly classism inherent in having a cleaner (even if one is a man). But as has been pointed about above, I believe by Bonnie, most activities in our lives do involve classism. We can flatter ourselves that they don’t if it’s not in our faces, the way having a cleaner is. But getting our groceries bagged by a recent immigrant, driving streets that are cleaned by people of a different class than we are, wearing sneakers made by someone who for all we know is in a sweatshop — living on this world as a middle class person or higher, we are doing so on the backs of others’ labor. It sucks. No defenses or excuses here. But I think we need to look at how to solve the larger problem — I continue to believe that backing out of one industry is anything more than a loose bandaid.

  118. Dawn O'Day

    “But Dawn O’Day. I would be very interested to hear the punctuational argument for ending your remark with an ellipsis rather than a period.”

    I know a diversionary tactic when i see one. :-) The ellipsis was intended to lure you into a reply, and I see it worked – although not quite in the way I had intended, as I am quite busted. Honesty also compels me to state that the elllipsis provides a weaker ending than a period, and so probably also derives from insecurity.

    Anyhow, Twisty, despite my caveats I agree with most of your major and minor points. I also sympathize with the difficulties of running a feminist/progressive blog that states the truth without hurting people – I was never able to crack this nut, and so blog much less frequency than I used to. By providing not just thought-provoking insights but a safe space for people to discuss them, you are doing a tremendous service. (

  119. V.

    So, Octogalore, you are helping the downtrodden by treading on them in a more benevolent fashion?

    Unless you’re Oskar Schindler, that doesn’t fly with me.

    By extension, of course, those of us who aren’t employing poor immigrants to clean for us are less benificent than you.

    I also have serious trouble with you equating your doing 60% of the childcare with your Nigel doing 60% of the housework.

    It just wouldn’t be fair,/i> to ask him to do more.

    Frankly, that sort of suspect reasoning is redolent with the stench of th Patriarchy.

    In my experience, childcare is way, way, way more difficult, complex, and consequential than cleaning.

    Vaccuuming vs. cultivating a human being?

    The workload is not equivalent, sorry.

  120. V.

    ARGHH!!!

    Where’s the preview funtction? Where’s the edit?

  121. Shabnam

    Dear Mearl,
    I would be one of the first in a Senate to propose you as Emperor, and I agree with you main point concerning the relative worth of various occupations. But I must quibble with the following:

    “If I actually WERE Emperor, I would pay teachers, nurses, farmers, apple-pickers, tailors, weavers, people who cleaned sewers, mothers of infants and small children, as well as those women to whom the responsibility for the emotional stability of the nation falls (anyone who has sat for more than one minute listening and sympathising while anyone else complains), TEN TIMES as much as I would pay the jackass astronomer who spends all year glued to a UV ray gun, charting the movement of neutrinos. The astronomer’s job is only possible because his house is cleaned and meals are made and his gitches are washed by other people. It doesn’t work the other way, though.”

    Why, oh why, pick on a poor astronomer and not a CEO, accountant, lawyer, management consultant, stoke-broker? All those like the astronomer, who are engaged in “pure” scientific research (astrophysics, theoretical physics, mathematics), the sort that doesn’t attract any money from the corporate world, are not paid terribly well at all. This kind of research will not save any lives, or benefit anyone’s business, or be useful for engineers in the immediate future. The kind of “glued to the experiment” work, is usually done by the more junior people (e.g. grad-students, post-docs), most of whom live quite modestly, and certainly can’t afford things like their own house. At the moment, people who study maths, physics, computer science, are mostly later employed by companies who use their skills to further their capitalist interests because, of course, the pay is better. I think this is a terrible waste of human potential. Why are so many thousands just helping big business bring out yet another brand of shampoo, or exploit another area of the world where labour is cheap, rather than finding out about neutrinos? Basic research for the sake of furthering human knowledge is as vital as looking after children, cleaning etc. All, I’d like to say is that the astronomer is also a victim of this fucked up system of values. (The Arts are of course, also a big victim, but this of course leads to all the philosophical questions about whether the arts would exist after the revolution). I hope that in a post-patriarchy, there would be a lot more people working on neutrinos (and doing their own housework).

  122. Twisty

    Octogalore, putting people out of work is not the goal. Liberation from oppression is the goal. I’m not inclined to argue “well, what would all those lower caste people do for money if we didn’t throw our chump change down to them in their gutters?” It’s a cop-out to throw up one’s hands and say “but everything I do oppresses somebody; what choice do I have?” I advocate abolishing capitalism, which is what keeps lower castes low. At the very least, one might agitate for a universal living wage.

    Oppression is not an absolute fact of human existence. It is merely a fact of our current social order. Those lower-caste people wouldn’t have to scramble for chump change if the social order were modified to accomodate the humanity of all humans. The adoption of a lifestyle that accomodates the humanity of all humans seems a good place to start.

    Which is why the issue intersects with sexism and racism and all the other isms-of-oppression. Women and people of color are the primary denizens of those lower castes.

  123. SkyGoddess

    Bonnie: I’d prefer a red-dirt floor, if we can find one. Thanks!

    OK, another question. If everything we buy has contributed to the exploitation another person, then what about buying everything used–or better yet, dumpster diving? Reusing is better than recycling. Does anyone get exploited at thrift shops? consignment shops?

    Oh, how I long for the dawn of a new social order.

  124. Bonnie

    I second the call for a universal living wage.

    I don’t know about throwing up my hands. My issue above was with the holier-than-thou crap.

    My dad and my brother behave the same way – the choices that they would make would be better than the choices someone else did make; therefore, dad/brother are better than everyone else. They overlook the fact that we all have to make choices, good, bad, or otherwise, and to assert that no one but themselves is aware of the larger picture is egotistical in the extreme.

    Is it possible not to make bad choices? No, not really. The best we can do is make informed choices.

    As for the uber-topic, marriage, and its attendant oppression, I’ll just say this: Firebird (my partner) and I wish to marry. We have been together for almost 15 years. We have taken as many legal steps as are available to us to protect ourselves and our relationship. But still we are legal strangers, and that is looming ever larger as we age. Marriage and its patriarchal trappings is the best option right now, and until something better (legally) comes along it is an informed choice we wish to make.

  125. malalou

    Ruth:
    You’ve taken that sentence entirely out of context. I did not say it’s about ‘how I feel’ in any way shape or form. So kiss my ass. The whole crux of my statement is the opposite your paraphrase. Learn to read please.
    It MOST CERTAINLY IS about how we decide to treat people. Everything is about how we treat people. Not about making our lives easier at anyones expense – which is what you seem to assume I’ve said. It generally (yes, I admit) makes me feel good to treat people well. Damn Me! I should be always sacrificing for the well-being of others – and hating it for the drudgery it is – because after all I’m a woman… Why does it have to be one way or another?? IBTP
    For the record, no – I don’t hire anyone to help me do anything. I have entertained the notion of hiring a local cleaning service (which is owned and operated by a friend -who is a man- using organic cruelty-free products). I am self employed in my own home. I am a tax revolter. I grow about 40% of my own food, and homeschool my kid. I am single. I volunteer to help people learn to read (btw, if you need some help, let me know)… None of this means I’m a better person than anyone else. I do these things because it feels good to treat people well and care for them. So fuck off. lol.

  126. ginmar

    This is why I’m not and never will be married. Every guy I’ve been with has had expectations and denied them, no matter how equality-minded he was. Call them on it and you’re a big ole bitch because the first response is always to blame the woman.

  127. mearl

    Shabnam, you’re right. At the time I was typing I was thinking about something I saw recently, which was a show on Discovery where they take scientific research about history, microbiology, atmospheric goings-on, astronomy, and the evolution of life forms and then project, using computer-animated scenarios, what life would look like on other planets if we discovered it, or how it could develop in billions of years, etc. It struck me as a horrid waste of the brilliance of scientists for the purposes of entertainment and speculation. My friend’s dad was foaming at the mouth about how great of a show it was, but in my case it just triggered a rant (how I love to rant) about how if the intellectual resources of these people (whom I assumed were mostly men) were pooled for the purpose of figuring out how to fix the problems on OUR planet, it wouldn’t take too long to get things in order once and for all.

    I feel the same way when I see brilliant eggheads going off to those specialised colleges in the States for computer 3D graphics, so that they can become professional video game creators. At the root of my discontent is that people who have the power and the opportunity (mainly men) use their talents for furthering their profit and the leisure industries, while millions of people drink filthy water and work in the sweltering heat picking the beans for a whole nation’s morning coffee. It ain’t right. I guess I should have used the example of a capitalist fat cat. I’ve got nothing against scientists or science itself, in fact, I wish I knew more about those sorts of things because then I would be able to become an Abortion Doctor Without Borders, or something similar, instead of doing what I’m doing. It is the capitalist system that is inherently harmful to everyone, and that system is based on a male way of doing things, which is to get to the top of the pile and have others work for you so you can be rich and do only things that bring you pleasure. It all ties in.

    This leads me to my next comment, which is for Octogalore. This is in response to your questions about the system. I’ll just use this example as an answer, and hope that you see what I’m talking about. I can always clarify if it isn’t clear.

    My friend took a trip down to Mexico while in her political science undergrad degree, for a summit conference between students from Canada, the States, and Mexico. While walking down the street one day with her fellow students, they came across a crowd of tourists by the dock in a harbour. The water next to the dock was over 6 feet deep and utterly greasy with pollution and putrescence. My friend describes the water as being so dirty it looked like oily mud. It was filled with sewage, garbage, you name it. What the attraction was in this particular spot was the little Mexican kids, who, if you threw American coin money into the water, would dive in and get it. So naturally, the tourists were throwing dimes and nickels and sometimes quarters, just to see the kid brave the filthy sewage in order to be able to keep the money. My friend was sick to her stomach, but guess what? Her classmates, honky members of the privileged class in the discipline of politics and international relations, these collegues who would go on to become the policy-makers and well-paid government workers in one of the richest countries in the world, had not the slightest qualm about digging excitedly into their purses and pulling out coins to throw into the water and enjoy this fascinating spectacle. My friend asked her classmates how they could possibly do this, and the reply was that these kids needed the money. The obvious answer was that if you have the choice to just HAND your extra coinage to them, why would you make children dive into sewage for your entertainment and leisure? Needless to say, my friend was deeply disturbed by the whole thing, and left.

    My question is why, if you KNOW what you’re doing is unethical, don’t you make the changes? Instead of giving an immigrant person the privilege of ironing your clothes and cleaning the toenails off your bathroom floor so that you don’t have to, so that YOU get the free time and clean house all in one package, why don’t you do something that MATTERS like agitate your own corrupt government ceaselessly about the immigration policy? Why are you contributing to the inequality by taking advantage of it? The more people who take advantage, the less chance there for immigrants to move to the States and get GOOD jobs. You can sit there and say “Well, if I don’t do it benevolently, someone else will do it in a much worse fashion.” However, if you don’t do it at all and instead look for a constructive way of changing the system, then you’re not a part of the problem.

    Phew. That’s my preachy rant for the day. Find holes in it as you may.

  128. mearl

    And if anyone thinks I’m being holier than thou, well guess what, I am. I clean my own fucking house, fuck you very much.

  129. Bonnie

    I clean mine, too, and do the yardwork. Whoopee. See Red Robin’s comments.

  130. Tanya

    I just wallow in the filth of my dirty house, let the dandelions grow wild and shop at Value Village. I get to save money, avoid doing housework, fight patriarchy and feel morally superior. Everybody wins!

    Now all I need to do is start riding my bicycle to work to save on gas, which helps the environment. Then I can be even more ridiculously smug and condescending.

  131. Bonnie

    Next, how often do you rewire your house as opposed to washing its floors? Wait, don’t answer.

    I’ve added light switches and electrical outlets. Put up ceiling fans.

    Oh, and framed out a 50′ wide space for a concrete patio. That we designed – curvy areas, square areas, a cute little planter bed was incorporated. (Don’t happen to own a concrete pumper so we paid folks to do the pour.)

    Oh, and removed and installed sinks and toilets.

    Oh, and framed in and drywalled a pantry.

    Oh, and painted the interior of my house. Several different colors in the same room.

    Oh, and changed out a garbage disposal.

    Oh, and built bookcases. And that lovely pair of Adirondack chairs for my parents.

    Oh, and refinished two director’s chairs my dad found in my grandmother’s basement.

    Oh, and made my own pizza dough. And cookies from scratch. We’d grow vegetables but “normal” plants don’t survive well in arid Las Vegas so we choose not to waste precious water on them.

    Oh, and changed my car’s oil and filter, spark plugs (I gap ‘em, too), spark plug wires and distributor cap, and air filter, and gas filter, and radiator hoses. I put air in the tires. I installed a passenger-side mirror. And a radio / tape deck (before CD players). I changed an ex’s flat tire the day she broke up with me.

    Did I mention a job, too?

    Get off your high horse. We all have choices to make, and we do what we need to do, what we can do. Some of us have more skills than others. I do not, however, feel holier than thou. I just have more tools and the knowledge to use them.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to unload the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, and rescue my cat who’s barfing in the kitchen. Oh, and continue reading my casebooks.

  132. Dawn Coyote

    Standards of “clean”: who gets to say what these are? Mine were certainly different from my ex’s—or they were, anyway, until his parents were coming to visit.

    In general: I recall nearly losing my mind some years ago because I couldn’t manage my distress over all the suffering arising from a world of inequality. Sometimes detachment is just good self-defense.

    Tangentially: I’m going to sell the damn thing. Haven’t decided what I’ll do with the money.

  133. Octogalore

    V: I’d appreciate your not superimposing your judgment about our male/female labor distribution. My view is that it’s fair, or if anything that I have things easier. That should be sufficient. I’ve had more than enough men telling me what’s what, and I don’t think it’s much preferable when a woman does it.

    My marriage is irrelevant to the larger situation out there and I have spared you various details that will likely have me accused of Nigeling. But the fact is, my husband is out of the house twelve hours a day chained to an office, so he doesn’t have the flexibility I do to see our daughter. That said, he takes time off, and given the situation, 60-40 ain’t bad, especially since he makes up for it in housework. I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m in my study, able to take a break to go for a run without The Man looking over my shoulder, and still get to be the main breadwinner. I have no complaints about my situation, nor do I think it’s representative, but I would appreciate those without any context throwing out statements about how patriarchal it is. Because THAT is patriarchal.

    Twisty: “It’s a cop-out to throw up one’s hands and say ‘but everything I do oppresses somebody; what choice do I have?’ I advocate abolishing capitalism, which is what keeps lower castes low. At the very least, one might agitate for a universal living wage.”

    Well, I’m all for taking steps to decrease the income gap in a sustainable way, and vote as well as donate towards these goals. But in the meantime? I still don’t understand your short-term solution for what, let’s say those of us who hire cleaners got rid of them, those cleaners who cannot find cleaning work would do BEFORE these things were to happen.

    “The adoption of a lifestyle that accomodates the humanity of all humans seems a good place to start.”

    Agree, but what is that lifestyle? I don’t think it accomodates anyone’s humanity to reduce the number of available options, even if the available options aren’t ideal, UNTIL the underlying situation changes. But before that, living AS IF it already had is really only about wanting to feel a certain way about oneself — NOT, imo, because it’s the best solution given the current set of circumstances.

  134. LouisaMayAlcott

    If I won the lottery, I’d buy a house that I could completely hose down on the inside with a pressure-washer. Until then, I wallow in my own filth.

    But I’d still milk my own cow! I used to grow all my own food, milk the cow twice a day, make cheese & yogurt, bake bread from my own sourdough culture, etc. But I’m trapped in the city now and have to buy food. It’s quite a come-down, I’ll tell you.

    If I won the lottery, I’d go right back to it in a heartbeat. Plus pressure hose. (I’m oblivious to furniture, most comfortable in a barn.)

  135. Bonnie

    Standards of “clean”: who gets to say what these are?

    So true, even in a same-sex household.

  136. maribelle

    Jesus crap on a cracker, mearl, how’s are those anger management classes going? Do you even READ the posts of the women you’re attacking?

    You’re obviously so pissed you’re raving at everyone, so I will try not to take your points [many of which I agree with, as noted above] personally, but since they were addressed to me, please note AGAIN that:

    I don’t currently have a housekeeper,

    for most of the reasons stated here. But I had a housecleaner for a year –once–20 years ago when I was a single mom, and desperate to keep order in my house. It was a temporary, imperfect solution. And I cleaned houses for years, so I have a much longer resume as a cleaner than employer.

    RE: THE ECONOMICS OF THE ISSUE: Patriarchy and capitalism exploit millions world-wide and it sucks. We’re all on the same page about that. Why assume that everyone that suggests a differing viewpoint that yours is a SUV driving, resource hoarding, pinot-noir swilling, rape apologist? None of these things apply to me, nor most of the people here.

    UNTIL THE REVOLUTION though–if you DO employ someone in your home or garden, I STRONGLY advocate paying them WELL ABOVE the basic going rate in your neighborhood.

    **YOU propose this same policy** (elavating the pay to minimize oppression) when you say “I would pay teachers…people who cleaned sewers[et al] TEN TIMES as much as [scientists].”

    So in your world, if you pay a high rate to people who clean sewers, that’s cool. If you pay a high rate to people you clean toilets, you’re an exploitative, classist asshole.

    Later, you say:
    scrub the feces out from someone else’s shit-stained toilet for 7 bucks an hour while

    Bullshit on 7 bucks an hour. No one here is condoning that. Who are you arguing with? Women here report paying $20-30 an hour (plus lunch) for their cleaners. In my area, those are jr. executive wages.

    Is there class disparity in all this? Yo damn skippy there is–welcome to America. It sucks. I do alot to mitigate the oppression that exists around me with my volunteer work and cash contributions. (And YES it is a PRIVILEGE to be able to volunteer and give money–I am well aware of that. That is part of why I give alot away–I am DAMNED LUCKY and I know it.) I also had a damned tough life for 10 years as a single mom and my fortunes turned by a lot of luck — I pass that good fortune on wherever I can.

    And if anyone thinks I’m being holier than thou, well guess what, I am. I clean my own fucking house, fuck you very much.

    I clean my own house, too, since you missed that part. So you’re NOT holier than me (or many of us here), just a lot more pissed off.

  137. Border Heeler

    delphyne,

    Apparently I am incapable of explaining my points in a way that you understand them, as, again, you have really completely misread them. So, if anyone else thinks I am saying what delphyne thinks I am, and, in the highly unlikely event that that person cares at all about what I am saying, would that person please ask the relevant questions? Going round and round repeating myself when I have apparently been unclear makes blood spurt out of my ears. No one here wants to clean that up.

    Thanks,

    Border HEELER

  138. Virago

    I think, Border Heeler, that both you and delphyne have valid but different points. delphyne seems to be saying that men need to be part of this discussion, since they are the exploiting class, so she’s speaking very Big Picture. And you’re saying that some of us don’t gots no menz (and don’t want none, either) and those of us in that situation also need menz-less solutions and that, too, needs to be part of the Big Picture.

    For me, it is also a class- and race-based issue, this issue of who does and doesn’t do the housework. Some of us ain’t got no menz and we ain’t got no money, and generally speaking those are the women who end up cleaning up after those who do gots menz and money. When the patriarchy sets us against one another on the basis of class and race lines (as it does on this, the housework homefront) isn’t a solution then to be one of the Good Women who says, “Well, I pay my cleaner $40 an hour *and* she gets lunch *and* I call her by name–and give her all my cast-off clothing, too!” (See also: Some of my best friends are housecleaners.”)

    There’re a lot of fronts in this war. I think you and delphyne are two of the myriad.

  139. mearl

    I have a long post which explains my views, and it’s stuck in moderation. The “fuck you very much” post comes after it. I suppose I’ll have to wait till Twisty gets round to moderating before it makes a bit of sense.

  140. mearl

    It makes no difference to me whether someone has a housekeeper or not, what bugs me is that people are trying to pass it off as an ethical choice, and pointing fingers everywhere else, saying that we’re all on computers or whatnot, so we’re all exploiting someone. The difference for me is the justifications and excuses. You can choose to do certain things, but don’t tell me they’re ethical. And if you didn’t do something exploitative before, why start contributing to a new plane of exploitative industry? I don’t live in filth. I just don’t have a maid. Simple. And I am trying to scale back where I can. I’ve lived with four guys (2 were boyfriends, 2 were friends). I would rib them up and down if they didn’t do housework, and if they continued to balk after hours-long philosophical and feminist arguments about it, I’d say fuck it and make plans to move out. They can find some other female to clean up their mess, while I clean up my own, and help my kids and friends and community understand that it’s one’s own responsibility to do what you can for yourself. I’m on a computer and that’s unethical, but I can’t build my own computer. I CAN, however, clean my own toilet.

  141. mearl

    Also, maribelle, if cleaners all made 30 bucks an hour, don’t you think there would be cleaning colleges and people vying for those nice, well-paid jobs? Read the Jan Wong articles. 7 bucks is the norm.

  142. hipparchia

    I’ve got no problem at all with hiring other people to do your dirty work for you, so long as you’re willing to pay them enough money that they can afford to live at least as commfortably doing that job as you can by doing the [paid] work that you do.

  143. mearl

    Ugh, it’s tiresome responding to the miscommunications and misreading of my posts and my tone. Bonnie, my point about how often you rewire your house as opposed to wiping the floors was a point about the fact that housecleaning is shit work that needs to be done daily to keep things bearable. Rewiring the house is something that gets done once every 10 years or so, just like painting a fence or other male-defined jobs. So you see how electrician work gets up there in the skilled trades category, and electricians work on one house after another but not the same house every day of the week. Try to picture it if no one (who had the money) cleaned his or her own house and everyone had a housecleaner come in every day. Who, then, would clean the housecleaners’ houses? It’s not a projected industry that I want to be contributing to.

    Men have no reason not to take up the care of their own houses and children, and women have no reason not to learn how to change our own oil or drywall our own basements. We really don’t need all this elaborate shit, anyhow. It’s creating wasteful industries and producing tons of offset environmental damage. First-World residents are fucking things up enough as it is. Should we all keep going, then, and get people to be our personal hairdressers and wetnurses and toilet-scrubbers, etc. etc. ad nauseum?

  144. maribelle

    Border Heeler wrote:

    WHY is cleaning up after oneself part of “being an adult.” “Weaving for oneself,” “caring for one’s kids all by oneself,” “baking for oneself” are not “part of being an adult.” We hire those jobs out. Why is “cleaning up after oneself” different? Just … because?

    Yes, this is what I was asking as well. Where do we draw the lines on what we hire out and what we don’t? I’m not being sarky, I am really curious. What mental calculations do y’all run through in deciding whether or not to hire out a certain job?

    Delphyne’s point about men doing their fair share is an extremely important part of the question–but only part of the picture.

    Obviously, the whole system is layer upon layer of oppression, and no that’s not a copout, Twisty, it’s part of the context in understanding just how complex and intertwined the problem is. (Those restaurant tacos don’t fly to the table by themselves.) And living in a cave (regardless of dirt color) is not an option.

    So within that context, what can YOU and I do to reduce our “oppression footprint”? I’ve seen some good ideas here (like downsizing as a combating oppression issue–hadn’t considered that angle).

    Also, how about:

    *Avoiding buying fruit/veggies out of season (bonus: also helps reduce global warming)
    *Tipping service staff 20-30%
    *Equally our division of work balance between husband and wife
    *Having children do chores regularly.(All ages–the three year old can carry the milk carton and actually enjoys helping)

    Other ideas?

  145. delphyne

    “Apparently I am incapable of explaining my points in a way that you understand them, as, again, you have really completely misread them. So, if anyone else thinks I am saying what delphyne thinks I am, and, in the highly unlikely event that that person cares at all about what I am saying, would that person please ask the relevant questions? Going round and round repeating myself when I have apparently been unclear makes blood spurt out of my ears. No one here wants to clean that up.”

    I understand your points fine Border Heeler, I just don’t think they have anything to do with this conversation. Bringing them up is like me stomping in to a conversation about say the lack of decent services for disabled people and complaining that people aren’t addressing the needs of women being exploited by men in heterosexual relationships. It makes no sense and isn’t actually helpful to anyone.

    But like I said the conversation becomes very slippery when it comes to addressing male exploitation of women. People would rather talk about almost *anything* else apart from that. And the idea of actually challenging men is almost unthinkable. For example what’s happened here is that women are being criticised for employing cleaners and some women feel the need to defend their choice to do so in the most bizarre way. The elephant in the room as someone has already said, is that men don’t pull their weight.

    Lets talk about the lazy sexist men and what we are going to do about them.

  146. delphyne

    “Delphyne’s point about men doing their fair share is an extremely important part of the question–but only part of the picture.”

    Yeah, it wouldn’t do to actually focus on men and what they do to women would it? Let’s find something else to talk about quick. Sorry for the snark Maribelle, but this is feminism, where we actually address male oppression of women, because let me tell you it’s not going to happen anywhere else.

  147. curiousgyrl

    thanks, Twisty for this post. Its quite good.

  148. TallyCola

    Obviously the answer is a robot maid, which will come in default modes of female.

    Of course the logical extension of that would be that the robots would eventually rise up and revolt, in a way that the human poor can’t because robots don’t need to sleep or eat.

    So I guess the REAL only answer is destroying the patriarchy? Then marriage will be a non-issue and negotiating chores in a cohabitation situation won’t be soured by the aftertaste of gender!

  149. TallyCola

    That was supposed to be accompanied by a picture of Rosie but apparently I suck at computers.

  150. mearl

    Maribelle, I like your most recent post. I’m not trying to fight with people, I swear. I just get frustrated by the whole thing. I think it’s a good question about what can we do towards NOT exploiting people in a capitalist system.

    My own wish is that people (and I am gung-ho about doing this myself) would make a move towards extended living situations and community living. Not necessarily that everyone would live in one big house with shared finances, since that’s complicated and only a few people have started doing this. But instead, reducing the amount of oversized single-family dwellings, and working with your community on say, a community garden (there are a few in my city), or having certain people with certain skills do what they are good at to help their neighbours, while other people do what they are good at, etc. all the while being conscious of how it is working out as a system. I’m all about the “be vocal, buy local” principle. I think that communities like this can be easily created in large-population cities, as long as an effort is made. It would help reduce the sense of alienation in our society, in addition to everything else. And yes, learning how to service my own car is on my agenda, although I bike most places. I’ve had a car for the first time for a month now.
    I am slowly learning the male-defined tasks, and I won’t live with a guy who isn’t equally willing in the female-task department.

    I find the whole housecleaner thing odd. I grew up in what’s categorised as “lower-middle-class” circumstances, as did almost everyone I know. I don’t know ANYONE who ever had a maid or has to have one now. I know plenty of women who are frustrated with their boyfriends or husbands, however, for feigning ignorance about how to press the buttons on the laundry machines. Collective helping out is my own take on a sort-of solution, where it’s applicable.

  151. curiousgyrl

    I will say that community living, without the revolution is no solution. Instead, I have 5 men to pick up after who help every now and again.

  152. maribelle

    mearl:
    Ugh, it’s tiresome responding to the miscommunications and misreading of my posts and my tone.

    With all due respect (and I respect your opinions very much), when you say “I AM holier than thou, fuck you very much” I don’t think you should complain about being “misread”.

    mearl, you wrote:
    …help my kids and friends and community understand that it’s one’s own responsibility to do what you can for yourself.

    I completely agree.

    get people to be our personal hairdressers and wetnurses and toilet-scrubbers

    I’ll grant you wetnurse and toilet-scrubbers but {tiny voice} i can’t cut my own hair. last time i cut my kid’s hair my grandmother thought he had done it himself.

    I’m not trying to make excuses or argue. But this is the kind of thing that makes this conversation so hard. You just listed “hairdresser” with “wet nurse”. You can’t seriously equate these two jobs as equally oppressive. Most hairdressers I know don’t even cut their own hair because it’s so hard to reach the back.

    There ARE jobs that need to be done by others in society. How do we not oppress people that do the least desirable among them? Increasing their wages dramatically is the only thing I can think of right now to help even the score. But I agree that isn’t a long term solution.

    What is? (or is this a topic for the forum?)

    delphyne:
    Lets talk about the lazy sexist men and what we are going to do about them.

    Off the top of my head, I suggest:
    *negotiate with them
    *go on strike
    *go all Lysistrata on their ass
    and if that doesn’t work:
    *divorce him and take everything

  153. Border Heeler

    delphyne,

    “I’ll say it again, this discussion is about male domestic exploitation of women. Just because it’s happening in your or my households doesn’t mean it’s not a valid topic. I can’t bear this me,me,me-ism where if it isn’t happening to ME it’s not worth talking about or the parameters of the discussion must be completely changed in order to fit my needs.”

    Well, OK, so talking about middle class women exploiting poor women in “this discussion” is OK, but talking about old women having no one at all to help them is not OK? Please explain.

    Is it really only feminism if we ONLY and ALWAYS talk about men?!?

    I know I’ve sounded like a bitch (hey, I don’t call myself heeler for nuthin but that’s not an excuse) and I don’t want to escalate a disagreement into a fight based just on my tone, but really, “this discussion” has evolved to be much more than just about men oppressing women in the household. And one of my points is: that is as it should be. And I AM speaking big picture here and not just about “ME” – more and more households will NOT have men in them for significant lengths of time and more and more of the women in those households will need help. (Do a little research on this. We are an aging, ever-more-living-alone population.) What is an equitable way for them to get help? How does it get more feminist than that?

  154. maribelle

    These posts hadn’t cleared when I wrote my last response:

    delphyne:
    Yeah, it wouldn’t do to actually focus on men and what they do to women would it? Let’s find something else to talk about quick.

    See my comments above re: possible solutions (think Lysistrata).

    this is feminism, where we actually address male oppression of women, because let me tell you it’s not going to happen anywhere else.

    Feminism? So this isn’t a porn site? Damn, I got lost!

    Seriously, I agree, of course, because there are few places I can discuss and dissect these issues.

    I just get uncomfortable when women’s (often imperfect) choices trigger other women’s ire. (Also, the stereotype of the upper middle class pinot-swilling oppressive lady-who-lunches is as much a misogynist stereotype as welfare queen in a cadillac or money-grubbing whore ripping off poor hard working men.)

    mearlI just get frustrated by the whole thing.

    You’re in a very big club, and we’re right there with you. Here, have a taco. I even made guacamole

  155. Bonnie

    maribelle – I just get uncomfortable when women’s (often imperfect) choices trigger other women’s ire.

    Me, too.

    I just made beans. They go nicely with tacos.

  156. delphyne

    Border Heeler, it’s a good topic, it’s just not this one. Women have had our energy and time stolen by men for centuries – it’s what patriarchy is built on, and yet here in this discussion where we could talk about sexism and male behaviour, everybody wants to talk about ageism or classism or anything but what men do to women.

    You say the discussion “evolved” – I say what happened is what often happens, it deteriorated into horizontal hostility, rationalisation and avoidance of actually challenging male power.

    “Is it really only feminism if we ONLY and ALWAYS talk about men?!?”

    I’m not making that argument but given that feminism is about freeing women from male oppression, men, their choices and treatment of women are going to feature pretty heavily.

    “Off the top of my head, I suggest:
    *negotiate with them
    *go on strike
    *go all Lysistrata on their ass
    and if that doesn’t work:
    *divorce him and take everything”

    And yet that doesn’t happen very often, Maribelle, instead women carry on cleaning up after men or if there is enough money in the household they pay someone else to do it and then rationalise it by saying they are providing good employment for poor people.

  157. mearl

    Hmmm…another clarification, which is not a tiresome one…when I said “personal hairdressers” I didn’t mean someone to cut your hair. I meant someone who would live in your house and wash and do your hair for you every single day, the way movie stars have whole troupes of people to do every little thing for them because they are too busy swilling Stoli and eating all-raw diets in order to retain their bonerack frames well into their 70s to even pick their own noses. Having other people do your shit work comes with capitalist privilege, and this is something we should be working against.

    When I think about how often your baby needs to be fed, or how often your hair needs to be coiffed (never if you have none!), or how often your dinner needs to be cooked, vs. how often you need to install new plumbing, get the hair chopped or have your foundation filled, therein lies the difference. There are some industries which require skill but are not everyday tasks, so it would be a moot point to tell every person living in society that we all need to learn how to pour a concrete stoop. If you CAN do this yourself, good on ya. Other things require skill but need to be done all the time, like housework or childcare.

    However, think about the impact if every rich or middle-class person got someone to do every single little do-able task for them, and paid them a living wage to do it so that their leisure time was increased and they could make messes freely and liberally, and still have leisure time up their eyeballs. It’s a scary picture.

  158. mearl

    Maribelle, thanks, and we can share the taco. I love guacamole!

  159. al

    go all Lysistrata on his ass

    Please don’t bring up the Lsysistrata solution.

    It only perpetuates the idea that sex is something that women hate and men want and manipulative women always withhold to get (choose item): housework, jewellery, expensive clothing, footrubs, flowers, money, no more sex until a suitably young n’ perky proxy can be found, etc.

  160. Dawn O'Day

    again, for those who aspire to live life oppressing others as little as possible, I refer you to the Freegans:

    http://www.freegan.info

    Because nearly everything we consume was produced involving some level of oppression, the Freegans aspire to exist as much as possible outside capitalism. that includes harvesting food that would otherwise be discarded (50% of the food produced in the U.S. is discarded), squatting in abandoned buildings, procuring needed stuff via “freemarkets” and “freecycling,” using human-powered transportation, etc. Because they consume stuff that would either be wasted or has already been used, they are not contributing to oppression either by direct purchase or taxation; and they also minimize their environmental destruction, carbon footprint, etc.

    But even they would tell you it’s damn hard to live in this society and not oppress.

    i am not a freegan, btw – but my friends who are have taught me a few things. i live very small and cheap – but doing so is ancient wisdom anyhow, no matter what your politics and whom you blame.

  161. V.

    Octogalore, you’re the one who brought up your own special snowflake circumstances about the division of work in your household, and related it to why you choose/need to hire cleaning help.

    As you relate the situation, you are the major breadwinner in the family, and you do, in your estimation, 60 percent of the childcare.

    (And I wasn’t arguing that your hapless spouse, “chained to the office 12 hours a day,” should do more childcare, but more housework, and that your work is quite difficult.

    Did you assume I meant that he should do more childcare in order to ‘free you’ to do more housework?)

    Since you’ve stated you are happy with your domestic arrangements, far be it for me to tell you otherwise.

    But I will point out that you have eloquently illustrated the thrust of Delphyne’s argument.

  162. maribelle

    “Please don’t bring up the Lsysistrata solution.”

    I see your point, al. That’s shorthand-let me clarify.

    I didn’t mean manipulating men, but simply not sleeping with asshats.

    Seriously, do not sleep with men AT ALL who do not treat us well. Don’t sleep with or date them or even give them a cookie. Leave their sorry asses and tell them exactly why. Or better yet, get to know a man long and carefully with eyes wide open before you ever let keys exchange in any form. Do not settle! Being alone beats the stink out of getting trapped.

    This has two benefits: if we don’t breed with them, they can’t
    perpetuate clones of themselves. And if enough women don’t have anything to do with them, they’ll have to change or else die out.

    The biggest problem is that women are taught to think of themselves as the lesser partner, and they should be lucky to get/attract a man. So they don’t consider what worth they bring to the table, they worry about “catching” a man. And before you know it, they’re caught–and he’s teaching the next generation his ways. Vicious circle of life.

    Cut off the asshats! is my motto. I’m thinking of having t-shirts made.

  163. maribelle

    Imagine there’s no husbands
    It isn’t hard to do
    No one to slave and starve for
    And no children, too
    Imagine all the women, leaving their rap-ists (a-ha-ha-ah!)

    You may say I’m a blamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope some day you’ll join us
    And the world will live as S.C.U.M.

  164. Coathangrrr

    Other things require skill but need to be done all the time, like housework or childcare.

    Which means there are lots of chances to practice for those men who claim they are no good. You know:

    “I’m no good at doing dishes!”

    “that’s OK, you’ll get more practice tomorrow, and the next day. Why don’t we just add the dishes to your responsibilities until you get good at it. It’ll be a learning experience.”

  165. Octogalore

    V: what part of him doing 60% of the housework didn’t you get?

    “Did you assume I meant that he should do more childcare in order to ‘free you’ to do more housework”

    No, I assumed you meant he should do more than 40% of the childcare.

    “But I will point out that you have eloquently illustrated the thrust of Delphyne’s argument.”

    Um, how exactly does our doing 40-60 on one activity and 60-40 on the other illustrate anything other than that it’s egalitarian? Seems like you’re stretching really hard here.

    And feel free to throw out the condescending “snowflake” stuff — if you recall, I brought in the percentages as the context for Maribelle’s question about what Nigel would do if I asked him to do all the housework. Not as extraneous details that I expected everyone to be pantingly interested in. So please reduce the sarcasm level a tad. I don’t think we need to be hostile here.

  166. mearl

    *enjoying the taco, AND the awesome song!*

  167. Octogalore

    “Seriously, do not sleep with men AT ALL who do not treat us well. Don’t sleep with or date them or even give them a cookie. Leave their sorry asses and tell them exactly why. Or better yet, get to know a man long and carefully with eyes wide open before you ever let keys exchange in any form. Do not settle! Being alone beats the stink out of getting trapped.

    This has two benefits: if we don’t breed with them, they can’t
    perpetuate clones of themselves. And if enough women don’t have anything to do with them, they’ll have to change or else die out.”

    Maribelle, I like this idea. That’s part of my thinking re waiting awhile before marrying. Often it takes time for women to both understand what we deserve and have the economic independence (or means for developing it) to demand it. Not meaning that one has to be middle/upper class, but just at a point to feel confident that we can be OK on our own, so any man is only icing. So if he isn’t emphatically willing to be egalitarian or shows signs of insincerity in declaring this, dump him.

    Now, how to pass along this wisdom? I wish it were a mandatory part of high school and college curricula. Or at least, someone should write a book about it. I haven’t seen anything articulating this particular theme, although some of what Linda Hirshman says is allied to it — but her slant is more mid/upper class and isn’t really relatable otherwise.

  168. Spinning Liz

    Excuse me a moment. I have been avidly following this conversation, not much to add and I don’t want to derail anything, but finally I can’t restrain myself any longer: I must confess that I’m becoming increasingly disturbed to the point of distraction by the recurring image of these hypothetical troublemaking shit encrusted toilets all over the place that somebody must clean.

    Because, I don’t know, I’m sorry if this is TMI and all, but I live happily alone and my damn toilet is never ever encrusted with shit. I never even have to scrub it, nothing ever sticks to it. What’s with all these shit encrusted toilets out there? I suspect either the dreaded crusty people are seriously not eating right, or their tank floats are maladjusted on the low side. Because really, shit crust is simply NOT an inevitable side effect of indoor plumbing.

    Ok, sorry. Carry on.

  169. V.

    As women, most of us get conned/browbeaten by the patriarchy iinto lives of overwork and drudgery.

    And often, even our best solutions, if we are still thinking inside of the box (or cage, as I like to think of it)result in more work than one person can reasonably expect to handle.

    As it happens, I don’t think that the solution to having a less overworked and oppressed life is climbing high enough in socioeconomic status so that one can pay others to drudge for them.

    But IBTP for making it really hard to see who or what stands in the way of having a manageable life and lifestyle.

    For those of you who do hire out the cleaning, I’m curious: Who in your household does the hiring? Who is responsible for communicating what needs to get done? Who gets blamed, even covertly, if the cleaning isn’t up to snuff?

    I’m betting, that for most households, cleaning is ‘women’s work.’

    Even if it’s just one woman removed.

    And Octogalore, I confess: I’m still irked at your earlier expressions of noblesse oblige, and I’m sure that carries over in my tone to you.

    I disagree with nearly everything you’ve said in this thread.

    I need to remember that we are more than our stances on any particular issue.

  170. Octogalore

    V: I’m sure you’re sincere in your views. However, since I don’t think they’re accurate and can surmise where they come from, I don’t think a debate would be productive. Please keep in mind, though, that I disagree with many of your views as well, but have tried to treat you with respect.

    As to your question about who does the hiring and communication. You know, I really hate to get in the way of your theory of “one woman removed” because I think it’s probably more right than not. But in our case, it’s Nigel. Frankly, he cares more about neatness than I do, and knows more about how to achieve it. If someone notices the cleaning not being up to snuff, it’ll be him, and if someone then decides to finish it off, it’ll be him. Blame isn’t a question because I’ve already established my cleanliness incompetence as well as my disinclination to remedy it. So he knows not to even try to go there.

    That said, I do think you’re right in the majority of cases. I know couples in which the husband works, the wife stays home and handles everything to do with the home, as well as shouldering the blame for anything that goes wrong. I know much fewer cases, but I’d say — two that I can think of — in which the husband is home doing something like writing or teaching part-time, where he handles household stuff. Where both work, I would venture that it’s probably the woman who handles it. So if you ran a test, I bet you’d find your theory holds. But I wonder if there’s a corollary — that where the woman refuses to stay home as a prenegotiated agreement to getting married in the first place, the odds of cleaning NOT being her responsibility increase.

  171. Virago

    “Delphyne’s point about men doing their fair share is an extremely important part of the question–but only part of the picture.”

    Yeah, it wouldn’t do to actually focus on men and what they do to women would it? Let’s find something else to talk about quick. [...T]his is feminism, where we actually address male oppression of women, because let me tell you it’s not going to happen anywhere else.”-delphyne

    Actually, my version of feminism addresses the patriarchy, which includes issues about race and class along with sexism. When one only focuses on men v. women, one loses sight of the damage done by female chauvinist pigs, those honkey middle- and upper-class women who fall right into line with their privileged brothers. We also lose sight of the fact that we have to fight the fight within ourselves, as women, ridding our own psyches of the hyphae of patriarchal ideals (see also, “But I’m a single woman who pays my servant a living wage!”). In addition to the men v. women, feminism also includes a healthy dose of self-interrogation (TM bell hooks) as to where we, as women, are perpetuating the patriarchy.

    When it comes to housework, yes, we can and should ask the men, “Why don’t men do housework?” We deserve an answer to this question, certainly. But even if we could get an answer, it would barely make a dent in the patriarchy.

  172. Border Heeler

    delphyne,

    “Women have had our energy and time stolen by men for centuries – it’s what patriarchy is built on, and yet here in this discussion where we could talk about sexism and male behaviour, everybody wants to talk about ageism or classism or anything but what men do to women.”

    Here are some “things men do to women”: by virtue of unfair wage practices, discriminatory laws, sexual harassment, rape, forced pregnancy, forced motherhood and unequal parenting work, battery, and sexist hiring and promotion practices, men make women poorer economically because it benefits men. Hence “the feminization of poverty.”

    Women’s being poorer as a group (the proper term would actually be “class” here, but that would be confusing) than men are as a group (class) is one of the ways that men control women. It is one of the ways that men gain access to our bodies and our (parenting and other domestic) labor.

    Thus is the circle of economic deprivation and violence – the two enforcing arms of patriarchy – complete.

    There is a huge difference between saying, “Oh stop talking about sexism and talk about classism” (which a lot of men of all classes do say and which is WRONG) and “Poverty IS a feminist issue because overwhelmingly the poor are women and this, in fact, is a pillar of patriarchy. So to fully understand sexism, one must understand this element of classism.” Huge difference!

    (Didn’t we hash this out in the ’80′s?)

  173. slythwolf

    Thought:

    I could give the same person a job that I would give a job by hiring a maid, if I cleaned up after myself and hired that person to help me file and organize the stuff for my writing. And then it would be a white-collar office job. And I would pay that person a living wage and we could hang out with donuts doing office-y stuff together and laughing at silly shit on the Internet on our breaks.

  174. Scratchy888

    Last post erased my husband. This post erased me. Very good. I see that soon the manner to legitimate one’s feminism will be: lesbian; lives in Texas.

  175. Octogalore

    Slythwolf: that’s a good idea and I’ve thought often about getting people who have helped us with cleaning or childcare other and better opportunities. My ex-nanny has now moved on in that regard and I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to help. She’s bilingual, young and very quick. But sometimes it’s not possible to help someone find a white-collar job either for oneself or for someone else. Our cleaners, for example (again — twice a month for four hours each time, so while I’m sure it’s not fun work, it’s not like we’re employing full time maids) don’t understand English and would have difficulty filing, organizing, etc. I was just talking at dinner with Nigel about this thread and we thought about this point — could we actually help our cleaners do something different? And sadly, no.

    V — I was a little confused about “noblesse oblige” because it struck me belatedly that maybe it wasn’t all bad. So I looked it up in wiki: “with wealth, power, and prestige come social responsibilities. The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending, patronising or hypocritical social responsibility. The term has also been applied more broadly to those who are capable of simple acts to help another, usually one who is less fortunate.” So, possibly you meant what you said in the derisive sense, since you said it bothered you. But I actually do believe the theory is a good one in the broad sense that if you can help someone less fortunate, you have a responsibility to do so, or to try.

    (By the way, if I’ve conveyed that we are people who came from upper middle or higher background, that’s not the case. Nigel grew up middle class and I was a little south of that. Ten years ago my net worth, and I mean including any potential inheritance, was negative six figures. This isn’t really relevant to anything other than an assumption you may be making. There have only been the past five years where we could have flattered ourselves that we were in a position to do anything worthwhile for anybody.)

    Virago — just finished hooks’ “Feminism is for Everybody” and agree — we need to question ourselves even beyond the men vs women issue.

  176. Joanna

    Reading these comments inspired me to get off my butt and clean the damn house. I hope you’re satisfied!

  177. LouisaMayAlcott

    maribelle,

    That was worth waking up at 3am to read!

  178. Ruth

    “I volunteer to help people learn to read (btw, if you need some help, let me know)… None of this means I’m a better person than anyone else. None of this means I’m a better person than anyone else. I do these things because it feels good to treat people well and care for them. So fuck off. lol.”

    Oh burn. You really put me in my place maribelle. I’m sure it feels good to tell people to kiss your ass and fuck off but I’m not clear on how that is treating people well and caring for them. Must be that reading comprehension problem. IBTP

  179. LouisaMayAlcott

    Housework / Good Woman / Women looking daggers at each other at the slightest suggestion of “wrongdoing” in the housework dept.

    1940′s, 1950′s, 1960′s, 1970′s, 1980′s, 1990′s, 2000′s

    A story as old as time.

    “Bringing it all back home”, as Robin Morgan used to say.

  180. Lauredhel

    “I understand your points fine Border Heeler, I just don’t think they have anything to do with this conversation.”

    This is about fourteen kinds of horseshit. There are a pile of blamers here frothing at the mouth and yelling at other blamers to “clean up their own damn shit”. There are also blamers here who are physically unable to clean up their own damn shit, because they’re women with disabilities, lower on the totem pole than able-bodied women (which is pretty damn low). They are, apparently, considered therefore either (a) invisible and/or irrelevant, or (b) morally inferior and oppressive. Or perhaps both. Do you really think we’re not sick of being invisible? That we’re barking up the wrong tree looking for allies in the feminist community?

    Apparently non-America-dwellers are invisible and irrelevant in this conversation, too. Step outside your boxes for half a second.

    You’ll find me over here in the margins, phoning a (white, male) cleaner who I have never, ever called a “maid” – it’s barely even a word in my dialect – making an appointment for Thursday, before the rent inspection. Yeah, I don’t expect my (male) partner to do most of the childcare and all of the housework and hold down a fulltime job, because I wouldn’t expect a woman to do all that stuff, and I try not to be a flaming hypocrite. Your alternative solution to this (in this current-day world, not the post-revolutionary world) would be – what, exactly? Because I’d love to hear it, and I’m sick of being yelled at.

  181. nazp@ct

    I had someone come in a couple of times to do some cleaning at my house but I felt so guilt wracked afterwards, I gave it up. I can’t bare the thought of someone my mother’s age cleaning up after me.

    However, I don’t think it is fundamentally wrong to employ someone to clean your house. I live in a country where people are largely illiterate and unemployment is at an obscene 35% A lot of families are either childheaded or supported by a mother/grandmother, living off child grants (the equivalent of about $30 a month), and whatever money they can make by cleaning houses or gardens. The government cannot afford to provide any further social welfare grants, and there’s no such thing as food stamps or whatever. You can’t get a job because you can’t read, write, count, or speak English and there’s loads of people mauling for any manual labour jobs that do open up. So in this country, many people believe that it’s a moral obligation to employ a cleaner if you have the means to do so.

    Is this perpetuating the patriarchy? You betcha but there are other social factors at work here. Problems that can’t be solved unless we put a lot of effort into education, training, pushing entrepreneurship, attracting foreign investment, improving social services and so forth and so forth.

    I just don’t think you can say “everyone stop employing maids”. What would those people do if they didn’t have a job as a cleaner, which requires very little education and training?

    Its like having petrol attendants (most of who are male). Sure, other countries can do fine without them but in South Africa we just can’t do that because – even though it would be more efficient and petrol station owners could make more profit – it would mean putting thousands of people out on the streets, and leaving their children to starve.

  182. delphyne

    “This is about fourteen kinds of horseshit. There are a pile of blamers here frothing at the mouth and yelling at other blamers to “clean up their own damn shit”. There are also blamers here who are physically unable to clean up their own damn shit, because they’re women with disabilities, lower on the totem pole than able-bodied women (which is pretty damn low). They are, apparently, considered therefore either (a) invisible and/or irrelevant, or (b) morally inferior and oppressive. Or perhaps both. Do you really think we’re not sick of being invisible? That we’re barking up the wrong tree looking for allies in the feminist community?”

    Wow, how do you get that from me saying that Border Heeler’s topic was an important issue, it’s just not the subject here on this particular thread. I’ll say it again, I wouldn’t stomp into a conversation about the lack of services for elderly or disabled people and demand that the topic be widened to male domestic exploitaton of women. And do you know what, even if I did, it wouldn’t fly because that issue affects *men* as well therefore it is “important” whereas if anybody wants to focus on issues that affect women as women all of a sudden every other problem has to be given an airing lest we be called bigots. It doesn’t even make sense because the general solution to male domestic exploitation (demand they do their share or don’t live with them) is not the same as what is required to deal with the needs of elderly and disabled people (better social services, community support, a resdistributive tax system so everybody can live comfortably).

    “Apparently non-America-dwellers are invisible and irrelevant in this conversation, too. Step outside your boxes for half a second.”

    I’m in the UK.

    “You’ll find me over here in the margins, phoning a (white, male) cleaner who I have never, ever called a “maid” – it’s barely even a word in my dialect – making an appointment for Thursday, before the rent inspection. Yeah, I don’t expect my (male) partner to do most of the childcare and all of the housework and hold down a fulltime job, because I wouldn’t expect a woman to do all that stuff, and I try not to be a flaming hypocrite. Your alternative solution to this (in this current-day world, not the post-revolutionary world) would be – what, exactly? Because I’d love to hear it, and I’m sick of being yelled at.”

    Get him to do what’s fair. Does he do what’s fair? Amazing that you can read expectations that men do their fair share as men being expected to do everything. That’s a bit of a reversal because it’s actually women who do everything or nearly everything at the moment.

  183. delphyne

    “Housework / Good Woman / Women looking daggers at each other at the slightest suggestion of “wrongdoing” in the housework dept.

    1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, 1990’s, 2000’s

    A story as old as time.

    “Bringing it all back home”, as Robin Morgan used to say.”

    Easier than going after men, however.

  184. justicewalks

    …it [ceasing to make people pump gas for chump change] would mean putting thousands of people out on the streets, and leaving their children to starve.

    Which is exactly why meaningful change will only be brought about with the destruction of the hierarchy itself. Why should children’s well-being be dependent upon the crumb-earning power of their possibly illiterate or otherwise unskilled sires?

    Moreover, if the tasks they perform in exchange for the crumbs are so menial and useless as to be without value – as is certainly the case with SA gas pumpers – why make them perform the tasks in the first place? Shouldn’t all people be guaranteed the basics in life, regardless of their willingness to debase themselves?

  185. Lauredhel

    delphyne: I used “boxes” because I was talking to the blamers in general saying stuff like “Welcome to America”. This forum is _extremely_ US-centric (as you’ve probably noticed?), and I’ve noticed a number of times that posters assume their interlocutor is American unless declared otherwise. Sorry that felt like that was directed at you; most of what I said was directed at the yelling, marginalising blamers in general, using your comment as a jumping-off point into the rest of my peevulation.

    “Does he do what’s fair?”

    Yes. And I don’t “get him” to do it, he does it because it needs to be done, and neither of us consider it my job to allocate or enforce the duties. Right now he does most of the childcare, most of the housework, plus a fulltime job. We get a cleaner in once every three months, when it all gets a bit much. I realise it’s a reversal. As in most situations where the male partner of a het partnership is doing half or more of the household work, I hear about how “good” he is all the time. Never hear that about a household where a woman is doing most of the work.

    Nigeling? Whatever; I don’t for a second think that our experience is universal or even common, and we’re atypical in a number of ways. I am more about women who aren’t able-bodied white Americans being talked to, and others being talked _about_, or brushed aside completely. Disabled women are right here in this conversation.

  186. TinaH

    I was wondering if we could kick the patriarchy’s ass if we insisted that all people were paid the same amount for their labor, regardless of whether that labor were performed in the home or out of it and regardless of what that labor consisted of. Gardening would equate to CEOing would equate to toilet scrubbing would equate to major league baseballing.

  187. LouisaMayAlcott

    OK, but how are we going to “go after” men?

    How would a full frontal assault work?

    The only thing I’ve seen feminism do so far is to “go after” equality in the hierarchy that men created for their own purposes.

    Does anybody here seriously believe that the men who create and control that immense hierarchy are going to “deconstruct” it because a few radfems “go after” them?

    Geez, north american workers fought and died for years in the 30′s just to get a 5 day week. It was a violent and bloody battle.

    Suggestions?

  188. LouisaMayAlcott

    How do we go about “insisting”?

    Direct them to a blog post?

  189. TinaH

    A number of different ways: start agitating at your congressional critter(s) to work within the system or figure out the techniques that our the union reps used in the 30s to get to a 5 day work week and use those. I don’t know my history from that time period very well, so I’m going to have to do some research to learn what they did.

  190. Dawn O'Day

    I used to teach classes on entrepreneurship – they were long classes, 14 sessions, 600 slides. In between marketing, operations, etc., I taught one session on time management, and in that session I had a slide called The Evils of Perfectionist Housekeeping. In that slide I told people they can either have a perpetually super-clean house, home cooked meals, etc., OR work on their business goal or other dream. So make a choice…

    The reaction to that slide was astonishing – people would start whooping and hollering (this is Boston, Twisty, not Texas, where I assume people do that all the time). Just introducing the concept of “perfectionist housekeeping” – and the idea that the level of cleanliness we are expected to maintain is not natural but arbitrary and promoted mianly to sell product – was enough to liberate some people from endless housecleaning and yardkeeping. And when I pointed out the cost of those behaviors – the loss of valuable time they need to pursue their dream – it really drove the point home about how destructive that habit is.

    Note that not all housekeeping is perfectionist – if you’re maintaining a superneat home because that’s a core value for you that’s fine. But if you’re doing it unthinkingly, or because you’re afraid of what your mom/sister will say – and I am astonished at the number of grown-up people who still live in fear of their moms and sisters – then get over it. Celebrate the mess!

    Someone earlier in the thread made the tantalizing suggestion of “a house that could be hosed out.” that is one important part of the solution, I think. the history of housework and household appliances is a fascinating one. if people actually designed houses to minimize upkeep – and they will, as the boomers age – it will help liberate people.

    oh, and let’s not forget the robots. in the future, a lot of housekeeping will be done by robots. and then one day (not too far off) they will cross the line into sentience, or a reasonable simulation thereof, and we will be having the same conversation about *them.*

  191. LouisaMayAlcott

    Thanks, Tina

    It was a really bloody, brave, heroic, desperate, and tragic battle. I salute the women who were the behind the scenes leaders and indispensible energy source of it.

  192. Silence

    First, I cannot help but rise to the Lysistrata jibe. Lysistrata does not indicate that women do not enjoy sex. Read the play. The character of Lysistrata has a hard time convincing women to give up nookie, and even after they start their revolution, a few women try to sneak back over to the guys for a quick shag. So ‘to go Lysistrata’ on men’s asses would not mean denying women’s inherent sexuality.

    Second, the way I see the housework dilemma is this: Woman lives alone, woman has a job and housework, which generally amounts to a part-time job. She can handle this, unless she has a disability, either by being tidy day-to-day or by ignoring messes and letting them build for a while.

    Woman moves in with guy. Often, but not always, the house space becomes larger at the same time. Suddenly the messes are twice as big. They buold up faster. If the guy refuses to do his share the woman is left with the choice of either taking care of what amounts to two full-time jobs or living in squalor.

    And once children arrive, the woman is now working four full time jobs, if she keeps her original employment. That is, she is working, she has to clean up for herself, her man, and her child, and she has to raise the child as well. This is when most women implode or make those decisions euphemistically called ‘sacrifices.’

    Or they hire a housecleaner, which means that the woman can go back to handling only two jobs. During all this, the man’s share of the labor never changes. If he does do part of the housework or child-rearing, he is held up by his wife/partner as some shining example of a good Nigel. But soceity never expects men to do work around the house. In fact, if a man does listen to his wife/partner and do the work she should rightfully expect from him, society has developed an insult for him: ‘henpecked.’ We’ve all seen those vicious caricatures of scolding wives, haven’t we? We know who they were created to keep in place.

    Bottom line: the housekeeping issue is a gender issue. Until men are expected to clean up after themselves, we cannot expect change. Women, especially women of color, are going to continue to be exploited. The best solution, I suppose, is to train children young. We all realize that girls usually have more chores to do than boys, especially household chores. Children should be given chores, but divide them equally. Have the boys work in the house one week while the girls work on the lawn. Don’t ignore a boy’s messy room and nag his sister to clean hers. Stuff like that. As for housekeepers, well, at the very least, think long and hard before you hire one. See if you can make changes in your life, or get your partenr to do more of his share. Move in with women friends, that sort of thing. And if you must hire a worker, at least pay her well, call her by name, give her a present on her birthday, and let her know how much you appreciate her work.

    It’s a small, small start. But to make a true change, we need to change society, and as Twisty often says, that’s going to require a revolution.

  193. TinaH

    Louisa May Alcott: I don’t doubt that it was a bloody awful battle or two and more. Capitalists aren’t wont to give up their privilege without it being forced upon them. I suspect you’re a more informed history student than I, would you recommend some reading material? I’ve always been curious about the Wobblies.

    Thanks.

  194. TinaH

    The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth. … Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’, we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system.’ It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism.

  195. maribelle

    Oh burn. You really put me in my place maribelle.

    RUTH PLEASE NOTE I DID NOT WRITE THAT FUCK OFF POST TO YOU–it was malalou.

    Sorry to “yell” but I wanted to make sure you saw this. I usually don’t tell people to kiss my ass unless I either married them or gave birth to them first.

  196. TinaH

    Dangit! I pressed submit on that post before I had finished writing.

    That’s from the preamble to the constitution for the Industrial Workers of the World – the Wobblies. Pretty damn radical stuff, huh?

    I like it. I like it a lot.

  197. LouisaMayAlcott

    Tina,

    Here’s some links to get you started:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_(1938)

    Wait, I’ll get held for moderation if I post a whole whack o’ links

    One by one then.

  198. maribelle

    {*wink* at mearl and Louisa May Alcott.}

    When the lyrics to a flip-side song started running through my head (“I’m Just a Poor Wayfarin’ Blamer”) I knew it was time to turn off the computer and back away.

  199. LouisaMayAlcott

    ‘nuther one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winnipeg_General_Strike

  200. LouisaMayAlcott

    Finally:

    http://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/tam/laborrefguide.html/

    That’ll keep y’all busy for a few days.

  201. delphyne

    “OK, but how are we going to “go after” men?

    How would a full frontal assault work”

    I never said full frontal assault. That’s your framing. We can certainly talk about what they do and how it affects women and start holding them accountable and we can support our sisters who do challenge the men in their lives to stop exploiting them. I think change happens incrementally and a women’s revolution probably won’t look like any other revolution. It’s already happening in the West with the numbers of marriages going down, the number of women having children decreasing, and the rate of divorce going up with women instigating the majority. As soon as women were given the choice not to be treated as men’s skivvies a whole lot took it.

    How do you think we should go after men, Louisa? Or do you think we just shouldn’t bother?

  202. LouisaMayAlcott

    Cheezuz Krist on a pogo stick??!!

    You’re asking an old lesbian separatist how we should go after men?

    You want me to get kicked off this board?

  203. camsgirl

    My **gasp** loving and kind husband and I are currently involved in a long, terrifying and probably ultimately unsuccessful fight for our 11 year old sons life. He has a rare and very aggressive cancer and at this point can hardly walk due to his pain. Through all of this my husband has been there every minute, involved in every detail and a great comfort to my son and I. I can’t even begin to imagine going through all this without him, so you see – I’m a (horrors) happy wife. I can’t subscribe to the “blaming men” idea. I actually found this site when looking for info. on cancer, and I wish Twisty well. On another note – nice bug pictures, Twisty! I have another, younger son who thinks the most fun thing in the world is to take pictures of as many types of bugs and animals as he can, I’ll have to show him your.

  204. delphyne

    When I used the phrase “going after” what I was referring to was the way some women here who employ cleaners have been “gone after”. Classism should always be fair game but it’s weird that the sexism of male domestic use of women (which is far more widespread than employing staff to do one’s dirty work) somehow sank into the background.

    If I think of my family for instance, the only women who escaped domestic servitude were me and my mother and both of us only up to a point because for a while we both cleaned men’s toilets. Whereas every man in my family got/gets his bog cleaned and a meal on the table every night. Other women here must have seen the same phenomenon.

  205. Feminist Avatar

    It is interesting that throughout this post, it has been assumed that housekeeping is demeaning. We note that to employ cleaners is more exploitative than many other jobs we employ people to do, because it is considered to be an undesireable job.

    Why is housekeeping so bad? I can think of many, many jobs that I would rather not do than clean somebody’s house.

    I am not trying to engage in the cleaner good/bad debate, but ask why is it that this job is considered in such a negative light? Is it due to its association with women? Is it because men don’t want to do it?

    If housekeeping was a prestigious occupation how would we view it and the people who do it?

  206. TinaH

    Louisa May Alcott: Thank you much for the links and the labor history reference guide. You’re right, that’ll last me for at least a couple of days!

    Tina

  207. delphyne

    I think it’s one of those jobs that isn’t demeaning if you do it for yourself but as soon as you are doing it for someone else, unless it’s because they need help, you are in the position of serving them.

    On a side note, for all those people who are doing the good work of providing employment to poor people, how about when your cleaner or gardener leaves, instead of employing someone else, start giving the money you were paying them to an organisation that provides services for disabled or elderly people and do the gardening or housework yourself whilst making sure if there’s a man around it’s 50-50. Thus people who need jobs will still be employed, people who need help may get some and the man in your life will learn to be a responsible adult. Just a thought.

  208. Feminist Avatar

    But ultimately it is the status of the individual performing the service that determines whether it is demeaning. Gordon Ramsay, top michelin star chef, provides a service, as does his snooty French waiter, but nobody would argue that their jobs are demeaning. In the UK, where plumbers earn a lot of money, we wouldn’t tend to see their service to their customers as demeaning either. I don’t think we can use service as the primary explanation for why housekeeping is fundamentally demeaning.

  209. V.

    Octogalore, I make no assumptions about your background,other than that you currently live a typical middle-to-upper-middle-class existence.

    I grew up what was then lower middle-class (interesting how that no longer really exists as a category in the U.S.)Mom was a nurse, Dad worked on and off for the school system between bouts of mental illness. Small tract house in a predominantly working-class suburb.

    When I was married, we were quite well-off (2 houses, expensive private schools, new clothes whenever we wanted them. And yeah, for a while I had a woman in to clean–wow, what revealing terminology! Never felt quite right about it. Followed my gut. The ‘cleaning lady’ went first, and then, still listening to my gut, I followed.)

    When I left marriage, I was poor. (Guess who ended up with the houses and investments? IBTP.)Food banks and dollar-store food, clothes from the Salvation Army on half-price day.)

    Now in the ranks of the not-quite-poor, which means that I can get fresh vegetables and fruit when I want them, take the kids to a diner for a meal out once a month, and sometimes afford new clothes. For myself, even!

    I’ve all over the class and money spectrum. I’m sure of only one thing: patriarchy abounds.

  210. Octogalore

    On the idea of saving money and helping others by doing the work oneself, that a number of folks have mentioned. This would work fine, in a non-capitalism situation.

    But that’s not our world. For someone whose time and work are (whether correctly or not) valued at a higher rate, it doesn’t make sense. That person could spend the additional few hours a week doing what they’re doing, and contribute that portion rather than the amount they’d pay a cleaner or gardener. If we’re going to mandate higher contributions, that’s the kind that would be meaningful. Contributing the amounts the average cleaner gets (because not everyone’s as generous as those on this site) would only keep future cleaners at that income level.

    TinaH: “I was wondering if we could kick the patriarchy’s ass if we insisted that all people were paid the same amount for their labor, regardless of whether that labor were performed in the home or out of it and regardless of what that labor consisted of. Gardening would equate to CEOing would equate to toilet scrubbing would equate to major league baseballing.”

    I don’t see how that’s a solution. Like it or not, the profit incentive (partially) drives people to go to med school and invent new cures, or go to engineering school and develop artificial limbs, or apply for a grant to fund an ambitious women’s studies program. Countries who’ve attempted this kind of approach, egalitarian as it sounds, have found it lacking for this and other reasons. If there were no such thing as bonuses or promotions, what’s stopping anyone from just putting in a B effort.

  211. stekatz

    Dang. Every time I take a few days off, it’s always the good posts.

    Count me in as one who is married and wonders if it’s all worth it.

    And a million thank you’s and tacos galore for so eloquently stating my internal distaste with ever getting a housekeeper. I had one when I was sick during pregancy because I felt I had no alternative. I never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I used to clean up before the housecleaner got there. I HATE having low paid immigrants clean up my own filth. I just does not square with my value system. What I really want to do is to tell them to get some secondary education and get a better paying job than removing the dust from my home. The several people who have suggested that I “just get a housekeeper” as a solution to my housewifery woes never seem to get it.

    This blog entry is getting printed and posted on my fridge.

  212. smmo

    “the idea that the level of cleanliness we are expected to maintain is not natural but arbitrary and promoted mianly to sell product – was enough to liberate some people from endless housecleaning and yardkeeping.”

    Yes yes yes. The people who live in this house clean it, except the one that is two. The people who live in this house have jobs and a two year old. Thus, our house is messy a lot of the time. I work very hard to not freak out about this because I had the same stupid training every other woman on the planet did. I work very hard to not equate the cleanliness of my home with my value as a woman. A lot of women defend unequal distribution of housework with “well, I care more than he does” to which I say “Good for him! Mimic that behavior sister!”

    “If there were no such thing as bonuses or promotions, what’s stopping anyone from just putting in a B effort. ”

    Integrity. Community. Finding meaning in one’s work. It is astounding to me that you are using medicine, of all things, to justify capitalism when one considers what the profit motive has done to health care. Octogalore, will you ever see that defending capitalism is defending patriarchy?

  213. Bird

    I know it’s late, but Shabnam, if the arts don’t exist after the revolution, I’m really screwed. I’ll be out of a job, and I’ll have to clean all your toilets (insert winky face here).

    And actually, from what all of you are saying, I’d be making more money doing the cleaning anyhow. I have a degree and work as an editor in a small publishing house. From the posts defending hiring cleaners on this thread, I could significantly increase my income by coming around and doing your floors, because I’m certainly not making $30 per hour.

    I doubt, however, that this would work in practice (although if it did, I could afford to hire a cleaner too).

  214. TinaH

    Countries who’ve attempted this kind of approach, egalitarian as it sounds, have found it lacking for this and other reasons. If there were no such thing as bonuses or promotions, what’s stopping anyone from just putting in a B effort.

    Octogalore, thanks for the feedback. I’m not familiar with any countries that have actually attempted this kind of approach, could you please provide me with some references? I’d like to do additional research. Thanks.

  215. Shabnam

    Well Bird, I reckon (and hope) the arts will survive the revolution. I’d much rather clean my own toilet and be given interesting novels/plays/paintings etc to enjoy thanks to people like you, rather than literally chuck your talents ‘down the loo’.

  216. Octogalore

    TinaH — I’m no historian, but I believe classless systems were attempted in the Soviet Union, the PRC and North Korea, among others.

    “Integrity. Community. Finding meaning in one’s work. It is astounding to me that you are using medicine, of all things, to justify capitalism when one considers what the profit motive has done to health care. Octogalore, will you ever see that defending capitalism is defending patriarchy?”

    SMMO, when will you ever see that my “defending” it isn’t my saying I think it’s morally wonderful and what little old me would want in my perfect world. It’s saying it’s (1) the current system, and the one we have to work with in making decisions, and (2) the one that I think will erupt out of any other system because of human nature. There will always be loophole seekers.

    Do you really really really, in your heart of hearts, believe that if “Gardening would equate to CEOing would equate to toilet scrubbing would equate to major league baseballing” that wouldn’t change people’s motivations just a tad? We’re talking people. It’s an imperfect group. And don’t you think some in that group would find a way to capture additional profit?

    Like Lauredhel, nazp@ct, and others above, I’m not trying to twirl a baton for capitalism. But I think in formulating solutions, we need to be realistic so that we can make sure our solutions mean something. I think it’d be more palatable, as well as easily administered, for example, for most CEOs to do their CEO crap for an additional two hours a week, continue employing a gardener, and be required to donate two hours per week of compensation to funds maintained to compensate the needy, than for them to take over the gardening.

    I may not be communcating clearly or well, but my idea is to find solutions that can really happen, rather than to find solutions that would be good ones in the ideal world. I like the ideal world better than ours just like you do, it’s just not the one we live in, so solutions implementable in that world won’t happen. And I think getting something good but doable DONE is better than thinking up something excellent that’s not doable.

  217. maribelle

    If there were no such thing as bonuses or promotions, what’s stopping anyone from just putting in a B effort.

    This is the argument the conservatives use to justify a multitude of atrocities.

  218. Disgusted Beyond Belief

    Dawn’O Day – an excellent point. The ultimate solution is to reduce the amount of cleaning that needs to be done by designing a house that has less ways to be dirty and takes less time to clean when it is. Since I do most of the cleaning in my home, and since my home was custom built, I took the opportunity to make design decisions to minimize all forms of maintenance. Light fixtures are all easy to reach, easy to quickly change. There are no fancy fixtures or other things that have a lot of funny angles that both collect dust and are harder to clean. There are wide expanses of easy to clean flooring. In short, the house was designed to be as easy to clean as possible because I knew I would be the one cleaning it.

    So the ultimate way to reduce the need for anyone to do housework (or to have to hire someone to do it) is to reduce the total amount of housework that needs to be done – attacking the problem from the other end, so to speak.

  219. TinaH

    Octogalore,

    I think that state sponsored socialism like the USSR, PRC or North Korea is really quite different than the creation of a truly classless society. And you’re absolutely right, whatever they did in those instances didn’t work (or isn’t working) at all.

    It’s saying it’s (1) the current system, and the one we have to work with in making decisions, and (2) the one that I think will erupt out of any other system because of human nature. There will always be loophole seekers.

    I think that it’s time to say (1) the current system sucks rocks, ass and anything else that you can think of and (2) it’s actually not inevitable, even given human nature. I imagine that the same argument was made by unionists at the beginning of this century, “the capitalists will never give up their privilege, we’ll never get to a 5-day work week,” but lo and behold, look where we are now. Right back where we were where most of us work way more than a 40 hour week, slaving away for The Man. We’ve done this before, we can do it again. It’s a “solution that can really happen.”

  220. Border Heeler

    LouisaMayAlcott:

    “Cheezuz Krist on a pogo stick??!!

    You’re asking an old lesbian separatist how we should go after men?

    You want me to get kicked off this board?”

    Bwa-haaa-haaa-haa! You made my day! Thanks!

    As for “going after” men to “get” them to do more housework: women can’t! That is the point! Women can’t “get” them to do anything because women have no LEVERAGE. That is part of having less power. There are pretty much three ways of “getting” someone to do something. One is by force (requires power). One is by negotiation (requires power). The third is the usual weapon of the powerless: by shaming them into it. Appeal to a sense of “fairness” or “justice.” Women as a class have made a little, but very little, progress with this and housework; some individual women have made more by choosing individual men who respond better to this, and that is great, but that indicates no shift in power.

    delphyne, I think you are willfully missing the point that older, disabled, etc., women are making here about wanting to be central in this discussion, not marginalized, so I won’t address you on that directly anymore. But I am glad that my crabbineses on the issue has brought some more of us out of the margins here.

    Folks, when you are tempted to have your default response to these issues be, “Well, everyone should just clean up after themselves,” stop! Just stop. That cannot be the default for many, and, all the time, for more and more of us.

    Re: the moral value of housework and whether housework is inherently too demeaning to ever be hired out: this is such a great thread. This is something that is starting to look like an actual argument for not hiring it out and deserves to really be explored more. So, is housework really more like plumbing (not INHERENTLY demeaning, OK to hire out) or more like prostitution (inherently demeaning no matter what one does to dress it up). (Thank you, yemy, for talking about it as humiliating – your approach just put a particular moral spin on it for me). My sense is that it is more like plumbing, inherently, but I can’t articulate it well, except to repeat that I don’t see it as really different than sewing, growing food, or childcare, which USED to be seen as pretty much the same as housework. But perhaps it is truly different from these.

  221. delphyne

    “delphyne, I think you are willfully missing the point that older, disabled, etc., women are making here about wanting to be central in this discussion, not marginalized, so I won’t address you on that directly anymore. But I am glad that my crabbineses on the issue has brought some more of us out of the margins here.”

    But you just did address me. How does that work exactly?

    I’m not wilfully missing any point. Lest we forget it was you who decided to ignore sexism way back up the thread. Like I said, classsism will get good coverage, ablism is recognised, however sexism and men’s actions in perpetuating it – sssshhhh.

  222. Octogalore

    Maribelle — “because it’s good for you” is an argument I use with my daughter all the time. And I think it’s a pretty good argument, for things like eating her veggies. We all know, however, that the same argument is used to justify atrocities. Most good arguments can be twisted to achieve bad results. Doesn’t mean they’re not valid in themselves.

    People being people, I don’t think you’d see the same level of effort if effort wasn’t proportional to outcome. How many of us try just as hard in a class if it’s pass-fail?

  223. LouisaMayAlcott

    Octo asked:

    “People being people, I don’t think you’d see the same level of effort if effort wasn’t proportional to outcome. How many of us try just as hard in a class if it’s pass-fail?”

    Those of us who want to learn the course-material?

    (See, I’m a good girl, I end all my statements with a question mark, eh?)

  224. Octogalore

    Louisa, yes that’s true. But let’s put it this way. Let’s say group A is people who want to learn the course material but don’t care about grades, group B is people who want to learn the material and do care about grades, group C is people who care about grades and do not care about the material, and group D is people who don’t give a rip about any of it.

    If the class has grades, then groups A, B and C will work hard.

    If it’s pass fail, then only groups A and B will work hard, and group B may not work as hard as in the grades situation.

    By going to pass fail, you have lost the additional effort of group C and probably some effort from group B.

  225. dr.sue

    I live in a cooperative apartment complex. Each cooperator pays a monthly sum for building maintenance. This includes a staff of handymen (no women). There is some heavy lifting involved in their jobs, but for the most part they vacuum, wash, wax, and otherwise maintain the common areas, including the lobby rest rooms, and do non-specialist repair work (plumbing and electrical work that doesn’t require a plumber or electrician) when things go wrong in individual apartments. In short, they do what would be considered “maid’s work” or “wife work” in a single-family dwelling.

    They belong to a good union. They are well paid and have decent benefits. They work 8-hour shifts with lunch and coffee breaks. And their relationship to the cooperators is not subservient; we are their employers, but in the sense that we would employ a computer repairperson or a tax accountant.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s the work itself that is inherently demeaning. When women do these tasks they have no value. When men perform them they are hardworking experts with a right to fair compensation and benefits.

  226. LouisaMayAlcott

    Octo,

    I agree entirely with your analysis. Thank you.

    It’s group A that will keep scientific and social progress etc going without a profit motive.

    See if this link works for you:

    http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/226006

    Is that cutting edge or what?

    And what are all the money grubbers doing for the elderly?

  227. Kristen

    I guess this is the wrong time to propose.

  228. notalady

    Cafe Siren asks: “Is there anyone out there who actually cleans houses (or does other “women’s work” such as tending other people’s children) for a living? That’s a POV I’d like to hear on this thread.”

    I worked as a degreed professional for 16 years. (hospitals and other health care providers) I finally became so fed up with institutional top-down structures and their built-in oppression that I had to leave, without any real plan.

    I moved to a small town, and started working at an alternative day care for $7 an hour. The “benefits package” consisted of free organic lunches, and free shiatsu from one of the moms. That job literally saved me from mental collapse. It was so healing to be around children, and to be in a workplace that provides sane conditions for the workers and the children.

    I felt far more exploited by the large, well-paying institutions. I do BTP that the day care job is less “valuable” in monetary terms than the health care industry jobs. The work of feeding toddlers and teaching them to communicate is far more valuable than any of the bullshit management schlock I’ve ever been asked to do.

  229. mearl

    I’ve been reading and thinking about the posts. Here are some of my thoughts as to why the housework thing is complicated:

    *according to statistics, the majority of women in most countries will be married or living with a male partner for some period of their lives, so I agree with Silence when she says, “Bottom line: the housekeeping issue is a gender issue.”

    *The number of female-headed and single-female households is coming up, though, so then is it ethical to shunt off the work to oppressed-class women rather than attempt to do what you can, educate your sons, and attempt collective situations?

    *Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone here would take issue with someone who is disabled or elderly getting a hired cleaner at a living or higher wage, possibly government-subsidised, as the “help” is for my own clients

    *Cleaning is even more complicated than childcare or plumbing or carpentry because, as I said, it is constant and ongoing. Children grow up, houses get built, plumbing or other similar tradespeople are only needed occasionally. Cleaning is an everyday or at least every week thing. This makes it a problem when you compare it to “skilled trades,” if you were to make it into an industry.

    *For those women who would say that standards don’t have to be so high, I have also had this argument with my live-in male partners.I don’t think it’s unreasonable not to have a sparkling house: it takes too much time and effort. But you can’t have a filthy one, according to the Health Dept. of any city. Standards should be in place, as they are for restaurants. If it were left up to men (with their present attitudes about housework that have evolved due to its feminisation), everything would be a rat, mold, and insect-infested hovel. I agree that things don’t have to be up to white-glove snuff. Anyone who has seen my place would heartily back me up on that. But whether cleaning is hired out or not, standards ARE an issue. Especially if you have small children or any children or ill or elderly ppl living with you.

    *For TinaH and those who have thought long and hard about communism,about the idea that a doctor should get paid the same as a housecleaner, I am right there with you in theory, but have heard too many horror stories from my female friends who work in unions about how they work their asses off for the same rate of pay as the lazy, lazy men who do next to nothing and never get fired. Levelled pay, or at least an income where one can top out at (for individuals as well as corporations) has always been on my plate as an option. Policy-making would have to work out as many kinks as are existing given the current system.

    My conclusions are still murky, but right now I’d agree that the biggest thing is that housework is a gender issue, and even if you are lesbian or living alone (as I am), we need to work on the Menz. Otherwise it will be the women with no options who get hired out to scrub the shit-encrusted (see the Wong article) toilets for less than minimum wage.

  230. mearl

    (Grammar…grammar!! I meant everything would be a rat-, mold-, and insect-infested hovel.)

  231. smmo

    Octogalore: “SMMO, when will you ever see that my “defending” it isn’t my saying I think it’s morally wonderful and what little old me would want in my perfect world. It’s saying it’s (1) the current system, and the one we have to work with in making decisions and (2) the one that I think will erupt out of any other system because of human nature.”

    There is a difference between abiding the system while holding one’s nose and luxuriating in the system while defending it AND claiming not to defend it. Maybe that CEO you like to bring up might actually benefit from doing a little gardening or housework. Not financially, but otherwise. Not everything needs to stand up to a cost benefit analysis.

    notalady: “The work of feeding toddlers and teaching them to communicate is far more valuable than any of the bullshit management schlock I’ve ever been asked to do.”

    Those who work with small children are heroes in my book.

  232. Octogalore

    Louisa — thanks for the link.

    As a cynic, I happen to think groups B and C are more plentiful, unfortunately, and although the people in them aren’t as pure as those in group A, we don’t want to lose or lessen their contributions.

    For example, as a group B moneygrubber, I’m contributing $10K annually to a charity that has a number of programs, focusing around children in third world countries, women and the elderly.

    On the link — that’s a fascinating story. I agree with you, it’s definitely cutting edge and it’s a direction I wish more people took.

    But look closely at this portion:

    “Nowaczynski has been moving in this direction for 15 years. When he set up his medical practice in the early 1990s…”

    That’s the thing. Nowacynski, having practiced medicine at a well regarded health center for fifteen years, likely has enough savings to be able to do this. But he had to leverage the system first to be able to do it, because I bet you his standard of living will still be fairy decent after he scales back. So he’s a perfect example of Group B. He wanted the grades and the learning, and leveraged both to enable him to both achieve some material comforts as well as to do some good.

  233. Octogalore

    SMMO — let me put down my Bellini for a minute to dash off a quick response before Nigel sends in the manicurist.

    Did you read the comment at all? The cost benefit analysis involved in taking out two hours of the CEO’s compensation to give to the poor rather than taking out two hours of what the CEO would earn gardening to give to the poor was based on benefit to the poor, not the the CEO. In fact, under that example, the CEO loses and poor people gain.

    When holding my nose will benefit the poor, then please send me a bulletin and I will commence. In the meantime, I need both my hands for all the luxuriating I do — keeps them full, dontcha know.

  234. tara

    The example of my mother’s life is probably where I learned all about patriarchy from an early age. Not that I recognized it as such until later, but I grew up understanding that my father was a lazy, privileged ass and my mother was perpetually worn down by doing everything as a stay at home mom. When her children started going to school, she decided that she wanted extra income – partially because the money of the household was my father’s money, it was a pretty paltry amount anyway, and he refused to acknowledge her input in how to spend it. She took up side jobs during the day. The first of these side jobs was in a factory. She absolutely hated it and stuck it out for a few miserable months before quitting. Then she started getting jobs cleaning the houses of the more middle-class women in our rural area. These jobs allowed her the freedom of not showing up if there was an emergency, she could get there at any time during the day, she could bring us along if we had the day off of school, and she made somewhere around 20 dollars an hour, untaxed. She used this money to buy us school supplies and clothes, and eventually to buy herself a dependable car. She saved up this money and eventually used it to leave my father.

    Obviously, her life is a product of patriarchy. Wage-slavery is wage-slavery, and in her case, this form of it was more amenable to her. I think it is stupid and pointless to do some class-blaming of women who hire women like my mom when in reality, those jobs helped my mother who would not have fit into an orthodox wage-slave system. I used to think that the women who hired her were just lazy, but of course, these were women who had full-time careers, children and lazy, privileged asses for husbands.

    It is stupid to say that, because you don’t agree with the system that creates situations like this, these women should be left without this option.

  235. Springy

    America has no socialist tradition. How else could radical feminists advocate a arse-wiping class, whose job is to clean up their shit? And not notice the hypocrisy?

    Also, “arse-wiping class” rhymes if you’re English.

  236. smmo

    I’m with Delphyne:

    “Imagine if CEOs had to vacuum their offices every night and do the dusting and water the plants when they came in in the morning – they’d have less time to set up systems of capitalist dominance and exploitation. ”

    To me charity is part of that system of dominance and exploitation. A nicer part, but a part nevertheless.

    Instead of the CEO giving a portion of his disgustingly enormous income to the poor how about a system that doesn’t require the existence of poor people in the first place? When that CEO starts talking debt relief for developing nations or even student loan relief here in the US then maybe I’ll give s/he a pass on not cleaning up after themselves. Until then, they’re fat cats and running dogs to me.

  237. Octogalore

    smmo — believe it or not, I think not having poor people would be great, and I’d give up substantial perks to get there. In fact, if we are still running into each other here or elsewhere in 12 years (at which point I will be hitting my prime moneygrubbing potential, ask me if I’ve followed through on my plan to phase out of moneygrubbing and into more philanthropic work.

    I hear you that charity wouldn’t be necessary if we weren’t entrenched in a class-based system.

    But the thing is: we do. So, we can certainly hold our noses, but let’s look at two ideas that we could try to implement right now:

    1) Make CEOs and all professionals do their own handiwork. What flows from this? Well, how would you administer it? We all know that people would try to evade it, which would require a bunch of red tape administration waste. I’m not sure how the cleaners or other poor people would benefit from this. If anything, it makes corporations even less efficient than they already are.

    2) Make CEOs and other high-income professionals, as you say so succintly, “giv[e] a portion of his disgustingly enormous income to the poor.” Well, this is fairly easy to administer. Have employers take it out of the paychecks. Let’s look at taking out, say, 2% of the net (not that it shouldn’t be more, but just as an example). Take a top law firm with two hundred partners averaging a million bucks and netting 500K, they each have 10K taken off the top. That’s two million bucks, from one such firm (and there are many). Now figure out a way to distribute this money, either directly or via a charity — let’s say Children’s Network International which I like very much and has a very high distribution to admin ratio. Then that dirty CEO money is going to help fund a school in Kenya for children whose parents have died of AIDS, a food box program for hungry families in the US, sending a team of doctors to third world countries, etc.

    So, you may say #2 is part of a “system of dominance and exploitation,” but I say that I’d rather leverage this system to put food in people’s mouths TODAY rather than hold my nose and implement Pollyanna ideas that won’t actually get anything done but sound appropriately pure.

  238. maribelle

    Octo–

    RE: you and your Bellini–
    FYI–Sarcasm falls completely flat when it’s too close to the real thing. It would be like W trying to sarcastically say “sure, I fucked up Iraq, and Afghanistan, and now watch me fuck up Iran!” Where’s the sarcasm in that?

    I’m contributing $10K annually

    Anyone want to play Dueling Contributions with Octo? Not me. That’s a perfect example of the congratulatory tone another poster objected to earlier. It’s beyond tacky AND it reeks of classism. How many women here MAKE somewhere around that amount?

    DISCONNECT #1:

    “because it’s good for you”

    Is not the same argument as:

    If there were no such thing as bonuses or promotions, what’s stopping anyone from just putting in a B effort.

    Please don’t start getting slippery with words–that derails the discussion.

    The latter statement presupposes that awarding of bonuses in competitive fashion is “good for you.” Many blamers here feel (as been explained to you to the point of carpal tunnel syndrome) that the competitive model is PART OF THE PROBLEM–so it CAN’T be good for you. Without competition, patriarchy collapses.

    DISCONNECT #2:
    The cost benefit analysis involved

    COST/BENEFIT analysis DOESN”T JUST INCLUDE MONEY. That’s the part you’re missing. The argument was made that CEO’s doing their own cleaning might enrich their souls and understanding of how the world works. It might give them empathy toward those who do their shit work.

    DISCONNECT #3:
    How many of us try just as hard in a class if it’s pass-fail?

    That model completely avoids the point being made here, and equates life as a pass/fail (ie win or lose) game. Pass in this analogy = makes a lot of money and fail = scrubbing toilets. So if people aren’t willing to try and “win”, they should be made to do so by having a more intense grading system in your world. Because everyone trying to have all the money is good, right? Isn’t that how we got into this patriarchal mess, by assuming all the money power = winning?

    The other thing that drives me bats about most of your posts is that everyone is supposed to make baby steps of change perpetually, forever, following the rules of the patriarchal system and hoping for the best.

    ~When the subject is femininity, you say *wear heels and makeup to first be accepted by men, then you can change things.*
    ~When the subject is money, you say *have to have it to make change* (Tell that to Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, Jesus of Nazareth for that matter.)
    ~When the subject is capitalism, you say “it’s (1) the current system, and the one we have to work with in making decisions, and (2) the one that I think will erupt out of any other system because of human nature.” In other words, nothing’s ever going to change. Good thing you got yours first–and now you try to hold on to it and still feel progressive at the same time. Whatever.

    When I read your posts, I see how patriarchy has succeeded and triumphed for all these years–men and women like you who insist nothing can really change so just grab all the goodies you can and toss a few coins down to the little folks to help even things up.

  239. Octogalore

    Maribelle — you know, I read that and it just shows you’re projecting some kind of image and then talking to that. You’re not really responding.

    You’ve misquoted what I have said about femininity, by the way, but whatever you need to believe.

    If you feel I am insisting “nothing can really change” because a vested interest, go with that. That’s fine. If you feel my mentioning contributions is less meaningful than the scores of others who’ve done so just because money’s involved, fine. Did you grasp that I called myself a moneygrubber in that context, and said in a further post that I too don’t think this is as meaningful as giving time and that my plan is to phase into doing more of the latter?

    The reason I’m arguing for practical solutions is that, while I agree with you that “CEO’s doing their own cleaning might enrich their souls and understanding of how the world works. It might give them empathy toward those who do their shit work,” I don’t see that happening. Do you? By all means, if I’m missing something, tell me what that is. How would we administer that?

    I believe that if we can redistribute some income in a doable way, we should do that. In the meantime, people more visionary than I am should certainly work on how to change the paradigm, and if you have any ideas about how to do that beyond just what the ideal world would look like, I’m sincerely interested in hearing them. But I have not heard any.

    Louisa’s example of the doctor phasing into a humanitarian mode did strike me as a realistic model and it’s one I am striving towards. But your trying to shame me by throwing out fantasyland ideas and then saying mine, which I’ve tried to demonstrate could help people, are shit and that I’m shit, don’t really make much of an impact, I’m afraid.

    If indeed you can demonstrate a better way than the admittedly incremental things I am suggesting, than go for it. I’m all ears.

  240. Octogalore

    And PS, Mari:

    “COST/BENEFIT analysis DOESN”T JUST INCLUDE MONEY. That’s the part you’re missing. The argument was made that CEO’s doing their own cleaning might enrich their souls and understanding of how the world works. It might give them empathy toward those who do their shit work”

    You know, the thing is, c/b analysis actually kinda does focus around money. Poor people can’t eat CEO enrichment. My analysis of benefit is in the currency that is going to put money in their mouths. If you actually gave them a voice in this and asked if they’d prefer the CEO enrichment idea or getting part of the CEO paycheck, what do you think they’d say?

    In another context, there are many ways to incorporate less quantitative characteristics into C/B analysis, but in this particular one, we were discussing economic benefit to poor people (or at least I thought we were).

    Do you feel that if a system could actually be implemented such that a CEO was forced to do his/her own handiwork there would be some kind of awakening on the part of that person? I suppose it makes me a capitalist pawn to be pessimistic about this particular outcome?

    And finally. I’m probably about among the more bleeding heart types you’re likely to encounter in your activism work on these particular fronts. And I’ve never launched the first insult — I challenge you to go back on all the posts and find one instance where I’ve done that. If you can’t communicate with me without insulting me, you have no chance of communicating effectively with all the — believe it or not — much more moneygrubbing, pessimistic, stuck-in-their-ways folks out there. If you really want to put your points across, there are more effective ways of doing so, if your goals actually are to revolutionize things and not just to lash out.

  241. mearl

    Octogalore, I hate to say it but I’m with maribelle, and not just because she gave me virtual guacamole earlier (although guacamole, like flattery, will get you everywhere!). It’s good to see that someone who has privilege is trying to do something different with it, but in terms of revolution or long-term, streamed solutions, it won’t make much change. When there isn’t much incentive for change in the dominant classes, that’s when human nature sets in and people just go back to the whole self-interested, ladi-dadi-life’s-a-party way of doing things. It’s when enough people get mad and demand MAJOR changes and start burning shit down and screaming to be heard that things change in a big way. You can’t buy experience. When someone has experienced something in a way they never have before (like, perhaps, what does it FEEL like to clean their own hair up from the carpet), that’s when realisation sets in. Sitting in a gilded fortress and showering money upon the unfortunates below, while it helps, will never make a CEO understand why the unfortunates are so unfortunate.

    Incidentally, men are more likely to contribute a portion of their income to charities each year, while women are more likely to do the hands-on, unpaid and undervalued work of volunteering. Money doesn’t solve everything. It takes effort and time and hard, hard work to get things done in the world that need to be done. You can’t always shuffle it off on someone else and hand them a wad of cash and think that makes it ok. SOMEONE is going to have to put in that effort and time and hard work, so it might as well be all of us.

  242. Octogalore

    Mearl, no problem and if I could do anything besides boil water I’d try to earn your praises via culinary skills. Unfortunately I will have to work on doing that in other ways that may not work either, alas. But hopefully, some flattery as to the effectiveness of the way you lay out your points will go some small distance.

    I still am having problems with the implementation portion of the “making rich people experience things” idea I’m afraid. I have a difficult time really embracing ideas that do sound like good ones if I don’t understand how we will get to them. Maybe that’s a personality defect or a lack of visionary ability. But how do we make this happen?

    I do agree with your point about experience, it’s probably the most effective way to set forth why the CEO gardening thing is a good idea. Permit me this twist. Getting a professional to do things that he/she can easily contract out on the sly will just simply not work. But what about mandatory days, say twice a month or whatever, in which the CEO will need to volunteer at a homeless or DV shelter. There would be a specific place he/she would need to go etc. Maybe that’s something one could actually make happen, and I agree with you, it would do a lot of good.

    Now as to the contribution of money vs time thing. I agree with whoever said it above, it was tacky of me to mention how much I contribute. I felt defensive and acted childish. As a former nerd/brain/odd crocheted poncho type of person in school, it’s pretty easy for me to regress back to that time period and act accordingly.

    But while money doesn’t solve anything, it ain’t all that bad. If you look on the charity website I mentioned, the money actually does go to do real stuff. If a woman is working full time for a portion of her life, she may decide to do what you say many men do and contribute income rather than time during that portion. If we want to avoid the marriage/leverage issues discussed above, we should be understanding that this may be a realistic solution for a period of time. If it’s always man/paid job and woman/volunteer job, we’re back to the marriage inequity situation.

    That said, you’re right — it’s good for everyone to have a portion of their lives in which they make the time to volunteer to help someone who really needs it. (I volunteer now for my daughter’s school, but I don’t see that as all that revolutionary). We all need those wake-up calls. Because of my work schedule, I’ve decided to postpone more active hands-on stuff until my daughter’s in school full time, as I already feel bad about the amount of time I spend with her. But if I remain healthy into my 40s and 50s, I hope to have ample time in the 12-year range to do this. I have some rough plans for a career counseling/mentoring nonprofit focusing around lower income women that I’ve talked about occasionally with my networking group. Hopefully, by hanging around here and other places, my plans in this regard will solidify and will become more than just the words they are now.

    In any case, as to the CEO experience (and obviously not just CEOs, that’s shorthand) idea, possibly you can fine tune the “people get mad and demand MAJOR changes” strategy to come up with an idea to implement some kind of offsite volunteer program. I think it would be a workable idea and would be happy to strategize with anyone about how one could start making it happen.

  243. slythwolf

    You know, I was just thinking. When I was in high school I used to go and clean house for my mom’s friend, a disabled woman. I volunteered to do it; it started out as an idea for a community service project for a class, and then it became just something I did for her, to help her out. I would go over every week or so and dust and vaccuum and reorganize her pots and pans so she could get to them, and about once a month I would clean her silver. She had a lot of silver. She and my mom used to pick it up for fifty cents here and there at Goodwill, because Goodwill never knows what they have.

    After a couple of months of this she offered to recommend me to some of her work friends, to clean their houses too. And I refused. I think I felt like there was a difference between helping someone out who needed it, just because they needed it, and being a bunch of people’s maid. I’m sad and angry that large portions of the population don’t have the option to refuse to be people’s maid, because that’s the job they can get and they have to eat, and that they then don’t get to eat all that much because they aren’t paid anywhere near what they’re worth. And I blame the patriarchy.

  244. Bonnie

    *Cleaning is even more complicated than childcare or plumbing or carpentry because, as I said, it is constant and ongoing. Children grow up, houses get built, plumbing or other similar tradespeople are only needed occasionally. Cleaning is an everyday or at least every week thing.

    Go ahead, continue to mock and denigrate all but housework. But I’m the one who had air-conditioning in Vegas on July 3rd, when the temp was 109 and my elderly parents were visiting, because Firebird and I had the skills to change out and wire a motor. No amount of money could make a repair tech show up until July 5th at the earliest.

    Maintaining the house IS a daily happening – shit needs fixin’ all the time (ever plug up a garbage disposal?).

    And frankly cleaning is definitely not more complicated than childcare. More tedious, absolutely yes. Complicated, merely because it’s daily/weekly – not so much.

  245. Ruth

    Oops maribelle, sorry.

    “I’ve decided to postpone more active hands-on stuff until my daughter’s in school full time, as I already feel bad about the amount of time I spend with her.”

    Spoken as a true member of the patriarchal underclass Octogalore, guilt for spending too much time with the kid/s, guilt for spending too little, these are the choices. Step away from that toilet, enjoy this time with your daughter, teach her to be a blamer and a revolutionary.

  246. V.

    If you compare the tenor of this thread to the one on marriage, it looks like many women are more attached to their cleaners than their husbands!

    Also, my eyes are rolling like marbles in a tin can at the idea that cleaning is more complicated than childcare.

  247. Octogalore

    Ruth:

    when I said “I’ve decided to postpone more active hands-on stuff until my daughter’s in school full time, as I already feel bad about the amount of time I spend with her”

    I meant I felt bad that I don’t spend ENOUGH time. Working full time, how could I feel guilty about spending too MUCH time?

    And although you say this is “Spoken as a true member of the patriarchal underclass,” and I agree with you that far too many women feel trapped between guilt about too much and too little time, I have to say that Nigel too feels guilt about too little time.

    Then again, I do feel more. So you’re absolutely right — that happy medium doesn’t exist for women, 99.9% of the time.

  248. Frumious B

    why is it that this job is considered in such a negative light? Is it due to its association with women?

    Yes.

    The frequency of housework is a large part of the gendering. Women tend to do the repetitive tasks (think cooking dinner*) while men tend to do the more labor intensive but less frequent tasks (think mowing the lawn*). The “women’s work” is, as others have noted, far more denigrated and perceived as less skilled and less valuable.

    *my spidey sense says these examples will be turned into some kind of detailed list of every possible chore and how it could be more or less difficult and eventually end at the conclusion that because cooking a 4 course meal for 12 is more difficult than cutting the grass with a riding mower and a beer that non-housework chores don’t get no respect AND DAMMIT THEY SHOULD B/C THEY ARE HARD. Geez. Been reading too many comments here.

    *Cleaning is even more complicated than childcare or plumbing or carpentry because, as I said, it is constant and ongoing.

    My take on this comment is that childcare is more complicated to analyze rather than more complicated to do. I disagree. Children do grow up, but they take a really long time to do so. I’ve noticed that for many families, the childcare continues even after the children have moved out of the house. Even with a small family where the kids are cut off when they hit 18, that’s a good two decades of constant, ongoing care.

  249. Frumious B

    Aw, hell. I’m missing a /blockquote at the end of the first sentence. Every after the “Yes” but before the comment about complicated cleaning is my own words.

  250. maribelle

    I agree with whoever said it above, it was tacky of me to mention how much I contribute.

    It was me. Your apology is accepted.

    Octo, my goal was not to shame you or say “you’re shit.” If I wanted to say that, I would. I think, rather, that you are very typical of a certain liberal upper-class member.

    Please don’t say I’m not “responding” when I took the time to comb through your words and quote you accurately*, and carefully laid out what is my great concern about your arguments, here and in other threads. There is a pattern emerging that is disturbing to me and I outlined it as carefully as I could. (*RE: femininity, I used *’s instead of quotations to acknowledge paraphrase. Why not respond to the actual quotes that WERE yours?)

    If you don’t like my tone, you might consider omitting dripping sarcasm yourself as that’s where your argument really sounded Marie Antoinette-ish. I doubt MA ever said “let them eat cake” but if she did, she was probably being sarcastic. I don’t think the crowd appreciated the “joke”.

    RE: Cost/benefit analysis–I know the term relates to money (I was an accountant.) What I (and others) are suggesting is that the formulation should be stood on its ear.

    RE: CEO’s being FORCED to garden and scrub toilets–as I see it, feminism isn’t about forcing anyone to do anything. The question is what is valued and prized in our society. Community service is valued by corporations only as a PR gesture.

    RE: Human nature–there’s nature and there’s nurture. In some primitive cultures, people don’t have money, share resources and rape is unheard of. It can be done.

    Perhaps our culture is too far gone and too toxic. If that is the case, we are all doomed. And that’s why these arguments get so passionate–there’s a lot of change needed, desperately, RIGHT NOW and so many people (like you IMO) encourage us to work slowly and within the corrupt system. Nothings going to change that way–that’s why things continue as they are.

  251. ms. jared

    If you compare the tenor of this thread to the one on marriage, it looks like many women are more attached to their cleaners than their husbands!

    That’s exactly what *I* was thinking!

  252. maribelle

    RE: “childcare”- to clarify; this is not just wiping some kid’s ass and keeping them out of traffic.

    Taking charge of the development of a human being from the age of 0 to 18 (or more) and teaching them to communicate, interact productively and empathetically with the rest of creation is the most daunting task most parents (especially mothers) will ever face in their lives. It is not on the same plane with grout scrubbing, no not even the stubborn, rusty stains.

  253. tinfoil hattie

    Hmmm. Childcare is ongoinog and constant, and not really optional, and cleaning often is, depending on your tolerance for mess. Which is why my kids are happy and my house is a f***ing s***hole.

  254. Nia

    I find this a much palatable article than the one on marriage, simply because I enteirely agree. It is one of those posts that say exactly what I thought but had no words for.

    I can’t be completely against marriage as I think that depending on the shape the laws give it, it protects women and children against some forms of male abuse.

  255. CoolAunt

    I, too, find it much less painful to justify my decisions and actions than it is to admit that I’m often wrong, never perfect and seldom do I live by the feminist ideals that I admire.

    While it’s so much easier to justify and carry on, I find that I grow more when I face myself head-on. I don’t always have what it takes to change, to become more like the ideal feminist image that I admire, but it’s better than diminishing that ideal so that it looks more like me.

  256. CoolAunt

    PS: That comment was not directed at you, Nia.

  257. Border Heeler

    Nia: “I can’t be completely against marriage as I think that depending on the shape the laws give it, it protects women and children against some forms of male abuse.”

    Ah, yes. The old protection racket.

    Marry me and I will protect you.
    Protect me from what?
    From all those dangerous people out there.
    Who, exactly, are the dangerous people?
    Men.
    Wait, aren’t you a man?
    Well, yes. But if you give me your body and your labor, I will protect you from those other men. And if you are extremely lucky, or the laws are extremely good, I won’t abuse you myself. (But if I do, at least you will have only one abuser.)

    Compare:
    Give me money every week and I will protect your business.
    Protect me from what?
    The dangerous people out there who burn down businesses.
    Who, exactly, are the dangerous people?
    Criminals who demand money to leave you alone.
    Wait, aren’t you one of these criminals?
    Well, yes. But if you pay me, I will leave you alone and I will make sure others do, too.

    A racket.

  258. Octogalore

    Agree with Border. Marriage shouldn’t be about protection, and if that’s the motivation, it’s won’t work.

    CoolAunt: you’re right that whatever makes for most personal growth is the best way to go. However, it’s important to understand that your ideal of the perfect feminist is not necessarily a universal one. And that some justifications, while if you said them they would be exactly that based on your beliefs, are actually not justifications for another woman. They might be entirely consistent with her feminist ideals.

    If we are saying that only our feminist ideals are the correct ones, and that if someone’s set of values diverges then she’s delusional and needs to be taken in hand, that strikes me as patriarchal. It’s easy to point the finger and say I’m better because I feel shame, whereas she actually thinks she is being a feminist, the silly goose. Who are we to say who should feel shame, and who is a feminist?

  259. Lurker

    I’m amazed at the number of people advocating that certain people should be required by the state to perform later.

    What would be the punishment for not showing? A fine? A CEO would happily pay it. Prison? So, feminists advocate sending people to prison unless they do the labor the state demands of them? Niiiiiiice.

  260. Octogalore

    Lurker, there are a number of ways to do it. Professional organizations implementing suggested codes of ethics, for example. Of course nobody (I don’t hink) is suggesting prison. Ethical codes do work because businesses want to market themselves to students who haven’t yet lost their idealism. If company A decided it was going to do this and called a meeting of its execs and said here’s what we’re going to do, you wouldn’t have people deciding not to do it. And then from the “how to make it stick” perspective, company A would be able to communicate to the marketplace that it encourages this and actually does it, and others might fall in line.

    Then, the theory that some have espoused here, is that some percentage of the folks would be enhanced by these experiences and woudl embrace them above and beyond their being a corporate goal, and that this would have a larger impact.

    Do you feel that the pro bono guidelines some state Bars have suggested (not that I’m arguing they are adequate or completely effecctive) are “labor requirements”? Of course not.

    Please don’t construct straw arguments.

    But note, those of you who think my incremental suggestions are a cop out, with people like Lurker around, how do you expect that we’ll get to revolution without such steps?

  261. maribelle

    people advocating that certain people should be required by the state to perform later.

    If you mean “labor”, then I am amazed at the people that cannot think of any change outside of the patriarchal framework of requirements, force and punishment.

    CoolAunt–right the fuck on:

    While it’s so much easier to justify and carry on, I find that I grow more when I face myself head-on. I don’t always have what it takes to change, to become more like the ideal feminist image that I admire, but it’s better than diminishing that ideal so that it looks more like me.

    You obviously hit a nerve with Octo, who had to edit your idea into a ludicrous strawwoman (as is her M.O.):

    if someone’s set of values diverges then she’s delusional and needs to be taken in hand

  262. Lurker

    Octogalore– Obviously, the CEOs would write it up so that they wouldn’t have to vacuum themselves. They would push such obligations further down the chain. To use your pro bono example, the named partners rarely do pro bono; the low-level associates do. The theory that somebody would be transformed by vacuuming (as if they didn’t vacuum when they were younger and starting out) is absurd on its face.

    And requiring pro bono *is* forced labor. My bar association says it is “recommended”. Considering I already sixty hour weeks and pay a boatload in taxes, I’m more than happy to turn down their “recommendation”.

  263. delphyne

    I agree lurker, I don’t think CEOs vacuuming would change them. It would take up their time and energy though, in the same way women’s time and energy are taken up by being forced into the domestic role, whilst men’s time and energy are freed up because there are often women around to clean up after them, iron their shirts, make their dinner.

    If men did their fair share the world would look very different. Women would have more time to pursue their own interests and men would have less, including time to dominate women.

  264. Niki

    Childcare is only not optional once you’ve had the child, which is your first option.

  265. Lulker

    Delphyne– okay, so how would *you* enforce CEOs having to vacuum? Would it be voluntary?

  266. Octogalore

    Oh, Mari, please, a nerve? Why so dramatic? I disagreed with her. If you want to elevate it into melodrama, though, and depict me as angsting under my unconsciously bleeding heart, go for it, but it’s not actually reality.

    But if the goal is trying as hard as we can to live out our principles, I do have a point to make. Although I’ve been hesitating to make it.

    Aren’t our households microcosms of patriarchy (esp if they are marriages, as Twisty suggests earlier)? In that case, our household activism should be a great testing ground. If genuflecting before the ideal of the perfect feminist, rather than feeling good about taking actual steps, is the way to go here, surely the women in the former category who have male partners have gained sufficient self knowledge and self esteem to insist on parity within their own households, no?

    However, your comment here indicates that you put up with some extremely patriarchal behavior from “the most feminist man I could ever hope to find.” For someone who advocates “looking at oneself head on” and is so clearly scornful of someone who doesn’t fit your ideal feminist image but is doing her best to take some positive steps (and has never said they’re enough or great)… this seems quite hypocritical.

    First, you say he “simply cannot see himself as wrong about anything” but then applaud that he’s at least “trainable.” You claim “our marriage will be forever unequal” but don’t seem prepared to demand it.

    Next, apparently he cannot accept that you may know something he doesn’t: “, it fries his ass and he has to look it up independently.” I mean, please, if Nigel had to do that every time I knew something he didn’t, he’d have to quit his job. And Nigel, who BTW is far from perfect, does have an advanced degree just as your husband does, and is no cerebral slouch. If I caught him lying about things just to trump my knowledge base, not to mention unwilling to admit being wrong, he’d be out.

    Worse, your husband has “the privilege of thinking he’s better at something than I am. Anything and everything, including my areas of professional and amateur expertise.” Now, since clearly you are an eclectic person, this seems intolerable. And yet you apparently tolerate it.

    Your husband is apparently able to choose his own work, whereas you are “expected to pick up the rest.”

    And finally, you indicate that “on the good side” he allows you to travel with your daughter without giving you grief! I didn’t realize that was one of the specials; isn’t just a core menu item? How could this be anything other than your unalienable right?

    If that’s “the most feminist man I could ever hope to find,” I think you could have set your sights more than a tad higher.

    The point is not to make you feel bad about something you already feel bad about. But I’ve now been the receptacle for your scorn too many times not to point out what to me seems obvious. If you’re such a strong, enlightened feminist whereas I’m a weak rationalizer, then why haven’t you stood up for what you deserve in the most fundamental microcosm of the patriarchy for a partnered woman?

    And please don’t say “oh, because you’re a corporate sellout, you’re able to discipline Nigel by flicking your wallet at him.” Tain’t so. When I married Nigel, I was in massive debt and making far less than he was at a job which was commission only – no guaranteed minimum. For the first couple of years of our marriage, I didn’t have any kind of economic clout, but I didn’t tolerate any of the issues you raise above.

    So now that you’ve pushed past what I thought was a very friendly and constructive interchange between myself and mearl and kept at me with your scorn, here’s one right back at you. Don’t worry about my life and my values. Why not take your finely honed principles and apply them closer to home?

  267. CoolAunt

    Maribelle posted, “You obviously hit a nerve with Octo, who had to edit your idea into a ludicrous strawwoman…”

    I expected no less.

  268. mearl

    I have to make a comment on a coupla things before I go on in my reading of subsequent posts. Bonnie said, “And frankly cleaning is definitely not more complicated than childcare. More tedious, absolutely yes. Complicated, merely because it’s daily/weekly – not so much.”

    In my own vision of a revolutionary society, childcare would be the UTMOST important thing, because if you care for and help a kid develop as a happy, healthy person and never treat them with respect, as though they are somehow stuck in childhood and will never grow up to be a person who is the sum of all their experiences in their young past, you will have a happy, healthy society with people who are hopefully critical thinking, caring beings who have moved beyond their selfish state into a state of global thinking and empathy. This is very complicated, but not unlike Firestone, I consider this responsibility to be the whole society’s. Men need to see that early childhood education and care are the deciding factors on whether your society is healthy, successful and runs smoothly, or if it is chaos. Men don’t make that connection because they have always been misogynist and associate women with children simply because children come out of women’s bodies. Complete silliness, I say. To undervalue a person’s status at the infant stage as opposed to its adult stage is so remiss I can’t even grasp it.

    Anyhow, I think it’s in the interests of the society and the parents of a child (this means caregivers, not just biological parents) and equally in the interests of men and the government to make child-rearing a priority. That said, I don’t think people should have to set up a business racket for something so bloody important, because it feeds into the selfish principle that one is only out to increase efficiency and cut costs in the interest of profit. Unlike Firestone, however, I hesitate when thinking about a completely collective way of allowing children to develop and live, given the FACT that children go through stages where they are in need of protection, and do not understand how to read someone who is lying, etc. As long as men exist in our society, children will need protection from their sexual advances, and as long as the majority of society is not taking steps to be global thinking and empathetic, children need to stick by the person or people who actually cares about their welfare.

    I also disagree with the idea that children and houses need the same amount of care and rearing in the long run. Houses don’t develop, really. Dust settles, mud gets tracked in, yes. But it doesn’t constantly change from one thing to another with more layers building upon layers of complication (unless of course your house is becoming huger and more complex by the year, the way a kid does), it doesn’t happen in life stages, and it never, EVER stops.

    I’m tired after work right now and losing my train of thought, but in my own estimation, although housework is massively necessary to a society, it is not on par with childcare in terms of value or importance. If you don’t dust your armoire, it’s not going to go on a shooting spree one day. I have nothing but admiration for anyone who can repair their air conditioning or fix their own motor. But these things are NOT daily or weekly repeat tasks. One thing after another will happen, sure, but the same item doesn’t break down, day after day, week after week. So yes, housework, laundry, cooking, dishes are all different from home repair and maintenance. I know this from experience. And if you saw how riled up I can get on the question of whether housework is important or not, you would understand that I don’t take this subject lightly. I’ve practically thrown a guy out of my house when he didn’t know how to do dishes at the age of 21. Why? He came over to make me a “romantic” dinner using my pots and pans, but then left the whole mess for me to clean. I asked why he’d do such a stupid thing, and he replied that his mom had always done dishes. This was, as you may well guess, an unacceptable answer. He got a lecture, was made to do dishes, and then was told not to bother calling me again because I can’t EVER see things working out between me and a lazy toddler. In conclusion, I think that male-defined jobs like carpentry, engineering, mechanics, repairs, etc. are important and should be learned and done to what extent each person can, but it is not a massive watershed to hire it out, since these items will only need to be employed occasionally as opposed to the thankless “everyday” of female-defined jobs.

    However, it is precisely BECAUSE housework is viewed as “domestic work” and attributed to women, the change has to be taken up in terms of gender. Men make messes, women clean them up. If you’re going to contract out housecleaning, you can’t only do it to underprivileged women and call it feminist. Men need to be pushed to take it up FIRST in their own homes, and then if that goal is achieved and things are STILL too much for one family or one individual to handle, then we’d have to look at making housework a contracted business job, but not one that is restricted to female pee-ons. Don’t even ask me how I could possibly recommend to solving that one, But it’s the moral ground I stand on: blame men first, ask questions later.

    And last, if we don’t have a revolution and force men and CEO’s to take notice of the demands of the underclasses, it’s not like they will eventually come around to our point of view and benevolently clean their own offices on a regular basis and happily hand over their millions to the people who have nothing to eat. Things are too ingrained for the privileged to just decide in their own lifetimes that they should be more generous or value things differently. Of course they need to be forced to see. How that force is enacted, though, is the difference. Group action and group demands and protesting both on an individual level and as a solid entity will get the underclasses farther than anything. I’m still hopeful. When I look at history, it is usually the points at which everything came to a boil that revolutions erupted, and it took revolutions for even baby steps to be made and policies implemented. Human nature has not changed, so I have to be prepared to fight tooth and nail for what I want to see happen.

  269. V.

    Wow, Octogalore, aren’t you waving your self-righteousness around like a patriotic flag? (Sarcasm and pun fully intended.)

    Maribelle made it clear that she is wrestling with the core issues of how the patriarchy is affecting her and her relationship.

    The key term here is wrestling. She is engaging in the process of grief and introspection tha is so often required when one confronts oppression.

    She is not, I would note, resting on the laurels of her class status, secure in her benevolent effect on the poor.

    And I, for one, am sick to death of antifeminists insinuating that the patriarchy doesn’t exist, and that the fault lies in the individual woman who wasn’t as strong or assertive as they.

    I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, thining that your obvious defensiveness in this thread was a sign of some deeper process emerging.

    Your last smug remarks indicate that I was wrong to do so.

    Feel free to float in the shallows. You are obviously quite comfortable where you are.

    The rest of us will continue to engage.

  270. mearl

    I actually think I may have been massively influenced by Frank Baum’s “Oz” series as a child, where in the society of Oz, people exchanged goods and services because they were all invested in the society running efficiently and everyone being happy. There existed no such thing as money. Maybe this is where my ideas come from? I have to think about it some more.

  271. mearl

    P.S. sorry about the lousy sentence structure. I am so tired.

  272. Iris

    Ahem. I just wanted to turn attention back to comment made earlier, I *think* by Mearle (or Maribelle? sorry!) that shouted loud and clear: we cannot destroy the P without revolutions of many stripes on many levels. This includes analyses-difficult for white middle-class women who live in Capitalist Imperialist countries, no doubt-of all insidious types of oppression and competition. Octo-entertain for a moment that ‘revolution’ means armed insurrection. Your capitalist neighbor does not give quarter when you simply ask for it, neither does your rapist, CEO or slave master. The cynicism about other communist ‘experiments’ and suggestions of incremental change (my derisive laughter will now be directed at ‘voting’ and ‘charity’) are overwhelmingly solutions from the priveleged. If you are a Nepalese woman living in a fuedal system, walking 13 miles to a well every day, revolution is not something you just dream about-you’ve already picked up a rifle and joined a co ed fighting force. If you are a brown peasant facing forced migration due to water shortages (hey, climate change!) and the World Bank has privatized access to any water at all, your daughters facing the fact that 73% of your companeras will be raped in their lifetime, you may have already been on night raids or riots to destroy the Capitol Building. If you live in a system where the law upholds rape as an appropriate tool to uphold patriarchy…oh wait, THATS ALL OF US.

    Revolution is not just theory and of course its not romanticized warfare. It is a complete transformation of society! It is, out of neccesity, desperation, moral urgency-insurrection. It’s the hope of the hopeless.

    I love all the women in this room and appreciate their voices. Some here have belied their high comfort level. Let us make revolution because it is life and death to do so!

  273. Iris

    A quick apology! I was not intending to derail the thread and meant to be short. My post was not an attempt to accuse women of suffering less than third world counterparts, etc. I didn’t pop up to quantify oppression. I just wanted to say that most of us have been in dire straits at one time or another, even though occupying a place of extreme privelege by international standards. Many of us have been raped, abused and broken down by capitalism-because we were meant to be! So I have been perched on the edge of my seat while following this thread-most of us have said “Revolution!” but no one has said “Let’s burn down City Hall and take in hand the menz/P sympathizers who have set up shop there!”, or, probably more appropriately: “How do we get to a world worth living for? What will it take to halt Patriarchy and the Capitalist system which enforces it?” Also, a correction: in Nepal, if you’re a woman who has fought in the People’s War, you probably painfully cast off your insanely patriarchal family unit and joined and all woman brigade, commanded by women. See “The People’s War in Nepal” by Li Onesto. She documents the women’s struggle quite well. ***Oh, and one of my favorite books: For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women (Erenreich, English) And (!) a reflexive response to a possible question: Isn’t war a patriarchal tool? Well, does pascifism protect the state? Have women fought men and nation states in warfare historically? Answers: yes and YES!

  274. Octogalore

    V., it’s clear that where one comes out on particular issues here is going to affect how what one writes is characterized. While I’m sure you can dredge up ten quotes where I sound smug, I can find ten where you do, and I can also find ten in which I’m saying I’m not where I want to be in a multitude of ways. You have no problem skipping over those. Ultimately, going through this exercise won’t be a good use of time for either of us, as you’ve made up your mind.

    While “engaging” and “wrestling” are all very well, I think it’s important to actually DO. If we think male/female relationships are inherently patriarchal, and if we are intelligent, resourceful people who can support ourselves, as many of us appear to be, then why not direct the fire and brimstone at the real culprit, rather than me. I mean, as apparently “antifeminist” and “patriarchal” as I am purported to be, I would not treat anyone as some of the apparently tolerated husbands here do.

    And in saying I wouldn’t tolerate this treatment, the goal wasn’t to be “smug” as you apparently decided was the case. The idea was to suggest that nobody should, and that if introspection isn’t getting you to a place where you’re stepping up to the bullshit and saying it needs to stop, maybe it’s time for a change of strategy.

  275. Iris

    Oh, Maribelle! Your daughter will be a squadron leader in the up coming Revolution?

    I am shedding tears of joy! I shall wave the red taco-emblazoned banner which will surely announce our presence to the enemy.

  276. Iris

    Octo, don’t Republicans point out to the ‘lower’ classes their own character flaws as the reason for their position in society? This is a radfem blog, and the posters are honest about their own participation in the system -past and present-*for survival* because this dissection of Patriarchy in our own lives is necessary to solve the problem. The fact that we capitulate (as if we have choices!) to an oppressive system *for survival* is indicative of the insidious and pervasive nature of the P. Isn’t this what Maribelle meant? Isn’t this what we are all saying when we say we regret (het) marriage or that we ‘put up’ with our husbands for the occasional saving grace? If you were not being self righteous, you were certainly showing signs of middle/upper class ‘individualism’ – a trapping of privilege. You seem yourself to have made the decision to ‘put up’ with a capitalist (and therefore patriarchal) system by choosing a reformist (see ‘voting’, ‘charity’)/incremental approach to changing a world you admit you don’t like, have you not? Perhaps it’s time for a strategy change!

  277. Nabil

    While I am glad to see that the oppression of housecleaners is being thoroughly discussed, I’m disgusted that another heinous oppression referenced in the previous thread has been completely overlooked. I am referring, of course, to repeated references to living in old age on communes with cats– a clear reference to the oppression of nonhuman animals.

    Housecats are deprived of their desires to kill animals and forced into the oppressive work of “cuteness”– adult cats are infantalized for the sake of pleasing their oppressive human masters. If they fail in this work, or worse yet if they rebel against their oppression by pissing on things and clawing other things, they are put to death. What kind of utopia relies on feline oppression in order to keep humans amused?

    I, of course, “own”– telling language, is it not?– two cats. As well as periodically engaging in the sordid exchange of cash for housework.

    I also have been known to shop at Old Navy.

    IBTP.

  278. Octogalore

    Iris – I’m not blaming anyone for participation in the system in general; as you say, I certainly do.

    However, you say “we capitulate (as if we have choices!) to an oppressive system.” I do think we sometimes have choices. Of course, not all the time. But I think revolution begins at home, and before, or while, tackling the larger paradigm shift, or criticizing others who have a different approach, it may make sense to ask ourselves if we might be “capitulating” more than is necessary on the home front.

    “Individualism” isn’t a bad thing, and in fact, I have chosen to cut off avenues for capitulation long before I was middle/upper class. I chose to get married later, and have been jobless for periods of time before that without any parental assistance (which is a joke for reasons I won’t bore you with). That’s not some sniveling attempt to get pity, but to acknowledge that it’s easy to say “give the sucker an ultimatum” from a secure position. And I don’t blame you for feeling this is privilege speaking. However, I’ve cut off opportunities for security, and relationships that offered it, for some of the same behaviors others have mentioned, during times with no security and no steady employment. Not because I’m so special that I alone deserve better, but because ALL women do.

    And while yes, sometimes it’s not possible, I suspect there are times when it is, and when the frustration that we’re not taking steps evidences itself in critiquing other women when we should be directing those feelings elsewhere.

  279. Anne

    On one hand, activist feminism tells women to stop staying home.

    So, some of us have 50- to 60-hour-a-week jobs. When you’re working 12 hour days……where the hell are you supposed to get the energy to clean the bathroom or do the laundry?

    I hire someone to do my housework. I pay her a decent salary. I don’t feel any guilt or shame over this. I’m not losing my competitive edge or stopping my hard work to do my laundry; it is simply something I am forced to depend on someone else for, much like I depend on farmers to grow my food.

  280. Bonnie

    mearl, I concur 100% – child rearing should be society’s number one priority and highest value, without question.

    ——-

    My personal revolution is that I choose for myself what my role is. I do not allow myself to be defined by “woman = housework” or “lesbian = car mechanic / carpenter / bitch / etc.” What I do is my choice, how I see myself in society is my choice, how I react to my situations is my choice. If that ain’t it’s own revolution, I don’t know what is.

    Have I ever made compromises? Sure. We all do. But folks, we’re all on the same side here. We all recognize the dangers inherent in the patriarchy. Some of us come at it from a scholarly perspective, some from an in-practice perspective, others from perspectives with which I have no personal experience yet which I respect. In my opinion engaging in the recent up-thread internecine fights is highly counterproductive, though, when we are all in agreement regarding what is to blame: the patriarchy.

    No one here is defending it. Everyone here has told her story of how she manages to function within it. That’s good enough for me. If you can’t win the war, at least you can fight your battle to the best of your abilities.

  281. Spunky

    You’ve got to be kidding with the cat thing. Can someone please describe for me how we’re supposed to be living? Because I’m quite confused.

  282. Simonne

    F..k, I’m getting married in 4 months, maybe I need to re-think a few things… Well, at least he’s a feminist and my boss is a gay woman with a male house cleaner… surely I’m not headed for complete disaster? I’m off to clean the loo…

  283. V.

    Bonnie, the very existence to the patriarchy means, that as women, all of our choices are circumscribed.

    That some of us have been granted more opportunities than others via the class system and economics should not ever be taken as a sign of personal (individual) triumph.

    Those opportunities have been granted to us by the very patriarchy we are patting ourselves on the back for having overcome/outsmarted.

    That’s theory. Here’s a personal example:

    When I was poor, I was able to keep the wolf from the door in several ways.

    I knew where the foodbanks were, and had transportation to go get food.

    I knew which charities delivered food to your door.

    I had the background in economics/money management/nutrition to make full use of the foods provided.

    I had the economic understanding to keep myself out of debt that I could not repay.

    I was able to access the system in order to get my ex to finally pay up.

    Now, I could tell this story as if it were about my own individual resources, grit, determination, and the ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps. (And shouldn’t everyone else be able to do as I did, as well?)

    Wouldn’t that be a comforting story?

    But I was able to ‘bootstrap’ myself up only because of my class and educational status.

    In other words, only because of the scope given to me by the patriarchy.

    If I were African-American, less-educated, or living in a less economically advantaged country, my outcome would be much, much different.

    As women, none of us are free until all of us are free.

    And Bonnie, it’s just not true that ‘all of us recognize the dangers inherent in the patriarchy.’

    I’ve listened, and some are still quite attached to telling our stories as if they were about the triumph of the will.

    That kind of myth-making is, at its root, anti-feminist.

    Those of us in the slightly more priviledged classes need to be especially vigilant to its lure.

  284. LouisaMayAlcott

    V.

    Tell it, sister!

    Every one of your words is gold.

  285. tinfoil hattie

    Aaaaand, three — two — one…”Well you are the one who had the kids, so you have only yourself to blame that they need caretaking.”

    Thanks, Niki! I knew someone would say it. You didn’t disappoint!

    Of course, you’re right. I shouldn’t have had the children, and now that I did, I have no right to comment on how much caretaking they require! Thank you SO MUCH for pointing that out. Gosh, without your snide comment, I would have thought I was being FORCED to have children! Wish I’da thought of that 11 years ago!! And they take up OXYGEN! And they’re leaving a HUGE CARBON FOOTPRINT! And I should have thought of the REST OF THE EARTH

  286. Iris

    V, thanks for your comments on circumscribed choices. I think thats what I was trying to get out by critiquing the criticism “do it, stand up to tha P, you’re not working HARD ENOUGH”, as demonstrated by octo.

    You’re so eloquent.

  287. maribelle

    V-

    But I was able to ‘bootstrap’ myself up only because of my class and educational status.

    In other words, only because of the scope given to me by the patriarchy.

    Thank you V for putting this so simply and clearly.

    I’ve listened, and some are still quite attached to telling our stories as if they were about the triumph of the will.

    Ah, yes. Wasn’t “Triumph of the Will” the name of a Hitler propaganda film?

    I once had a very conservative friend who would use my “success” at single parenting to launch on an anti-welfare tirade under the “you’ve proven it can be done!” theory. But each and every time I had to exhaustively recite the mitigating privileges I grew up with: my above-average HS education, my social position, my parent’s support (emotional, not financial), having grown up convinced I could do *anything* and surrounded by love and acceptance, the love my family gave my child, etc. She NEVER GOT THIS and would start afresh every time the subject came up. She once did this at a dinner party; it was so weird having to argue with other people who wanted to harness MY story for their own agenda.

    Also, V., thank you for understanding and articulating this:

    Maribelle made it clear that she is wrestling with the core issues of how the patriarchy is affecting her and her relationship.
    The key term here is wrestling.

  288. Octogalore

    Iris: I am not suggesting that if someone cannot do something, it’s her own fault. Please point out where you’re getting that. Suggesting particular individuals might be able to isolate areas where we can fight the patriarchy isn’t saying (1) I know for a fact they can, or (2) I believe everyone can.

    But a corollary to “we cannot assume it’s always possible to stand up to the patriarchy” is “we cannot assume it’s always impossible.”

    Please do not read that as saying what Maribelle’s conservative friend is saying: it can be done by everyone because one person did it. Obviously, that’s not correct.

    As V says, our choices are circumscribed. Who is arguing with this? That doesn’t mean we never get to pat ourselves on the back for “bootstrapping” as she did. What’s the harm in feeling good about things? As women, we need to allow ourselves to do that, without fear that others will interpret it as exclusionary.

  289. Nia

    Border Heeler, I was going to edit my comment and WordPress didn’t let me, so I didn’t post a second time. There are many times, and places, in which a wife was a man’s possession to the extent that a woman could not use the laws to defend herself from the husband’s attacks, in any way. But there is also a timid tendency inside the patriarchy to consider that after marriage, people are more bound to take care of each other than they are outside of it. It is not a question of being protected of the attacks of a third person: after breakup, it is simply easier to force a man to support a woman or her children if there was a previous marriage than if they weren’t.

    You cannot be thrown out of the house by your spouse (at least not in my country), even if the house belongs exclusively to you. In fact, in Spain you can’t even sell your primary dwelling, no matter if it’s only yours, without the spouse’s consent. But you can throw out an unmarried partner any time you want.

    What I mean is that if a woman (and sometimes a man) wants a permanent partner, it is often safer to be married than not to be. Staying single would definitely be the safest option.

  290. maribelle

    I had an interesting talk with the dh a few nights ago about the pitfalls of patriarchy in our marriage. He shocked me by reciting a long list of things that he thinks I do better than he does. Amazing.

    Also, he said something interesting that pertains to this thread:

    “I never wanted to be a patriarch. I loathe patriarchy. And yet somehow, when we got married, I became a patriarch. I don’t know how it happened.”

    Learning, growing and honest communication are all prioritized in this house.

    ***

    Hi, Iris–

    Oh, Maribelle! Your daughter will be a squadron leader in the up coming Revolution?

    I am shedding tears of joy! I shall wave the red taco-emblazoned banner which will surely announce our presence to the enemy.

    Lol–thanks. (Do you ever go the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? If so, you can meet my Wild Irish Rose in person. We go every year.)

  291. Lindsay Beyerstein

    I don’t think that it’s unethical to hire someone to do domestic work, provided you pay them well and treat them respectfully. Obviously, being ethical in your business dealings doesn’t make you a progressive saint–but nobody said it did.

    I’m in an unusual position because I managed to win the feminist battle surrounding the equitable distribution of domestic work. My partner does everything except the cooking and the food shopping. Frankly, I feel really guilty sometimes, but I have him over the barrel: He cares and I don’t give a damn. (I do half of what I think would be reasonable. Again with who gets to define the standards of “clean.”) So, a lot of shit just doesn’t get done.

    I know he’d be a lot happier if we lived in the kind of spotless home that he grew up in. (Of course his mom was SAHM and had a cleaning lady, so he internalized certain bourgeois standards that were predicated on a lot of patriarchy-approved labor.) In our current life, neither of us has the time or the energy to put in the work that it would require to go from our current hygienic but messy small apartment to the kind of neatness that he would prefer.

    We don’t have any domestic help, but if I could afford to, I’d hire someone to come in an clean every other week.

    I’d pick a locally-owned small business with one or two employees, such as I see advertised around my neighborhood. I think that would be an ethical choice. No, I wouldn’t deserve a pat on the back for it, any more than for buying fair trade coffee or recycling my garbage or not hitting people or paying my subway fare instead of jumping the turnstile. It’s just what you do.

    I’ve heard people arguing that it’s inherently degrading to hire someone to do “menial” tasks like vacuuming. Someone argued above that it’s wrong because this kind of work is inherently soul-crushing because anyone can do it. To flesh that argument out, you might say that the most drudging parts of housework reduce people to machines and deprive them of the opportunity to develop their skills and faculties. That’s true. Also, housework consists of largely invisible tasks that undo themselves and leave the worker with little sense of creating something of enduring value. So, yes, it’s ethically problematic to hire people to do those kind of dead-end jobs, even if you pay them well.

    I think it makes all the difference to hire someone who offers this service as part of his or her own small business. As a small-scale entrepreneur, you’ve got the chance to develop a whole array of capabilities and talents above and beyond the actual scrubbing. You’ve got to deal with everything from advertising and bookkeeping to client relations, negotiations, etc.

    Unlike a clean floor that’s just going to get dirty again, your successful small business is an enduring accomplishment. After all, not just anyone can build a business from nothing.

  292. Bonnie

    Bonnie, the very existence to the patriarchy means, that as women, all of our choices are circumscribed.

    Yes. No kidding. Inherent in this: Have I ever made compromises? Sure. We all do.

    ———

    I’m just floored at the levels of condescension y’all level at other women on this thread who also BTP. Just floored.

    ———

    Twisty, I adore your writing. Thank you for sharing with us.

  293. Kali

    “He shocked me by reciting a long list of things that he thinks I do better than he does.”

    Please tell me that this didn’t include stereotypical tasks that women are supposed to do for free, e.g. emotional and domestic care of others. I hate it when men try to make some version of the “I am good at ruling the world and you are good at taking care of my needs” argument.

  294. V.

    Iris,LouisaMay Alcott and Maribelle, thanks for your kind words.

    I’m so thankful for all the posters on this board. I lurked and listened for many months in awe of y’all, so insightful and intelligent.

    Iris, thanks especially for your discussion of class and individualism, which really lit a fire under me this morning.

    Twisty, thanks to you and the commentariat here, I’ve been inspired to get my summer booklist (largely feminist theory) all mapped out.

    Needless to say, it looks quite different from the recommendations in the NYTimes!

  295. Shae

    Sorry to be a late commenter, but this was a good read.

    Just wanted to say that I’d love to see a post on your opinion of polyamorous arrangements, along with any similarities or differences to your opinion of gay marriage described in footnote 2.

    I’m a newbie reader here, so feel free to point me to a previous post if you’ve already talked about this.

  296. maribelle

    Please tell me that this didn’t include stereotypical tasks that women are supposed to do for free, e.g. emotional and domestic care of others.

    Good question, Kali. And no, it all was pertaining to my professional and academic work, which is why I was so pleasantly surprised.

    Hey, V, welcome to commenting. Sometimes I comment, sometimes I just lurk. But I always learn something.

  297. Niki

    You can scream and cry and snark away about it, but having kids is definitely a choice. Unless you were forced, in which case IBTP.

  298. maribelle

    Octo, your last post to me was clearly intended to attack me. It is completely patriarchal to take someone’s public expression of vulnerability and use that to smash them personally. As such, your post isn’t worth a response. Accept to clarify that:

    he allows you to travel with your daughter without giving you grief

    That is another of your strategic misquotes. I said he “doesn’t give me grief” when I spend a large part of the family income prioritizing my daughter’s and my time in womenspace. Womenspace is non-negotiable; we need time with our family of women. “Doesn’t give me grief” = acts pleasant, helps me pack, watches house and dogs. He even does my laundry for the trip and drives me to the airport–those are bonuses. But if he tried to stop me, I’d be gone. (The last man I asked for permission to do anything was my father– and he would defer to my mother.)

    For the most part, I ignore you Octo, because your dishonest communication style does not allow for discussion. You constantly change the words of others to something easy to refute and mock. When I give you precise examples, you bring in sarcasm or personal attacks. Pointless bullshit.

    Since you think that someone pointing out the disconnect in your words is the same as saying “you’re shit” I don’t really see what you have to gain and learn here. Also, it’s a total patriarchal dichotomy; **I’m right or I’m shit–so I’d better prove I’m right regardless of who I have to smash to do it.**

    I have taken (and given) some tough words from others on this board, and yet somehow we end up singing songs and sharing guacamole. But not you–you drive a point to the ground, refusing to budge because your sense of self seems to rely on you being right, always, the first time. That must suck.

    This is why women have called you out again and again on this board, for your recalcitrance, your smug assurance, your “my Nigeling” and most importantly because of your deeply dishonest communication.

    Some have insisted you not even address them at all. I’ve considered doing that, but the truth is I learn a lot from your posts. Sometimes we even agree. But mostly, I have seen by reading your words (to my shame) how liberal white upper-class women (my breed, my tribe)

    a. contribute to the problems of the world by clinging to their power and privilege and
    b. sound like condescending asshats when trying to justify themselves.

    So please keep posting; and when you twist the words of others, I will continue to point out the discrepancies, not just to you but to all the others reading the board who think “damn that’s sounds off but I can’t quite put my finger on why.” If I see a clearly explainable “why” I will point it out.

    I leave you with V’s words to you, who expressed it quite well:

    I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, thinking that your obvious defensiveness in this thread was a sign of some deeper process emerging.

    Your last smug remarks indicate that I was wrong to do so.

    Feel free to float in the shallows. You are obviously quite comfortable where you are.

  299. CoolAunt

    Niki posted, “You can scream and cry and snark away about it, but having kids is definitely a choice. Unless you were forced, in which case IBTP.”

    Holy shit! That sounds like the shit that spews from the mouths of far right fundies on Saturday mornings, outside women’s clinics. And for that, IBTP.

  300. LouisaMayAlcott

    Niki,

    I don’t think that Tinfoil Hattie was in anyway denying that having kids was her choice, a choice that she made.

    That doesn’t mean that the reality of the drudgery involved in non-class-privileged motherhood should be flipped off.

    Also, for women of T.H.’s and my generation, birth control was a *very* delicate subject. Huge numbers of young women at that time had little to no knowledge of the subject, at the time that we were growing up. The pill was developed, after I was an adult, *not* for the benefit of women, but so that no young woman could deny sex to her boyfriend based on fear of pregnancy. All in one year, the line became, “well go on the pill”.

    There’s a bit more to the question of choices and *informed* choices than a simple matter of rape.

  301. Ruth

    “If I were African-American, less-educated, or living in a less economically advantaged country, my outcome would be much, much different.”

    Or even a less economically advantaged county. Sadly

    “You can scream and cry and snark away about it, but having kids is definitely a choice. Unless you were forced, in which case IBTP.”

    Forced childbirth is much more common in usa than we like to think. Not everyone has access to birth control or even access to knowledge of proper use. EC is supposed to be available now, where I live a single rx is $90. Not affordable for many women. Abortion is unavailable in 87-90% of all counties in the us. It should go without saying (but doesn’t] that women do not even control whether we are going to have sex. Having kids is not [always] a choice, and even more often the best option a woman feel she has.

  302. tinfoil hattie

    I’m not crying about it, Niki. I love my kids. AND they involve hard work.

    Just like a “real” job does.

    I don’t need your approval. I just loved the predictable dismissiveness of your narrow-minded comment.

  303. Kali

    I am getting a depressing conclusion from this thread that any and all choices that women make in a patriarchy are equally ineffective and therefore equally appropriate/inappropriate in undermining the patriarchy. Women are powerless in leaving jerk husbands. Women are powerless in having/not having kids. Women are powerless in changing the capitalist structure. Here we are arguing so passionately and intelligently about how shameful the patriarchy/men/capitalists are and the patriarchy/men/capitalists are going on merrily with their shameful ways with no desire/need to listen to us. Is there anything that radical feminist women can do that is actually effective in changing things?

  304. LouisaMayAlcott

    Kali,

    You’ve got it in the nutshell.

    All the actions that I’ve see suggested on the internet in the last few years are all things that radfems already did in the 70′s, and those results were short-lived.

    Any “changes” that occur within a patriarchal framework are only washed away like footprints made in the sand at low tide.

  305. mearl

    I’ve been reading along (V., Bonnie and maribelle, I LOVE your comments. Please keep it up for the sake of all IBTP readers!) and I think that there is only one solution. It rhymes with solution.

    The problem is that when some women find ourselves born into certain privileges, we’ll never get to experience the other side of the coin, the potential for shit and death and a lifetime of pain that the patriarchy proscribes. Because life is hard work in everyone’s own perception, the women in the top pile won’t want to alter their status or circumstances in any significant way for the benefit of women in the bottom pile, other than to toss ‘em a few coins now and again. The incentive is never there: because of capitalism, life actually looks pretty ok to the women who have the class privilege. That’s when we get arguments about charity being a feasible solution (Yes, Octogalore, I’m thinking of you here. Not taking the piss, but just saying). If you’re a feminist, you have GOT to consider the arguments of the women who don’t have the same experiences as you, and think it through. Loads of blamers are already doing this. For my own part, I keep trying.

    I don’t wish it so, but I think that circumstances are going to become more and more unbearable for many women in the next few years, and I am thinking about ways to put our talk about revolution into action when the time comes. Systems always evolve in the wake of these pressures, and it’s coming to that, even for the privileged. It always comes back to V.’s comment:

    “As women, none of us are free until all of us are free.”

    Revolution is the only solution! Give me a day or two, I’ve got something up my sleeve. Unfortunately, it’s not a ready-made revolution. But it might help.

  306. Iris

    Maribelle: I do, in fact, live in Michigan! Right in the very county in which the Festival takes place! I have never been because of the cost, but I was saving up this year. Look for the Red Taco Bandera.

    Kali and Louisa: That is the entirely depressing conclusion. The rope I cling to while waist deep in the quagmire is real Revolution. We have to pick up guns to put them down again!

  307. delphyne

    “All the actions that I’ve see suggested on the internet in the last few years are all things that radfems already did in the 70’s, and those results were short-lived.

    Any “changes” that occur within a patriarchal framework are only washed away like footprints made in the sand at low tide.”

    Or you could argue that what happened in the 70s was a trial run. I see a resurgence of feminism and radical feminism. It didn’t die, it just went underground for a while.

  308. Octogalore

    Maribelle, you love to claim I twist things. I pointed out that my post was not intended to attack you, explicitly. I felt you were being hypocritical and, as you try to give examples of what I’ve said to make this claim about me, that’s what I was doing in bringing up things you’ve said – because I think there’s quite a gap between theory and practice for you. And before anyone jumps in to talk about necessary capitulation, I think in your case the gap goes beyond that to hypocrisy.

    If you try to be honest with yourself, you’re probably aware that I haven’t gone for the sarcasm with you until you’ve attacked me. And why you and others have the right to do that, but I don’t… well, I’ll let you figure that one out.

    Realistically, if you asked ten people if

    1) “doesn’t give me grief” = “allow” OR
    2) “doesn’t give me grief” = “acts pleasant, helps me pack, watches house and dogs”

    I think most would say that (1) is what they would’ve thought you meant. So it’s not a “strategic misquote.” The ABSENCE of doing something, like giving someone grief, doesn’t indicate anything AFFIRMATIVE like helping someone pack. If you want to redefine how great your Nigel is, go for it: but that’s not what you originally said.

    Please don’t expect me to care whether there are people on this board who have issues with me. We’re not in the schoolyard anymore, and I’m not looking to win any popularity contests (and certainly don’t expect to win any here). The person who told me not to address her has many, may other issues with many, many other people. I’m not the first one in that line, or the last. There are people who’ve emailed me thru my blog, coming from here, to tell me they get what I’m saying. Those are the people I come here for, and I understand why they’re not as vocal as others.

    Claiming another woman is “contributing to the problems of the world by clinging to power and privilege” is, frankly, hogwash. So what’s the solution, for us all to declaim all power and privilege? Make the patriarchy even more powerful? I’ve said, above, I’m contributing in ways that make sense for me now, and would like to (and have concrete plans to) get more involved hands-on. Clearly that’s not enough for your delicate sensibilities, but frankly that’s not my concern. I hope none of us ever feel we’re doing all we can, and I certainly feel I could be doing more. But it’s not anyone’s place to tell me I’m contributing to the world’s problems – certainly not yours.

    And frankly, though you claim we are both “liberal white upper-class women” (interesting that you would claim this, it raises a whole host of questions), I don’t think we are from the same tribe. It’s about more than gender, color and class, thanks. My breed doesn’t tell other women they’re bringing the world down. End of story.

    mearl, I’m eager to hear your thoughts. And I don’t see charity as a complete solution. Just, better than nothing, for now. Please let us know when your thoughts are developed, maybe we can do some brainstorming.

  309. delphyne

    “The person who told me not to address her has many, may other issues with many, many other people. I’m not the first one in that line, or the last.”

    You just can’t stop can you? Which bit of not talking about me or to me do you not understand? The people I have problems with are the YayPornstitution crowd who you spend quite a bit of time hanging out with slagging off radical feminists. I’m sure people here can understand the political reasons why I have “issues” with them. And you also were there when we all made an agreement to stay out of one another’s way (both radical feminists and the sex positive crowd). Everybody seems to have managed it apart from you who is still addressing my posts and talking about me.

    For anybody who hasn’t quite grasped it yet, Octagalore isn’t a feminist, she’s some kind of rightwinger who likes to troll feminist blogs. That’s why she’s coming out with all the captalist crap.

  310. maribelle

    To clarify:

    Delphyne is only one of many blamers who have asked you to desist in communicating with them in the time I’ve been coming here.

    Your word twisting is there for anyone to read, examples abound in this thread. I have highlighted several examples above. You hoist yourself with your own petard.

    (and nowhere more obviously than your screen name, itself an affront to every feminist on this board. Why did you omit your middle name, Octopussygalore?)

    **
    To the blamers:

    I’ll try to stay off the subject of Octo, but I am so tired of men shitting on my head and saying its raining; and it’s way worse when women do it. (Assuming Octo’s a woman.)

    ***
    Delphyne; you wrote:

    Or you could argue that what happened in the 70s was a trial run. I see a resurgence of feminism and radical feminism. It didn’t die, it just went underground for a while.

    A trial run–interesting theory. Like the pendulum swinging. But really, things have gotten so much worse for women in the last 20 years. Even in the last 10.

    What makes pendulums swing the other way? How does feminism come out from underground?

    I keep thinking the entertainment and the media is part of the key–women are disappeared and marginalized in our cultural story, especially those over 35. If there is a place that money could be well served to further feminist awakening/revolution in this country, it would be in women-centered, women-owned media.

  311. TinaH

    Sometimes I wonder about the strength of the backlash. Would the patriarchy be so freaked out if we weren’t actually making some progress in creating a more equitable and just society?

    About the Revolution, please don’t tell me that I’m going to have to pay the NRA money to learn how to handle firearms safely. I hate that idea. Anyone else teach gun safety?

  312. Edith

    Well, at least there’s some defensiveness here. I’d rather see some of that then the responses the first post on marriage had, which were basically, “Gee Twisty, you’re so right! I’m going to have my husband read this!” Makes me want to bang my head against the wall. I guess arguments against marriage don’t hurt anyone’s feminist soul, for some reason.

    But arguments against hiring to people to clean your house, now that’s a whole other thing!

    For the record, I hate housework too. And I grew up in a honky middle class home in southern California and we — guess what? — never had a housecleaner. My personal solution for housework, known around these parts as the Edith Laundry Plan, leaves everything at my place sparkling. Well, not so much “sparkling” as “not violating any major health codes.” Huzzah! Revolution!

  313. Mar Iguana

    “But it’s the moral ground I stand on: blame men first, ask questions later.” – mearl

    Yes! That so works for me.

  314. bmc90

    Ok – I did not have time to read the entire thread because I am earning a living, so sorry in advance if this argument was made above. Taken to its logical conclusion, this argument would mean that all feminists would have to quit paid work entirely, subsistence farm, and spin yarn from Alpacas to make their own clothes. Every time I do anything from each a peach to pay a toll taker, I am arguably contributing to the supression of someone who is less well paid than me, on many levels. The fact that the person who cleans my house is more in my face instead of in an orchard, stocking shelves, or sorting quarters, is merely geographic. I pay $140 to have my house cleaned one time every two weeks. That is not exactly chump change if you have no other marketable skills. Hell, why should people pay me to do their legal work when with 3 years of law school and some diligence they could do their own (and if you think housework takes no special skill, watch my kids load the dishwasher). How about because many of them can’t/would rather have all their teeth yanked out by angry polar bears. Ya know what I did after seeing what is was like to live in a major city making less than 18K for three years? Got more education to get a better job. I won’t insult people by crying over the fact that they are exactly where I was economically at one point in my life, or dis-employing them because they are “oppressed.” Getting out my hanky won’t pay their rent next month. But this post is about marriage, and the house work discussion is in that context. Leaving the housework thing behind for a second, I love my husband. I love a few other people, but him a lot. So that is why I’m married. I could have loved a woman maybe. I do love my dogs but am not entirely content with canine companionship. It’s just that simple. I make no apology for it. I understand why gay people want to get married. I think I am fairly clear-eyed about matrimony, too. Half fail, another quarter must wish they were divorced – when you think about it marriage is a major act of hope and faith in love, even when people get married for the right reasons.

  315. Twisty

    “I love my husband. I love a few other people, but him a lot. So that is why I’m married.”

    The conflation of love and marriage is patriarchy’s slickest victory.

  316. bmc90

    I knew you were going to flame me, Twisty, but you are so smart I adore you anyway. I could certainly shack up with hubby instead, but given the seeming permanance of our arrangement and stack of expensive paperwork the patriarchy will make me do in order to legally approximate matrimony with hubby, marriage is in fact easier and extremely tax advantaged. If you have to swim in the ocean, you may as well have fins and teeth. Of course, my prenup makes up for the ways in which the patriarchy will likewise take it out of my ass in the event hubby and I are ever done with each other and marriage. If it makes you feel any better, much of the tax savings support feminist causes. BTW, if I could legally marry or adopt my dogs, I most certainly would.

  317. Kali

    I love my parents, my sister, my brother, my niece, my nephews, my friends. Nobody, however, is urging me to shack up with them, or get married to them. In fact, my sister would be much better off shacking up with me rather than her husband who has completely killed her spirit and happiness. But for some reason she believes his home is her home, and my home is a place where she would feel like a guest. I wonder why? IBTP.

  318. bmc90

    IBTP, too, Kali. It’s way too rigid about how it recognizes relationships legally. Personally, I think marriage should cease to have any legal meaning at all. No tax benefit, no automatic estate planning under the intestacy statute, no presumptions regarding property. All those things can be done with a check the box form filed at the local recorders office, which election can be rescinded upon the mutal agreement of the parties, and if they don’t agree, you can resort to what used to be family court to split up jointly held property and set child support payments/visitation scheudles. That way I can give my mom the right to pull the plug, leave all my money to my cousin, and enter a co-parenting contract with my child’s father, without having to marry anyone. However, a perfect world this ain’t.

  319. thebewilderness

    While I realize that this is an old dead thread, I would just like to note that I, was the first, lo, these many months ago, to have the distinction of refusing to talk to octothingamy. Just in case Pony is keeping score.

  320. Mar Iguana

    I for one do remember that, the bewilderness, and I also informed the octopussygalore I would no longer be talking to what I still believe is someone trying to win that kegger back.

    Thank you, delphyne, for exposing this rightwing, porn hound as a troll. I also am thankful for all the other brilliant blamers above who have the sand to take this slick troll on, point for point. You are better blamers than I since I can only seem to summon up a “just shut up” when I find my head exploding with the willful ignorance of the troll-mind: Maribelle, LouisaMayAlcott, Kali, et al.

  321. island mamma

    whoa!
    math class is in order!!!
    single mom with income well under 30 000 a year, more like 8-12 000, raising 2 kids pay 20 dollars an hour for child care!!! interesting indeed
    and someone else to clean up the shit…pretty fancy…
    sure men are hired as PROFESSIONALS and paid VERY well for their work eg plumbers, electricians and landscapers.(because men have family to support, woman asumingly are under this blanket of support rather that supporting others)
    Its funny how men of the house arent expected to know how to do these “manly” jobs and do them well around their work sheduals and i would like to say home sheduals but they tend to laze around because one is only required to use effort in life for work and work only if one has a dangly bit between the legs!
    woman who have housecleaners and babysitters are looked down upon because they should inheritly be great at all of these jobs because of the vagina they posses….and they are expected to juggle a job plus household duties and mother hood duties and be ready and wet for their horny husbands anytime …. all while maintaining a perfect personal appearance and very clean house and attend meetings for the kids plus the kids extra activities and social programs…

  322. ladiesbane

    Paradox: if a person has no marketable skills, yet is not independently wealthy, she might become a housekeeper. An employer who has an attack of social awareness and fires her housekeeper has shown her solidarity with the poor by depriving a sister of income.

    Theory: Our Lady of Budding Social Awareness would do better to pay the housekeeper more.

    P.S.: tipping better would be a big help, too.

  323. joy

    Humorous and hopefully illustrating story:

    People upthread, long long ago, asked a.) to hear from people who actually clean house, and b.) wondered how many single women hire housekeepers. So here you have it.

    I’ve worked as a housekeeper before. I am a lower-class radical feminist anarchist with PTSD, and sometimes the freelance writing work just isn’t enough to pay rent. Can’t have honky daddy (who ran out on my mom when I was a baby) or mommy (who’s lower class herself) bail my ass out of trouble, so I have to do something to keep from being homeless.

    It’s either cleaning floors or sucking dicks. Let me let you in on a secret: I resent both the people whose dicks I’ve sucked and the people whose floors I’ve cleaned (the elderly and disabled aside) — albeit for different reasons.

    It’s nice having money to pay rent, cover basic necessities, etc. That’s true. Thank you rich honky ladies for providing some of us with your (or your Nigel’s) income in exchange for scrubbing up your well-heeled baby’s puke! I’m sure that money was richly earned and whatnot.

    You do what you got to do to get by, but abolishment of capitalism, downsizing of lifestyles, making Nigel do it, etc., is the way to go. Really.

    Meanwhile, I recently posted an ad for a woman-owned, woman-run cleaning business. If I’m gonna do this again, I want to clean for women. Single women, partnered lesbians, disabled women, elderly women, I just want to clean for women. My ad makes this abundantly clear: I am a housecleaner who wishes to clean house for women.

    I’ve received no responses thus far. Except from pornsick dudes asking me to pick up after their fuckforsaken messes and blow them while I’m at it. They’ll pay me $20 an hour.

    That should clear up any lingering confusion.

  324. ginger

    Well, okay, since Joy revived this dead thread, I gotta point out: Roombas are a direct product of iRobot, developed by a DARPA-funded lab, and contain microchips manufactured in clean rooms by workers using hepatotoxic and teratogenic organic solvents. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Your Roomba is not only a product that damages workers (and their children!) but it was developed by the military-industrial complex. (The same branch thereof that brought you the Internet.)

    You can’t win. If you pay someone to do something you don’t want to do yourself, you’re exerting class privilege. If you can afford to and do buy a machine to do that task, it’s almost certain that someone manufactured it under conditions you wouldn’t work under. That’s class privilege, too.

    On a related note – there are plenty of horrible places to clean that aren’t residences, and plenty of dudes – underclass dudes, of course – clean them. It’s just house-cleaning we see as an exclusively female domain.

  325. Alexa

    Yay, a new poster who sticks up for dudes and swears she’s not one. Ginger is one to watch, or get bored by. Your choice.

    I hate discussing things when you know the poster isn’t feminist, but acts feminist while quietly crapping on everything to get past a mod policy. Some internet dwellers need lives.

    Note: bringing up other more important oppressions on. A feminist blog is a sign the person hates feminism. Just a tip from captain obvious.

  326. joy

    Buy secondhand stuff. That’s a good piece of advice.

    Someone still suffers to make said stuff (oh, and how they do), but at least when a person purchases a secondhand item they aren’t DIRECTLY contributing to this suffering.

    Plus it keeps this item from going to the landfill.

    Revolution is the way. I keep trying to foment something around this site, but get a profound response of ‘meh’ from everyone other than, say, Jill. Like someone else said on here one time (I’ve been reading the archives a lot to keep my militant flame alive), “people only want to join the revolution if it doesn’t inconvenience them too much.”

    People on the bottom, meanwhile, are pretty damn inconvenienced, and have been for a fucklong time. Let’s get a move on this already.

  327. joy

    Class -is- important, Alexa, as many women are lower class. Lower class women aren’t just oppressed by the fact that they’re women — they’re oppressed doubly by the fact that they’re on the bottom of the shit pile, or as Jill once said, stuck in the slimy lower strata of this fetid capitalist swimming pool.

    Add race to this and you have a damn lot of people who would in fact argue that class is pretty fucking important. Intersectionality, whoa.

    Talking about people in factories and dudes cleaning warehouses/airplane hangars/boats/whatever is a little bit derailing, though, as this entry is mostly about female housekeepers and the radical feminist implications of housework.
    It’s kind of interesting that whenever a woman (who happened to be me this time, but it happened upthread a few times too) posted her actual experiences living at the intersection of lower class and female, the responses were, “What about the people building Roombas (etc)??? Don’t THEY have needs too?!”

  328. Jill

    joy
    August 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Class -is- important, Alexa, as many women are lower class. Lower class women aren’t just oppressed by the fact that they’re women — they’re oppressed doubly by the fact that they’re on the bottom of the shit pile, or as Jill once said, stuck in the slimy lower strata of this fetid capitalist swimming pool.

    Surely I said “stratum“?

  329. Comrade Svilova

    Yes, as Joy points out, reuse, recycle, and buy secondhand every time. Bring down capitalism as we know it!

    Seriously. Because what we know of it is nothing to write home about, but plenty to blame about.

  330. joy

    Jill — doubtlessly. I’m a terrible misquoter, and also somewhat of a word-dyslexic.

  331. ginger

    Oh, dear, I must have been unclear. I wasn’t saying that dude cleaners are comparably oppressed or somehow exempted from male privilege – I was trying to say that it’s not about the cleaning alone, it’s about the cleaning of A HOUSE. Women are further bound to the home, restricted, made captive, by the unquestioned assumption that home duties of all sorts are their domain. This is a profoundly un-novel observation, but since this thread has moved from discussing the oppression inherent to marriage to discussing the oppression inherent to household duty distribution, and how to put into practice emancipating oneself from that oppression, I thought it was worth observing that it’s not the cleaning at issue. It’s the house-cleaning.

    And I was definitely trying to point out the flaw in the idea that if you buy something to clean your house, you’re not participating in oppression, or you’re doing so less than employing someone to clean your house. It probably IS better than employing someone, but not if you just consider that you’ve upheld human dignity, done and dusted. Do you know who works in chip factories? Pe

    I wasn’t sticking up for dudes – the patriarchy sucks, and so does class oppression, and the interaction between the two is synergistic: women of lower socioeconomic position experience negative effects that far exceed the addition of class to gender oppression.

  332. ginger

    Sorry, I should have removed the sentence and fragment “Do you know who works…Pe”, since I abandoned that argument as irrelevant. (I really have been trying to stay on topic – I have a lot of passionate rants in me about workplace dangers to women who have to work crappy jobs because of their socioeconomic status, and how employers take advantage of women’s underclass status to cut costs. See, I almost got started there. Sorry.)

  1. Are you compromising your feminism? « blue milk

    [...] Here is another on hired help – can you be a feminist and hire people to do your domestic labour? [...]

  2. Shae’s Place » Blog Archive » Blaming the Patriarchy

    [...] In recent posts (here and here), Twisty suggests that marital housework disputes indicate an inherent uneven power dynamic in male/female relationships. I’ll buy that. [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>