Do You Really Care Who Washes The Dishes?

According to another survey, at least two in every three couples fight about chores. That is dumb to me.
Publish date:
January 30, 2013
relationships, fights, chores

"Laziness about cooking, cleaning and other chores comes second only to bad personal hygiene in the list of reasons to break up with someone, the survey of more than 2,000 adults by online takeaway firm Just Eat found," says the Daily Mail which is clearly a clearinghouse of surveys about silly shit we should all just get over.

But just as I was about to type a few hundred words on why cleaning isn't anything to get your panties in a bunch over, I remembered two stories I wrote for this very site on this very subject: "Who The F@#$k Is Supposed To Wash All These Dishes?" and "Occupy My Bedroom Or How Far We Can Stretch That Metaphor."

Basically I've been trying to figure out why dirty dishes drive me crazy for more than half my shaking up life and I just recently came to the conclusion that all my brainwashing plus my boyfriend's makes for a bloody mess.

For me, cleaning has been coded as "women's work" much like child rearing and knowing how to properly fold a fitted sheet. But because I was raised by a warrior woman, the idea that anyone, especially someone with a penis, would expect me to assume a role steeped in sexism and stereotyping is rage inducing.

So when I come home from a hard day of doing stuff and the bed's still unmade, instead of thinking rationally, "Oh he must have been busy doing stuff, too," my inner Lisa Simpson screams, "He's trying to suffocate us with Egyptian cotton! Run for it! Or better yet, yell at him!!!"

"Women care more than men about how much their partner helps out with chores -- 31% would end a relationship if their spouse never did any," according to the article.

Really? Nearly a third of women would get a divorce before hiring a maid? What does that say about us as a people? That sharing a task that honestly most of us would outsource if we could is more important than your actual relationship? Is this a partnership issue or something else?

I get that some people can be absolute dicks about doing the laundry and such. That there are some who are happy to take advantage of the situation by claiming exhaustion, ignorance or simply penis. We can all agree that is not OK. It's unfair to expect someone to do something simply because that's what our ancestors were expected to do a few generations ago. (See slavery.)

But what I've also learned about justice during my extensive field research as one half of a couple is that it is also unfair to assume that your partner's been revolutionized along with you. Men get bombarded with the same ridiculous images of women being stuffed into one box or another, while also being rewarded for sticking to the same tropes their fathers and grandfathers did.

Hard work, fixing stuff, hands, mustaches, and tools are still the trappings of their own gilded cages (which isn't to say plenty of them don't totally break free, only that I sorta get it).

I've noticed that when we walk through the door at the same time and are confronted by an odious smell from the dishwasher that got loaded but not started or the housewarming "present" Miles left for us before taking a nap in a clean pile of laundry, my boyfriend and I have completely different gut reactions to the mess.

I immediately head to the drop zone, roll up my sleeves and say, "OK let's do this before..." and he's already couch-bound with an, "OK, in 10 minutes." Why can't I do that? Why can't I just wallow in muck? Isn't that what it means to be a pig?

I mean it's totally gross, obviously, but our differing reactions have also given me new perspective. Instead of immediately going into "Stepford" mode and woe the man who doesn't fall in line, I've tried on "stoner" mode a few times when it comes to chores and felt just as feminist.