Why Housekeeping Can Be A Feminist Act

Last month, I wrote a guide to housecleaning in 2 hours or less (assuming a certain size of home, and certain duration of attention span, of course). Generally, the feedback I heard was positive; people found my experiences relevant and helpful to their own. On the periphery, however, was another story: of all things, my feminism was called into question. Something about how no one needed a progressive ladyblog telling them how to clean house.

I quit drinking altogether back in February, which meant I started spending a lot more time at home. I am hopelessly socially awkward, and drinking was pretty much the only social lubricant I knew how to use. Spending all this extra time at home – and coherent! – meant in part that I noticed more readily when the floor was covered in an extra layer of dog hair, or when we ran out of clean mugs to fuel our hot caffeinated beverages addiction. (I’m not picky. I’ll take it in pretty much whatever form it comes in.)

So noticing said surrounding, regular mess, I started considering for the first time, coherently, how I might go about regularly tackling it so that I didn’t become overwhelmed, and so that I would have time to do things I actually give a shit about, like reading about rocker chicks, stuffing my face with carbs, and writing for ladyblogs. For instance. So I tinkered, and I figured out a system that worked for me. And then, like any oversharer, I wrote about it here.

So here’s what baffles me. I write regularly on a wide variety of topics, but most often the common theme that runs through my articles is self-sufficiency. I’ve written on financial management, cooking, alcoholism recovery, and interpersonal relationships for this site, but I always try to approach things from the assumption that my readers are capable, intelligent, independent women who might be looking for tips on ways to make the necessary evils of life a little easier to manage so that they can get back to kicking ass at the things they feel passionate about.

Now, I am all for any potential man-partners and male roommates hefting their fair share of the housework. And mine happens to, most of the time. (The rest of the time he makes up for it with errand running when I’m feeling too lazy, or taking on a larger share of the dog walking duties.) But whether partnered or single, living with an equally contributing man or not, I believe it’s ridiculous to call housework (or talking about it) anti-feminist. Unless you enjoy living in squalor, whether you’re male or female, single or not, you should know how to clean a fucking house. It’s not about fulfilling traditional ideals of femininity. It’s about being a functioning adult. The last time I was willing to live in my own filth, my place of residence was called a fucking dorm room. And it was gross.

I guess the bone I have to pick is with this broader notion that in order for one’s feminism to be “good enough,” for whomever the judgmental bitches who rank the quality of people’s feminism happen to be, said feminism must reject not only accepting traditional female roles without question, but also must reject taking responsibility for, or having any knowledge of, any elements related to these female roles. By this logic, I should refuse to wear skirts, even if they make my legs cooler in the summer. I should fundamentally refuse to cook. Anything. Ever. Order pizza in every night. And I should never lift a finger to clean up after myself or my partner.

Well, excuse me. I will accept a lower status of feminism if it means that I can live within my means, capably, without growing science experiment-quality mold in the bathroom, can whip up a tasty omelet in the kitchen, and can help my fellow women to function like adults in a reasonable, time-saving manner. Because I believe the time of women is valuable, and best spent allocating as much as possible toward the things women feel passionate about rather than, through lack of practice and lack of capable insight, wasting the majority of their non-working hours on shit like sweeping floors and folding laundry. And I refuse to accept the idea that a more capable woman in all arenas of her life is somehow less feminist than a woman who limits her spheres of expertise merely to the career path of her choosing. I find it insulting that anyone thinks we should have to choose one or the other.

Perhaps the real failure of feminism, then, is not that women are still advising other women on how to be competent not only in work but also at home, but that we don’t all expect the same from men. It’s no crime to help my sisters in feminism out by saying, “Hey, if you do your chores in this order while listening to the soundtrack from Hairspray, you can get them done in time to work on your master’s thesis, or start a non-profit organization, or write a fucking poem.” It is a crime if we trade one arena of incompetence for another. And it’s a crime if we spend our time, rather than building one another up and sharing lessons we’ve learned on how to make our lives better (in the kitchen or in the boardroom), taking pot shots at women helping to develop other women’s competencies. My feminism, for one, will be a feminism that supports the development and education of all women, in anything they want to better understand.

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

14 replies on “Why Housekeeping Can Be A Feminist Act”

when i was in high school, i was really resistant to cleaning or cooking because i thought it “brought women back.”  why should i have to know how to do that stuff?  

but now that i live on my own and need to be self sufficient, i realize how naive it was to think that simple, every day tasks (such as cleaning and cooking) could “bring women back.”   if anything, knowing how to do these things BY MYSELF, ON MY OWN, makes it all the more empowering.

ya gotta live on your own somehow, people.



I take a huge issue with anyone who thinks that to be a feminist means to not do housework. Housework has been historically devalued simply because it was “women’s work”, and when feminists perpetuate this attitude they’re actual perpetuating their own oppression and rigid gender roles. I understand why first and second wave feminists were so focused on equity in the public sphere, as it gave them a voice outside the home, but the legacy they’ve left has in part resulted in the expectation that women will not only be equal financial contributors to the family but will also continue to do all of the housework. I honestly think that anyone who claims to be feminist and who thinks that housework is of no value is probably very new and very unfamiliar with the current incarnations of feminism.

I so freaking agree. As one who enjoys many historically female arts, I often get the attitude from other feminists who are all cool with choice, unless women choose to occupy spaces of former oppression.

But I don’t really see these as necessarily feminine pastimes. In fact, in my not so humble opinion, men who won’t touch these crafts for fear of being labeled feminine are really missing out. :)

There’s nothing inherently anti-feminist about not wanting to live in filth, and for taking responsibility for your own surroundings. I can’t even tell you how sick I get of being told that learning how to cook and clean is setting feminism back. EVERYONE needs to be learning how to do this, regardless of gender, and rather than relying on someone else to clean up after you and cook for you, why not learn to do for yourself? Isn’t that what being empowered is all about?

No one’s saying your only value is as a housekeeper. No one’s saying you have to clean up after a dude. Just learn how to take care of yourself and your direct environment.

YES. THIS. This is exactly why I roll my eyes when my dad’s best friend’s daughter, who is 7 years younger than I am and OLD ENOUGH to be a functioning adult, tells me, “I hate cooking. I’m bad at being a girl.” It’s not about being a girl! It’s about taking care of yourself as a person who should be able to make more than mac n cheese from a box! BLARGHARGHARGHARGHARGH!!!

I include any man in that phrase who thinks he can tell me what my feminism ought to be like. He, too, is a judgmental bitch. I realize how it came off – and for that, I apologize – but I was using the term more to denote the act of bitching (as in bitches being people who bitch, rather than women who are unkind or whatever it is that word is supposed to mean about women specifically). It was poorly phrased, though, you’re right.

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