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.