Rules Grrls?

Linda Hirshman's article about feminism and domesticity has generated a lot of discussion in the feminist blogosphere. Hirshman argues that women face a domestic glass ceiling because society still expects them to shoulder the lion's share of housekeeping and child-rearing. In other words, women aren't taking their places as Fortune 500 executives because in relationship after relationship, they lose at domestic brinksmanship.

Hirshman criticizes so-called "choice" feminists for insisting that any choice a woman makes is feminist just because it's her choice. She maintains that if we are serious about women's equality, we will have to set rules. Hirshman's "rules" are pieces of (pre-)marital advice for women seeking maximum independence: marry a younger or poorer man, get a marketable education, and be serious about your career.

Bitch PhD responds with a radical married feminist manifesto. Instead of seeking out a weaker partner in the hopes of forcing a fair distribution of domestic labor, Dr. B. encourages women to negotiate equality in every other aspect of their marriages and steel themselves for a long battle over housework. On her view, it's a mistake to expect that an ideological commitment to equality will ensure that the laundry and dusting actually get divvied up equally. Why?

Dr. B explains:
In fact, I believe that this is the single most irretrievably gendered division-of-labor issue for couples who want to be, or think they are, equals: the person whose job it is to monitor that equality is the person who has the least power. And in most cases, that's the woman.
Amanda of Pandagon argues that it's hopeless for women to expect equality in the home as long as we live in a patriarchal society. Amanda isn't as optimistic as Hirshman and Dr. B. when it comes to an individual wife's power to force her husband to do his share. Society is on the man's side, Amanda argues. In her experience, a woman who demands help is a nag. A messy house stigmatizes only the woman. On the other hand, it's soul-destroying to fight about the housework or do it and feel like second-class citizen.

Personally, I'm a huge believer in what Hirschman calls "ignorance and dust"--not caring about tidiness and not cultivating any special skills to produce domestic order. One of the way society controls women is by setting unrealistic bourgeois aesthetic standards and making women responsible for keeping them up. I don't believe that women are naturally tidier than men. I think that women are forced to internalize an arbitrary aesthetic as part of their socialization in a patriarchal society. One way women can resist the patriarchy is by rejecting these standards as unreasonable.

If you don't let other people shame you for your sex life, don't let them shame you about ironing the sheets, either. Slob is the new slut.

[Pandagon, Bitch PhD]

--> Sign up for Peek in your inbox... every morning! (Go here and check Peek box).

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close