September 16, 2009

Women and “our” housework


LAST SUNDAY, we had a couple of close friends over for lunch. As it happens with close friends whom one has not met for a long time, it turned out as a long, rambling lunch where we were still sitting around at 5 o’clock. By the time they left, it was late evening, and somehow both Mr. B (the hubby) and I were feeling a little tired and coming down with headaches. Probably a result of the hectic, 6-day week we’d both worked and while Sunday had been fun, we hadn’t had any time to relax. And here were all the utensils still lying around, plates to be rinsed, delicate crockery to be put away. I got to it while Mr. B continued watching TV and then joined him, grumbling that he hadn’t helped me one little bit.  I grumbled that I had to do it, I couldn’t possibly leave stuff lying around until the maid came in the next morning.

And that’s when he said, ‘You’ had to do it, I wouldn’t have, which got me thinking. What is it about housework that even the most liberated of us women continue to willing wear it around our necks like a millstone that we are proud of?

Now, Mr. B is that rare Indian male who is quite feminist as far as his actions go – he doesn’t talk much about it, he doesn’t know that much about it, but instinctively, he is fair – and that means he doesn’t think housework is ‘my job’ nor does he encourage me to think so. Most of the time, we divide up chores fairly although cooking is one thing I handle (and there are other things like car cleaning, maintaining the yard, dog care and bathroom cleaning which I absolutely leave to him!) On a given day one person may do more but overall, it evens out, and more importantly, he doesn’t see it as ‘my job’ that he is helping me with.

And yet, he is far more objective about housework than I am. While he is good with most of it, he doesn’t see a messy house as reflecting on him in some way. If he feels unwell or even simply lazy, he doesn’t feel obliged to clean up (given that we don’t have kids, its not yet an absolute necessity for us). If he is too tired, he simply plonks down on the sofa to watch TV. Me, on the other hand – I don’t hate housework, I am reasonably hard-working – but at times, I do feel pressurized to pick up or do stuff even if I am tired or unwell. Given that there is no one else pressurizing me, it is really not needed.

Somewhere deep inside, perhaps because its mostly women I’ve seen working around the house, perhaps because others still expect the division to be that way, I do internalize it as ‘my job’, in the sense that I feel a poorly kept house says something about me (I’m lazy, I didn’t learn enough when younger etc). And at times, I feel a ridiculous sense of gratitude to Mr.B simply for doing his share of stuff at home, ridiculous both because my beliefs are that men aren’t doing anything extra-ordinary when they do housework and because he doesn’t expect any thanks for it. Still, somewhere there must be a feeling that he is ‘helping me’, which is why I feel that way.

I don’t know how much everyone else’s expectations influence this. Interestingly, many visitors to our home have praised me for the way the house is decorated and kept, when the fact is that Mr. B is much more artistic than me and I usually defer to him on choosing accessories and colours. Still, people assume that it’s me; in fact, people who knew poor Mr. B from his bachelor days have depressed him no end by claiming that ‘a woman’s touch’ has made the house beautiful when much of it is his handiwork.

Sometimes I wonder if the kind of gendered upbringing we have (and I say this as someone born to fairly liberal parents) has completely messed us up as far as this kind of thing is concerned. My beliefs are feminist, but deep down, I carry more regressive baggage than I’d like to admit. But. Perhaps that awareness is a step towards working on it and moving away.

P.S. A piece over at Savadati, another interesting Indian feminist website, on a recent CNN-IBN poll that actually asked whether women were neglecting ‘their’ housework. Even if I carry some regressive baggage, I reserve the right to feel outraged at the assumptions inherent in that poll!

37 comments to Women and “our” housework

  • I was reading this and thinking that THIS was my story! I’m like that too – despite my husband being the more neater and home-creative one out of the two of us – I always feel if the house is messy and we’re both cbf’d doing anything that it reflects badly on me. To the point that I won’t have people (even my friends!) over if I know that my bathroom needs a good rinse or I haven’t vaccuumed the carpet because I feel they will judge me – my husband doesn’t care lol.

    I have a feeling that many many women unknowingly carry this baggage….

  • Nayantara

    So true, Aparna. My hubby is not at all hung up about a messy house. He pitches in for his (un)fair share. But doesn’t own it like I do.

    The whole blame for shoddy housekeeping (from visitors, in-laws, grandparents etc) lands on the woman. So we keep doing it. Or cringe the next time the doorbell rings and we rush around bundling the mess outta sight before opening the door!

  • Hi Aparna, landed here from DesiPundit. This is a very well-written article. You have made some very valid points. And, you also deserve credit for admitting that you’re carrying regressive baggage!

    You know what? This article is all the more relevant for me since i’m an unmarried male in mid-twenties; and marriage is not all that far away for me :D. I do consider myself a feminist (well .. “equalitist” might be a better word.. since I believe in equality of the genders – which I dont think is the same as feminism; but hey I digress!); and this article has given me pointers about how to actually implement this “equalitism” in daily life. In fact, why to wait till marriage? I can start lending a hand to my mom in the housework right away! Thanks for the pointers.

    By the way; does every reference to a male who is feminist in thoughts and action be qualified with the adjective “the rare Indian feminist male .. ” ?? That’s kind of .. well .. hurting the sentiments of the countless Indian males who are feminist (or equalitist)… don’t you think?

    • Smriti

      Actually Kiran, a feminist is a man who believes women have a right to equality. So there’s no need to reject the term. If you believe in equality, you are a feminist. Embrace the term with pride 🙂 And we’ll take equal pride in you.

  • Here’s a comment I liked (my wife sent it to me and said there’s truth in it!) It’s a comment on this article, by a stay-at-home dad:
    ‘For me, “Clean” means “the absence of dirt,” or at least any dirt that is removable or harmful in some manner. Sometimes you just have to throw shit out and start over. But Clean didn’t mean that same thing to my mate, it meant, “when I do it myself.” Her social conditioning by her working class mom in a conservative household meant, woman does it, it’s clean. man does it, woman must clean it. I did an experiment to test this…’

  • Aparna,
    Did you happen to visit my home and decide to write MY story????????? Hell it is the exact same thing to a tee!!
    My friends and hubby have given up on me now – they think I have an incurable OCD when it comes to my house-cleaning:-)

  • sunitadee

    hey, the thing i appreciate the most about this post is the recognition that dividing up the housework isn’t enough if the dynamic remains intact: such that the consequences of not cleaning (the disapproval, real or perceived, of visitors) still falls on the woman, and the feeling remains that if her husband is doing housework he is helping her with “her” job and deserves gratitude or reward where she would not. one thing that’s nagging at me a bit is – what about the maid? there are places where class intersects with patriarchy and i think that solidarity with low-income working class women should be part of the Indian feminist project. this is not to say that it is un-feminist of you to have a maid, and I know that many people employ male domestic workers as well, but it seems to me that most of the time even when some one is hired to do the housework it is “preferred” that it be a woman. does anyone care to weigh in on that?

  • Priya


    Thanks for an interesting post. I was brought up in a household where my mother undertook household chores only when absolutely necessary (cook/maid being absent and no other temporary help available). My father, meanwhile, didn’t make even that much of an effort, though he clearly indicated that he expected my mother to undertake household work and supervise household chores (even though she was the primary income earner of the family).

    I think coming from such a household has made me determined to not give in to any subtle pressure that the upkeeping of the house is my job. In fact, in my house, the chores are extremely unfairly split – it’s my partner who does the cooking (because he’s better at it) and most of the cleaning/clearing up (because he cares about the state of the house, while I’m a lazy slob). But I’m very puzzled as to where my partner gets his ‘fair share of work’ (which isnt even fair to him, to be honest) attitude from, given he comes from a traditional family where the father was the only income generator and the mother was responsible for all the household chores.

  • This is quite exasperating. Why do you have to infer and narrate always? What prevents a lady from being feminist, clean-freak and passionate about cooking? Why do you have to “explain” and attribute this uniqueness to regressive baggage? May be you do have regressive baggage that manifests itself as an urge to keep the house clean. But to generalize from that is an affront on everyone else – both feminists and non-feminists.

  • apu

    Silvara, Nayantara, Minal – glad you could relate to it.

    Kiran – great to hear that! And – I don’t mean that every single Indian man conforms to traditional norms when it comes to dividing chores; however, in my experience, even men who “talk” equality often don’t walk the talk, because a) they haven’t been taught to and b) few people ever change the situation when it calls for them do ‘more’ rather than ‘less’. The intention was definitely not to insult.

    Rahul – that’s the power of conditioning.

    Sunita – in fact, I did think about our reliance on maids while writing this piece – while outsourcing housework to another woman so that you have ‘better’ things to do may not be the ideal way, I also think that in a country like India with such a large population and so many of them unsuited for other work, perhaps household work should also be seen as a valuable source of income?

    Priya – nice to hear that about your partner; while upbringing and conditioning play a major role, I guess, with effort, one can overcome those.

    Alan – why exasperating? Nothing prevents a feminist from being a clean freak or passionate about cooking. In fact, I myself am quite enthusiastic about cooking and enjoy it. However, when it comes cleaning, I am no ‘Monica’ – I don’t enjoy it that much but feel compelled to do it. The experiences of other women here in the comments will tell you that my own feelings about expectations and conditioning with regard to certain kinds od work are no isolated incident.

  • That the women who comment here tend to agree with you does not prove the existence of what you call “regressive baggage”. You are essentially constructing a story that helps you identify a cause for your need to clean. And that happens to be this “regressive baggage” because you are writing a post for a feminist site.

  • Aparna,
    You said it ! Conditioning does play a major role here, and I wrote about it here :

    And to Kiran, the “equalist” – actually feminism does advocate gender equality.

  • @Aparna:
    You say that men who talk equality don’t often walk the talk. Agree. I have see a few examples myself. That’s how I learned not to decide that a person is a feminist or not just by what he says. Even if he may be passionate in his arguments; when it comes to actually doing things, they fail to live up to the expectation. And we are not talking about the shady people with double standards here. We are talking people who genuinely believe they are feminists but are actually not.

    I am aware that feminism advocates gender equality. But somehow I am seeing that the negative (all-men-are-“b-words”) brand of feminism is prominent on the blogosphere (or am I the only one who’s observing this?)

  • apu

    Alan – no, it doesn’t “prove” it – but, it does point to a wider trend – it would be fairly evident to anyone who observes society and the interaction of many couples that such expectations (which us women also buy into) aren’t uncommon either, and that is what I mean by ‘regressive baggage’. And these comments are certainly “more proof” than the insight you presume to have into my mind as to why I am “constructing a story” (as you call it) when you don’t even know me!

    Amodini – thanks!

    Kiran – that is definitely not my brand of feminism. I don’t believe that men are “so-and-so” etc; however, generations of conditioning do make men (and women) behave in certain ways – no harm in pointing that out right? Social conditioning allows men to get away with doing less and leaves women with doing more – this has been proven by studies as well. If you do see a certain amount of anger directed at men, perhaps it is because the pace of change is uneven. I often get the feeling that women’s expectations are moving faster than society (and by this, I mean family structures etc) ate willing to accomodate.

  • @Aparna,
    Social conditioning allows men to get away with doing less and leaves women with doing more – Agree whole-heartedly with this. This is exactly what the feminists (men and women alike) are fighting against. Just to raise another point – Women (mothers in particular) have as important a role to play in this skewed social conditioning as men. Mothers are the ones who drill the concept of “pati-parmeshwar ki seva” into the minds of young girls. I have personally seen cases where a mother/daughter vehemently disallow the son from setting foot in the kitchen – whether to help with cooking or with the utensils.

    If you do see a certain amount of anger directed at men, perhaps it is because the pace of change is uneven – This is understandable too. I suppose looking at this whole matter from (oppressed) women’s point of view; they are justified in being angry with men. Maybe I found it insulting because I was looking at it from a feminist man’s point of view and what went through my mind at that moment was “Here we are doing our best to eradicate this gender inequality; and there they are sitting and still stereotyping all of us as anti-feminists!”

  • Dilnavaz Bamboat

    I have nothing new to add, but am raising my hand to be counted nonetheless. Yes, I always take it personally if I’m in a messy house of my own and see it as a failure of sorts. I do know it comes from social conditioning and having an uber-tidy mother, and it’s an inner dialogue I have to constantly challenge. But who knows, maybe someday I’ll come out on top. 🙂

  • Hi, just read your blog and I could really relate to the ‘natural’ gender division of housework. Feminism is such a recent idea and it’s got eons of evolution to contend with. Still, hope springs eternal. As long as we’re moving in the right direction – it’s progress, however slow.
    BTW – sounds like your hubby is a gem!)

  • Binary

    First, a joke. Women in a small, radical, anarchist commune in a deserted part of a country decided that they wanted to nip all events of domestic violence in the bud. So they made an injunction to the chief that women be allowed to carry a gun at all times. The proud feminist chief gladly agreed, but then some men objected. Eventually, a ‘fair’ middle ground was reached, and each man was given one gun, and each woman two. A few months later, a police squad chanced in on the forest location,and found all the women dead, shot in the head; and all the men found injured – shot in both their arms.

    I wonder why you had to make this post ‘personal’ – ostensibly to share how even ‘the most liberated’ women have to blame something else for their condition. And to bring your husband in the ring also. But now that you have, my apologies but my comments will seem personal too. Because there in lies the answer. First the longing that you ‘must be’ something else. And then, secondly, when you realise you are not that, blaming something or someone else for that. How can there be something wrong with you?

    “he doesnt think housework is ‘my job'” …. but “.. other things like cleaning, yard work, which I absolutely leave to him”. Notice you dont say how, he does the other things. Rather, you “leave” it to him. Wonder if you would feel the same way, if your husband wanted to “leave” the housework to you. Hell, no! You would cry blasphemy! But its okay for you to imply that the stuff you dont like to do is “his job”, though you dont say it, you clearly think and imply it is.

    Pretentious liberation and pursuit of meaningless equality still result in disappointment, but no your arriviste feminist arrogance wont let you see it. Thats fine, at least leave your rare husband out of this constant whining.

  • dream

    The very fact that ppl are reading this post etc are those who don’t especially enjoy the housework and the responsibility of it and are bogged down by holding down a job and its challenges, challenges of looking after kids AND the hosue chores which MAY get monotonous and very overbearing.
    I personally don’t know women who are passionate and truly enjoy doing all the things together but if there are those lucky few who have got it right and do enjoy it all then this post is not appropriate for them.

    Also there is alot baggage Indian society(I can’t speak of others) which I take liberty to generalize adds to the gender. Of course we all can agree to disagree but among the women I know I don’t find any Indian women who wouldn’t agree..
    Of course there may be the lucky few you may know..
    I personally wish I had more passion twards house chores and sometimes I do but when when I see it is looked upon as “menial tasks to be done by the women” in Indian society.. it makes me not want to do it!!
    :-)Can’t help it.. I could be more altruistic and spritual bout it but am not programmed that way… atleast not now..

  • apu

    Dilnavaz, Danielle, thanks for your comments.

    Binary – I wonder if you got this post; firstly, I don’t see anything wrong in using a personal example – using a personal example doesn’t necessarily mean comments need to be rude – you can talk about the personal without being rude and using words like “arrogance” etc. If at all there is anyone I am “blaming” in this post, it is myself for holding regressive baggage; so, I have no clue what you are talking about when you say that I want to blame someone else. The bit about “leaving” to him was mean to be at least a little funny; also, let me say that division of household chores is certainly partly about “leaving” stuff one doesn’t like to do. My husband hates cooking for instance – he refuses to learn it even a little and leaves it to me. Every couple will have to work out stuff between themselves and part of that will be based on what each person is inclined towards doing – and keeping each others’ likes and dislikes in mind, I still think its possible to divide work fairly.

    Dream – who are these super people who enjoy everything and do it well? 🙂 Thanks for our viewpoint though; I completely agree – esp with how one’s own attitudes to work are shaped by what society expects.

  • Though binary’s reaction was strongly put, I had somewhat the same feeling. The things you “leave” to your husband, other than the bathroom cleaning, are all stereotypically men’s jobs — garden work, cleaning the car, caring for the dog. If the husband doesn’t even do those things, it’s not a terribly well-balanced or unusual division of labour. Your post doesn’t sound very different from saying “we share duties: I leave earning a salary to my husband, and I look after the house and kids.” Which would not excite many feminists, I’m sure.

  • apu

    Rahul – have no issue with disagreements/different interpretations. First of all, like I said, I had actually intended that “leave” bit as a bit of a joke on traditional roles – I guess the humour didn’t come through, which perhaps means I’m not too great as a humourous writer! Not sure where you got that “I leave earning a salary to my husband” bit from. My point was more that, even in a situation where men share fairly, women still have some pressure (and the point of this article was – from themselves!)

  • Not sure where you got that “I leave earning a salary to my husband” bit from.

    I wasn’t saying that applies to you. I was saying it sounds similar: it sounds like you leave “men’s jobs” to your husband. (If you had written that you “leave the cooking” to your husband, it would be less stereotypical and the humour would come through better.) And I have nothing against stay-at-home moms, if it is a choice they made. Part of feminism should be about respecting that sort of choice too.

    Yes, I agree women have pressure, from themselves and from others. If women feel that a dirty house reflects on them, it is at least partly because many other people will think it does reflect on them.

  • […] us women continue to willing wear it around our necks like a millstone that we are proud of?” asks Aparna Singh at Ultra Violet. Cancel this […]

  • […] us women continue to willing wear it around our necks like a millstone that we are proud of?” asks Aparna Singh at Ultra […]

  • Binary

    One man’s joke is another(woman)’s rudeness.

    In that spirit, here’s another joke. A woman was talking to her trusted lady friend, who was also a relationship/marriage counselor. The woman complained that she thought the man was having an affair. When the friend asks why, she says “When we got married, we decided to share everything: good and bad, including food. For the first few months of our marriage,I would eat half an apple, and he would eat the other. He would eat half a banana, and I the other. But lately, he has been acting differently. He would eat a banana himself. When I ask him about it, he offers me the apple. When I further question, he offers to eat the apple instead and asks me to eat a banana.” The friend replies intently, “Thats easy, he’s not having an affair. But to be safe, stop eating fruits, and just eat rice from now on, so you can easily share”.

    But anyway, back to the post. Please continue to wonder if I ‘got’ your post. I do have to clarify though, that I was referring to the “feminist arrogance”, rather than your arrogance as a person. Thats why I said I was sorry for sounding personal, but that is not my intention. Infact Im glad that you and your husband have a good and fair relationship that works for you both. But if you identify with the feminist in you, then by implication my comment on arrogance is intended at you too. No taking back that.

    About the funny part, yes, it was sure intended to be funny, clearly with the exclamation at the end. But here’s the catch; its funny in a condescending way – something in the way you wrote that is funny to the feminists, not necessarily to others. Like you “leave” it to him, as though “you” have all the choice, and by default he has to. For all your talk on having an ungendered view of things, this is perfectly fine, no?

    You said: “If at all there is anyone I am “blaming” in this post, it is myself for holding regressive baggage; so, I have no clue what you are talking about when you say that I want to blame someone else.” Not true. “Sometimes I wonder if the kind of gendered upbringing we have (and I say this as someone born to fairly liberal parents) has completely messed us up as far as this kind of thing is concerned.” You blame (wonder?) the “gendered upbringing”, for “completely messing” us up, “as far as this kind of thing is concerned.” You also follow it up saying that even though you are a feminist, you carry regressive baggage, meaning that anything that is not feminist by definition must be regressive. If you are completely honest with yourself, you will accept that as much as you have what is called “regressive baggage”, you do also have “progressive pressure”, from other feminists, or just to be a feminist or role model. In fact, this is exactly the disservice you are doing to other women, who you want to help by getting rid of regressive baggage, but all you are doing is putting progressive pressure on them, as though they should consider themselves less than accomplished, or less respectful of themselves if they are not feminist, or not feminist enough. This is clearly an unstated presumption behind your views – that unfeminist is old, passe, embarassing and shameful even; while feminist is in fashion, self-respecting, proud etc – and you are entitled to it, of course. And we all have our experiences and convictions that lead us to say things in ways that others find troubling. But, as a writer in the public domain, you invite scrutiny and dissection of every sentence from people who are not predisposed to your worldviews, and part of a writer’s challenge is to figure out whether he/she wants to accept criticism when there is merit in it, or stay in the defensive cocoon on their worldview. Just consider that in between the commenters here, there is probably in excess of 500 years of life experience, compared to you (the writer) with 25 or 35 years. So, it is perfectly possible that someone doesnt see your words as you do. This is how you have no clue where something some commenters say comes from.

    Lastly, you said:” My point was more that, even in a situation where men share fairly, women still have some pressure”. As a corollary, even where men share fairly, women do still complain and whine, due to some pressure, fed by a pathological pursuit of equality, that is in no way remotely achievable – unless people are trained to reach a sexless identity, which is probably what feminists desire, with their opposition to “gendered upbringing”. And this progressive pressure is on you from where? From peers, from self-improvement goals. And yet, you identify only the opposite as the problem, so that you can be aware of it and move away from it. I could go on and finish with another story/joke, but I’ll pass.

  • Sigh! dream & Aparna — I neither have an insight into your minds nor do I think there is no “regressive baggage” that you carry from the “gendered upbringing”. All I am saying is that the “we feel compelled to clean and so it has to be the regressive baggage” logic is shoddy. Once you discover this causality, however far-fetched it is, others are bound to concur in retrospect. Not unlike people feeling that they were sexually harassed in their workplace a decade back, after watching a workplace sensitivity video. That neither strengthens nor weakens your claim. A stronger evidence would be an anecdote where your grandmother droned on for hours about the ideal woman who kept the kitchen clean or where your visiting aunt chided you for being lazy and your mom for not having taught you good housekeeping skills.

  • I am stepping into this debate a tad bit late…but I just have to agree with alan on this. I find that a lot of feminist women cant be true feminists because they continue in their regressive roles and then condone this by calling it regressive baggage…its a vicious cycle, see??

  • Lolol

    I once read a book called “the Politics of Housework”–it was eye-opening. Also, another good book was “get to work” by linda hirshman, which outright said that every bit of time that women spend doing unpaid labor (ie housework) is a detriment to their money-earning capacity, because that is time that is not being spent in the paid labor market. She also quoted the blogger BitchPhD on an interesting way to make the division of labor in your house more equal (which was, basically say out loud everything you do in terms of housework WHILE you are doing it, so that your husband/partner hears you, for a week…eventually he will realize how much extra work you do, and either decide that he thinks it is unfair that you do this extra work and start picking up the slack, or divorce you because he would rather have you do the extra work). I also read that people who do housework that is needed to be done on a daily basis or work that involves many steps (like cooking) report greater dissatisfaction and feel more burdened than people who have to do housework tasks that need to be done relatively infrequently or do not involve many steps (like mowing a lawn). As it turns out, the housework tasks that require less steps and more frequency are the ones women traditionally choose to do or end up doing, whether out of guilt or pressure or whatever, while men do the other ones. And so, women construct a kind of “story” as to how the division of labor in their household is “fair.” (I am not trying to say that the division of labor in your household is not fair, as I don’t know the whole story and I am not trying to judge anyone).
    As a single woman I don’t have to deal with this now (though I’ve had many conflicts with ex-boyfriends in the past over division of housework..I always ended up doing more) but I have learned to bring the issue of division of labor up when I am talking to a guy I am interested in or dating…and make it very clear that I am not interested in doing any more than half the work!

  • Lolol

    I meant women do the tasks that require more steps (not less steps) and more frequency..

  • So I’m the ideal feminist. I don’t worry myself that the room needs cleaning, the trash can needs emptying etc. I don’t feel compelled to anything of the sort although I have got disapproval over this from countless females from grandmom to college mates. What I’ve felt on the thing is that I’m slightly irresponsible.

  • Ammel ammel

    I was wondering whether you could provide some information on the mobilisation of women in Kerala by Women’s Voice and Nisa over the demand for a minimum wage of Rs 3000 for housewives(or another nomenclature that captures the work)from the Government as well as compensation for accidents. Even if the govt doesnt pay heed, and maybe the demand must be made to members of the family, it is great that there are unions of housewives. More bargaining power and critical views on family!Those debates are important.

  • re-sister

    Thank you for this post, and your wonderful blog. Long-time reader, and first time commenter!
    As someone who identifies as Indian and feminist, I have an interesting dynamic around house-work with my male partner. He too considers himself Indian and feminist, and often has to deal with my knee-jerk aggressive paranoid reactions to many things in our relationship. I grew up distrusting men so much, and swearing so hard to myself about insisting on egalitarian relationships, that sometimes get in my own way! So, it took me a while to figure out what was making me so mad in situations similar to that described in your post – of the male sitting around watching TV when there was housework to be done! I finally started questioning my assumption of why it “had” to be done, and was able to see my anxieties for what they were. But interestingly, we have since found that my partner has similar anxieties around housework that “has” to get done. It’s just that it’s over different things! So, he can’t stand a toilet/ bathroom left uncleaned for 2 weeks, while that doesn’t bother me upto a month (sometimes more!). For me, it’s laundry. And so on. So there are aspects of housework that never make it onto my list of work to be shared between us, because I don’t even notice it! And the same for him. I think that once both partners start taking the emotional responsibility and mental checklist of housework on, it can eventually lead to each person doing whatever work bothers them most if left undone. It works very well for us now!

  • apu

    Thanks all for your comments – including those who disagree with me – though I don’t agree at all with much of what you say ( I don’t for instance believe that assessing one’s upbringing or how society conditions us is the same as ‘blaming’) – but it is always useful to reflect on one’s writing and see how one can improve to make things clearer.

    Payal – IMHO, no one can be a perfect feminist at all times; we live in a world that is shaped a certain way, and all of must choose the battles we want to fight, and the ones we want to drop.

    Lolol – that ‘politics of housework’ sounds interesting. I once read a list by someone on the tasks as allotted to her and husband, and her own realization was that almost all the daily and time bound tasks were hers, whereas her husband’s were ‘big tasks’ as well but not daily ones and could be done at his own convenience. I’d say some of that applies to me as well, and may well to apply to most other women. I still view it as a positive change though – that men are taking on more household tasks than they once did.

    Saika – good for you 🙂

    Ammel – thanks for bringing that up. I must say, I am pretty ill-informed about it. Perhaps you would care to write something on the subject?

    re-sister – thanks for de-lurking! Glad you shared your personal experience. I do think that such experiences while not “proof” as some commentors would demand, have something to say about women’s lives, and certainly, they are not isolated experiences. I think your experience illustrates quite well the transition we are going through when it comes to gender roles.

  • Am I only female in this whole wide world who doesn’t get bothered by house work? Don’t take me wrong. I am not a slob but I don’t do the house work when I am tired. Probably it’s because I am unmarried female who has to manage everything in her life and hence I know that I have a limit of how much work I can do and once I cross that, I quit. I don’t push myself…

  • Preeti

    I have no idea what Binary is talking about. His post dissolved into a rant against feminism before I could detect any cogent argument in it.
    He seems to have an axe to grind against gender equality that he himself is being less than honest about. I always love it when anti-feminists conflate gender equality with ‘sexlessness’. Their understanding of sexual differences seems to stem not so much from biological and physiological facts (which seem to indicate to me that gender is a continuum) as from a cultural, binary understanding of gender. Man=protector/woman=protected etc.

  • Sandhya

    Well, I’m happy to set myself up as a counter-example here. In our house, my husband does most of the cooking and cleaning. It didn’t entirely start out that way — but what started as a meticulous equality in the division of chores has gradually slipped into a domestic situation where he does most of the work. For instance, my husband always makes the breakfast (partly, but not entirely, because he tends to wake up earlier), and he frequently also cooks dinner. I tend to cook only the infrequent, “special” meals: a fancy brunch at home on a Sunday, or when we have guests over, or simply when the mood strikes (which, I have to admit, it strikes increasingly rarely). He’s also much better than me at doing the laundry and cleaning the dishes.

    Part of this is because I am finishing my doctoral dissertation and don’t have much time to take care of the daily domestic chores. But this is just a part of it — much of it is because he’s just better at it and I just can’t seem to be bothered and because, let’s face it, he lets me get away with it. It’s a neat role reversal — if I were a man, this would just be your standard sexist household.

    Do I feel guilty? Of course I do. But if I were scrupulously honest, I’d have to admit to a sense of satisfaction at subverting the gender stereotype (one that, by the way, my husband would share — he is every bit as feminist as I am). But let’s make no mistake — this is sexism too.

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