Saturday, February 25, 2006

There ought to be a law!

The kids are on their way to Grandma's house and I'm exalting in the stillness of the house. Lucky me.

A week or so ago, Judith Warner wrote a column complaining about what a drag it is doing laundry how some things haven't changed since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique.

The gender caste system is still alive and well in most of our households. After all, no one really wants to do the scrubbing and folding and chauffeuring and mopping and shopping and dry-cleaner runs. [I would say most people don't want to do those things; I actually know some who do. -ed.] (I'm leaving child-minding out of this; in a happily balanced life, it doesn't feel like a chore.)

Once the money for outsourcing runs dry, it's the lower-status member of the household who does these things. It is the lower-status member of the household who is called a "nag" when she repeatedly tries to get other members of the household to share in doing them.

This is just one indication that the feminist "revolution" that was supposed to profoundly reshape women's lives remains incomplete. Another is the fact that there are no meaningful national policies to make satisfying work and satisfying family life anything but mutually exclusive for most men and women.*

(Emphasis added.) Most men and women she knows, no doubt. And anyway, why are some people wasting their time at the Danish embassy showing support of free speech when they could be holding up signs in support of lowest-status members of the house! Sure -- we're the richest country in the world, but lowest status members of the house aren't the richest people in the richest country in the world! Oooooh, it makes my blood boil!

Cathy Seipp weighs in on the laundry debate by citing Cheryl Mendelson's new book, Laundry: The Home Comforts Book of Caring for Clothes and Linens.

She has a dry wit when it comes to common assumptions about housekeeping, noting how she knows from experience that the people most familiar with boring, repetitive tasks are lawyers. Her frequent deadpan irony, however, has a core of complete seriousness. “The old rules no longer seem to work,” she writes in Laundry about the current devolution of sorting habits, “and the standard consequence of a breakdown in rules and values has ensued: the youth have become skeptical and nihilistic. They do not believe it is possible to figure it all out. They do not sort their clothes for laundering, and they sneer that sorting makes no difference. But they are wrong.”

The youth of America sneer at sorting? People in my house are sneering as well! The laundry bin has two sides: one marked darks and one marked lights. It's so simple, and yet, there they are -- a pair of dark blue jeans mixed in with the whites. Sigh. When will people start reading my memos?

I have the feeling I'm missing out on a lot of sorting, though, so I'm going to rush out to Barnes & Noble today to buy Mendelson's book and perhaps her 1999 bestseller, Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. They each sound deliciously judgmental. And, as I love being judged, why should I only let the voices in my head have all the fun?

* Judy, let's keep marital politics out of national politics, at least when it comes to laundry. On the other hand, as I noted in the comments section of Cathy's blog, instead of passing broad policies ensuring work and family life are mutually satisfying for both husband and wife, we could pass a law making it illegal to leave clothes on the floor for more than three days in a row.

You are married to a law-abiding citizen, aren't you?


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