W.I.F.E.: Wash – Iron – Fuck – Etc.
I saw this on an icon today. And I am doing laundry again
. And my mother called Russ her "son-in-law" again.
I'm a good third-wave feminist. Well, I'm a good theoretical feminist. Or a good feminist in theory. Anyway, I know it is possible to be a wife without being the kind of woman they always make fun of at domestic_snark
But... Russ' Mum, when she catches him doing something like leaving his socks on the floor, says to me: "Well, he is your problem now." He is now mine to train, or to pick up after if I fail to train him adequately.*
My mother is a full-time wife and mother. She keeps an impeccable house and cooks a good dinner, to be consumed as a family at the kitchen table, every night. I thought I could avoid triggering that image of "wifedom" by not marrying Russ. We would live in blissful partnership. No wedding, no contract, means no expectation, from him or from myself, of being a good wife.
But, I am the one in our relationship that cares how the house looks, so I end up doing most of the cleaning and tidying. I am the organized one, so I do the bills, schedules, and meal plans. I am not very strong or handy, so I cannot fix the caulking in the bathroom or fix the living room fan. Russ is better at talking to contractors and electricians then I am. And I don’t drive, so I don't know how to change a tire or check the oil.
Russ does do the cooking and cleans the bathroom, but otherwise our housework is divided along very conventional gender lines. That's not how it was supposed to be; I'm a feminist. Skills be damned – I should be re-finishing the deck while he does the vacuuming.
There was a StatsCan survey back in July
that the media tended hail as proof that "more men are doing housework", as if there was suddenly gender equality in household matters. What struck me was how little equality it actually represented. The gap is narrower, but we've got a long way to go:
The proportion of men who did some housework daily rose from 54% in 1986 to 69% in 2005. The proportion of women who did daily housework held steady at 90%.
Looking only at "core housework", men’s participation went from 40% to 59% and women’s dropped from 88% to 85%.
Russ does core housework every day, so he is part of the 59%. But when did I become a conventional, traditional woman doing "woman’s work"?
And just a quick look at the wedding industry reveals how old-fashioned we can get about marriage. When a woman gets engaged, perfect strangers will congratulate her as if she's just won some sort of contest, without knowing anything about her husband. British journalist Jemima Lewis: "If [the bride-to-be] is defensive, it is because she has realized how little the condition of womanhood has changed – and how antediluvian her own instincts really are."
When I took my minor in Women's Studies, I had little patience for the theorists who claimed that it was impossible to have gender equity within marriages and that we would have to create children in test tubes before we could be treated as equals.~ Though I still don't agree with them, I do see their point: I am a feminist; I have a university degree and a full-time job; and I was raised to believe that I can be anything and do anything – I should be the poster child for an non-traditional relationship. And I still change the bed instead of fixing the drywall.
Third-wave feminism, to speak very broadly, tends to be about choice: for example, women can choose to stay home and raise children, or choose to work. But what of the choices we seem to make that aren't really choices at all, such as to do the vacuuming because your mother taught you to, while your partner fixes the fence because his father taught him to. Am I making a deliberate choice to be this kind of wife and partner, or am I caving to my social training?
I'm going to go fold my partner's t-shirts.
*This isn't a slight against Russ, or any sort of hint that he needs to behave any differently then he does (really, sweetie). That is just what his mother is saying to me.
~An Internet cookie for anyone who can name that theorist – my mind is drawing a blank.