Dirty Dishes and

Family Visas and Complete Annihilation

A theme of big picture men and day-to-day women. Just a theme, not a hard fact or theory even. Just an observation.

Woman asks about policy currently keeping families apart vs men asking about nuclear holocaust

Adam Smith writing about human nature and the allocating wealth of nations vs Adam Smiths mum making sure Adam Smith eats dinner and doesn’t die that day.

Me asking wife about our responsibility for the savage terror bombing of civilians vs Wife asking husband if we should do a grocery shop before her parents arrive. I was concerned we are ignoring bigger questions we used to focus on in uni as we’ve settled into our adult working life. She was pissed that I set up a binary between getting the housework done and being a morally responsible global citizen.

A few blogs on this subject have helped me draw a distinction between academic and practical feminism. The first by Chris Crass focuses mostly on the academic side, the second by Pamela Clark and the third by Miri explore a more practical side. The latter two don’t disparage the first for its academic focus, but they were written by female authors who had to step in to add practical activities to male writer’s list. I think my lack of practical feminism has left my wife in the same frustrating spot.

I’ve really taken on board the advice of the first one. I’ve got my book wishlist made and I’m currently making my way through Audre Lorde‘s Sister Outsider after a year or so of reading McCarthy and Pynchon on the advice of Harold Bloom. Here I am writing a blog entry about it all. But the one I’m still struggling with (or being wilfully shit at) is the first one from Pamela Clark:

1. Do 50% (or more) of housework.
You need to do your share of housework all the time, of your own accord, without procrastinating, without being asked, without making excuses. Recognize that our domestic habits and our internalized ideas about unpaid domestic work are hugely gendered and hugely benefit men, and accept that it is your responsibility to fight against this. If feminism is the theory, clean dishes are the practice. Over the next week, take note of how much housework you do as compared to women you live with and note where it is or is not an equitable division.

Men and Housework

Overview of messy me. Overview of clean wife. When separate. When together.

I’m guilty of getting defensive when my wife gets frustrated she’s had to ask me to do a chore and say I’m happier with a bit of mess and that I have female friends who are messy like me, and it’s just that I’m married to someone who is particularly clean that I always look like a misogynist letting his wife do a bigger per centage of the housework. In the half hour before bed, I’d rather read my new Audre Lorde book than make sure the sink is completely empty of dirty dishes. I’d rather look up details about the African Writers conference that Lorde mentions attending than make sure I’ve put the laundry on.

This is an argument made by Jonathan Chait in an article claiming men just value different activities to women and that mess is ok: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/really-easy-answer-to-the-housework-problem.html Obvs bollocks cos my laziness doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s dependent on my wife picking up the slack.

Jessica Grose: https://newrepublic.com/article/112693/112693






Claims women should be doing more cooking and cleaning for their husbands. Chamber theatre about why women wash dishes.

My wife says she remembers cooking with her grandma on Sundays. While her grandparents have an equal working relationship where both are artists at their studio, her grandma would still do the cooking at home. Her mother cooks for her father. I add that my mother and step-mothers cooked for me and my dad. My grandmothers cooked for us all and I never saw a grandfather cook, in part because one died and the other abandoned his wife and son.


Claims that men can’t tidy because it involves multitasking. Theories that men are less able to tidy because our hunter-gather past has left them biologically less able to see mess. Highlighting the lack of a biological basis for the higher amounts of housework women do.

As I write this, my wife is trying a new vegan pizza recipe. She is enjoying spending her day off doing this. She finds exploring ethical and healthy cooking fulfilling. I don’t really enjoy cooking I’d rather be here typing. I ask my wife what she thinks of this.

My wife adds, “It’s bullshit and it makes me mad. But part of me just feels bad for men. It’s pathetic to have not got used to doing really simple self-care things.” This reminds me of when I was single and living with a fellow shit-at-basic-life-tasks batchelor in London. I ate crap and was messy and miserable. For all my academic feminism I was a prime example of the man with underdeveloped domestic labour skills. And I certainly didn’t enjoy it. I was a victim of my own ineptitude, not happily free to be as messy as preference allowed as Jonathan Chait would suggest. I was all theory and no practice and suffering. Men like me are in desperate need of feminism.

Emancipation vs Liberation: women cook because men go out to work, but now women go out to work too so double shift (like liz’s grandma),

My wife works part-time and I work full-time and we’ve made it clear that that mustn’t mean that she does more than 50% of the housework. She works in public health and there simply isn’t the same funding for her work as there is for the financial/legal area I work in. It isn’t considered as valuable a sector to fund and the people who work in it aren’t considered worth being renumerated as well. My sector is male-dominated hers is female. The UK government that pulls the economic levers is overwhelmingly male-dominated – at about 22% it’s way under the OECD average for women parliamentarians – and the public sector being cut is much more women-dominated – over 60% of public sector staff are women. The specific area my wife works in has been cut dramatically and was already underfunded as a % of GDP in comparison to other OECD countries. My wife being at home more than me is a direct result of patriarchy at the state level, so letting that to lead to her doing more housework would be particularly awful.


Chore monitoring. As Clark suggests, we’ve made a chore checklist.




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