More feminist fun times in the pages of the Guardian, where Nicola Heath is bemoaning her womanly lot:
It feels very personal, the fight you have with your partner about who does the laundry or cleans the bathroom. But the second-wave feminists were right. The personal is political.
“The personal is political,” says she. Well, so I hear. But it’s also worth considering just how often the political, or allegedly political, is a function of personality and a self-flattering rationalisation for personal shortcomings and sub-optimal choices. Not least among the kinds of people who loudly announce that the personal is political. In fact, hold that thought.
The unequal division of labour at home is a systemic issue that needs structural social change to solve it.
In this instance, the claim of inequality and the case for “structural social change” are not entirely compelling:
Like many heterosexual couples, it was the arrival of children that set my husband and me on divergent paths at home. I’ve been an avowed (and untidy) feminist since I was old enough to say the word. We were together for 10 years before the birth of our daughter – he knew his co-parent had zero aspirations to be a homemaker… Becoming a parent is… a huge transition. Your identity is reforged in the crucible of sleep deprivation and newfound responsibility. The pre-kid lifestyle of Friday night drinks, free time and sleeping in becomes a distant memory.
Yes, in a shocking and unguessable turn of events, becoming a parent is usually a life-changing experience, a major development that entails compromise and sacrifice. A shifting of priorities. If only all of the other parents on the planet throughout human history had an inkling, some clue. Our Guardian writer is of course determined to frame the subsequent division of labour in the Heath household as a result of dark forces – including “social conditioning,” “prescribed gender roles” and the oft-invoked “gender pay gap.” An allegedly oppressive phenomenon that doesn’t actually exist. And then, inevitably, a whiff of self-pity:
When you have someone to take care of menial stuff such as running your life, there’s little incentive to change the status quo. It’s nice having someone wash your clothes and cook your food. When you don’t have to expend mental energy keeping track of grocery lists and family birthdays, you have the cognitive bandwidth to think about other things.
She’s expending mental energy on grocery lists. Someone bring medals, big ones.
Ms Heath gives no indication that her husband is in any way negligent or inert in terms of household chores, indeed we’re told the opposite – he “does a great deal around the house.” Said husband is also, it seems, the primary breadwinner, working full-time. Unlike Ms Heath, a part-time freelance writer who chose to expend resources on a degree in Media and Communications at Deakin University, and whose intermittent vocational dabbling includes short articles on pizza toppings. Part of a crushing freelance workload that, according to her own portfolio, maxes out at seventeen articles a year, but more typically four. Hence, presumably, the stress of remembering birthdays and compiling grocery lists. All that cognitive bandwidth.
Unhindered by such details, the drama continues:
If women want their partners to do more domestic tasks – which would free them up to do more work outside the home – it’s not going to happen without some uncomfortable conversations. Change is difficult. We’re asking someone to give up their privilege,
While demanding “structural social change” because the bathroom needs cleaning.
Update, via the comments:
If a man had made similar choices to Ms Heath, resulting in him having much less earning power than his wife and consequently occupying the role of stay-at-home dad with a part-time freelance job, would this also be grounds for political outrage and demands for “structural social change”? Would his wife - who works full-time, pays most of the bills, and also helps out around the house - be subjected to “uncomfortable conversations” about surrendering her “privilege”?
Or do different rules apply for women, or at least for feminists?