A let­ter to...

My part­ner – here we are again, ar­gu­ing about the house­work …

The Guardian - Family - - Family life - Anony­mous

Who has done what, who does more, how we are go­ing to make things bet­ter. I never said that you didn’t lift a fin­ger; you do lots of house­work. You are a won­der­ful, con­sid­er­ate, mod­ern, fem­i­nist man. But the im­bal­ance is still there. You get an­gry when I say that

I see our prob­lem within the con­text of the gen­der di­vide, as symp­to­matic of our sex­ist so­ci­ety. You ac­cuse me of be­ing pa­tro­n­is­ing, which is up­set­ting, but also rather ironic, don’t you think?

I have spent so much time think­ing about this prob­lem – in­tel­lec­tu­al­is­ing, analysing and rag­ing while I hang up your clothes and mine; while I scrub the toi­let; while I pick up things from the bed­room floor. I have Googled it, read end­less ar­ti­cles, re­vis­ited clas­sic fem­i­nist texts and turned to more re­cent self-help books about “drop­ping the ball”. I have com­plained in my di­ary, sought ad­vice from friends, men and women, gay and straight. Some­times, I have just given up, stopped do­ing all but the bare min­i­mum and hoped you would no­tice and take the hint. I used a work-track­ing app to clock the hours I spend do­ing house­work and showed you the re­sult. I sent you ar­ti­cles about it, and even a car­toon. I have made jokes and snippy com­ments. I have spent time com­pos­ing po­lite, jokey, pas­siveag­gres­sive, or plain ag­gres­sive text mes­sages. I have care­fully planned what to say and how to say it.

We have dis­cussed it at length, of course. Timidly, calmly and ra­tio­nally, the first few times. Later on, I shouted in fury and thought, “He has re­ally heard me this time.” We have had meet­ings, sum­mits and pow­wows. But we have con­tin­ued to ar­gue. I have cried more than once; I think you have too.

I thought if I could make you un­der­stand how much time I spend do­ing it, how it leaves me feel­ing my time was worth less than yours, that it got in the way of my work, that it made me re­sent­ful to­wards you, that it was a re­sult of our so­cial con­di­tion­ing by the pa­tri­archy, that it made me wor­ried about what would hap­pen when we have chil­dren, that it was such a cliche; that it was just plain un­fair, you would change your at­ti­tude and be­hav­iour.

II thought if I could make you un­der­stand how it leaves me feel­ing my time is worth less than yours, you would change

asked you to make a list, and I made one too and we ar­gued about what should be done, when and how of­ten. I found a chore app and asked you to down­load it too, and then I pro­grammed the jobs we had agreed on. I thought the fact that you could earn points for com­plet­ing tasks would bring out your com­pet­i­tive side and the scores would make things more trans­par­ent. But stuff still seemed to pile up and you weren’t a fan of ro­tas. Your score: 92; mine: 174. As I said, you do lots, but it is still not equal and I still feel taken for granted.

So what now? The re­sent­ment is be­com­ing a bur­den. I am bor­ing my friends, and run­ning out of so­lu­tions. And we seem to be hav­ing the same ar­gu­ment over and over. I need you to ad­mit that I do more than you, that it is un­fair, and you have been en­joy­ing the male priv­i­lege of do­ing less and car­ing less about do­mes­tic work. And I need you to do and care more. Will you ever meet me in the mid­dle?

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