Lynne Miles // 22 April 2008
One of my oldest and dearest friends, Lara at KnitWit, has developed a concept which I think is rather fab.
Lara’s into crafts, knitting most particularly, and craft blogging. Part of the joy of craft blogging is proudly displaying photos of your finished items, but the super-swish, hyper-tidy visions of domestic bliss showcased in these pictures sometimes started to get Lara down:
by only focusing on the beautiful corners of your home you are tipping over into hyper-reality and showcasing an aspirational lifestyle […] the fact that we know glossy lifestyle/fashion magazines aren’t real doesn’t make them any less damaging in my view, it still portrays an unattainable lifestyle and something for women to put pressure on themselves to aspire towards.
And so the concept of Messy Tuesdays was born – Lara and her friend Felix posted photos of their unfinished washing up, car boots stuffed with crap, untidy bookcases, and stacks of unrinsed milk bottles. Other bloggers have followed suit, and I want to join in. So here are photos of my spectacularly untidy desk and the patch of disgustingly dirty carpet uncovered under our laundry bin (well who honestly hoovers under their furniture?)
Why is this important? It’s important because, as Lara says:
For someone who spent her teenager years wrapped in teenage angst about not being clever enough, pretty enough or thin enough, the idea that my home won’t be beautiful enough, my craft not so well executed or my knitting up to speed has been at times quite tough.
I think this resonates in a lot of areas in our lives, particularly for women. An example. My boyfriend and I have a reasonably equitable division of household labour, although we are both, frankly, presidposed towards the slovenly. Still, we divide some tasks between us (I do laundry, he cleans the kitchen and bathroom), take it roughly in turns to do others (tidying the bedroom, cooking, washing up). The rest of the chores we kind of pretend don’t exist (Ironing. Seriously. Who has time in their life for ironing?)
So far so good; nobody’s angsting about the housework in terms of who does it. But in terms of who worries about it – well I totally have the upper hand. If we have people round for dinner, he’ll usually tidy up whilst I’m at work, but I’m the one obsessively apologising to people for the (sometimes non-existent) mess. You know, like its my fault – more accurately, my responsibility. Cause although he may ‘help out’ (and get the praise for doing so) I will be the one who is on the receiving end of any disapproval which may be flying around.
I’ve been away a lot for work recently, and later this week I have an approximately ten hour turnaround between getting back from a week long trip, and going off on another week-long trip to visit the in-laws. I did as much laundry as I could last weekend, but inevitably we’ll be short on socks and underwear and stuff by Friday. No problem, says he, we’ll just wash it when we get to my mum’s. The housewife-throwback inside of me instinctively shudders – what would his mum think of me if we turned up with a pile of dirty laundry? She’d think I wasn’t looking after her boy properly. No matter that my brain knows this to be nonsense. No matter that if she ever said as much to me (which of course she wouldn’t) I’d certainly manage to muster a pretty strong counter-attack. That’s still my first reaction.
I read the recent Feministe thread on ‘Being a Feminist Boyfriend‘ with some interest, and a few comments struck a chord with me.
We must be willing to do more than “help out”; around the house (the language of a child doing chores). We must proactively assert ourselves in domestic decisions, lifting a culturally-imposed burden off the shoulders of our spouses.
That home is yours, so do not help with housework, DO housework.
and Anne Onne:
She, on the other hand, has probably been brought up to help around the house, that it must be done, and to a certain standard, and that people will judge her on it. And it’s not a lie, they will. Your partner feels uncomfortable because she knows that any blame for the house not being spotless will fall on her, even if it’s not her fault. She will probably do much more of the housework than you, because of this.
So, on reflection, perhaps we should take our dirty underwear to his mother’s after all…! Strike a blow for the sisterhood? In the meantime, I’d like to see some more Messy Tuesdays.