The Vagenda

Cleaning is a Feminist Issue (or Why Cleaning up Your Pubes Makes my Vagina Want to Die)

 
My housemate moved out a couple of months ago. His departure made me so happy that I did a naked victory lap around the living room; and not just because of the half empty bottle of gin he left under his bed. He was a nice enough chap, but 90% of the reason I took him on was because he didn’t have the ‘all aboard the murder train’ expression of the other people that came to look around. I was worried before he moved in, though, because he was a 21 year old lad, away from home for the first time. To be honest I don’t think he would ever have unclamped his teeth from his mother’s nipples if he hadn’t been forced to relocate for work; and therein lies the problem with so many men, I feel.

Tons of young lads have been brought up to think it’s OK to sit in about in stained boxers, playing Playstation while their mummies flit around making them sandwiches and cooing into their gross greasy hair. There are still men who don’t know how to turn on the washing machine at 21 years old – find me a woman who couldn’t manage that before they‘d even got their first bra. My friends and I left home able to cook a roast dinner, clean the inside of a microwave, paint a bedroom, and negotiate even the most middle class of recycling systems. When my housemate moved in he had to ask me how to do the following things: turn on the oven, mop the floor, empty the bin, dust, or even (and this last one, sadly, was self-evident) flush the bloody toilet. He didn’t once use the hob in 9 months, because he didn’t know how (or how to cook). But he wasn’t stupid; he could drive and had made himself a fuck load of money at his accountancy job (his mum didn‘t make him pay rent). He had been coddled like a big, steroid filled baby in a Jack Wills t-shirt. It wasn’t just that he was lazy- although he was- but that he genuinely didn’t know that things needed doing, or how to do them. I asked him to clean the bathroom twice in those 9 months, and both times I had to talk him though it step by step, step 9 being ‘I will fucking well punch you in the cock‘.

I know mums of boys. When you ask them why their progeny are useless overgrown versions of those potatoes you go cress out of so it looks like hair, they just mist over and go ‘ahhh, they’re my babies!’. Women, correct me if I’m wrong, but would your mums give the same answer? Or would they explain that they had been bellowing at you, with specks of foam in the corner of their mouths, to ‘empty the BLOODY DISHWASHER’ since you were old enough to wipe your own arse? My house mate wasn’t a one off. I’ve had countless boyfriends (no really, I’ve had LOADS) who have expected me to work the same amount of hours as them and yet do all the household chores. It probably doesn’t help that my type is needy controlling drug addict, but some of the things I’ve had to do for men because they were too lazy is astonishing. One boyfriend demanded that I bring him his tea, and when I told him to fuck off he pissed in my underwear drawer ‘for a laugh’. Another, that was a sort of live in disaster/mooch/alcoholic, wasn’t a fan of washing or looking after himself in any way. At one point, I had to bribe him with a cooked breakfast so that he would let me shave his beard into a carrier bag (he was on too much of a comedown to move from the sofa). I’d swing wildly between begging him to help me out, and stubbornly leaving it, thinking he’d give in when it got to a certain level of mess. But obviously he never did, and I’d spend about 6 hours jif-ing his pubes out of the shower.

The worst part is that I have spent my entire life watching my mum and dad in the same situation. My dad (and I bloody love him, but when it comes to this he’s a prat) recently told me that in 23 years of marriage, he’s never cleaned the fridge. I reckon it needs doing about once every 3 months at a bare minimum, so that means my mum has cleaned it 92 times versus his big old zero. He will tell you that it’s because he doesn’t mind living in mess, so he doesn’t bother. This is a particularly male brand of bullshit; what they really mean is they’re happy living in mess until their mates come round, or they get food poisoning, or they run out of clean socks. What it really means is not that they don’t see it, or they ‘like’ mess, but that they are unthinking and unthoughtful. Surely knowing that my mum worked two jobs and did the vast majority of the childcare would make my dad do most, if not all, of the cleaning. Knowing that their laziness frustrated me to tears on occasion would have made my boyfriends help me tidy up. But they will keep on throwing out antiquated tosh like ‘women are just obsessive about cleaning’- some women maybe, but most of us are very normal about it. We clean because we are GROWN UPS. We take the bin out because if we don’t, massive baby-eating rats will get in the kitchen. We wash our clothes because if we turn up to work every day with curry down our shirts we will probably get fired. These things are part of life, and they simply have to be done. 

So what can you do to equal the division of labour in your home? Not any of these, I can tell you. Though believe me, I’ve tried.

1. Don’t nag. And not because you don’t want him to think of you as screechy and boring (screechy and boring actually= overwhelmingly, justifiably frustrated), but because it doesn’t fucking work. Explain that you’re in an adult relationship and that you shouldn‘t have to tell him what to do, and that if he respects you then he’ll help out.

2. Don’t keep feeding him. It’s no coincidence that when men spend all their time feeding women, it’s so unusual that it’s known as a fetish. If he’s sat on his arse like a goose being revoltingly fattened up for foie gras then maybe it’s time to let him starve a bit. Hide the cutlery and plates but leave him out one of everything so he has no choice but to wash them up eventually. Then leave him to go out with your mates for a Wetherspoon’s all day breakfast while he sits at home looking miserably at a wooden spoon and the half a mouldy lemon he’s found in the back of the fridge.

3. Don’t continue to clean. It’s time to out-gross him society may like to paint women as rosy-cheeked and perfect, lovers of hygiene with vaginas that smell like freshly baked croissants. But I’ve seen enough of my friends piss in the street, then fall in it, then laugh, to know that isn’t the case. We can be as disgusting as any man, and if you play him at his own game he might crack. He leaves pubes in the shower? Chop some of your own off and sprinkle them in his cup of tea, and tell him it’s a flappachino. Put his dirty plates in his bed, clean the dog’s arse with his toothbrush, and if things get really desperate, concoct some sort of ‘sanitary wear in his lunchbox’ plan.

4. Don’t try and withold sex until he cleans up. If you do this then you’re buying into the long held idiotic belief that women only have sex a) to please men and b) when they want something. Surely sex is something you enjoy too, so why would you punish yourself? Sex isn’t a commodity or a bargaining tool. If you’re asking him to respect you as an equal, then don’t reduce him to a sex obsessed caveman who just wants to bash you over the head with a club and drag you back into his cave for some sweaty and uninspiring prehistoric shagging.

5. Don’t bribe him with blow-jobs. Remember when you were a kid and you’d get a treat if you managed to get through a supermarket shop without running down the aisles screaming and kicking dents into the deli counter? This is the same. Treating your partner like he’s a child isn’t useful for anyone, and unless you want to be changing his nappy in a few years time I’d stop the pandering ASAP. Plus, you might not even like giving blow jobs; and that means you’ll be doing a sexual act you’re not a fan of just to get something done, which is an incredibly depressing and antiquated sentiment. You might as well resign yourself to a lifetime wearing corsets, weeping restrainedly into handkerchiefs and contracting syphilis.

But take heart, you don’t need to resign yourself to a life of filthy misery. You could always dump the lazy porker. Redressing the balance of domestic labour might take a while; bear in mind that you may have to break through several decades of assumed roles and behaviour. Women are expected to be self sufficient from a young age, and I don’t think it’s been in preparation for a lifetime of marigolds and urinary incontinence since the 1950′s. I think it’s because we have to do it, or no one else will. It’s learn to clean or cook, or be filthy and hungry. Many blokes are still acting like Don Draper, with their wives offering up a sparking kitchen, a casserole and a vagina when they get in from winning big accounts and smoking 50 fags a day. But now we work as much as they do; although, of course, we still earn less. So what’s the solution? Find one of the good ones who do cook and clean. They are out there. And if I have a son, he will learn every single thing alongside his sisters. If I notice he’s got a girlfriend and he’s being a lazy little bastard, I will tell her to get rid. But not before she’s gone for a giant, steaming piss in his underwear draw.

- LB

31 thoughts on “Cleaning is a Feminist Issue (or Why Cleaning up Your Pubes Makes my Vagina Want to Die)

  1. This is utter bullshit and nonsense. I’m sorry that you’ve had it tough with the men you have lived with but I can think of just as many women who are equally useless. The main reason I like vagenda is because it doesn’t stoop to generalised gender based cliches. Please don’t start now.

    • Yeah, the article is funny (esp flappaccino so thanks for that) but my 2 male housemates are well more clean-y than me. I tell them my not helping is payback for centuries of female oppression, but honestly I’m just lazy and they don’t mind that much.
      To be fair they didn’t know how to do much technical stuff (ie use washing machines) before uni, but I’ll blame their moms for that, not them, and many of my female friends were just as useless. As soon as they learnt to cook they were quite the Ainsley Harriots, and one of them in particular is often seen donning the marigolds and scrubbing the cupboard doors.
      PS they hate football and I love it. THE WORLD’S GONE MAD! (or, it’s wrong to stereotype)

  2. As much as I’d love to agree and claim this was a male only issue after growing up in a house where I (as the daughter) was expected to do all the cooking and cleaning if my mum was away, I live with three girls who behave in the exact same way you’ve described above. By the way, refusing to clean does nothing but increase your own stress and anger levels, they don’t clean.

  3. I agree with this article in general but also Helen is right – I’ve encountered just as many (if not more) girls who do this. This is way more to do with how you are brought up than your gender. I do think cleaning is a feminist issue, and it may be that more girls are brought up being told to tidy their bedrooms etc.

  4. The writer isn’t arguing that men are useless at housework. She’s arguing that in her experience some men don’t feel they need to contribute to housework because it’s ‘women’s work’. She feels that some of them have learned that from the gender roles of their parents.

    • Yeah and (in my experience) some women think a man shouldn’t express emotions, and should pay for everything, and that girls who like football are lesbians… just coz there are dickheads in the world it doesn’t mean that we should make sweeping generalisations based on their gender. Isn’t this the point of the blog?

  5. I think there’s a really interesting issue here of how experience creates ‘normal’ the men here as berry said, have bringing up issues which makes, as Louise Hall says, the issue seeming to be ‘women’s work’ but LB’s experience is entirely of these kind of people.

    So really – our job is to bemoan the personal situation but not see it as a typical behaviour of gender, sex, race and so forth or as Helen Quinn write – generalised gender based cliques.

    Camilla
    LGBT Theatre http://bit.ly/1089qat

  6. Tricky, VERY tricky. I’m a slovenly slut and when my housemate cleans, I love it. I raise a hand to wipe the surfaces disconsolately now and then but only when promted by the sight of a creeping cockroach, and I find them scary, scarier than missing and hour lying on the sofa, staring at the ceiling.
    My father is Mr ‘everything should be in its place, why can’t you clean as you go Fiona?’, so clean, wearingly clean, too clean, for me.
    Sharing a flat is difficult cleaning-wise, no matter the gender involved because different people just have different ideas of how, when and if to clean. IF you happen to be sharing with someone you care about I’d say accomodating their slovenliness or anal retentiveness is more likely but generally, as with everything if you really think about it, we can’t say ‘boys are this way, and girls are that way’, that way lies a battleground.

  7. I get really cross with the stereotyping of men as overgrown children incapable of domestic tasks – the Boots adverts used to be especially patronising for these. I’ve watched my mum cosset my father and brother and insist that they not lift a finger to help with the housework “because he’ll only get it wrong” and been determined not to be like that. It’s true: I do tend to do more cleaning than my husband, but this is partly because I have a tidiness-bordering-on-obsession habit, and partly because I possess two cats, three ferrets and a pet-fur-allergy so vacuuming is in my self interest. On the other hand, my husband does most of the cooking and Lifting Heavy Things (he’s stronger than me), so I’m happy that things are approximately equal.

    I think it’s partly due to how people are brought up, and partly due to IQ and the willingness to challenge stereotypes. Most of my friends have a gender-equal housework split. Conversely, I work with some particularly dim and unpleasant male specimens who were astounded to learn that I “let” my husband do the cooking – “Oh, I get it, you just TELL him that he’s the better cook so’s you can have a break!” – and there’s a woman in my street who uses her garden as a tip (we have a sweepstake each year on how long until the Christmas tree is taken away. It usually goes mid-July) and used to take all her recycling back to her parents house because she didn’t understand Dustmen.

  8. I absolutely agree with the other commenters calling bullshit. I’m really not sure if some of the examples are jokes or tongue in cheek, but none of the above is ‘normal’, at least not in my experience of men. I do ever so slightly more than 50% of the housework because my other half works more, my parents split it pretty evenly too. And I sure as fuck haven’t dated anybody stupid enough to think pissing on things I own is ok. At all. Ever. Just no.

  9. Never met a man who realised fridges need cleaning. But have also lived with women who were pigs in this respect. So, occurs with both genders, but I think more so with men.

  10. I think what the writer is getting at is that there are still many men that do not know how to do the simplest things that, unfortunately, a larger (and that’s not to say THE) majority of women do know how to do, and that this sadly is a product of the largely entrenched gender roles that previous generations have taken on.

    What became obvious in uni halls was that so many boys had literally never done anything domestic before or even been shown how to cook – I heard of a friend’s housemate tipping a load of food onto a plate in freshers week and putting that plate onto the hob. And really, ACTUALLY, expecting it to cook. Or my own housemates (guys) offering to pay me to do their laundry during first year when they found the concept of learning to use a washing machine too much effort, egged on by the fact that they all felt a bit macho in refusing to do it together and trying to fob it off on one of the girls, because of course they would do it for them if offered a small incentive.

    Then again, I’ve also met girls who at the age of 22 don’t even know how to cook pasta because their mum sends them money to buy microwave meals every week. It almost makes me cry.

  11. Is it possible that most of you have failed to see that although there are some serious points to be made here, this article is first and foremost FUNNY. Humour often involves stereotypes.

    • It’s that kind of ‘gender stereotypes are acceptable because it’s supposed to be funny and if you don’t like it you’re overreacting’ attitude that the vagenda (used to) dedicate a lot of blog space to calling out and ripping apart.

  12. My dad’s brill and has no problem with housework. When I was younger, however, my parents’ attitude towards my brother, my sister and myself was different. Granted he was born 3 months premature and has learning difficulties but he was absolutely smothered in cotton wool. He’s 19 years old now and has just started putting his stuff in the dishwasher, only ’cause I make him. At his age I had already been cooking for myself, cleaning up after myself and others and washing/drying my clothes for a number of years. He keeps his room tidy but that’s about it. My sister and I had to clean his room for him when we were younger. I remember about 9 years ago my sister was a bit of a bitch to my dad’s ex, her things were confiscated for 2 weeks. My brother’s smashed 2 mobile phones, an iPod Nano, an iPod Touch and the number of PS controllers he’s smashed are in double figures and yet he’s never been punished. I wonder how many other women grew up in a similar environment.

  13. This is depressingly my life at home. I have to say that my boyfriend is not anything at all like the men described in this article, cos if he was I wouldn’t be with him in the first place. But my brother is. My step-dad most definitely is. My dad was until my mum whipped him into shape, but she seems to have lost that anger she once had at men (not in a negative way, more in a I’M FED UP OF THIS PATRIARCHAL BULLSHIT way) and now she just rolls over for my step dad and does whatever he wants. And i’m not saying I don’t get away with stuff, but I’m expected to pull my weight, i’m expected to clean my own room while my brother gets his done for him. I’m expected to do the washing up, keep the house clean during the day, sort the washing out, cook dinner, make anything that my brother might want when he comes home, alongside whatever I might be doing during the day (which doesn’t take precedence because it’s clearly of no importance). It makes me so angry it’s part of the reason why i’ve had counselling (one small reason of many many more). Because it’s not just that my mum has taught me girls clean boys don’t, it’s that alongside it she’s taught with it ‘girls care and look after people’ which I suspect many women who identify with this article understand. And what that means, in my case at least, is that from 12 years old I was an adult whereas my brother who’s 19 now is still a child.
    I should say I live with 6 other girls who fit the description of the boys, so it’s not entirely men, but they do eventually get around to cleaning when they can be arsed.

  14. “There are still men who don’t know how to turn on the washing machine at 21 years old – find me a woman who couldn’t manage that before they‘d even got their first bra.” *raises hand*

    I don’t normally like to be overly harsh in my criticisms, but this article sucks. Not all men are like this. You’ve had some shitty boyfriends, but I’ve had boyfriends who have been very clean and loved to cook for me. Maybe the massive generalisations in this article are meant to be tongue in cheek, but they’re spectacularly unfunny. They’re about as funny as an article on a men’s website talking about “Hurr, aren’t women such nagging shrews? Can’t they just let us wallow in filth?” PEOPLE are all different, regardless of gender. Maybe slovenliness is more common in men because they have often seen housework as a women’s task, but that doesn’t justify this poor excuse for wit.

  15. I appreciate the criticisms, but overall, I do see a pattern in the way men and women are brought up to regard housework. My mother’s favourite phrase is “you can’t expect your brother to do *insert task here* because he’s a boy”. While this is not the case for everyone, it’s a depressingly common attitude that needs challenging. Essentially, this is an upbringing issue that tends to fall along gendered lines. NB I have a fantastic boyfriend who cooks, washes and hoovers. I would argue that everyone (male and female) needs to do some independent living instead of going straight from parents to live in relationships. That way, you can work out for yourself what is essential and what is not.

  16. I used to read everything the vagenda posted, but not so much lately because it seems different. This doesn’t seem like a vagenda post at all, maybe the writer should put it on her personal blog instead. It’s not badly written and it’s pretty funny but it is make sweeping generalisations that I’d expect anywhere but here.

    I have lived with lots of men, and some of them were as bad as you described, but most of them were as neat and clean (or more so) as me. I have lived with about the same number of women (mixed houses and separately) and they have been just as bad. I lived with 1 guy and 1 gal, and the gal was the most disgustingly untidy person I have ever met. She ate in the bath and left half-eaten food on the side, she left dirty clothes and underwear in a trail from her room to the bathroom and washing machine, and she never cleaned her cupbards or shelf on the fridge. The guy was so much better, but neither of them found the recycling bin (they just left it in a pile in the corner of the kitchen until I notice it and clean up). At one point I went away for 2 weeks and when I came home all the washing up was growing mold.

    I think there probably are still differences in social expectations of men and women in the home, but I think they’re much more subtle than this blog post suggests. I also think it’s getting rarer, and it has much more to do with an individuals background and whether they were taught to cook and clean themselves, rather than their gender.

  17. The writer really isn’t saying that ALL men act in a certain way. She’s just highlighting how people often treat men differently and don’t expect them to help out because it was traditionally the work of a woman, and that this negative 1950s domestic hangover has remained. The writer’s previous boyfriends aren’t automatically acting in this way because they are men, but because in their particular instances they have been raised in an environment that told them they could be lazy because a woman would clean up after them.

  18. Pissed in your underwear drawer? Seriously, where do you find these guys?!

    Washing machines: used one for the first time at 19. Am 21 now, and still had to call my mother to remind me how they work. Like, I know, I know. I always get something wrong, whether it’s the setting or switching the fabric conditioner and the other liquid. I’m utterly useless at housework and cooking, so if I’m to live with a guy, he’s gotta know how to cook and clean.

    I’m not gross though, I’ve lived in student flats, and have shared a kitchen, and always clean up after myself in the communal areas.

    My mother’s never used gender as an excuse to make me do more chores than my brother (I’m way messier than him btw).

  19. This, just…so true..
    Though it does cut both ways, and the gender lines of who-skanks-it-up best are blurred.
    I have seen first hand the brother who does nowt, yet I was raised by a lazy mother and a father who did all the cleaning and cooking.

    I once had the misfortune to share a hovel with a girl who left used sanitary towels stuck to the bath and had no idea why this was a problem.
    Using her knitting needles to shove them in the toe of her boots soon solved that.
    She threw coffee up the wall outside the lounge daily, seemingly unaware she was doing it.
    Her room smelt like some poor creatures final resting place. Hiding every kind of magic tree in her room helped solve that, and grossed her out so much she cleaned!
    If all else fails, walking in to a friends room or flat exclaiming “How can you live like this? You fucking disgust me” does wonders.

  20. I try to never write negative comments under articles because I usually feel it’s needlessly nasty, but I really think this article is dreadfully sexist. It sounds like you’ve had the unbelievable misfortune of continually meeting people who are a bit awful, which is terrible. (Pissed in your drawer?!) But, anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m absolutely appallingly filthy. I haven’t seen the floor of my room since last term. Why am I just messy, but a boy who does this must be influenced by gender stereotypes from his parents? I honestly couldn’t believe this was published on Vagenda. Just have a re-read of the first few paragraphs and swap genders and it would be one of the articles held up, sneered at and ripped to shreds on this very blog for sexism.

  21. A female friend of mine lived with a girl who got home drunk, vomited on her bedsheets and duvet, slept in it, and in the morning shoved the whole thing (kebab chunks and all) in the washing machine, obvs it got blocked with aforementioned chunks, and my friend was not keen to clean the filter. They fell out that morning and a deadlock ensued… Then Vomgirl told her brother how drunk she’d been and he turned up to clean it out and apologise on her behalf! Friend moved out soon after.

  22. One of my mother’s greatest gifts to me was the time she told me that my Aunty Cheryl never *let* her sons do chores because she was a stay-at-home mum and didn’t mind doing that for them – and then she laughed, derisively, making sure that my brother and I understood just how *broken* that attitude is.

  23. I’ve sworn on not living with a man if he isn’t an adult. It’s a sad reality because I’ve come to be more in love with creating those perfect domestic moments than with the idea of men in general.

    I was battle scarred living with an infantile hippie for 3 years who I swear thought I was his new mom. Talk about a sexual game killer. The best part was that he claimed to literally “be a feminist” on an almost daily basis and suggested I just accept living in filth as a way to revolt against stereotypes. (NO THANKS.) The entire time we lived together he had an office that I did not enter and by the end of it there was BLACK DIRT and of course pubes on everything. (Except under the pizza boxes.)

    My latest fellow is more communicative and our chemistry is better however he’s a dolt when it comes to common sense hygiene. It kills me. He even tries to help but leaves soap and food on dishes in the rack. (And washes delicates in hot water.) Guess what his father is exactly the same way, and drives his mom bananas. So this is a permanent learned condition. AND THAT’S WHY HE ISN’T WELCOME TO LIVE IN MY QUEENLY PERFECT FLAT.

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