Feminism could have definitely worked out less nightmarishly for the worker bees

Ugly Topless FeministsThis article was originally posted at fineillstartagoddamnblog.blogspot.com

Damn, my boyfriend’s apartment is a mess. I’m not saying he’s a slob; he’s actually a perfectionist and usually looks wonderfully slick despite a low-ass budget. But it’s Wednesday, my midweek day off, and I just washed out the same containers we ate leftover Chinese from on Sunday. I also washed the rest of his dishes that were in the sink, absent-mindedly and quite contentedly, as I waited for my coffee to get strong in the press pot. He had at that point been at work for two hours already while I gently snoozed.

It certainly didn’t feel like I was being dehumanized as I cleaned those dishes. Or oppressed. I think of those words when I see him going off to his shit job or myself running around to another temp gig, leaving depressingly messy apartments behind us. Let me repeat: on a day when I don’t have to accept near-starvation wages to make someone else money so I can stay alive to go on making money for other people, I find it quite satisfying to do a bit of kind tidying for someone who is perpetually kind to me in return. It’s called a human, as opposed to a financial/survival, reee-laaa-tionnn-shiiiiip. You know, where it’s reciprocal and not based on screwing a less lucky player in this forced-march game blue.

I’m not saying we should go back to the 1950s, although I definitely get the feeling that the division of labor that old-fashioned sexism enforced left everybody with more free time. It also halved the number of people in the work force, give or take the spinsters and widows. I’m not saying I think that the mass (dare I say very nearly forced, in the case of everyone below the upper middle classes?) entry of women into the permanent workforce was the only force involved in the falling-over-a-cliff routine that wages have been doing since roughly the year I was born (I always seem to get lucky like that). Certainly we have globalization to hate as well. But if you have the slightest grasp on the concept of supply and demand it’s hard to argue against the fact that if demand for labor stays roughly the same (there are still two adult consumers per average household, and now nobody has time to do the shopping!) but its supply doubles, its price is going to drop.

And when it becomes expected for a household to have two incomes so the lady of the house doesn’t feel like a throwback to corseted times, well, who needs to pay any one employee enough to support an entire family? It’s practically an insult to a guy’s wife to give him a living wage!

I remember a rant that one of my beloved, well-meaning, feminist male cousins went on once about somebody snarking on his wife for going back to work so soon after they had their first kid, or something of the like; I was so shocked by the final point of his rant that I’m fuzzy on the details, but it boiled down to: “Gee, so sorry she wants to go out and have a job like a real human being!” Which is a nice sentiment insofar as “job” and “real human being” go together as concepts–as far as I can see, however, they go together about as well as roofing tar on toast. This cousin has always fared better than I have in the workplace, so it probably made sense to him, but I must have looked as if he’d just suggested his wife might find personal fulfillment in being gang-raped by hyenas.

I certainly couldn’t think of anything to say. Even taking the SAT was less dehumanizing than the jobs I’ve had. What exactly would be “not a real human being” about making a nice cozy home for yourself and your favorite person in the world… not to mention spending your down time reading or writing or whatever floats your boat, with no supervisor tapping his foot and making sure you don’t overstep the bounds of your unpaid half-hour lunch break? I’d take a life of going back for a nap after sending my best friend out as well-armed as possible into the cold cruel world. Hell yeah! I can’t wait till he gets back here tonight and finds me here with the dishes washed–and hell, maybe I’ll sweep the floor too. Tomorrow I have to go back to the unkind world myself, and believe me, I prefer today by a long shot.

Then again, if you’ve got somebody at home cleaning up for you and making a nice nest, maybe working isn’t so bad. Imagine: if you made enough money that your partner could do all that fucking housework and shopping while you were gone, you would both have the rest of the day for yourselves and/or each other instead of having to go to work and then come home and schlep the laundry you needed done so you could look ‘respectable’ back in the mines the next day. So maybe after a while the person who was staying home and cleaning up might want to switch roles. Well… go for it! What’s un-feminine about coming home from the office to a warm penis and a bubble bath? What’s un-masculine about pampering your own personal Jeanne d’Arc when she’s done fighting her half of y’all’s battle for the day? If 1970s feminists had been less mindlessly pro-work and pro-career and less about measuring people’s worth by silly social/”career”-bullcrap-related measures of “success” (why they rejected society’s beauty standard but not the ditch-digging standard is beyond me) and more about actual equality, fairness, practicality, and (god forbid, America!) quality of motherfucking life, who knows? It might have been perfectly respectable by this point in time for couples to share a job and each work it for six months out of the year.

Sounds fair enough to me. But no, women in the 1970s had to be all envious of the shit sandwich male employees-for-life were eating (why? WHY?!?! It never fails to absolutely stun me how pointlessly masochistic the American work ethic is, even my own at times), and now we all get half the bread for eating twice the shit. CONGRATULATIONS.

Ah well. (That stock phrase is my way of taking a deep breath so I don’t set things on fire.) At least I’ll have time today to give him a shoulder rub. Oh, the degradation!

Ann Kathryn Sterzinger

Ann is an editor and a writer who produces actual tragic comedies—that is, they aren't unfunny stories that end happily like in "Tragicomedy." They're funny stories that end horribly. The other stuff she does is only interesting to her. Buy her best novel, NVSQVAM, at Nine-Banded Books, which also published her recent Mirbeau translation. Her second-best novel is available on Amazon (as is everything else Sterzingerian). You can find her blog at www.annsterzinger.com.

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