If I pretend I'm bad at this, will you do it for me?
November 15, 2017 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Male Incompentence is a Subtle Form of Misogyny talks about the larger picture of many men's refusals to perform emotional labor in the frame of gender politics.
posted by bile and syntax (211 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
I struggle with this one. I have cleaned our bathroom. I have looked at the bathroom, after I have cleaned it, and thought "Yes, this is a clean bathroom! I did it." And then my wife has looked at this same bathroom and said "No, this is not clean enough." Did I fail to clean it sufficiently to her standards, so that she would clean it in the future? I don't know! I really thought it was clean.
posted by timdiggerm at 7:39 AM on November 15, 2017 [37 favorites]


At one point after we moved to NY, I was working at home while grumpybearbride was working at the office. There was a laundromat nearby so, a couple of times, I did the laundry during the day and then folded the clothes. Grumpybearbride told me to stop doing that because I folded the clothes incorrectly. This was a point of contention for a number of years, including a couple of attempts by her to teach me the correct method which I did not, apparently, metabolize. This always made me feed bad. Mostly, though, it wasn't an issue because of Romantic Laundry Night which resulted in us folding our own things. But ever since moving into a place with a washer/dryer, the issue has resurfaced.

So, recently, she had done a bunch of laundry but had to leave town for work, leaving a bunch of her clothes un-folded. I took some of the clothes that she had folded and reverse-engineered her folding style. Now I am back in the laundry game!
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2017 [34 favorites]


Did I fail to clean it sufficiently to her standards, so that she would clean it in the future? I don't know!

Well... did you then ask her how you could have done better, rectify what she said your mistakes were at that moment, and then internalize this knowledge for use the next time you cleaned the bathroom? If yes: it matters less what your initial, possibly subconscious, motivation was. If no: be better.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:46 AM on November 15, 2017 [92 favorites]


I understand its attempted point, but the comparison of Diane Abbott (failed to accurately answer an interview question, allegedly due to undiagnosed diabetes) and Boris Johnson (serial adulterer, liar and incompetent who most recently condemned a woman to five additional years in prison by openly undermining her defence's rationale and his own government's concurrence with that rationale, and then persistently claiming he did no such thing) is itself pretty misogynistic. The implication is 'they're both as bad but he gets away with it!', when he is emphatically worse on every count.

Pick someone on Boris's level if you want to draw that parallel. Abbott isn't it.
posted by aihal at 7:53 AM on November 15, 2017 [22 favorites]


I think there's also a difference between the scenario being discussed in the comments above:
Spouse A voluntarily takes on a cleaning project, but Spouse B has different standards of cleanliness and does a do-over.
And the scenario described in the article:
Spouse A requests Spouse B to help with a simple household task, and Spouse B takes no initiative in learning how to do that task and hems and haws and otherwise displays total ineptitude to the point that Spouse A finally relents and takes over and Spouse B goes back to watching TV.
The former may simply be a matter of personal preference. The latter is something else again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:54 AM on November 15, 2017 [91 favorites]


I dunno,
Plenty of people are raised in boarding schools or by all-encompassing parents and have the gumption to learn to cook or at least Google how to throw a simple meal together (porridge is literally oats and milk or water – how hard can it be?).
seems like it's about something rather a bit more drastic than having slightly misaligned cleaning standards. I'm not a man and I know for a fact that my mother has much, much stricter cleaning standards than I do, and my sister has laxer ones -- and sometimes my mother wanted to clean things in a particular way that I actively wanted to prevent, so it wasn't the lazy-kid version of this article either.

Or what EmpressCallipygos said.
posted by inconstant at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I spent the weekend before last watching this play out up close between guests. It was horrible. There were three adults in my apartment at one point right before they left. One of them needed to have a car rental in the next hour for work. There were two adults looking up car prices. Guess the overlap.

She's leaving him.
posted by PMdixon at 7:56 AM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


I find this stuff fucking infuriating. I know so many men who will only decide to develop skills in areas that seem to offer Male Prestige and are happy to be children otherwise. It's the classic "I'll cook if it's grilling" shit.

Especially awesome when the man in question has young sons who then emulate the same behavior because of course they do, putting even more load on the mother.
posted by selfnoise at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2017 [40 favorites]


I'm incompetent at just about everything, but I still do a lot of the things I'm incompetent at, and my wife seems to be fine with it, so we're all good. (I do check in with her frequently to see if there's more I can be doing.) Cooking is probably the one thing I do the least of, but I'll occasionally make the two or three items I know how to make (and I'll cook for the kids when my wife's gone).
posted by Four Ds at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2017


Yeah, I was already to do a hot take about being on the receiving end of "not clean enough by my standards" and then thought I should at least read the article.

The kind of feigned helplessness described in the article is not something I would tolerate in any type of relationship, from anyone, and I'm normally very tolerant. But honestly I have not seen a lot of it (maybe because it freaks me out so much).

I HAVE seen a lot of the "not clean enough by my standards" sort of thing though.
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not that subtle.
posted by allthinky at 8:03 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I can't see this as a gender-related issue. In my work, I frequently encounter this "feigned helplessness" from managers, male and female, who just can't be bothered to do their work correctly and expect the clerks to pick up after them. I think it's more of a power-relationship issue.
posted by SPrintF at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2017 [41 favorites]


It's the classic "I'll cook if it's grilling" shit.

This. Or if it's chili. Or if it's really hot spicy food you'd eat as a dare. I could yell all day about macho cooking.
posted by witchen at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2017 [21 favorites]


I posted this because it rang true for me: I've personally encountered many men who deliberately pretended incompetence at all kinds of ridiculous things so that the women they were involved with would do it for them, starting with laundry in college where we all had access to exactly the same machines ("oh but he's bad at it!" riiiiight) and going on through a former colleague who came in one day and happily told me about tips he'd gotten from his army buddy on how to make sure his wife wouldn't let him get up in the night with their new baby more than a few times - by deliberately making noise to wake her up too, making a mess that he didn't clean up, and not prioritizing caring for their child. He didn't think there was anything wrong with treating his wife or their daughter this way, he just felt entitled to sleep through the night and put the work onto her, even though they were both working full time.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2017 [43 favorites]


What a shitty way to approach relationships.

Performance metrics and quality reviews are bullshit I put up with at work.

The thing with chores is that there are always chores and youll be back cleaning the toilet or dusting the blinds in a few weeks. Take a swing at it and move on. The missed spot will be there. Life is too fuckin short as it is.

I married my wife because I enjoy being with her, not because she's great at cleaning ovens (she isn't, but who cares)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:06 AM on November 15, 2017 [29 favorites]


I think it's more of a power-relationship issue.

Do you live in a magical society with total gender equality? Or is it a society where sexism and misogyny permeate everything? Of course it's about power, but power and gender are in many relationships inextricably intertwined.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2017 [83 favorites]


Did I fail to clean it sufficiently to her standards, so that she would clean it in the future? I don't know! I really thought it was clean.

Everything I know about cleaning bathrooms I learned in the army. Pro tip: just before inspection, go inside the bathroom and close the door. Pour a small amount of your favorite cleaning product next to the door jamb - approximately were it would be if it dripped off the door hinges. The person opening the door and stepping in to inspect won't see anything, but they'll be able to smell how thoroughly you have cleaned.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:11 AM on November 15, 2017 [27 favorites]


Yes, but day-to-day military life is mostly skiving, isn't it? Possibly not the best example.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:12 AM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Years ago I read The Bachelor Home Companion: A Practical Guide to Keeping House Like a Pig, by P.J. O'Rourke. One of the "tips" was to invite a woman (one you also want to have sex with, of course) over to your place and make such a sad mess of dinner that she'll take over and cook you a good meal. IIRC it conceded that the woman will, naturally, hate you for this, so even if you assume that your date will actually leap in and take over the cooking duties I'm not sure how this strategy is supposed to help your love life (yes, I know it's a "humour" book). Anyway, "don't read books by P.J. O'Rourke" would be my tip.

My wife and I tend to have slightly different standards for cleanliness; I'm more bothered by clutter than the odd dust bunny floating about, while she's the opposite, so while we both clean it's often different *types* of cleaning, and we have had a few occasions over the years where one or the other was dissatisfied with what the other person felt was an acceptable level of cleanliness/order. We've been living together for 16 years now, and over time I think we've worked out a pretty equitable division of household labour, although there are tasks that are almost always "mine" or "hers." I would rather throw my shirts in the trash and buy new ones than iron anything, so on the mercifully rare occasions I need something ironed I ask her. If she needs a spider or house centipede killed, that's my time to step up to the plate. She does most of the cooking, I do most of the cleaning up afterward. And so forth. As long as the work to be done is split more or less 50/50 and nobody pulls the whole feigned helplessness routine (seriously, I'd be ashamed to even try that), I don't think it matters who does what.

Right now she's out of town about half the time, and if I let the house slide into squalor while she was gone and expected her to clean up after me when she gets home, she would probably murder leave me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


I try to topple the patriarchy by refusing to learn to change the oil in my car.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:14 AM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


I can't see this as a gender-related issue.

The majority of heterosexual relationships I'm aware of have a gender disparity in child care, cooking, and/or cleaning. And these are not traditional, conservative people. And these are relationships where I am frequently not that close to either person. It's just that obvious when listening to people talk about what they did last weekend, who misses work for a sick kid, who cooks. It's so very gendered that if you're not seeing it, you're not looking. And I'm not saying that as a gotcha. I think for a lot of people, this disparity is so typical and so expected that it's invisible.
posted by Mavri at 8:15 AM on November 15, 2017 [59 favorites]


sufficiently to ... standards

In my opinion, this is one of the primary keys to a happy, healthy relationship - having equivalent standards.

With my first wife, absolutely nothing I did was ever good enough, or done "correctly" - down to manner I would cook. For example - a roast must always be brazed first, prior to going into the oven - otherwise it might as well be garbage. At what point is it horrible to realize that if someone is such a perfectionist, that they need to perform the work involved to their "standards"? Another example - I had higher standards for bathroom cleaning than she did - but, frankly if she ever decided to clean the bathroom, I certainly didn't make a big deal out of it.

These days, I season my roasts, throw some vegetables and stock around it them a roasting pan and cook them in the oven - end result my fiancee and I are happily fed, no stress involved.

It's called mutual respect and communication. If you were invited over to dinner, would you criticize your hosts?

If someone does something for you - you should be happy and accept it - food preparation, cleaning, whatever.
posted by jkaczor at 8:15 AM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


Cleanliness and general preferences of "this needs to be a clean as X to meet my standards" seems to transcend gender, age, regional preferences, religion, and all other categories. It's a really complicated set of circumstances that get you to a place where you need, for example, the toilet to be clean enough to eat off of despite all living humans knowing what goes into toilets. I think those type of issues aren't relevant to this article, but they're funny to talk about.

I've met many men who do seem to have this "intentionally bad at X so someone else will do it" mindset, and I think the author makes a valid point. I also think we have a real issue in American entertainment where men can be lovable domestic idiots. I've always found sharing chores to be a great relationship-builder, and I know plenty of couples where partner A HAS to do this chore to be happy while partner B HAS to do some other one, and that can be fun to learn about other people. I kinda wish we just lived in a culture where it wasn't cute, and a part of life that we didn't have to comment on.
posted by obtuser at 8:16 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Did I fail to clean it sufficiently to her standards, so that she would clean it in the future? I don't know! I really thought it was clean.

In some cases, preferences are preferences.

Howeva, I've personally witnessed TFA in my own extended family. My father in law is notorious for offering to help with a basic task like sweeping, and then sweeping the mess under a coffee table while everyone is watching, or throwing actual dishes into the garbage when cleaning plates or putting a full trashbag next to the front door. He's fully capable in the rest of his life, so it's terribly obvious what he's doing and he's not the the only one either, just the most obvious.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:17 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I think there is also something going on with the whole "woman has higher standards for cleanliness" thing in the way that children are socialized - girls are more likely to have greater household responsibilities and expected to pay more attention to the state of the house than boys are. Girls are taught to expect to look after everything, boys are taught to expect to have free time. Like obtuser said, if you're not seeing it, you're not looking.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:19 AM on November 15, 2017 [83 favorites]


yeah this whole "women have higher standards" hm i wonder who gets trained to clean, what gender is usually in the kitchen after holidays, etc etc. verily it is a great mystery
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 8:22 AM on November 15, 2017 [90 favorites]


Is that a result of being de-skilled as a child by overbearing mothers? Or is it a conscious choice not to hone ‘worthless’ skills because they know someone else will do it for them?
Uh-huuuuh.

I was chronically sick as a child. My mother didn't make me do a lot of the chores girls usually do. I had no idea how to do a lot of basic things until I moved out, and suddenly had to do them for myself. And I learned. It took me a little while, but there wasn't anyone else to do it for me.

I recently moved in with a male roommate, because I can't afford to live alone anymore. I found myself falling into the pattern where I was the one doing most of the work because he ... just didn't notice that the trash was so full that you couldn't operate the lid? And if I asked him to do something, he was always going to do it "later." We had a talk, very early on, and to his credit he's gotten better at taking initiative- but I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that I'm now in this pattern that I've seen women fall into over and over again where I'm the one "managing" the house.

I also have an ongoing experiment:

After moving in, we were trying to decide where all the furniture should go. He has an antique table that he's very fond of, but we didn't have a good place for it and it was in the way. While he was out, I moved it to the garage. He wanted to bring it back in because being in the garage would be bad for it. I agreed, and I suggested that he buy a table lamp to go on top of it, so we could get rid of a standing lamp to make room for it. So, in order to protect his beloved table, he needs to take the initiative to (a) buy a table lamp, and (b) carry the thing back inside.

It's been around two months and it hasn't happened yet. I'm... just not going to mention it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2017 [32 favorites]


In re "I cleaned but she said it wasn't clean enough":

There are often two things in play and IME one is used as an excuse for the other. The first is that we can prefer different processes and have somewhat different standards - you like the towels folded, I like them rolled and stacked; you think that the refrigerator needs to be cleaned every six weeks without fail, I think we should clean it when we start to see crumbs and smudges; you think that we need to mop the stairs weekly on principle, I think we can sweep weekly and mop monthly because sweeping gets them clean enough.

The second is "I don't want to bother with this part of the task, so I claim it is unneeded, or else I refuse to pay close enough attention to learn a complicated process and claim that this is because it's too hard or not important". That would be something like, "When I clean the bathroom, I don't wipe down the walls because I don't like doing it, also I don't mop in the corners" or "when I put in a new trash bag, I don't tighten the drawstring thing to prevent it from slipping into the trashcan itself". Or "I won't wash all the dishes so that I don't have to clean the sink...I'll just leave a few things in the bottom of the sink so that I can't be expected to take care of it".

The thing with the second is that it loads the work onto your co-cleaner. The walls are 2x as dirty when the next person needs to clean. The next person to wash dishes has extra things to wash and extra dirt to clean. Someone else has to pull the trashbag up out of the can and tighten the drawstrings.

There are certainly tasks which are not clearly necessary - do we need to scrub the pantry shelves even though they are not visibly dirty? Must we sort the junk mail into the recycling daily or can we do it all at once on the weekend?

But there are far, far more tasks that are eventually necessary - if you don't dust, eventually everything gets dustier and dustier and has to be cleaned. If you don't mop the floor, eventually it gets visibly dirty and sticky. If you let things get embedded dirt, you shorten their lives and ruin them. If you don't take care of small engines, they have a shorter life.

In a long career of living with cis men, I have known few who proactively did any chore. If they wanted to cook and the sink was full of dishes, they'd do enough dishes that they could fit a few more in, for instance, but not catch the dishes up and clean the sink.

Basically, I have accepted that I will never live in a clean, pleasant house unless I devote all my time to doing 100% of the house-wide chores and cleaning up after others, and I'm unwilling to do this. I have my own room, which I mop, tidy and dust regularly.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2017 [39 favorites]


I have commented on this exact thing recently. My father's parade of apparent incompetence continues. My mother asked him to hook up her new Nintendo to an HDMI splitter, and he tilted the tv out slightly then shrugged his shoulders, declaring that he didn't understand HDMI splitting or how to connect HDMI cables to the tv or what HDMI is.

Then he went down to his basement where has a setup that reflects the displays of various prosumer cameras to televisions and laptops and desktops.

I continue to be single.
posted by xyzzy at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2017 [25 favorites]


And all this is propped up by the advertising industry.

"Women: It's your job to clean the house, take care of the kids, feed your husband, and look beautiful. Don't expect any help from the man because he's self-centered and incompetent. The only help you're going to get is if you buy our product."

"Men: Don't feel guilty, all guys are self-centered and incompetent by nature. Indulge yourself: buy our product. It's the wife's job to take care of the housework and the kids--you don't know how to do that stuff; if she needs help, buy her our product. If you give her more help than the dudes in these commercials, you're doing more than your share and she owes you big time, and you deserve to treat yourself: buy our product."
posted by straight at 8:25 AM on November 15, 2017 [15 favorites]


This "but her standards are just higher" thing comes up every single time this topic arises. Here we go yet again:

Two mice are inside a Skinner box. For one mouse, they must press the lever precisely 5 times in 3.5 seconds. Any deviation results in a shock.

The other mouse gets a reward every time it even glances at the lever, regardless of how long the glance was, whether or not it pushed the lever at all, or what the time frame was.

Plot twist! The first mouse also gets a shock when the second mouse fails to press the lever 5 times in 3.5 seconds.

Which mouse, do you think, is going to be more freaked out about how often the lever is getting pressed?
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:26 AM on November 15, 2017 [140 favorites]


Girls are taught to expect to look after everything, boys are taught to expect to have free time.

I'm a member of this sorority.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 8:31 AM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Like, people react to socialization differently and yes the preponderance of evidence indicates that the training took better hold in other people and no I have never cohabitated with a man so maybe I'm not cued in to the full range of horrors here, but IMO an entire childhood of being told how shameful it was that I failed to meet cleaning standards appropriate for "a girl" did not actually make me into a clone of my mother re: standards (or, admittedly, a girl), and it doesn't seem to have worked that well for my sister either, so.
posted by inconstant at 8:32 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Which mouse, do you think, is going to be more freaked out about how often the lever is getting pressed?

Also the scientists who set up this experiment are dudes.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:33 AM on November 15, 2017 [17 favorites]


Which mouse, do you think, is going to be more freaked out about how often the lever is getting pressed?

Seriously, if I send my kid to school with egg yolk in her hair, I'm not the one getting the stinkeye from other parents.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2017 [17 favorites]


My mother asked him to hook up her new Nintendo to an HDMI splitter, and he tilted the tv out slightly then shrugged his shoulders, declaring that he didn't understand HDMI splitting or how to connect HDMI cables to the tv or what HDMI is.

OMFG that is my stepdad. He bought a surround sound system for the TV room - he was always watching TV, even sometimes skipping dinner to do so, leaving me and my mom in the kitchen to eat - but also completely failed to understand how it worked, and would always screw up the settings and be left without sound. Also the speakers were the wrong impedance so the receiver would shut down at relatively low volumes.

So anyhow, I'm the "computer whiz kid" or whatever and I find myself resetting the surround sound on a fairly regular basis. So, to prevent future recurrence of this, I create a goddamn one-sheet manual for my stepdad to follow in the event that the sound cuts out or whatever. He, of course, loses it and continued to solicit my help.

This has wended its way though the years to encompass every piece of non-vehicular technology he has ever purchased. It drives me bananas because he's a mechanic, a pilot, a race car driver, a boat captain, etc, all of which require precise technical knowledge which he is clearly capable of ingesting. So it comes down to either intellectual laziness or just this "why bother, I have someone to do it for me" mindset. Anyhow it sucks and also he bosses my mom around to make him sandwiches and coffee at family events and it is embarrassing.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:34 AM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


With my first wife, absolutely nothing I did was ever good enough, or done "correctly" - down to manner I would cook. For example - a roast must always be brazed first, prior to going into the oven - otherwise it might as well be garbage.

Was nothing ever done correctly, or did you just keep on blowing off her instructions and putting it down to her being a nag? Because this sentence makes it seem like the latter, and your follow-up on the bathroom makes it sound like neither one of you communicated about relatively simple things to do to meet standards that don't actually sound as impossible as you're making them out to be.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:36 AM on November 15, 2017 [21 favorites]


It's the classic "I'll cook if it's grilling" shit.

So - if you are told constantly that you are not doing it right - but yet, get praised for your BBQ, wouldn't you be happy to own that?

The criticism was so bad the first time around that I firmly believed I could not cook "inside food", so much so that I would joke about it with my girlfriend. (Although... I am no "chef", vegetarians need not swing by for a meal, because there is a 50/50 change I will cut or scrape myself during the course of food preparation - and yes, I of course clean it up and do not serve myself as dinner, just something I joke about)

Apparently that is not correct, I can cook normal meals - I currently do 98% of the cooking and not only is my partner happy, apparently her family has me lined-up to cook for them at future events.

Find the right person - and both be willing to give and take and contribute as a team together.
posted by jkaczor at 8:36 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Another day I'm glad to live alone.

How and why coupleds put up with all this shit, I have no idea.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:36 AM on November 15, 2017 [17 favorites]


I know men like this, and their behaviour drives me insane...but it also grates on me that their spouses (male or female) enable it. It takes two people to have this kind of dysfunctional relationship. Partners, expect more from your mates! Be clear in communicating what your expectations are, and above all don't feel like you need to "train" them somehow. Just explain the goal and make them figure it out. Make them grow the hell up. Tell them to go ask Google and Youtube how to do something then relax or do something you want to get done. If it doesn't work after an honest effort, well, look, there are better partners out there, full stop.

People like my dad exist the way they do because someone is cleaning up their crap and cooking them food every day.
posted by trackofalljades at 8:36 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I was brought up by both my mom and dad that incompetence was never an excuse, you need to learn how to do things properly. If you don't do it right the first time, you have to do it again until you learn how to do it properly. My mom especially concerned that I, as her only son, learn how to cook, clean, sew, do laundry, etc. properly because she "didn't want a son who couldn't take care of himself." However, she just assumed my sisters would learn how to do all that household stuff naturally because they were girls. Guess who never learned basic household maintenance?
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:39 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


My theory is that, whenever two people (of any gender) share living accommodation, the one who cares more about domestic cleanliness will always wind up doing more than their share of those particular chores.

Person A can't relax when there's a sinkful of dirty dishes in the kitchen, while Person B barely even notices they're there. Guess who generally winds up doing the dishes?

(Or, you know, stabbing their partner.)
posted by Paul Slade at 8:39 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


My mother is/was a slob and my father was a neatnik. My father tried to get us kids to do the things my mother wouldn't/couldn't, but he was not a great motivator and my brothers and I are all equally bad housekeepers. I am female and I have always gotten a lot of stick about my cleaning standards not being up to par, from men and women, so I always bristle at the idea of it being a gendered thing. I am a perfectly normal female who hates cleaning. Possibly I am an outlier, but I refuse to believe I am a freak in this.

My favorite thing to say as a teenager was "Anyone who marries me to get a good housekeeper gets exactly what they deserve."
posted by maggiemaggie at 8:40 AM on November 15, 2017 [19 favorites]


So - if you are told constantly that you are not doing it right - but yet, get praised for your BBQ, wouldn't you be happy to own that?

A) As you write in the rest of your comment, cooking is a skill that anyone can learn if they want to. If you can read, you can cook.

B) It would also be good, while we're at it, if men could stop taking every criticism so personally. Someone asking you to do better, or do differently, isn't a referendum on your character/personality/essence. Just take it as information and do better, and don't make us accommodate your hurt feelings.
posted by witchen at 8:40 AM on November 15, 2017 [58 favorites]


There's also the thing that, whatever the gender disparity in cleaning standards (maybe the husband is the neat freak!), it's the woman who is held responsible by others for the overall cleanliness and presentability of the house. Like, even if you and your partner are both contented slobs and you divide the chores perfectly evenly and both parties perform them to their relatively lax standards - more often than not, when you have guests or family over, the state of things is generally attributed, consciously or subconsciously, to the woman.

I feel like growing up, at least when it came to my mom, if my brother and I were given chores in advance of guests coming over, I was expected to notice and leap into action if my brother hadn't done a chore satisfactorily, because the responsibility to make sure the guests entered an immaculate house somehow defaulted to me and my mom.
posted by Aubergine at 8:41 AM on November 15, 2017 [33 favorites]


It doesn't just happen in the home. A few weeks ago I went to get ice in the office break room, and there was a thirty-something dude failing to get coffee because it hadn't been made yet. He looked at me with big blinky eyes and said, "We're out of coffee." I said "Well, you can buy some downstairs, or there's tea. Or you can make some!" Then I left.

I like to think he's still there, waiting for someone to make his damn coffee.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2017 [105 favorites]


Find the right person - and both be willing to give and take and contribute as a team together.

I really appreciate that this discussion about gendered oppression vis-a-vis housework has turned into a discussion of whether or not your first wife was an unreasonable nag. Also, thank you for the illuminating (and completely gender neutral) advice about how to have a good relationship; it gets right to the heart of the problem and we women thank you.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:43 AM on November 15, 2017 [90 favorites]


Now I'm having flashbacks to a male roommate I had who would never turn the exhaust fan on in the bathroom after a shower and we had so many discussions about it and finally he suggested that we leave it on all the time and I was so tired I was like sure whatever

He also regularly left kitchen cabinets open, lights on, and would cook and spatter tomato sauce in places I never though tomato sauce could get, like the bathroom, or my dog

Suffice it to say his room was a fucking horrorshow

Oh god and he had a rabbit

I don't know where I'm going with this except that I'm glad I no longer think it's acceptable to babysit a man's entire life
posted by Automocar at 8:46 AM on November 15, 2017 [15 favorites]


The trouble with "oh, just refuse to do [chores] until someone else does their share" is that chores aren't just some random optional thing that mean old Mom is always nagging about. (Even though this is how, IME, most cis men are socialized to think of them - pointless boring crap that dumb women care about. Why even clean the stove? Why not cook with the caked-on spilled chili and burnt on oil? What's so bad about that, Mom?) If I don't do dishes because I'm waiting for my housemates to step up, the dishes sit until the sink starts to smell. If I don't make sure that maintenance chores are done, things - expensive things - break.

Also, I have a professional job and a life. Having everything at home always broken, filthy and disorganized has a material impact on the rest of my life.
posted by Frowner at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2017 [43 favorites]


"Find the right person - and both be willing to give and take and contribute as a team together."

I really appreciate that this discussion about gendered oppression vis-a-vis housework has turned into a discussion of whether or not your first wife was an unreasonable nag. Also, thank you for the illuminating (and completely gender neutral) advice about how to have a good relationship; it gets right to the heart of the problem and we women thank you.


With all due respect....I think this may be an uncharitable read.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:48 AM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


[One comment deleted. This happens every time we have a thread about this issue, and it doesn't need to happen here - that one or more dudes will say "but I had a micromanaging female partner" and then the thread becomes about whether that's true or if the dude was maybe wrong about that. This is pointless and makes it personal when the whole point is this stuff happens on average not that it happens the same in every single individual case. Please stop. jkaczor please stop making it about you, others, same.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:48 AM on November 15, 2017 [44 favorites]


As you write in the rest of your comment, cooking is a skill that anyone can learn if they want to. If you can read, you can cook.

I used to believe this. I used to be obnoxious and tell people more or less this. I was wrong. For the record, I am a man and I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our house. I enjoy both (well, less so the shopping) and am decent at it. I also grew up in a household where cooking and shopping was a combined chore and both parents legitimate love to cook, read cookbooks for fun, etc.

My partner on the other hand, is a pretty bad cook, and it causes her significant anxiety to try. (There's reasons, legitimate reasons, that's her story to tell not mine.) She's happy to help if I'm doing something labor intensive and there's a well defined task in the set of skills she's comfortable with, but she is never going to be comfortable in the kitchen.
posted by aspo at 8:51 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


I wasn't raised in a terribly neat or tidy environment but I still have to deal with this shit. I don't think it's actually about standards being too high. It's about spending more than a few minutes having to apply yourself to something that isn't fun because you have to. Some people can do this and some people just can't be bothered. And some people can't be bothered and get away with it because of privilege.
posted by bleep at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2017 [13 favorites]


So, not long ago I (a married hetero man) was on a work trip with three (hetero married) women. (Two of the women have Ph.D.s one has an M.A. all are progressive in their politics.) They spent some time complaining about what their husbands failed to do. It was all very much gendered in this sort of way. I was in no way surprised at the imbalance of responsibilities and the learned ineptitude of the husbands.

What did surprise me was that the women were very much enabling and even enforcing the behavior. They wouldn't let their husbands learn how to do the things. One of them noted that this was the first time she'd left her kids alone with their dad in 11 years (since the birth of her youngest.) When I tried to suggest to them that, perhaps, doing laundry, cooking, etc. really weren't very hard things to learn and that their (equally educated) husbands could surely learn to do them, they all scoffed. I mean, it was clear that they simply did not expect their husbands to do a fair share of the work.

When I said, "I don't sit down to rest at night until my wife does" meaning I don't just pretend to not see her doing dishes or whatever but instead find work to do so that we can both relax, they were flabbergasted. They couldn't believe that I actually know my child's pediatrician (OK I know the office) and that it's not uncommon for me to be the one who takes my child to dentist or for a vision test, they looked at me like I was some sort of alien.

It's kinda sad to see this sort of disparity so thoroughly internalized.
posted by oddman at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2017 [18 favorites]


I am not a fan of housecleaning--my mom was/is a thorough housekeeper growing up--but I will do it. I don't go whole hog like she did, but I make the effort to at least have floors swept, rugs vacuumed, kitchen counters wiped etc because it makes me take pride in my house--this is the first house I've ever owned so I feel I owe it that effort--and makes my anxiety release its hold on me a little better. My partner is solely responsible for the bathrooms and I have to admit I hate that I have to remind him to do them every now and again. It makes me feel like the stereotypical nagging wife. I also try to devote 15 minutes a day to tidying at least one room--again, I would rather work in increments cleaning my house than devote a weekend day to it--so it gets my back up when I've put in all this minor effort to keep things tidy and my partner comes home and dumps stuff everywhere. Again, we have talked about it and I still end up feeling bad because of that whole "nag" thing.
posted by Kitteh at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


I live in a house that is currently occupied by me, my boyfriend, and a friend of ours who is genderqueer. Every constellation of genders has occurred here at some point, except it's never been all cis men (in fact, my boyfriend, the latest addition, is probably the first cis man living in this house in a decade). I am fucking overjoyed that I am the comparative neat freak or nag in this house because God damn is it just so much more relaxing living in comparative squalor with other people who don't care either (and again, this has been with people of every conceivable gender). I do more than my fair share of the chores round the house, and I do then more thoroughly than anyone else, but that is a million times better than having someone around who just can't deal with dishes in the sink at all, for any length of time. I'll do them after dinner, or in a lull in cooking, not immediately. Hell, I might even leave them until the next morning from time to time. Nobody minds. Nobody gets angry at me. Nobody gets in my way in the kitchen in the middle of cooking because the dirty saucepan (which I've filled with hot water to soak!) can't possibly sit for half an hour until I'm not minding the frying pan. I will take having to occasionally nag the people I live with over that.
posted by Dysk at 8:58 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


one day when I was about fifteen, my mom dragged me aside and said, "I'm going to teach you something that's going to make the rest of your life easier." She taught me how to properly clean a bathroom. A couple of rags, a bucket, some Mr. Clean or whatever, hands and knees. "It's not near as awful as you think it might be. It takes less than fifteen minutes a week to do it right. If you do it without complaining, without being asked, people will never expect you to do anything else around the house."

In my defense, I'd like to say I do way more around the house than just clean the bathrooms, but this hasn't always been the case. But even in my most slothful of phases, I always uncomplainingly did the bathroom(s), with the unexpected fallout in at least two situations that other roommates started doing the same occasionally, without being asked. Funny how that works.

And full reveal. The main reason Mom dragged me aside in the first place is that she'd gotten herself a job after almost twenty years of doing the full time mother thing -- and in a matter of years, she was running the outfit. I learned a lot about management from my mom.
posted by philip-random at 8:59 AM on November 15, 2017 [18 favorites]


I don't think it's actually about standards being too high. It's about spending more than a few minutes having to apply yourself to something that isn't fun because you have to.

Again, I think those people who have been bringing up "cleanliness standards" are confusing their own stories - where they have voluntarily done a household chore and then got told that they could have done it better - with the actual issues being discussed in the article.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


but the internalizing is because at a certain point you (i) have to deeply acknowledge that if you (i) don't do these things they won't get done, and also that if you have a life that is not june cleaver's life some of these things aren't going to get done or done to a standard and u gotta let that guilt go.

my girlfriend is messy and one of my housemates is a straight up slovenly-ass unreconstructed straight guy with a sweet but also messy-ass girlfriend and i just do more fucking housework at this point because i will care about, for example, overflowing trash cans and weird stains caked to the floor for a couple weeks, more than the filth housies.

i am excited for them to move out and i feel guilty about that because i feel like owning a house basically obligates you to share that resource, esp. becaues i live in a city with a housing crisis, but also housie now makes more money than i do and can move in with his damn girlfriend and have a filth house together
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Maybe a tangent, but: I find the phrase "emotional labor" really confusing in the context.

I always think of things like having access to your feelings, being able to articulate them, empathetically mirroring a partner's emotional state so as to communicate clearly on a physical, verbal, and emotional level, taking responsibility for my own role in my emotional state while also avoiding doormat status, then having to use all of these tools to draw out a verbally or emotionally inarticulate partner's real thoughts and feelings past "no, this is fine, everything's fine" just so I know what the hell is really going on -- and the years of therapy, insight, and giving a fuck in the first place as emotional labor.

And while all of that can be applied in a household chores setting, the two seem like different issues and the discussion can get confusing.

I'd really like to see men doing more on the emotional labor front that I described, in addition to my ex-wife, who did almost none of it while quietly storing up resentment.

Just a heads-up: I see that 37 comments have come in while I was typing this one and I read none of them.
posted by chinese_fashion at 9:01 AM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


One of the nicest things about realizing I was bi was figuring out that I can opt out of all this in my romantic life if I want to. I haven't been out with a guy in a couple of years, and it's not because I'm not attracted to them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:03 AM on November 15, 2017 [18 favorites]


Having everything at home always broken, filthy and disorganized has a material impact on the rest of my life.

Absolutely. I think some men grow out of it, though, thankfully. I say this because I grew out of not knowing how to do chores or why to getting sick of living in filth and learning to be clean by doing what other people are talking about doing in respect to cooking in this thread: which is read a bit and learn a proper way to do things.

And now, I'm in the complete reverse. My partner has Bipolar II and Borderline Personality Disorder and between the meds she takes that make her lethargic every day and the fact that both of those disease result in a lot of depressive episodes and lack of motivation in every day life mean it's a constant struggle to get her to remember to take a shower every day, let alone clean plates off her desk, or do laundry, or just pick up after herself in general. And yeah, like Frowner pointed out, sometimes you can't just keep waiting for the other person to kick in and do stuff when, say, both of you are starting to have horrendous acne because the sheets and pillowcases on your bed haven't been washed in a month or more. You can't just keep letting it go without it also affecting you and your own mental/emotional stability. My biggest task is finding time and ways to take a break and or finding ways to remind her that she needs to pull her own weight too, and not doing so takes a toll on the relationship, as you're putting a lot of daily maintenance on the other person, and basically requiring them do to your own daily maintenance for you.

So yeah, women dealing with this, some of us men hear you loud and clear, and totally get why that's a nonsense mess to deal with. Especially when they play the game of faking they can't do it. Considering "manliness" is supposed to also include being capable of a wide variety of tasks, the idea that personal upkeep isn't among those is absurd to me. If you can tear apart and engine and rebuild it, you have more than the skills you need to manage to learn to cook. My partner has issues with this too, as she consistently treats herself as though she is too frail to handle tasks like... pushing down the garbage in the can so its not all spilling over the top when we take it to the curb. Honestly stuff that doesn't take a huge amount of muscle power at all, but she regularly manages to convince herself she can't do it, and needs to have me do it instead. (To quote a friend: the more you do, the more you CAN do.)

On the flip side, part of the reason I don't just give up is because I know my partner deals with mental illness, making what feel like simple tasks to me seem like insurmountable burdens to her. Part of me wonders if the lack of mental health help in this country contributes to this, especially considering all the evidence that regular upkeep/maintenance of your personal life helps prevent and treat depression, and can also contribute to self-esteem. We have a boatload of angry, depressed young men in this country, and I often wonder if better access to mental health services would make a dent. Because when I was at my filthiest, I was also at my most depressed, and it's hard to get out of that depression when you're surrounded by filth that feels impossible to cope with.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


One of the nicest things about realizing I was bi was figuring out that I can opt out of all this in my romantic life if I want to. I haven't been out with a guy in a couple of years, and it's not because I'm not attracted to them.

....Huh - I am straight but also opted out of this as well. I demand a basic level of collaboration/partnership from any of my partners, and always have; it isn't necessarily a gendered thing, I've managed to find guys that cook and clean and all that stuff, and the ones who don't generally don't last long around me.

....Granted, I'm single, because the decent guys are few and far between. But I'm still not interested in settling for the guys who don't because fuck that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2017 [16 favorites]


This topic has been a repeat for a while, and I think that it's a worthwhile discussion to keep having, but I have to say: every time I open one of these threads and read the comments, it feels like 75% of them are anecdotes from men that vaguely hit the 'household chore' and 'relationship' keywords even if they aren't super directly related to the linked material and that just gets soooo oooooold to me. I'm sorry if this is offensive or something, it's just how it reads. I frequently feel the same way when people insist on discussing Topic A with a metaphor about Topic Fish. Just, you know, engage with the topic itself? Talk about the merits or detriments of the article and subject matter directly, instead of always through a lens of metaphor and personal anecdote?

I know this probably sounds shitty, and it's not for every subject, but damn if it just doesn't feel super dense every time this topic comes up and I'm so tired of it. The solution is, of course, for me to just skip these threads in future, and that's a bummer.
posted by lazaruslong at 9:12 AM on November 15, 2017 [39 favorites]


it feels like 75% of them are anecdotes from men that vaguely hit the 'household chore' and 'relationship' keywords even if they aren't super directly related to the linked material and that just gets soooo oooooold to me

Yuuuuuuuuuuuup.

I suspect there's a large failure to RTFA
posted by PMdixon at 9:14 AM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


....Huh - I am straight but also opted out of this as well.

Ha, this made me realize I phrased that sort of poorly! But I will say that before I figured it out, I definitely felt this hard-to-define sense of, I dunno, irritated resignation at hearing myself and other women complain about the same stuff over and over from the (otherwise perfectly delightful) men in their life. Like, well, I guess this is how this works, but it sure sucks.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2017


it feels like 75% of them are anecdotes from men that vaguely hit the 'household chore' and 'relationship' keywords even if they aren't super directly related to the linked material and that just gets soooo oooooold to me

Yuuuuuuuuuuuup.

I suspect there's a large failure to RTFA


I suspect that maybe all the men are just pretending to be bad at this.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2017 [50 favorites]


Thinking about how to cater to the emotions of angry, depressed young men who aren’t pulling their weight in a number of ways, so that they learn how to pull their weight, is itself emotional labor.

Angry, depressed young men can learn how to behave in society, learn how to use their words, and work on themselves, just like everyone else. I’m not about to waste more time on figuring their shit out for them so they don’t have to go through anything hard. That’s what saddled society with them in the first place.

Yes, having better access to mental health care would be great for everyone, but at some point we made it a thing where everyone else has to do this work themselves, while a certain demographic of men expect to have it done for them—and part of the reason they’re angry and depressed is because they do have to do this work themselves, without someone offering to help. “Nobody taught me, nobody showed me, nobody asked me if I needed help.” Yeah. Welcome to the world. You have to initiate when you need something. Yes, it is a learned skill, and a highly valuable one. But it can be learned, and you can learn it and become good at it.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2017 [22 favorites]


But I will say that before I figured it out, I definitely felt this hard-to-define sense of, I dunno, irritated resignation at hearing myself and other women complain about the same stuff over and over from the (otherwise perfectly delightful) men in their life. Like, well, I guess this is how this works, but it sure sucks.

That's it. Every child on earth needs to be issued a copy of Free To Be You And Me at age 6. That's what did it for me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to both sides of this debate, but every opinion I have in the abstract is banal and any opinion I might have in specific would be presumptuous to offer. So I will merely reflect on how fortunate I am to live by myself, where there is only one set of standards to which I can attain or fail to meet as I wish.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:19 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


And while all of that can be applied in a household chores setting, the two seem like different issues and the discussion can get confusing.

I am a guy and I wrote this comment the last time we had an emotional labor thread that I think helped some dudes get it
posted by Automocar at 9:19 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


As you write in the rest of your comment, cooking is a skill that anyone can learn if they want to. If you can read, you can cook.

I would put the emphasis slightly differently, because: I don't think everyone can cook equally well, or clean equally well, or schedule equally well, &c. People's aptitudes do differ (across the population, emphatically not as a gender thing), and I've known people who spent plenty of times learning to cook and yet not being very good at it. And I've also known people who were good at it but hated cooking and I would not begrudge them all the takeout in the world. (There's also a lot wrapped up in cooking that's sort of ancillary to it and yet integral -- grocery purchasing, meal planning, all sorts of knock-on stuff -- that people also need to learn for cooking to be equitable, but about which people can also vary in aptitudes.)

So I don't think everyone can cook. But I do think that everyone can put in the time to learn -- to learn to cook, to learn if they're good at cooking, to learn if they enjoy cooking. Ditto cleaning, &c. Rather than flailing one's (male) arms at the incomprehnsibility of how food is transmogrified from its constituent parts, one can always -- regardless of aptitude -- put the labor in to learn. Maybe that learning will pay off, maybe it won't, but the actually learning is something you can commit to.

And the thing that many American men often do is avoid exactly that: to spend two hours once a month half-assing something, rather than commit to taking, say, a year to try to learn how to whole-ass something. In other words, I think that one of the issues here is that men are often brought up to see chores as either gendered skills, and therefore somehow innate to women, or else as unskilled labor -- 'how hard could it be?' -- rather than as a collection of learned skills (which they are). So I think that the specific types of labor American men tend to eschew often maps onto labor they tend to devalue, and they ways in which they devalue it feed back into their unwillingness to spend the effort to learn to understand it.

My personal suggestion would be that everyone should get taught all this stuff in school, and that putting the burden of learning either on adult men, or the burden of teaching on their partners, isn't a great approach (even if it's the best one we currently have). 'Home Ec for everyone', basically. ('Shop for everyone,' too, while we're at it.)

(I don't want to suggest that everyone should learn to cook. If you can afford takeout and want to go that route, do that. I'm presuming that equitably cooking/clearning/etc is a desired goal, but there are a lot of equitable ways to divide a household that involve outsourcing the labor entirely, and some of them are delicious.)
posted by cjelli at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


Thinking about how to cater to the emotions of angry, depressed young men who aren’t pulling their weight in a number of ways, so that they learn how to pull their weight, is itself emotional labor.

Sorry if I didn't make it clear, but I'm very aware that spending an inordinate amount of my time trying to figure out how to get my partner to pull her weight, and how it makes it so I have less time to work on issues in my own life, is absolutely emotional labor.

I'm not saying every shitty guy deserves that emotional labor.

I'm saying my guess is some of those shitty guys need help, and you're right, they don't know how to ask for it. It doesn't make it okay or absolve them from needing to get better, but the idea that it's only toxic masculinity, and not any other factors at all, seems super disingenuous and seems to be stereotyping men who have cleanliness issues as all being misogynists, and not, maybe, that some of them perhaps have undiagnosed mental illness that makes simple tasks for regular people seem quite impossible to face to that person?

Better mental health services won't solve the entire problem, but I strongly suspect that a small number of men who would otherwise get slapped with the label "misogynist" for this kind of behavior might actually be okay dudes with some super real problems that aren't addressed by our society at all.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


So the last man I dated for an extended period of time was an amazing example of this phenomenon.

He refused to learn to sew buttons on his shirts. When we were at the start of dating, he mentioned that he had a few shirts that needed mending. I asked if he wanted me to teach him how to sew buttons back on. No, he said, he was sure he could learn but he preferred not to. Okay, I said - and by the way, you can definitely drop them at a dry cleaner and pay them to do it.

With a slight hint of disappointment, he said he was sure one of his women friends would do it for him - surely one of his friends would mend his shirts in exchange for some beers (he worked in the beer industry and always had rare stuff around he’s gotten for free).

So this man was willing to make all of this effort and take so much time to publicly ask for someone to mend his shirts (he’d make facebook posts asking for help) and multiple women would jump to be of assistance, and then he’d coordinate dropping his shirts off and picking them up again and giving these women something totally worthless (to him) that he hadn’t worked for in exchange. And it was entirely about performing masculine household helplessness in exchange for female attention.

This repeated a few times over the year we were dating. He’d express helplessness over his shirt buttons, I’d shrug and offer to teach him how to solve the problem. He’d reject the offer of my time in the form of a lesson, and seek out other women in his life to do this domestic labor for him because he needed to feel petted and coddled by women. I would shrug, and he would be disappointed that I wasn’t jealous that other women were giving him this attention, that I didn’t care that other women were performing this kind of care taking for him. I grew more disdainful of his need to do this dance.

Anyway, I am thrilled to have gone back to dating women now. Even the ones who don’t know how to take care of household shit don’t, by their 40s, expect someone they’re dating to do it for them - they’ve already solved the problem a different way, a way that doesn’t rely on someone else’s performance of femininity.
posted by amelioration at 9:30 AM on November 15, 2017 [50 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted; guys I would really advise you to reconsider whether it's helpful to bring up "my wife has unreasonable standards around some particular issue" if you don't want the whole thread to be about other people yelling at you over that issue. The article's about men deliberately acting incompetent - which you probably agree is bad! Please believe me that it's going to go badly to come in here with stories about how you're a man who doesn't do that fake-incompetence thing but there's some area where your wife is unreasonable.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2017 [41 favorites]


[Also sweet baby jesus, let us never have another fucking thread about differences in standards for sorting laundry.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:33 AM on November 15, 2017 [66 favorites]


FPP: Housework, You’re Doing It Wrong - Part LVXIII
posted by Autumnheart at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


Something that frustrated me very much with a former housemate and that I think is very gendered: He did not clean things, except about once a year. Once a year, it was time to spend three hours (literally!!) cleaning the bathroom, or mopping a floor, or doing something else. And yes, the bathroom would be very, very clean. And it would be dirty again in a week or so, and need to be cleaned...but the Annual Cleaning had been done, so it was someone else's turn for the next 51 weeks. He even made some remark about how when he cleaned the bathroom he got it really clean, unlike me. If cleaning the bathroom could be turned into a heroic struggle requiring extraordinary effort, he could do it...once. If it were just a slog, well, slogs aren't for men, silly.

The missing piece is the good-enough job. Everyone who does not have overriding health/trauma reasons should be able to do a good-enough job on household tasks. You don't need to be able to cook a ten course dinner; you don't need to enjoy making baklava. You just need to be able to put together some sandwiches and a salad, or spaghetti, or a cheese/cracker/coldcut plate, or a tuna casserole so that you can pick up the slack in the household. When I'm busy and I don't want to make dinner, it's great if someone wants to make, like, home-made soup and bread and a pudding, but I'm happy enough if they can make toasted cheese and cut up some fruit.

The good-enough job is the job you do most of the time so that the house keeps running. And you do it whether you like it or not.

There is a household task around which I have a lot of trauma. It's a long, stupid story, but I can never do this particular chore without getting upset and angry, and I can feel my body tensing and my blood pressure rising. This is a long task which isn't especially fun in itself, but luckily only needs to be done a few times a year.

And you know what? I do that task because it needs to be done. Would I be happy if a housemate took it over? Sure, but we've tried that, and despite a lot of nagging and requests, it doesn't get done unless I do it. It takes a couple of hours, it's inconvenient and requires some set-up, also some decision-making as you do it, and others just....balk.

Now, people must use their own judgment about what is too upsetting/traumatic/triggering/overwhelming for them, chore-wise, but I also feel that it's important to push yourself a little rather than fall back on the idea that something is stressful and brings back bad memories and feelings and therefore you shouldn't have to do it. Merely saying "this is upsetting, so someone else should do it" isn't, in my book, enough, because I know what it's like to do upsetting things because you have to.
posted by Frowner at 9:35 AM on November 15, 2017 [32 favorites]


Better mental health services won't solve the entire problem, but I strongly suspect that a small number of men who would otherwise get slapped with the label "misogynist" for this kind of behavior might actually be okay dudes with some super real problems that aren't addressed by our society at all.

Sounds like they should do some research into that and maybe make a doctor’s appointment. And then they could share what they learned with other people suffering from similar issues.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:37 AM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


Years ago, one of my temp jobs for a bit was a 2nd shift job where I created PPT presentations for bankers based on their models and whatnot from the Excel spreadsheets they sent me. I don't have an MBA or a financial degree, but once, I spotted some incorrect math on this banker's spreadsheet and let him know. He wasn't a first year associate, but a VP, a banker who's a few years past the MBA and is moving up. He was a young Ivy League guy of the type who left the office at 6 PM for happy hour, then would return at 8 PM and "work" til 12 AM.

Anyway, this guy approached me for a few shifts afterwards to flatter me about how smart I was, and would hint that maybe I could check all his math on his models, and I would politely demur. It must have been the 3rd or 4th time when I told that so-and-so that unless he was willing to hand over his salary or give me his year-end bonus, or get me a job as a banker, then he needed to check his own darn math. And I said "darn" because he was a big white guy and I was a young, small, non-white female placed by a temp agency trying to find the fine line between standing up for myself and not being fired or harassed. I'm irritated to this day that he found my outburst "cute", though he did leave me alone about it and did his own work henceforth for the remainder of my tenure there.
posted by droplet at 9:39 AM on November 15, 2017 [26 favorites]


Sounds like they should do some research into that and maybe make a doctor’s appointment. And then they could share what they learned with other people suffering from similar issues.

They should, but many simply can't even begin to afford the process, and we do live in a society that treats people who get mental health help (no matter their gender) as having something "wrong" with them.

I want to be receptive to what you're saying, but you're ignoring a huge amount of mental health stigma in the United States, and I'm going to bail on this thread, because that's upsetting me a great deal right now.

Just because we're men doesn't mean we don't face the same stigma trying to get help. Just because we're men doesn't mean we all magically have high paying jobs and can afford getting mental health help. To act like that doesn't affect whether those men get up and go get the help they need is absurd and dismissive.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:43 AM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Re: the good-enough job:

I am a huge giant fan of this concept. One time I was doing a quick job sweeping the floor without moving all the furniture away or rolling up the rug--the floor just needed to be swept right then because of dog hair and etc. My stepson pointed out that I missed a spot, and I said it was okay, that a little bit is better than nothing. He's a kid, and he gets a lot of "reach for the stars" messaging at school and camp, which is great! But re: my halfway job, he shook his head ruefully and said "frankly, I find that just insulting."

I suppressed an urge to yell OH HO HO HO CHILD, IS THAT SO? TELL ME ABOUT YOUR WORKDAY! but instead used it as a moment to share about the good-enough job. It's really okay to not do everything 100% all the time. Kids should know this.
posted by witchen at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2017 [65 favorites]


And all this is propped up by the advertising industry.

Aaand that's a perfect segue to Sarah Haskins's Doofy Commercial Husbands from 2012.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think I am the "dude" in these kinds of situations. My parents nitpicked and yelled at me a LOT about how inadequate I was at doing everything in the house, so I feel whopping shame on these topics. One of the reasons why I like living alone is because nobody's going to bitch that I didn't do well enough to satisfy them.
Also, I refuse to have anything to do with cooking the dinner (note: I can do some things but I do not publicize this) because once anyone knows I could do it, I'll always end up having to do it, and I do not want to spend Thanksgiving getting bitched out in the kitchen. I'll go hide in the living room with uh, nobody since the menfolks tend to cook in mine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


All due respect, this isn't about mental health, and asking women in this thread to maybe consider that some misogynistic behavior from men is the result of mental illness is so beyond the point of the thread, that I'm pretty astounded it was brought up.
posted by agregoli at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2017 [67 favorites]


It seems like every time there is a thread that has anything to do with EL, a sort of “men with grievances” batsignal goes out, and the thread immediately fills with men who have been wronged by specific women who really WERE nags!! For true!

Let’s say we take you at your word. In that case: THIS ARTICLE ISN’T ABOUT YOU. Boom. Done. Bye.

As for TFA, one thing that drives me crazy is that escaping this in your personal life doesn’t mean you get out of it. My workplace is full of men who pretend to not know how to clean a coffeepot (or who brag about not caring that the coffeepot literally has scum floating in it, because who cares what coffee tastes like, I just need the caffeine amirite), or who spend 8 hours completing a thirty second task to dissuade you from asking for help the next time, or who intentionally sabotage office products to get back at women for not being deferential enough when asking them to do their jobs. You might think I'm being another paranoid woman! But two of these dudes work on my floor, and I literally hear them plotting about how they're going to do shitty jobs to make sure people (women) leave them alone.

The worst is when you see a guy doing this in public— sending a sly look to his buddies before intentionally screwing up a simple task, then shrugging helplessly (and performatively) as his wife’s face falls. All the “jokes” about the tricks and scripts that they use to get out of doing the dishes, or taking care of the kids, or picking up their own dry cleaning, or making their own doctor’s appointments. There’s a whole “hilarious” list of ways for men to punish their female partners for having the temerity to ask for help. I didn’t know you couldn’t put dishwashing liquid in the washing machine! But that’s not the way my mom does it! But these paper towels were so much cheaper! But the trash doesn’t smell bad to me, so maybe your nose is just sensitive! But I thought kids loved chicken nuggets, why can’t they eat them for every meal?

Why are women so overemotional? I try to help and she breaks down in tears!!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:53 AM on November 15, 2017 [70 favorites]


Insofar as doing unpleasant things that must be done:

As a long-time Stephen King fan, I always remember a passage from IT where the Losers Club has to crawl through a solid waste pipe. Stan, the neatnik of the group, has the hardest time with this requirement, but in the end he pulls himself together and says, “Shit washes off.” I think of that whenever I have to do something hard, unpleasant and/or disgusting, and it works every time.

I want to be receptive to what you're saying, but you're ignoring a huge amount of mental health stigma in the United States, and I'm going to bail on this thread, because that's upsetting me a great deal right now. Just because we're men doesn't mean we don't face the same stigma trying to get help. Just because we're men doesn't mean we all magically have high paying jobs and can afford getting mental health help. To act like that doesn't affect whether those men get up and go get the help they need is absurd and dismissive.

I’m not ignoring it. Indeed, I am pointing out that everyone has this barrier to overcome. You know who else doesn’t have high-paying jobs and who has to face stigma when seeking help? Literally almost everyone. It’s not harder for men than it is for everyone else, and I’m not going to indulge another round of “But it’s hard for men!” in a thread about men trying to get others to do their work for them. We know it’s hard. But expecting you to do it anyway is not unfair. Quite frankly I resent the insinuation that it is.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2017 [62 favorites]


It's really really fucked up watching this dynamic play out in parenting.

"Oops baby walked off the bed while I was watching her, guess I shouldn't be trusted with her."
posted by PMdixon at 9:56 AM on November 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


Why? Is this mefi's version of #notallmen? Why this drive to point to yourself as a fine male specimen?

For me - it was a trigger - I am pretty certain I am not the only one who feels triggered by the article and resulting discussion.

After having had some time to reflect on this discussion and my participation in it, I admit that I jumped to the defense of "myself" (and #notallmen in general), primarily because I spent 19-years in an abusive relationship where I was gaslighted to the point that still 7-years after separation, even with on-going therapy - I continue to have constant self-doubt my ability to function as a normal, healthy adult in a relationship.

Honestly - while I firmly do not believe that "malicious incompetence" applies to myself - I cannot disagree that statistically it is most likely men who pretend to be incompetent to get out of shared tasks (let alone the emotional labour of recognizing those tasks need to be performed in the first place) - to the point that it actually has become a "trope", used in sitcoms and sketch comedies where a group of "dude-bros" sit around bragging about being purposely incompetent at a bar/BBQ event.
posted by jkaczor at 10:03 AM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Possibly I am an outlier, but I refuse to believe I am a freak in this.

You are not - I am a cis guy who has the same dynamic as your folks with my partner.

I've seen it plenty of times over the years, too.

Actually, the three most slovely people I have ever met have all been women.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:06 AM on November 15, 2017


I don't know if this makes me more or less fortunate, but the men I've worked with who dumped their tasks off on me have never bothered to attempt hiding behind false incompetence. Dave just said something along the lines of, “I'm not going to do X,” and nine times out of ten supervisors I've let them get away with it.

I confess to feigning incompetence at one task that one company tried to get me to do. It wasn't in my job description, but this company was constantly harping on “There's no such thing as ‘it's not my job’” and “'other duties as assigned’ means that anybody has to do anything that has to be done” and that sort of codswallop.

It was a really have a bookkeeping job, and at the time there were only a couple of people trained to do it. I *could* have done it, and it probably wouldn't have taken that long to get good at it, but my plate was already overloaded. My own work would absolutely have suffered unless I donated a bunch of unpaid hours (a big don’t). And worst of all, it would have meant staying alone late at night at a time when I was depending on getting rides to and from work.
But if these were not reasonable people who would listen 2 reason, so I felt that all I could do was get bad at bookkeeping really fast. I was very actively job hunting anyway, so I wasn't too concerned about hurting my prospects for promotion there. I felt bad about it, but not that bad.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:09 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


Better mental health services won't solve the entire problem, but I strongly suspect that a small number of men who would otherwise get slapped with the label "misogynist" for this kind of behavior might actually be okay dudes with some super real problems that aren't addressed by our society at all.

Nah. This article isn't talking about actual incompetence. Like someone else said, not everyone can be a great cook. I'm not, and it seems like an executive disorder on my part. I can bake just fine but I cannot keep track of more than one thing on the stove. I will drop or spill or burn something. Almost every single time. I'm single, but if I were with a partner that didn't enjoy cooking, I would sure fucking try. The article is about men who don't even bother to try, and who depend on women to do those things. That's misogyny.
posted by AFABulous at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2017 [15 favorites]


The article is about men who don't even bother to try, and who depend on women to do those things.

It’s actually about something even worse— men who intentionally screw things up to make sure they will never be asked for help again in the future.

“Not doing it” would actually be preferable to men who intentionally ruin and break things out of pique.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:19 AM on November 15, 2017 [27 favorites]


I (cis gendered white man) have totally been this guy in the past, and as a recovering mansplainer (I’m trying Ringo), I read the article and this thread looking carefully for places I might still be this way. And came up with a couple. They’re small but real, and I’ll work on those. Thanks for the informative and useful FPP!
posted by asavage at 10:20 AM on November 15, 2017 [47 favorites]


THIS IS NOT JUST ABOUT HOUSEWORK CHRIST

I know men who do this at work. Aw shucks they just can't put together a good deck for a presentation - I'm so much better with the colors and stuff! Why don't I do it?

Or my notes are just so clear! Haw haw they just can't take notes like I can.

Men do it for everything and this housework is just a derail.
posted by winna at 10:33 AM on November 15, 2017 [38 favorites]


I can see this happening, but it's probably most prominent in men who went from living with their moms, to college, to moving in with a girlfriend who cooked and cleaned for them, to going in search of the next girlfriend willing to take him in once that relationship failed, and so on until he gets married.

There are people whose main survival skill is finding someone else to do things for them.
posted by deanc at 10:45 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


As someone who is a man in a relationship with another man, it's really interesting to see this in action. It's not the gender of the person who the man (my partner, in this instance) decides he's helpless around, it's just the assumption that someone else will do it and the ability to play a game of "no chores chicken" with them for a longer period of time.

I occasionally travel for work, and when I do, my partner makes himself really good meals that he likes and decides on all by himself. Whenever the two of us are in the house together, he starts the game of, "What are we having for dinner?" at about noon, with texts about it until I worry myself over what he wants to eat (because he "can't decide" if I just outright ask him) and the complaints if I pick the wrong things to cook, or whatever.

If I say, "I don't feel like cooking tonight," he'll consider that a "we're fending for ourselves" night, where he gets something for himself and I do the same. If I specifically ask him to cook one night, that's the "favor" he's done me and that carries over to weeks on end.

Don't get me started on the fact that the dishwasher simply won't get emptied unless I do it or specifically ask him to do it, which requires him to dawdle for up to a couple of hours (unless we need specific dishes from the dishwasher to eat food I've made) or that the bathroom doesn't get cleaned unless I ask or do it, or that the garbage day (Tuesday nights, always Tuesday nights) is a mystery to him.

It's definitely learned behavior, and it's learned on my part, too. My apartment used to be neat as a pin, and now it's a bit of a dump because I refuse to clean as often as I did because now there are two of us making the mess, and it feels like half as much of me available emotionally to clean it up.
posted by xingcat at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2017 [27 favorites]


My husband 'can't do' so many things and then complains because I tend to leave the few things he 'can' do to him so he's 'always' doing them. grrr
posted by KateViolet at 10:48 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


I wouldn’t call it a derail, so much as evidence that it is an institution-wide attitude, of which household management is part and business management is another part.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:51 AM on November 15, 2017


Business management: as your resident IT guy, I'll tell you that feigned incompetence is rampant in business. All genders. All makes and models of people. This has colored my relationships on the personal side of computer repair, to the point where I no longer even traffic in "fixing computers" for individuals and in some cases has led to me firing clients.

I'm not talking about people not knowing that they should update the carrier settings on their phones once in a while or whatever, I'm talking basics: How to plug in a goddamn USB cable and transfer photos from a camera. How to configure an email account in Outlook, because that wizard is "scary" or something. How to find a folder on their own fucking hard drive, that they created, ten minutes earlier.

Or the guy I volunteer with at a historical society who refuses to open a web browser to check email - even though its the same service he uses for his personal email: "I don't know what you mean by that" while waving his hands around like a damn baby.

It's all bullshit. It's laziness, and it's disingenuous, and I KNOW YOU'RE NOT THAT STUPID, ASSHOLE. YOU RUN A COMPANY THAT MAKES ELECTRONICS.

I'm glad I don't live with a partner that does this shit, I'd fucking kill him. No, I wouldn't: I'd just leave him soaking in his own filth while I shopped for a new place to live.

This article did a nice job of affirming that at least as well as I can, I'm trying to do it right. I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed in my fellow men, that there are in fact dumbasses out there who try this shit at home. What the fuck is wrong with you, moron?
posted by disclaimer at 11:07 AM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


I am impressed this is in the Metro - it makes me think that this is getting very mainstream.

And as for the discussion upthread - my mother and paternal grandmother were in complete agreement that this was 100% upbringing. My father and my brother do not (and never have) used feigned incompetence, though I admit that this is a very small sample size.

I also don't buy that different standards of cleanliness mean that men are somehow unable to clean adequately. I am a messy person (as I write this I can identify only about one square foot of clear space in the room I'm in). However, for about a year or so many years back I was unemployed; I moved back in with my parents, and the agreement was that I got to live rent-free if I did the housekeeping (cooking, cleaning, laundry). At the start there were a few things that I got wrong, because I'm naturally much more messy than my parents. But, and this is the but, I damn well learned. I was told things that weren't up to scratch, and when I didn't get it, I asked for clarification. For the rest of that time, the house was kept clean to my parents' standards. I am not naturally as sensitive to dirt and mess as some other people, and if I clean without concentrating it will be to my (low) standards. But the point is that I can clean to higher standards. I find it difficult to believe that men are incapable of learning, and I suspect unwillingness.
posted by Vortisaur at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


As a man who has a full-time job and actually does some housework and feeds the baby here and there and cooks on the weekends, I get a nice confidence boost from reading these articles. I feel like a catch and a rockstar. And my wife is really lucky to have me compared to some of the incompetent ne'er-do-wells floating around out there!

Go me.
posted by theorique at 11:14 AM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


Some of the guys with this sort of behaviour are doing it out of misogyny (in the sense of a personal prejudice against women and stuff socially coded as "feminine"), but plenty of these guys will keep up this behaviour even when there are no women involved in their living spaces and it's a male room-mate who has to pick up the slack (if any even does). They will also practice the same kind of lazy ignorance / incompetence of traditionally masculine chores like mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, fixing broken things, or moving furniture, which the "misogyny motivates this behaviour" explanation doesn't do a good job of explaining IMHO. I've also seen it in queer relationships between men, which would suggest that misogyny isn't the critical driver.

I suspect it probably has more to do with how male subjectivities are established under patriarchy to care or not care about certain things, and to negotiate their portion of shared tasks in groups, rather than a personal prejudice against women or activities socially-coded as "feminine". I think it's an important distinction because it moves the locus of critical change from changing individual sentiments to changing our social processes of subject construction which men are made through. Someone mentioned above that all young people should be encouraged or required to take home economics / home care classes during school, and I think that's probably a good start. Men demonstrating the normality of men performing home care for their boys will probably also help, as someone else mentioned, and it might be good to ban, socially condemn, and/or regulate commercial advertising and other media representations that portray men as doofuses unable to perform chores until a woman comes along to save the day.

Undoing male underperformance of household chores (both quantity and quality) across society is difficult because there should simultaneously be relief from the importance of household cleanliness as an indicator of personal character (esp. considering the sexist aspects of who is judged for it), and at the same time, an increase in the proportion of household chores men do on an individual level. The co-importance of those produces mixed messaging that gets interpreted in self-serving ways by men - "If people shouldn't be judged for how clean their houses are, why should I make much effort cleaning the house? Aren't I just upholding an awful standard?" (i.e. laziness as faux-feminism). I suspect that getting men to do more chores is easier than changing the social standards of cleanliness and its relation to personal character (which have racial and class relations reinforcing them beyond just gender relations), not in the least because men are already slowly increasing the proportion of household work they do and it's mainly a question of accelerating that increase.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:17 AM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


So hey, I'm a dude with severe mental health issues! But I was also raised as a girl, because I'm trans! So when granny wanted us to make our beds, she pulled me aside, and let my brother keep reading. And it's not even that I was punished in any way - it wasn't necessary - it was enough that my granny, who I loved, told me this thing was important.

A year or two ago my brother said, "Nobody ever taught me how to make beds ..." And it's true! No one did! No one told him it was important. That doesn't mean it isn't important. That's not an excuse to make me do it forever and ever. (This was when we had been guests somewhere and we were leaving and they asked us to make the beds before we went. Not like I was telling him how to live in his own room.) When something like this happens, you accept it with grace and you fucking learn.

Nobody taught him how to put together a computer, either, but he Googled it. Because he gave a shit.

He keeps saying "I really just don't notice stuff, I'm oblivious." And I used to be that way too, but. We grew up in the same house with the same parents. Why is it that I learned and he didn't? while I was actively struggling against suicidal thoughts the whole time? I learned a lot of cleaning skills as a waitress, but why is it that he's never had a job that forced him to clean? Why has he never googled "how to get that stupid stain off the stove"? Why is it just not ever his problem?

So when I make dinner, and bring it out to him because he's doing homework, I always bring him the wrong utensil. Just so he doesn't take it for granted. So if it's burgers he gets chopsticks, and if it's soup he gets a knife. I don't exactly recommend this for other types of relationships but it sort of satisfies me.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:27 AM on November 15, 2017 [27 favorites]


he's far from perfect, but I am feeling a lot of appreciation for my husband right now.
posted by supermedusa at 11:29 AM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


another vote for wow thank god hetero life will never be an issue for me again.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:40 AM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


I really dislike when men turn around and the language of victimhood to describe about how hurt they are that women are talking about having a hard time. e.g.:

I want to be receptive to what you're saying, but you're ignoring a huge amount of mental health stigma in the United States, and I'm going to bail on this thread, because that's upsetting me a great deal right now.


Sorry you're finding this upsetting, but maybe it's more upsetting for women who are expected to do more and are given shit when it's not done perfectly?

Why? Is this mefi's version of #notallmen? Why this drive to point to yourself as a fine male specimen?

For me - it was a trigger - I am pretty certain I am not the only one who feels triggered by the article and resulting discussion.


You do NOT get to say you are "triggered" by the idea that men pretend to be bad at shit to make women do it. I'm sorry if you feel that your first wife didn't respect your efforts but I find the coӧption of this kind of language super upsetting. It feels like telling women who are experiencing this that the pain men face from having to learn that they have hurt women is as bad as the pain women face from being hurt. I hate how men get to make themselves victims USING THE TERMS WOMEN USE TO DESCRIBE LEGITIMATE VICTIMHOOD. I would really like it to stop.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:00 PM on November 15, 2017 [64 favorites]


A year or two ago my brother said, "Nobody ever taught me how to (make beds) ..." And it's true!

This is internalized toxic patriarchy, and I see it as hurting my spouse.

He recognizes that dinner must be made and eaten regularly. To all evidence, he sees our dinners as a shared responsibility (he is a good, solid partner). He is proactive in offering to provide dinner - to get takeout, to go out, or to make the 3 simple things he can make.

Reader, he is a fully functioning, highly intelligent adult with no mental health or executive function issues, who is motivated as a partner. But he has fully bought into the idea that he cannot cook, and cannot learn to cook.

I think this came in part from his mother (who I adore to death, but who waits on her family as a demonstration of love) and in part from internalized gender roles.

When I ask him to perform specific tasks to help me cook, he's fine, sometimes gets flustered, but never complains and always wants to help (or offers to take us out). But when it comes to a meal on the table - he gets overwhelmed, and it comes from his internalized "I don't know how to do this!". He started us on Blue Apron for the reason (on his end) that it would teach him to cook (he recognized that he needed to and should learn). But he gets flustered by even those directions, which I think are brilliantly simple and clear. He perseverates on each step, and I think it's because he can't ever be confident that he has actually successfully completed it and can move on. The prep steps take forever because he seems so un-confident on what they mean by "chop the potato, quarter the lemon". He cooks things by the exact timing a Blue Apron recipe specifies, rather then "until brown" or "until done", because he thinks he can't determine those.

He expresses frustration around the issue of dinner / cooking, and I know it is not aimed at me or trying to escape his duties as partner, I really see it as internalized patriarchy that is toxic to his own competence as a human.
posted by Dashy at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


The mental health thing is kind of a red herring but... is there such a thing as a useful red herring? Like, yes, exactly this sort of behavior can come up with things like ADD and anxiety and depression in the context of relationships. But, first of all, if you are a person who is generally not suffering from crippling depression and yet you're acting like it towards your partner, that should be a pretty big sign that you're being a rotten partner. And second of all... even if you have depression, that doesn't make it all fine. Even if you're lacking spoons for whatever reason, if you deal with it by avoiding the problem and refusing to communicate honestly with your partner, you're still being a rotten partner. If you had a problem getting stuff done but you didn't deal with it in this maladaptive kind of way, then congrats, you aren't this particular problem, but a lot of guys definitely are.
posted by Sequence at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


From TFA:

"But rather than knee-jerk toward normalizing, it's worth taking a minute to parse just how complicated it is to make sense of the different realities in which men and women have been living. "

Bingo. Although in many cases. it's a refusal to understand someone else's reality/needs/expectations/standards/hopes because that would require work, and them more work to demonstrate continued understanding. Which, at least in an American context, takes place in a culture where men disbelieve/discount women's words and experiences, so the desire to understand is hard to get to in the first place. Surprise, dismay (not all men!), and then feigned helplessness are a crapload easier; then it's the forgetting, the (re-)discovery...and thus the cycle continues. Bumbling forgetfulness repeats as an excuse, even on the nth iteration of an issue.

"Most of us know that when a politician sits on the stand and insists that he "does not recall," that it's a political performance, a manipulative pretense intended to obfuscate. Let's apply that intelligent skepticism toward this rash of professions of male incompetence."
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:05 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


No. It is not a useful red herring. Mental health as driving factor is as applicable here as to discussions of mass shootings.

I have mental health issues. Stop pinning other people's bad behavior on me.
posted by PMdixon at 12:06 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


PMdixon, I also have mental health issues, and what I'm saying here is that yes it can be good to talk about the influence of that on the problem but that doesn't make it the problem itself.
posted by Sequence at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2017


As a man who has a full-time job and actually does some housework and feeds the baby here and there and cooks on the weekends, I get a nice confidence boost from reading these articles. I feel like a catch and a rockstar. And my wife is really lucky to have me compared to some of the incompetent ne'er-do-wells floating around out there!

Go me.
posted by theorique at 2:14 PM on November 15 [3 favorites +] [!]


Oh gracious, this is really not about you. Could you please not make it about you? If it you really need to talk about how great you are (and I get why you would want to have that conversation, I too would like to talk about how great I am) could you please maybe find a way to do it that doesn't interrupt women talking about how they do a disproportionate share of the work?

Conversely, I thought this:

I (cis gendered white man) have totally been this guy in the past, and as a recovering mansplainer (I’m trying Ringo), I read the article and this thread looking carefully for places I might still be this way. And came up with a couple. They’re small but real, and I’ll work on those. Thanks for the informative and useful FPP!
posted by asavage at 1:20 PM on November 15 [13 favorites +] [!]


Was a lovely comment! It was a really nice way to say "this has been helpful and I am also still working to do my best" in a way that was not self-flagellatory and felt like a real contribution. I bring this up to head off the inevitable "oh, so men can't TALK in these conversations?". Men can talk, fine, whatever, but comments that really engage with what's been said are very different from comments that derail the conversation into how great some men are. If you don't feel that the conversation is about you, please don't make it about you.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:14 PM on November 15, 2017 [36 favorites]


Why is it good to talk about the influence of that on the problem? Women and some men are still having to sell the idea that there even is a problem, so talking about reasons it's hard to solve is mistimed, to say the least. The cause doesn't make being on the receiving end of the behavior any less shitty.

Moreover, as soon as you frame something as a mental health problem 2/3 of the populace hears "yup need to lock up the crazies that'll make it all better." I don't want that reinforced. This is something that healthy-as-usually-defined men do in large numbers.
posted by PMdixon at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2017


I received a lot of lazy man protips from my Dad about this kind of stuff. This feigned incompetence to avoid housework is deeply, deeply annoying to me. There is/was a whole lot of white middle class masculinity tied up in not doing "women's work." It shows up throughout our culture, especially in sitcoms, though I think it's a lot funnier to Boomer-gen men than it is to me. I'm of the "time-to-lean is time-to-clean" school and see this kind of laziness as part and parcel of failed masculinity. Taking care of your home and family isn't masculine or feminine, it's shit that has to get done. Dumping it all on the female partner because the manly-man is a delicate snowflake who can't possibly clean a toilet or change a diaper or cook a meal on a stove is just weak and pathetic. Man up and do your damn job, boys! Real men comfort crying children and do laundry and cook food and do any other damn job that needs to be done. Spoiled little boys lay that work on other people and I've got no time or respect for that business.
posted by Lighthammer at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


I think that when we're confronted with oppressions that we perpetrate or benefit from, or that people like us perpetrate or benefit from, it's very tempting to rules-lawyer. Most of us recognize when other people do this.

If you're working class, you probably recognize the "class bias exists but this isn't class-biased, it's just an individual situation, also this particular working-class person is actually lazy and dirty!!!" If you're queer, you probably recognize "homophobia exists but this wasn't homophobic, I just felt like that one gay person was being kind of gross, no one wants to see that". God knows, if you're a person of color you probably recognize the old "racism exists but this wasn't racism, it's just that particular POC was doing something wrong". There is a tendency to say "well of course this bias exists, but in this situation where it is important to me, it's not bias - it's just reality, because I am an objective observer!" So we busily admit that bias and inequality exist, but every time someone says "this is biased" we say "bias exists, but this isn't it".

In a way, it's like the double standard placed on marginalized people - you're either lazy or a try-hard kiss-ass, you're either too emotional or too cold-hearted, you're either stupid or cunning, you are either a prude or a slut, etc etc. In theory, a person exists who is neither lazy nor stupid, neither prudish nor slutty, etc, but who is doing it right. However, that person is never the person who is actually in the room. They're always somewhere out there, but every actually existing person is always terrible.

These are mental tricks that we play on ourselves.

My point is that I'm asking folks - especially but not exclusively men - to get past the "misogynist labor division exists, but in my own life I have only encountered nagging/lazy/bad women, not misogyny" thing and the "but some women don't care about cleaning, therefore structural misogyny doesn't exist in any meaningful sense" thing.

We are primed not to see the unfair things that we do. We are primed not to see that structures determine the shape of many of our interactions. We don't want to believe it and we get a lot of reinforcement of the idea that we are individuals whose circumstances are totally unique, unlike other people off over there somewhere whose circumstances are determined by social structures.

It is extremely unlikely that most of us have totally - or even primarily - escaped the powerful social conditioning that we can see determining many factors of social life. If we live in a misogynist society where women are pushed to do most of the socially reproductive labor and where such labor is viewed as stupid, shameful and unimportant, why are we so confident that we don't think that way, and that in our lives and our lives alone we are actually encountering only stupid/bad/lazy/nagging women?
posted by Frowner at 12:53 PM on November 15, 2017 [46 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted - in a hot-button thread like this it just isn't a good idea to say "this is about men deliberately acting incompetent to get women to do things for them, but let's talk about times when men don't do that, in other spheres of life"... it's just not going to go anywhere but fight-town.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:56 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Attack it on the incompetence angle. It's the only thing I can think that would work on men.

I don't understand why anyone wants to be purposefully incompetent.

All those examples of guys who can wang jangle a motor or build a computer, etc, but don't want to learn how to clean flat out confuse me because we're supposed to revere the idea of competence to the stage where there's competence fetishizing literature and shows. (And hey our previous thread is about Nick Offerman who's definitely in that realm of things)

I get it - "it's women's work, it's unimportant" - look, don't care, don't be incompetent about things. There's more time for doing things that you want. When you've got a Navy Seal Admiral telling you to start the day by making your bed and straightening up - that should be pretty appealing to your meathead side.

I can't clean a bathroom or decorate a room to my wife's preferred state of things, but even trying makes her happier and reduces her stress level and anxiety. That seems the least I can do. I can also whip up a meal that makes her feel at ease.

I will admit, hating being incompetent at things is the reason why I've never made it further than a gutar lesson. stupid guitar.
posted by drewbage1847 at 12:59 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm actually both sort of villains offered in this thread. I demonstrated early incompetence at laundry because I just never bought anything that couldn't be done on high and hot settings and have essentially maintained that incompetence and avoided laundry ever after. I'm also a nag with impossible standards who pretty much won't let my wife cook unsupervised and honestly prefers for her to just stand aside and let me do it. Hopefully she never reads this thread.

I do recognize the pattern described in the article and agree that it is pretty toxic. I should do better, but I'm frustrated that the washing instructions on her garments are filled with lies. Most but not all articles labeled "dry clean only" are really just "wash on gentle" but some mean it. I wonder if she will let me put a colored dot on each label to help me do it correctly. The last time I did laundry I had to leave a half-dozen articles unwashed because I was paralyzed with indecision about what to do.

I do think that we have collectively negotiated a pretty good balance such that I do my fair share of all chores, but this conversation has inspired me to sit down with her again and make sure she agrees tonight. After I make a nice dinner. Thanks for an interesting read.
posted by Lame_username at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


People who are scared of laundry remind me of (usually old) people who are terrified of wiping their hard drive if they click one wrong button. Use your best judgment and most of the time the damage is not irreversible. If you're really super scared then buy Woolite and hand wash it.
posted by AFABulous at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2017 [7 favorites]


The last time I did laundry I had to leave a half-dozen articles unwashed because I was paralyzed with indecision about what to do.

If more men would just deal with "wash the white cottons on hot, the mixed fabrics on warm, lingerie on cold-delicate, and set up a basket for anything too confusing," women wouldn't be yelling at them for not doing the laundry.

Yes, there's a number of types of clothes that are confusing. Some that say dry clean but are lying; some that aren't. There are ways to figure out the difference, but yeah, that's complicated. On the other hand... jeans, t-shirts, socks, sweatpants, normal button-down shirts, cotton-knit underwear, bedsheets, and towels can all be washed on warm and dried on hot. (That's not perfect, but it'd work ok.) Try to wash similar things together to avoid color bleed or drying time problems.

If men would say, "I can only wash 80% of the laundry; honey, can you deal with this weird* stuff?" we wouldn't have these arguments. (*Jackets with linings. Silk. Wool. Gauzy things. Hats. Clothes with beads or sequins. Formal wear. Costumes. Anything that's supposed to have visible creases.) The problem is with "shrug, I dunno how to do laundry; it's a women thing" as if it all involved some arcane skills that need years of apprenticeship to master.

I'm ready to start using shaming examples that play to the worst of their prejudices. "This is Kim Davis. She supports Trump and thinks God appointed her to keep gay people from getting married. And she knows how to do her damn laundry. Are you really going to tell me you are less competent that Kim Davis?"
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


The British comedian Jo Brand once said she planned to write a book about housework called "Fuck It, That'll Do".
posted by Paul Slade at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


The problem is with "shrug, I dunno how to do laundry; it's a women thing" as if it all involved some arcane skills that need years of apprenticeship to master.

Let me tell you about how things work at our house with the pantry and the refrigerator - you'll laugh so hard you cry!

So, okay, the pantry and the refrigerator both have to be cleaned from time to time. We all eat different stuff and are all varying degrees of disorganized, so part of the purpose of the clean is to purge withered onions, bread heels, that cereal that our housemate from 2015 bought and left behind, the tupperware full of beans from a month ago, etc.

There are two approaches, one taken by cis men and one taken by me. The first is to say "well, this isn't all my stuff, who knows, maybe this moldy orange is precious to one of my other housemates - better not even start because what if I throw out something that is not garbage!!!!" And the other is to start cleaning, toss all the obviously bad stuff and put the debatable stuff on the counter so that people can either replace it on the shelf or throw it out themselves. The advantage to the first approach is that you never actually have to clean anything. The advantage to the second is that the pantry and refrigerator don't fill up with moldy food.

On those rare occasions that I've asked for and gotten help with either, I always come back to a half-done job, let it sit for a day or two in case the cleaner just got interrupted in the middle and then discover that, well, they didn't know how to proceed so they just stopped.

I was raised in a lovely home which was cleaned equally by both parents. I do not live in a lovely home.
posted by Frowner at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


I accidentally broke my kitchen faucet a couple months ago, causing it to comically shoot water directly into my face like in the cartoons.

I shut off the water under the sink. Then I raged at the world for a minute or so. Then I googled YouTube videos on “How to replace a kitchen faucet” and watched a few. Then I went to Lowes.com and shopped for a kitchen faucet. I drove to Lowe’s and bought the faucet I liked.

I went home, got out my toolbox, and took out all the bottles and stuff out from under the sink. I disassembled the broken faucet, unboxed the new faucet, and read through all the directions. I installed the new faucet and then discovered, when I went to hook it up to the water lines, that my shut-off valves were not compatible. After some more research, I determined that I needed to have them replaced (tl;dr cheap contractor used single-use valves that you can’t take off and put back on).

I went to Angie’s List and researched some plumbers. I called around and got an appointment with one of them. He came over and replaced the valves and hooked up the faucet to the water lines. Then I put everything back under the sink, put the old faucet in the outside garbage, Lysoled the counter and scrubbed the sink.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:41 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


I had to stop gaming with a person like this. He had been very successful in a technical and creative job, but was seemingly incapable of doing even the most minor tasks on his own. Anything technical required someone else to do it for him, and it seemed like even minor household tasks needed to be done for him by his wife as he never knew how to do anything. It made me extremely uncomfortable to be around this regularly and I had to get out of there (we usually met at his house).

The irony here is that I was raised in a household where the father was not expected to do any domestic labor, and I have struggled against that conditioning.
posted by Legomancer at 1:45 PM on November 15, 2017


What did surprise me was that the women were very much enabling and even enforcing the behavior.

See, this doesn't surprise me at all. That's why we call patriarchy systemic oppression. We're all swimming in it and most of us, women and men, enforce it to one degree or another and it takes a lot of effort and education to step outside of it.

I'm a woman but I was lucky enough to be raised in a non-traditional, heavily feminist environment. When it gets to the point in a relationship when I'm (societally) expected to start pandering (as I think of it) to the man's needs and my ascribed social roles I bail at the slightest hint of this kind of behaviour.

I get a lot of push back on this from my women friends who think I'm being wrong to give up on relationships that don't work for me for 'silly' reasons. They seem to be coming from a place where it's just expected that as the woman I will compromise a lot more and just be happy to have a guy. There have been a lot of long, boozy conversations.

I suspect that other women have strong opinions on my refusal to pander because it's such an expected norm I have been quite transgressive by breaking it. Sometimes it bugs the shit out of me because I feel like they are shoving patriarchy down my throat.*

Mostly though it just makes me feel sad about the sacrifices they have to make to have male companionship in their lives. And it seems they really do have to make this sacrifice because this kind of weaponised helplessness is rampant, even in otherwise sound guys.

As we get older my friends are becoming more understanding of my perspective. Bitter experience is showing them what my mother's friends told me around campfires based on their own bitter experiences. I think part of it is that as we age we form our opinions more on the world as it is and less than on whatever social conditioning we have picked up.

As time goes on, I'm also sadly starting to notice that many of the friends who (seemed to me) to have most ardently drank the 'keep your man at any cost' kool aid are the ones that are most unhappy and suffering in their own lives. Patriarchy sucks ass.

Having said that, even though most of us are probably enforcing it to some degree, we don't all benefit and it behooves those who do benefit to do more of the work to address the (many, many) problems of patriarchy.

That's why ongoing, nuanced and patient conversations about these things are so important to help us all develop. As noted above it's great to see the likes of Metro taking up the topic because it's by talking about these things that we learn and can break out. I am incredibly grateful for Metafilter providing a platform for those conversations and for clarifying my thoughts and giving me a vocabulary to discuss these things better irl.

*I'm sure that no matter how more feminist I am in comparison to my social groups' norms I'm probably unknowingly shoving the patriarchy on others too. Hell, sometimes I even catch myself doing it.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:51 PM on November 15, 2017 [20 favorites]


The advantage to the first approach is that you never actually have to clean anything. The advantage to the second is that the pantry and refrigerator don't fill up with moldy food.

There are aspects of house cleaning that I refuse to do until my husband acknowledges a need for them, at the very minimum in the sense of saying, "hey wife, are you ever going to clean the thing?" (At which point, we can have the discussion of, "so... whose job do you think 'clean the thing' should be?" Bringing it up spontaneously has always been disastrous.)

I used to do some of it when it got to a level that bothered me. I've decided I can lower my standards and wait. This isn't a health thing, just a personal comfort issue.

I suspect he remembers some of the disastrous conversations and is dodging mentioning it.

Is okay. I can wait. If it's not important to him, not even enough to discuss it, it doesn't need to be important to me.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:52 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


yeah this whole "women have higher standards" hm i wonder who gets trained to clean, what gender is usually in the kitchen after holidays, etc etc. verily it is a great mystery

So, okay. Confession time. For around the last year of living in my last apartment, I was engaging in a bit of a sociological experiment, and a bit of a "fuck this I am so goddamned tired" - basically, I didn't clean anything to a standard higher than my husband would if I asked him to clean it. Clean the bathroom? Sure, I'll happily sweep and mop and clean the mirrors and swirl a toilet brush around for a while. Man, isn't is AMAZING how much faster it is? Yes, it sure is, isn't that funny? Clean the kitchen? Sure, I'll happily just wipe down the counters and clean the fridge and sweep and mop the floor! What a world! Dusting means only the bookshelves and TV cabinet? Hurrah!

Reader, I had to move out of that apartment last month, and let me tell you, once you moved everything out of it, it was obvious how absolutely gross it was. "Husband standard" left grease & dust that actually mixed to coat the fronts of the cabinets. Because we didn't move furniture to clean and I didn't do spring cleaning because he thought it was nonsense, it meant that behind every piece of furniture was a horror land. There was cat vomit going up the wall behind a bookshelf because we hadn't moved it all year and so had never noticed that the cat threw up behind a bookshelf. The oven, because men don't clean ovens, had its grease baked on so hard that even with commercial-grade oven cleaner that it's deadly to breathe, I couldn't get it all off. The window sills had dirt and cracks around them. It was just horrible.

It's not that "lol, women have unreasonable standards". It's that women know that ultimately, they will be responsible for the state things get into, and they prefer that it not get to that grueling, nightmarish state - it took me literally two weeks of going over there for four to five hours a day in order for me to get that reasonably clean for a new tenant. When you dust and wipe down everything every week, the dust and grease don't have a chance to make babies. When you move furniture regularly to see what's behind it, it never gets a chance to accumulate to the terrorzone. So those 'unreasonable higher standards' are often just 'I know this is going to eventually end on my shoulders and I would prefer it not be a Cthonic horrorshow."
posted by corb at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2017 [39 favorites]


So I just learned I cleaned at the husband standard of cleaning. Good thing I live alone.
posted by asteria at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2017 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I am generally the queen of the Good Enough. The dishes need to get done at least twice a week, so I do not care if optimizing the dish loading would mean they got 5% more clean. I will do it, and they will get clean enough, and that is better than them not being done at all. My husband used to fuss over how they were loaded in, but if I waited for him to load the dishes or indeed do anything with them at all, he would do the "wash two dirty sink plates" routine for weeks. Same for cleaning most stuff; if I can get him to start cleaning, he will do a perfectly decent job of it, better than I would do, but he just won't do maintenance cleaning anywhere near as often as it needs doing.

I have successfully conditioned him to do the cleaning before other people show up, so I just entertain periodically because that creates a deadline for when Enough of the Things Must Be Cleaned, and for whatever reason, he will only do it with a deadline. He gets whatever recipe I'm baking that day out of it, we both get to see our friends, and it works as a decent filth reset.
posted by tautological at 2:22 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I remember back when I was at University, a guy I knew had been absent for a few days. When he turned up, I asked where he had been. With a broad grin on his face he told me he and his two male housemates had been in hospital. They had food poisoning and had to get their stomachs pumped. It was due to neglect of hygiene in the kitchen. Still grinning, he also told me that it was the third time this year it had happened. So guy is basically proud of shooting himself in the foot. I'm a guy too, btw. Visiting another male friend back then living on his own, every surface in the house was covered in used plates, glasses, bottles, takeaway containers, even the chairs, so there was nowhere to sit. Choosing clothing to go out in consisted of picking items of clothing up off the floor and smelling them. I never returned. The place was a biohazard.
posted by The Seeds of Autumn at 2:24 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


This is an issue between my husband and me. He's a great deep cleaner, but he just doesn't have good cleaning habits, nor does he tend to SEE the mess. It's absolutely baffling.

For example, I washed our towels the other day and one was so saturated in hand lotion that I literally couldn't wash it. It was like glue. Turns out he was wiping excess lotion on all his towels. Like, I don't have the brainpower to process how that sounds like a good idea?!

And at the same time, he's a great spouse. He does a lot because I'm disabled with chronic illness. But this like, seeing what needs to be done and how to do it? Nope.

I (cis female) was raised in a very unstable environment. My bio mom has severe mental illness and my dad did his best but, regular cleaning wasn't a thing. There would be times where I would get screamed at for leaving a spoon in the sink, and times where there was literal trash on our floors.

When my dad and I moved out, he sorta expected me to do more chores. That's not a wrong expectation. I was 15 and wanted to have fun, and started working at 17 so I would be at school then work till 10 pm and because I didn't do dishes in between school and work it was an issue. But again, good HABITS weren't taught to me.

Then now, I'm 27 and happily married. I also have severe chronic illness. But one thing I've been working on and just now sorta figuring out is cleaning. I always knew HOW to clean, but it was about forming that HABIT of cleaning. And now I'm much much better at it.

And he did chores as a kid. I asked him, "did you have to be asked to do them?" and he said "No, I just knew I had to do them and did them before I could do other stuff.".... Yet that doesn't happen here.

Therefore the regular upkeep of cleaning is on me. That's fine, I can't work. But there are times where like... I don't want to fucking have to ask him to not literally ruin towels or put his damn clothes in the fucking hamper! He'll say "It's full, I have to do laundry." Boy! Like, I don't give a shit if you wear a fucking sack to work, shove the fucking clothes in the hamper and not all over the floor.

And I do end up picking up a lot of slack. Again, he works full time and I'm homebound. But the few places I draw the line are there for a reason. I don't clean his bathroom. I don't pick up his shit off the floor.

It's really hard for me to figure out WHY he does this. Is it because of how he was raised? He managed to do chores as a kid. Was he not taught? He deep cleans better than I do. Is it because of his ADHD? Possibly. But he does a lot to stay focused and do amazing at work so he has tricks to work with himself on that. Is it because he is comfortable living with towels covered in lotion? I guess so. But I won't live like that.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:36 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


'I know this is going to eventually end on my shoulders and I would prefer it not be a Cthonic horrorshow."

I have decided to embrace my Cthonic horrorshow future. I'm in the SF bay area; maybe my building will slide into the bay before I have to deal with cleaning. (Not likely; I live on the flats. But hey, anything in the area could flood or burn.)

And he did chores as a kid. I asked him, "did you have to be asked to do them?" and he said "No, I just knew I had to do them and did them before I could do other stuff.".... Yet that doesn't happen here.

Husband claims his parents had a white-glove household, in which he apparently participated in cleaning. Not only does husband not do cleaning unless pestered, he doesn't show any signs of the habits that would support regular cleaning: he does not instinctively stack dishes left on the counter, does not place envelopes where they won't be knocked off a table, does not attempt to put laundry into separate piles for washing.

I suspect husband's childhood home had a maid who came in a couple times a week, and that his contributions were limited to "you will put your own toys away and put your dirty clothes in a basket someone else has labeled."

Therefore the regular upkeep of cleaning is on me. ... He deep cleans better than I do.

Deep cleaning is easy and fun, if you're into detail concentration work. Regular daily "put dirty stuff in places where it can be washed; adapt use patterns to allow for easier cleaning; leave bed/couch where you're comfortable to throw wrapper away now instead of hoping to remember in the morning" - that's tedious, and it takes constant attention instead of intense work that requires no thought when it's not the task at hand.

(Presumably, the lotion has to go somewhere. But some towels would be better for that than others, and there might be a pre-washing stage that helps clean them - soak in hot water & soap alone for a while away from the laundry. But that requires noting those towels for that purpose, and separating them instead of throwing them in the same heap with other dirty clothes.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


I live alone, and I have ADHD, and I also work full-time, and I don’t throw my shit all over the floor, ruin towels, or let things sit around busted because I have the expectation that someone would come along, see it and fix it with no further input on my part. And yeah, I have to play tricks on myself and motivate myself to do it, because I don’t like housework any more than anyone does. When my faucet broke, I had to figure out what to do about it and then do it. What was I gonna do, just not have a working kitchen faucet for the whole time I live in my house? Really?

But the thing is, I don’t have the expectation that this is optional for me and mandatory for “someone” TBD who isn’t me. All these anecdotes about, or from, men who do part of a task and then just stop doing the rest of it (without even informing anyone!) are truly mind-boggling. They all have the common denominator of “This isn’t really MY responsibility.” And when I run into it in real life, it honestly infuriates me. It’s just not that hard to break down a task and figure out how to get it done. You can literally google it and get step-by-step instructions on how to do it as the top result, for Christ’s sake! This is especially true when I see men over 30 acting this way. It’s one thing if one is new to living on their own, and might not know where to start (although you can google that too!!!!!! Just take the sentence you would ask the nearest woman and enter it into Google instead) but for grown adults who have no actual disabilities preventing them...come the fuck on.

I suspect that “women not cohabiting with men” in increasing numbers will have as much of an impact on this dynamic as anything. You can learn or not learn as you prefer, but I’m not going to live with you and put up with it, and you’re not going to live with me and benefit from my higher standards.
posted by Autumnheart at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2017 [13 favorites]


Related to men dodging housework (I think this has come up here before, but it's worth bouncing around again): She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink
She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.
It goes on to clarify that he knows damn well that "cup by the sink" is not important; was not important to her. What was important to her, was she said, "please do this for me," and he kept responding with variations of, "I don't want to; it's not important; you're wrong for wanting that done at all; I'm not going to do it," until she realized that her wants, no matter how much they were needs, were never going to be important to him.

He also calls bullshit on the "oh I don't know how" arguments.
Men invented heavy machines that can fly in the air reliably and safely. Men proved the heliocentric model of the solar system, establishing that the Earth orbits the Sun. Men design and build skyscrapers, and take hearts and other human organs from dead people and replace the corresponding failing organs inside of living people, and then those people stay alive afterward. Which is insane.

Men are totally good at stuff.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


When we first lived together, my husband pulled the whole "I'm gonna do everything so badly that I never get asked to do it again" thing. He actually said I'd have to take over the job because he clearly wasn't any good at it.

You know what I did? Addressed the issue head on and said, yep, you really are bad at it, the only way to get better is for you to do this job ALL THE TIME until you get better at it. And you know, that way, every job you screw up becomes yours indefinitely because practice is the only way to get good at anything, amirite? Wow, the man learnt how to do dishes and laundry overnight! It's like he knew how to do it all along...

You have to do this, otherwise, I'd be doing everything until the end of time.
posted by Jubey at 3:10 PM on November 15, 2017 [32 favorites]


It's confusing because he can be SO good at some things and at some times, but like switch it off completely mixed with a total blind spot for certain tasks. And coupled with the fact that he does a lot, the shopping, caring for me, etc. So I feel like crap complaining about him or whatever. Plus I'm far from perfect.

But, for example when I was recovering from surgery he was amazing caregiver. The entire kitchen was constantly clean. And has done the same other times. But it takes about 4 days of me being really sick and stuff starting to pile up before he'll take notice and pick up the slack.

Towels are his kryptonite. He will clean the whole kitchen, drying off counters and dishes, then put the super damp or wet towel back on the hook. Like, first of all it's dirty, second of all, it's wet. How will it dry anything? And we've been together for 8 years and he does this constantly. He will use hand towels in his bathroom until I tell him to replace them or do it myself.

And I just don't get it. I've had bad habits that I've broken. I used to be REALLY bad at leaving clothes on the bathroom floor. So much so that my dad pretty much warned my husband about it. And now I don't. I have a hook on the back of the bathroom door where I hang things to put away, or I put them on the bed so I have to take care of them before I sleep.

So, is he content to just live with gross towels? Maybe. But why can't he break that tiny habit when it's important? Not to mention gross.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:11 PM on November 15, 2017


So I just learned I cleaned at the husband standard of cleaning. Good thing I live alone.

I’ll be honest, that standard is still slightly loftier than we aspire to in the ozzy household.

Maybe I’ll figure out how to clean an oven this weekend. Because I am 100% certain my wife doesn’t know.
posted by uncleozzy at 3:19 PM on November 15, 2017


... I don't mind putting damp towels back on the hook and letting them dry there.

That one issue may be a matter of different cleanliness standards, rather than the more general "oh I'm bad at it so you do it instead." And you can discuss that with him, and point out that even if HE thinks it's fine to keep re-using towels until they're crusty, YOU don't, and that should be enough to convince him to put the towel in the laundry instead of back in use. (And maybe from there you negotiate you doing the occasional extra load of towels, because that part is more important to you than to him.)

when I was recovering from surgery he was amazing caregiver. The entire kitchen was constantly clean. And has done the same other times. But it takes about 4 days of me being really sick and stuff starting to pile up before he'll take notice

Then it's not, "he doesn't know how." It's very much, "this isn't supposed to be my job."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2017 [5 favorites]


If you can read, you can cook.

No. Just no. People say this all the time and I think it may be a huge contributing factor in preventing otherwise capable people from trying to learn after a few failed attempts.

I've seen SO MANY guys (and women, actually) try to cook and fail because they do not grasp that cooking is about precisely following directions and not getting distracted, which are both skills most normal adults have. I've actually explained this to them, and wonder of wonders, they find that cooking is maybe not so hard after all.

Now, people who deliberately drop plates while washing up? I have no sympathy.
posted by ananci at 3:29 PM on November 15, 2017 [9 favorites]


Now, people who deliberately drop plates while washing up? I have no sympathy.

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore

--Shel Silverstein
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]


If you can read, you can cook.

No. Just no. People say this all the time and I think it may be a huge contributing factor in preventing otherwise capable people from trying to learn after a few failed attempts.


Yeah, reading does not lead to cooking; even good cookbook/instruction books tend to assume a lot of base knowledge. The ones that don't are usually written for small children, with small-child-friendly recipes.

But we do have plenty of intro-to-cooking tutorials on YouTube. Nobody with a smartphone has the excuse, "I can't find teaching materials at my level."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2017


There are definitely kid-friendly cookbooks and I fondly remember having a few of them as a child. But maybe my case is particular because I actually like cooking in general and maybe it was variously instilled in me in positive ways.

But rather for adults, the NYTimes has this Smart Living series/resource A Smarter Way to Clean your Home and by the same, today's timely article on how to deep clean your fridge.

I'm so impressed by their approach that I feel these links are worth a post/framing by themselves, just to talk about best practices. But I can at the same time read these pieces more critically and like other commenters and authors have variously pointed at, there are less examined issues/connections with respect to post-industrialized shift and how that's affected household and domesticity as a site of social conflict, etc.: in this case a deeper critique of how the author makes reference to cleaning products, etc. (Also , it doesn't mention oven cleaning.)
posted by polymodus at 4:47 PM on November 15, 2017 [8 favorites]


How to deep clean your fridge. Yeah. We were given a neighbor's old one a month or so ago. We put it down in the basement, mainly to keep vegetables. That thing was nasty. Fungal and insectoid incursions in plentiful evidence. Of course, you end up turning to the really hot water and harsh chemicals sometimes. Those things that you're otherwise inclined to avoid, in favor of the grease of the elbow. I didn't want to leave that to my wife. It was too sick. Functional but sick. Just sick, neglected, abused yet still working.

Little plastic buckets from Casey's up the road come in handy. They originally carried something called "cream." Not something that came from any cow, you'd hope. For said cow's sake, at least. They make good buckets for various daily chores. Bleach, or ammonia to clean an old fridge full of things not fit for weaker stomachs. But I'd dealt with malfunctioning sewer pumps and such.

I don't know. Utterly unemployable, I do whatever's needed. An old house like this one requires much attention. Other men don't face this? I'm way out of the mainstream on the issue, then. Shit falls out of the corner moulding from up above, random debris and nasty stuff that has accumulated over decades. What do you do other than to pick it up?

My family growing home up was pretty messy and nasty. That's messed me up.

If we're going to live in some old cabin then let's do that; if we're going to go to all the trouble and expense of maintaining a modern domicile, let's commit to that. I know some guys dislike housework. But housework is just work, period. I think I lack an idea of how things are like these days, in a way. I feel kind of old and stupid.
posted by metagnathous at 5:29 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Add this step to your trash-day routine: Before you tie up the garbage bag, open the fridge and review what’s in there. Throw out anything that’s gone bad or you know you’re not going to eat.

Ha! The one place where I am super ahead of you, New York Times!

I will never throw out that old jar of weird chili sauce I don’t really like, though. Sorry.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:31 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Jubey's comment made me wonder something about how the helplessness is reinforced. Most people, men included, live on their own for at least some time after they leave home. It's not like the old days where you might get married very young and move into a new house and start having kids. Even if you're at a residental college with a dining plan and a cleaning person (who is always a lady, but anyway) takes care of the bathroom, you still have to do laundry. Right? I was terrible at laundry at first. I would cram as much clothes, regardless of color or washing instructions, as would physically fit into a washing machine (why pay for more loads?), put it on hot (cleans the best, right?) and repeat the process with the dryer with a similar level of skill. It was on me to figure out why my clothes didn't get that clean and were badly wrinkled and sometimes damaged. As an adult I have addressed this problem by buying only clothes that can be washed all at once and tumble dried on low. In any case, leaving school it only seemed to make sense that we would both do our own laundry. It takes an extra hamper, but there doesn't seem to be any efficiency reasons why one person would do all the laundry in a household. Even when we had to drag the hampers to the laundromat we did our own. But somewhere out there is an alternate universe where I, presumably, learned to be helpless at laundry again. How, specifically, does this happen? Does the guy subtly start doing his own laundry poorly? Does he start hinting about how bad he is at laundry? Just leave the piles to grow until they spill into the living space? I am very interested in how this transition happens. Because one thing the marketers know is that a change in living situation is enough to set habits for life.
posted by wnissen at 5:54 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


I admit, shamefully, that I have done this before, intentionally.


In my defence however, it was done entirely

out of spite.
posted by some loser at 6:33 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


Now, people who deliberately drop plates while washing up? I have no sympathy.

"Bend the forks and break the plates / that's what Bilbo Baggins hates"

(I catch someone deliberately breaking one of my plates, they aren't getting invited back. Even if they are a Dwarf.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Even if you're at a residental college with a dining plan and a cleaning person (who is always a lady, but anyway) takes care of the bathroom, you still have to do laundry. Right?
At least nowadays, there are laundry services you can pay to come to your apartment, pick up the pile of dirty clothes that you have gathered for them, launder it, and return it to you all clean and folded. Presumably you would still have to do the picking-up, but you wouldn't have to learn how to actually do laundry.

I also have heard of college kids who just have a fuckton of clothes and keep letting the dirty clothes pile up until they can go home and get it washed at home. My roommate freshman year had two or three enormous boxes of clothing airmailed to her and couldn't fit it all in the dorm closet. I'm sure for kids who are going to a college nearer to their parents' home, and who have indulgent parents, it is even easier to do.
posted by inconstant at 6:46 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]


How, specifically, does this happen? Does the guy subtly start doing his own laundry poorly? Does he start hinting about how bad he is at laundry? Just leave the piles to grow until they spill into the living space? I am very interested in how this transition happens.

It starts with, she's doing a load of her clothes, and he says, oh hey, can you do this one of my shirts? I want to wear it tomorrow but I don't want to do a whole load of clothes.

Or it starts with, we have to go to the laundromat - let's get everything bundled up together and she stays to watch & tend the clothes while he goes to get gas & do some other errands.

Or they move in together, instead of one of them joining the other, and there's one laundry basket and it's nobody's specific job to deal with it only it kinda becomes her job.

Or she moves in, and he says, "I can never get [sweaters/ suit pants/ running shorts/ towels/ etc.] to come out right; am I doing them wrong?" And she sighs and washes them. And next time, he says, "I can't remember... is this cold wash? Or do I use fabric softener?" And she sighs and washes them again.

Or - and this is where it gets insidious, see other thread about Myth of the Male Bumbler - they trade off weeks, only on his week, he washes his red sweater with her white silk blouse and now she has a pale pink silk blouse that no longer matches its white skirt. And he says it's not his fault; he only has t-shirts and jeans and you can wash those all together and if she want things washed special she can do all the laundry.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:37 PM on November 15, 2017 [12 favorites]


"What did surprise me was that the women were very much enabling and even enforcing the behavior.  ... One of them noted that this was the first time she'd left her kids alone with their dad in 11 years (since the birth of her youngest.) When I tried to suggest to them that, perhaps, doing laundry, cooking, etc. really weren't very hard things to learn and that their (equally educated) husbands could surely learn to do them, they all scoffed. I mean, it was clear that they simply did not expect their husbands to do a fair share of the work."

So, look, here's how that happens. When we got married, we each did half the work, more or less. I did more of the day-to-day stuff (dishes, laundry), he did more of the once-in-a-while-but-harder stuff (cat litter, bathroom scrubbing). But he did 50% of his shit and 50% of my shit and that was 1 whole person's worth of shit. And I did the same.

And then we had children. Three of them, at this point. And let's totally (unfairly!) put pregnancy and breastfeeding to the side, because those are biologically determined even though they're EXHAUSTING. At a certain point, we had three kids. And he was like, "But I'm doing half of my stuff, and half of your stuff, that's a whole person's worth of stuff, I don't know why you're saying I'm not doing enough!" And meanwhile I was doing half of his stuff, half of my stuff, and ALL of the kids' stuff, and kids have more than 100% of stuff because they can't wipe their own asses so not only do they need to be fed and laundried, but butt-wiped and washed and snot-wiped and so on. So we have five people's worth of stuff to be done (and really three of those people require 2 people's worth of stuff each because they're little, so 8 people's worth of stuff), and he is still doing ONE PERSON'S WORTH OF STUFF so why am I complaining?

And this is shitty and toxic. And I recognize it as shitty and toxic. But my children love their father and I don't really have the energy to have a knock-down, drag-out with him about the fact that he never fucking wipes up his toaster crumbs on a daily or weekly basis. "It's just crumbs! Geez!" he'll say. Or, "God, I had no idea it was such a big deal that you'd hate me over it!" Or, in legitimate and total frustration, at the end of his rope because too much is being demanded of him, "I CAN ONLY DO SO MANY THINGS AT ONCE, I CAN'T PAY ATTENTION TO TOASTER CRUMBS!" Because children DO demand too much of people, and the US is a wildly family-unfriendly society! Frustration and exhaustion is a legitimate and natural response! But someone has to pay attention to toaster crumbs or we'll get ants, and apparently the person who has to do all the things at once -- feed the children three meals a day, make sure they brush their teeth, bathe them, cut their fingernails, supervise their homework, do the dishes from those three meals, make their doctor's appointments, listen to their stories, watch their TV shows (Wild Kratts, yay new episodes), order their school pictures, fill out their forms, talk to their teachers, fold their laundry, do their dishes, put away their dishes, supervise their play, make their Christmas lists, order their Christmas presents -- that's all me, while having a job. My husband folds his own laundry and does one load of dishes a week and makes two meals a week (weekend breakfasts) that leave me with shit-tons of extra dishes he doesn't bother to do. And then he's like, he did his own shit, and he did some extra shit for the children by feeding them 2 of 21 meals a week, why do I feel like he's not doing enough? There are 5 people in the family, and he is doing nearly 20% of the work! The 80% I do is invisible to him, and when it's visible because it hasn't been done, he's mostly annoyed that the kids don't clean up after themselves. And refusing to do it wouldn't affect him -- he's doing his shit. It would affect my children, who don't deserve to live in squalor because their dad resents doing chores when he didn't make the mess.

Today I made two meals for four people, one meal for five, did three loads of dishes, put away laundry, supervised homework, breastfed five times, cleaned the kitchen, went to the grocery store, picked up toys several times, got four people dressed, put two children on the bus, met two different buses after school, ran an errand for the baby, found and bought Christmas presents, sorted mail, paid bills, e-mailed teachers, fed the cat, took out the trash, took out the recycling twice, and put everyone to bed. I expect I will breastfeed twice in the night. And I'm aware that my husband came home and wondered why I hadn't done anything today because the table linens aren't all put away and the bathroom's a mess, and I'm aware that he is frustrated that I don't do my share around the house and he has to pick up the slack. And I'm not going to argue with him because I have done that approximately a million times before now, and because my children deserve to live in a happy home where their parents aren't screaming at each other. That's how your female colleagues end up "enabling" their man-child husbands.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:15 PM on November 15, 2017 [79 favorites]


Eyebrows, would it be possible to show your husband what you’ve written here? Or would that just trigger a fight?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:44 PM on November 15, 2017 [6 favorites]


and put everyone to bed

This is where I exploded in a ball of rage. Fathers! Put your children to bed! Your partner had been dealing with their ridiculous shenanigans all day, you can do it for 45 damn minutes! I too have met women (like the original story) who have not been away from home in literal years because they are the only person in the house who can put the children to bed. Kids sometimes have a lot of elaborate routines to get them to sleep and if only one parent ever participates in those routines, they become the only one who can "do it right" (4 year olds are not really known for their ability to just roll with change) and that parent will be unable to be out of the house at bedtime for years. I don't understand how some men are okay with this, even if their wives insist it's fine (it's not fine).

(Pro tip for new parents: start as you mean to go on. Parenting has a constantly readjusting learning curve. If one parent nopes out at any point, they will likely never be able to reenter at the same level of competence. Which is why parental leave for all parents is such an important issue.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:45 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


It took me a few years to understand the distinction between genuine inability coupled with enthusiasm to learn, from performative inability and selective deafness when someone is willing to teach (and this was at my house so yes, my standards of cleanliness/chores did apply, thanks very much). Life is much simpler, with much less gnashing of teeth and feeling bad and conflicted about being angry at helpless sweetie dude who just.doesnt.get. that dirty dishes do not clean themselves. In spite of seventeen reminders to the contrary.
posted by Nieshka at 4:03 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I hope Mr. Rockstar farther up the thread just read Eyebrows’ post and re-evaluated the worthiness of his contribution.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:38 AM on November 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


"Eyebrows, would it be possible to show your husband what you’ve written here? Or would that just trigger a fight?"

Oh, we've been round and round it, between ourselves and in couples therapy. There used to be promises of improvement (followed by two or three days of improvement followed by a return to status quo). Then frustration. Now bringing it up, yes, automatically starts a fight because he's tired of being nagged about it.

He is sincere in his belief that he is doing as much as it is possible for one human being to do. He is sincerely overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into a household with children (and part of that may be that he grew up an only child with not just parents but two live-in, retired grandparents, so he basically didn't HAVE chores, and had four adults seeing to the need of one child). Which is fine, and I understand this is more than he's ever had to do in his life, but sincerity doesn't really get the work done.

And to be honest, arguing about it with him is just more work for me at this point. And I do not. have time. for more work. I'm focusing my extra energy on teaching the older kids to do chores (which is so aggravating! I could do it faster and better myself! Spending half an hour coaching a reluctant child through loading the dishwasher sucks!) both so they can help out around the house and so they don't grow up helpless.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:50 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


I think I accidentally offended my new partner today who I have previously mentioned. He is retired while I work and he has more time to run errands and is happy to do so. He noticed I was running low on eggs (something I eat daily) so he picked some up and mentioned it, only so I wouldn't double up. He cooks most meals we eat at home AND then cleans up, saying it doesn't take long. I cleaned up tonight and he was a little hurt but understood when I said that we need balance and equality in our relationship. He helps me with my anxiety (he has mental health issues as well), and encourages me when I find work overwhelming because I have to juggle multiple clients, blown out workloads, and deadlines that I must meet but my clients delay in getting work to me. So he said he was working vicariously through me, this afternoon on the way home from work. And I, in a blinding epiphany, happily turned to him and said, "I have what I have longed for, a wife who supports me emotionally, who reduces my domestic workload by doing things, and remembering they need to be done. Because I have you, my productivity has increased by about 50%." The only thing he didn't like in my comment was calling him my wife, and although I'm on the spectrum, that was obvious (I'm oblivious to many expressions). I said that it was a compliment, that in a world where couples used to be able to afford to live on one income, the stay-at-home partner's contribution was so important in furthering the employed partner's career because they took care of the minutae of daily living which freed them to work more, that we were just flipping traditional gender based roles.

He was nice about it, but I don't think I should ever mention the word "wife" again, even though I see it as the highest form of compliment. It was the hardest and least rewarding job I ever had in my life, but by god, I made a difference to the quality of life for my family, and in the quality of work my ex-ratbastard did.

My partner and I, being a new couple, are finding our way through all sorts of things, but we negotiate chores and annoying habits well (I think). I have learned to fully focus on his rambling stories (I was wearing an onion on my belt, because that was the fashion then) which is difficult for me because I just want to hear the point. He has accepted that I don't like the dishcloth draped over the tap (faucet) because it gets in the way and we have found a new place for it. When I let him do my washing (because, really, I want to pull my weight in this relationship, and not be an ignorant selfish sloth), he has learned which things I prefer hung to dry and which can go in the dryer. Such a lovely, lovely man, who thinks I'm wonderful, and who does much more than his fair share - and being called "wife" is - demeaning? I won't do it again, but I don't understand why he doesn't like that word but loves being called "gorilla boy".
posted by b33j at 4:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Kids sometimes have a lot of elaborate routines to get them to sleep and if only one parent ever participates in those routines, they become the only one who can "do it right" (4 year olds are not really known for their ability to just roll with change) and that parent will be unable to be out of the house at bedtime for years

Oh god. My daughter was never a good sleeper, but from the time she was weaned (about 13 months I want to say?) until about five months ago (so: more than two years), she Would. Not. Sleep. For anybody but me. There were literally two bedtimes I wasn't able to do during that stretch, and she was awake basically until she burnt out on her own.

These days the bedtime routine involves both of us, which is amazing for me, because it means that instead of rushing to make tomorrow's lunch and clean the cat box and take out the trash and maybe fold laundry in between her bedtime and mine, I can do it while she's reading with my wife. It's only maybe 15 minutes, but it feels like having an extra hour in the evening for some reason.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:04 AM on November 16, 2017


I admit, shamefully, that I have done this before, intentionally.


In my defence however, it was done entirely

out of spite.


I should probably point out that while this was intended to be funny, it's also entirely true.

I am ashamed of having done this (doing a task poorly in order to have it reassigned), and I make a point not to do this anymore. However, having learned from the past, and looking back, I can't help but laugh about it now. It's embarassing and awful and passive-aggressive and I'm ashamed for my past self but now, I have to laugh because of how ridiculous it all seems to me now, and the alternative is to dwell on it to the point of madness.

I'd tell my past self about the value of seeing these kinds of tasks as skills that you can level up, and the tasks become easier with practice as you level up, they take less time etc. Plus, there can be satisfaction had by performing these kinds of tasks at an elite level, if you would just practice. Also there are relationship benefits to this kind of attitude, so it-s kinda a no-lose scenario. an anti-kobyashi maru?
posted by some loser at 5:15 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


It took me a few years to understand the distinction between genuine inability coupled with enthusiasm to learn, from performative inability and selective deafness

I call it T-rex arms. The T-rex WOULD do the thing, but their tiny little arms are so feeble! They wave them in hapless regret for their inutility!

Although the other day I read a new theory that T-rex used its arms to slash its prey so even T-rex didn't use that excuse.
posted by winna at 6:09 AM on November 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Better mental health services won't solve the entire problem, but I strongly suspect that a small number of men who would otherwise get slapped with the label "misogynist" for this kind of behavior might actually be okay dudes with some super real problems that aren't addressed by our society at all.

So, like, I'm a cis male and I grew up with a physical disability in addition to a whole host of diagnosed aneurotypicalities. And one of the messages I constantly got from my parents was that I didn't need to be responsible for housework or budgets or planning or really, anything that functional human beings had to do. They made the excuse that it was because I couldn't do this stuff and needed help (and still do), but that was confusing for me because I knew myself best and I was pretty sure that I could pick up a broom and dustpan. But it was a cushy ride, and I learned not to question it because all of that was crappy work anyway.

It went along like that for a while, until I aged enough and gained enough self-awareness to realize - all of the stuff that I wasn't doing was being imposed on my able-bodied older sister. My parents were actively guilting her into doing things for me, saying, "look at your poor disabled brother". In fact, she never really liked me much growing up, and that was because my parents were actively coercing her into being a second mother to me, a dynamic that she hated and was poisoning our relationship. In fact, my parents were convinced that the way I had to get through this was to rely on my mother and sister for now, and then later on, I would get married to a woman and then she would take care of all of this shit for me (joke's on them - I'm gay and that's another part of the reason I was like "this is not sustainable because I cannot imagine having another person like me around" and decided to change.)

Fast forward to today, and after a really, really bumpy first few years at university where I elected to go far, far away from my parents' home, I've learned to do all of this shit, and it turns out that I'm actually rather okay at it. I'm great at cooking and household planning, less okay at cleaning but learning all of the small things I have to do, I can do my own laundry, etc. There are certain things that my disabilities make a lot harder. I can't make phone calls to the internet or hydro company really easily, so I usually sit down with a friend to do it. And there are certain things I do really weird, because my aneurotypicalities manifests in a way where I'll be eating a meal and then realize I didn't clean the countertops, and then suddenly get up and clean the countertop and then I come back to a half-finished cold meal.

The point is, though, it was never about disability for me. It was about how disability was used to even further justify how, as a cis man, I didn't need to do any of this shit. I really, really could have just sunk into that and used that as my excuse as to why I didn't have to take on my fair share of labor and rationalized to myself - no, it's not that I'm a bad man, it's just that I'm physically and mentally incapable of doing it - but it was actively harming the relationships I had with women I valued in my life, and that thing just didn't stand for me. I still don't do all of my household errands in the "conventional" way for sure, but the point is that I've found ways to do that work with my disabilities and the bottom line is that they still get done. Because if you don't do them, who's doing them for you?
posted by Conspire at 6:28 AM on November 16, 2017 [20 favorites]


meanwhile I was doing half of his stuff, half of my stuff, and ALL of the kids' stuff, and kids have more than 100% of stuff

This. Thisthisthisthisthis. And also, when someone says cleaning just isn’t important to them, you can kind of wibble it sometimes, but when it’s things necessary for child health and happiness, you just can’t drop the ball. And sometimes it looks like not-work if you don’t understand the intangibles actually are work - to find out how school is going, and drop off/pick up, and read the books they write and look at the art they draw. And on the tangible side, it is not even kind of reasonable to expect a kid to take care of 100% of their own stuff.
posted by corb at 6:50 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I admit, shamefully, that I have done this before, intentionally.


In my defence however, it was done entirely

out of spite.


In your defence? This is pretty much always done out of spite. Men do this because they are FURIOUS at being asked to help, and they want to punish women for having the gall to do so.

Spite can be passive, and it can feel like laziness or "just not paying attention" or "it isn't fair", but it is still spite. It is still responding to someone reaching out a hand, with a request for help, by slapping that hand aside.

People keep asking why women eventually go along with it, and stop even trying to ask men to help-- but this is why. When someone claims to love you but responds with a sneer (literal or metaphorical) when you ask them for help, when you say "I am struggling please share my burden", when they look you in the eyes and dare you to ask for better-- facing that spite and that disdain and that casual "not my problem" shrug is hurtful, and demoralizing, and it burns. Eventually it becomes better not to ask, because asking and being rejected is worse than just doing it yourself.

And then it becomes "oh, she just likes things done a certain way, so I don't even try, ha ha! Want another drink?"

And then men in their fifties and sixties don't understand why their wives want a divorce. "I thought she liked a lifetime of small humiliations! How was I supposed to know????"
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:53 AM on November 16, 2017 [36 favorites]


I struggle a lot with "keeping score." I'll note that I took the kids to school three times this week, so you know, you can take them Thursday and Friday. And while both of us are fully capable of putting the kids to bed and the kids accept either one of us, I'm generally the one that sees it through to the end for the "one more glass of water" crap, while my husbands settles down on the couch. So maybe I'll make a mental tick on my side of the invisible "bedtime" chart.

Or I took care of researching pediatricians, making appointments and keeping on top of billing for the doctor, so early on I said "Fine, you do the dentist." Guess what, the kids never went to the dentist until the oldest was five and knocked a tooth out on the playground. Another guess on who is dragging the kids to their dental checkup this week.

He does our taxes, and he takes care of the financials and the investing for us. I agree that's a big job, an ongoing one, and an important one. But it's also one for which I am totally not suited and he is. (He's an accountant.) And I don't get the sense that it's as pressing and immediate and repetitive as grocery shopping, cooking and feeding the family, which--guess what, I do 100% of! And I care about things like nutrition, eating a variety of foods and table manners, so it is a shitty and neverending and minimally rewarding job!

And I know my mom is just the worst with keeping score, and I try not to reproduce the same dynamic. But when I point out what I feel is an imbalance in responsibility, I'm often met with "Cut it out, this is not about keeping score." But it kinda is? I don't know how to foster a more generally equal split without keeping some sort of mental track of who is doing what.
posted by Liesl at 7:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


I think i'm the other side of the same coin that is originally discussed. I think Crystalinne touched on it too...

When I clean, I REALLY clean. If i'm cleaning the living room I move the furniture, hoover, mop, move it back. Cleaning the fridge? ALL THE FOOD OUT! two hours of scrubbing. My partner is much less fastidious about it, and I often get annoyed because the dishes she's done are still dirty, or there's still dust bunnies under the sofa...

But I've begun to think that she is just doing the minimum of what needs to be done because she shoulders a bigger portion of the household chores. It's easier to focus on one big task for 4 hours than juggle 20 smaller tasks.

I've been hoping that there's some level of quid pro quo, and that she wouldn't spend the time to do a deep clean like I do, and vice versa, but i'm not sure. It's an uncomfortable possibility that i'm not pulling my weight.
posted by trif at 7:57 AM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, I guess I fit some aspects of how you describe your partner. I find it's less the volume of labour that I struggle with and more the number of things. I struggle to keep up with what needs doing, when. I've said to my partner to just tell me what to do and i'll do it, but i know that's a failure on my part and I'm delegating emotional labour right there. On her side she's said she hates asking because she doesn't want to feel like she's nagging me.

I'm making it sound like we have problems every day about this, but it's very occasional in reality. I'm just voicing my experience. Is the "women are better at multitasking" trope a complete nonsense? I've wondered if that has been a contributing factor in our discussions on the topic.

I suppose it could be a nonsense and still be a correct analysis of our specific relationship I guess. Or I'm looking for excuses...
posted by trif at 8:08 AM on November 16, 2017


But I've begun to think that she is just doing the minimum of what needs to be done because she shoulders a bigger portion of the household chores.

This is just dawning on you? Go back and read upthread about the "good enough" version of housekeeping. You maintain 20 tasks in a "good enough" state, and when you can get to doing the thorough clean for 3 of them, hooray. But a squeaky clean stovetop isn't much good if the kitchen floor is still crunchy, groceries aren't put away, and the dishwasher is full of dirty dishes.

Also, while you are hyperfocused on the fridge for two hours, who do you think is minding the kids (literally or figuratively, I don't know whether you have kids)? I do think it's bunk that women are innately better at multitasking. Women just have more practice at it because they have to do everything else while you've got your head stuck in the fridge for two solid hours.
posted by Liesl at 8:19 AM on November 16, 2017 [14 favorites]


Someone mentioned college up above and it occurs to me that single folks' living spaces are judged differently based on gender. I'm proof of this since I am transgender. A 30 year old single woman is a slob and a failure if there are pizza boxes and overflowing trash. A 30 year old single man is "living like a bachelor." I don't feel judged on my housekeeping, at least as not as much as I used to be. I'm not sure how much of that is internalized. I'm gay so I'm never going to have the same gendered dynamic that hetero couples experience in this thread, but it's probably not pretty when two guys who've lived "the bachelor life" pair up.
posted by AFABulous at 8:29 AM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Liesl, it's easy to rationalise that if you spend the same amount of time doing housework and looking after kids, that there's an equal split. Maybe it has just dawned on me that that's not necessarily true.
posted by trif at 8:41 AM on November 16, 2017


I don't have kids but I'd imagine watching them is way more mentally and potentially emotionally exhausting than cleaning a bathroom even if it's the same time duration. The toilet won't care if you yell at it in frustration and there's no potential it will wander outside while you're not looking and get hit by a car (or whatever).
posted by AFABulous at 8:44 AM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


That came out harsher than I intended, and I'm sorry for that. Yes, different tasks are definitely different, and the time spent on them is only a part of the equation. In another comment I mentioned tasks such as enforcing table manners which is the shittiest, most discouraging task that was ever invented and the person who does the lion's share of that absolutely deserves getting out of the next most shittiest task.
posted by Liesl at 8:51 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


What drives me nuts is seeing guys who are successful and self-organized in an office environment pull this kind of feigned incompetence in other settings. It’s not like the tools you use to do this at the office go away instantly at home.

I am a person who’s not good at “seeing” chores around the house, because I get lost in thought easily and a bad memory. Do I throw up my hands and say “oh well, my wife should do this, I have no control!” I do NOT.

We live in an age of smartphones: I have calendar reminders. I have checklists! I have a bi-weekly reminder to clean the bathroom (my turn) and a bathroom cleaning checklist which gets it to a well cleaned state, by both my wife’s standard and mine. I have a nightly checklist which includes all my regular rituals, medicating the sick cat, basic kitchen clean, etc. If nothing else, these reminders put an upper bound on how long something goes undone.

These are all the same kinds of things my colleagues at work use to make sure their projects get done on time, but at home some of them act like this is Just Too Hard and therefore someone else should do the work. You don’t get to be organized only part of the time!

This isn’t to say I’m perfect — I was socialized into Not Doing Chores like most young boys. It’s been work to get to this. Sometimes my wife has had to remind me that something belongs on the list. We’ve had to rebalance once or twice because she had picked up some new chores that I never even thought of, which also represents work for her, so I’m working to find methods to get better at noticing new tasks.

But for the most part we communicate and keep it roughly even. And while she laughs occasionally at me muttering over my phone as I clean the kitchen, because she actually has an awesome memory and doesn’t need it, the kitchen gets clean. And this is something literally anyone can do. It’s just a checklist.

/rant
posted by fencerjimmy at 8:55 AM on November 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


I can't clean a bathroom or decorate a room to my wife's preferred state of things, but even trying makes her happier and reduces her stress level and anxiety. That seems the least I can do. I can also whip up a meal that makes her feel at ease.

^ it me.

It's not so much that a man be able to perform at the highest of standards set by Saint Martha Stewart, but that his wife or girlfriend feels (i.e. knows) that they are on the same side, shooting into waves of zombie hordes together. (Or whatever metaphor you want to use for the inexorable progress of housework piling up.)

Division of labor and playing to your relative strengths really helps a lot.
posted by theorique at 9:24 AM on November 16, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh god.... table manners. The horrors 😣
posted by trif at 9:34 AM on November 16, 2017


I would semi-gently suggest that if you're finding yourself thinking that maybe your split isn't as equitable as you think it is, the number one best thing you could do is having a conversation about it. At some neutral time, not when your partner is knee-deep in juggling twelve things. Because everyone's take on how they would split up this stuff in an ideal world is different, and just because you're doing half the time, or half the numerical number of chores, doesn't mean that split is what would actually make your partner, in your relationship, happy or strike them as fair.

I think I've told this story around here before, but possibly the most romantic thing my partner has ever done for me was to sit me down during a stretch of time when I was feeling particularly burnt-out and overwhelmed, and to say, "I have some bandwidth to spare, tell me the three chores you hate most and I will take them off your plate permanently in addition to the stuff I already do." And he did, and still does, years later, keeping on top of them via checklist/reminder app so I never even have to remember that these chores exist in the world. He was surprised to learn what my worst three chores were - they weren't necessarily the ones he'd have assumed it would help most for him to take over, they're not necessarily the ones that take the most time or are the dirtiest or most stressful. But I just really hated those chores, and now I never have to think about them again. Frankly, it both makes me a lot happier, and probably also makes him happier than if he'd decided to fix our inequity on his own, because I suspect he would have picked some other thing to help with that would take more of his actual time and effort, while having less of the desired result.

You don't have to split up your work in the way that would make anyone else on Metafilter happy, but you might owe it to your partner to make sure you're splitting it up in a way that makes them happy. And then to agree to revisit that conversation every so often as your lives change.
posted by Stacey at 9:56 AM on November 16, 2017 [27 favorites]


He was surprised to learn what my worst three chores were - they weren't necessarily the ones he'd have assumed it would help most for him to take over, they're not necessarily the ones that take the most time or are the dirtiest or most stressful. But I just really hated those chores

I have never managed to have this conversation coherently with my husband, but my now-adult daughter and I split chores like this.

I don't mind washing dishes. I dislike drying them and putting them away. (We don't have a dishwasher.) She's constantly baffled that I'm pretty much always willing to get up and wash half a dozen cups and enough plates for dinner and even a couple of the pots, if there's space to get them cleaned. She hates refilling the filtered-water jug that we use for coffee. I don't. I dislike dealing with the keurig; she doesn't. She makes coffee for me; I wash dishes while it's brewing. Then she puts them away.

I'm gradually getting through her head that, in the various set of "household drudgery" tasks, there is no list of "objectively worst;" everyone has their own preferences and you're allowed to ask for help for no other reason than "I hate this one the most and I don't want to do it today."

That, perhaps, would be a point to start pushing with the "I can't do it; you're so much better at it" guys: that if we could offload some of our tasks, they likely wouldn't be the ones the guys are dreading most. They might even be the ones he thinks are "kinda fun, if you gotta do it anyway."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


There’s also room for a conversation about how practically nobody likes housework, but what would make it more tolerable so that it gets done?

I’ve implemented two different methods for convincing myself to do housework when I dowanna. First, you make a list of chores that take about 20 minutes each or so. The first method is to set the timer for an hour, do your fun thing (e.g. videogames, watching an episode or two of a show) and when the timer goes off, you do one of the items on the list. Repeat until you did everything. This has the benefit of breaking it up and knowing that your drudgery is only going to last a short time before you go back to the fun thing. The second method is that I bought myself a pair of Bluetooth headphones and I listen to my audiobook while doing chores, also with a finite time limit (e.g. 3 hours). You can get a ton done in 3 hours, and unlike movies, I don’t need to use my eyeballs to be entertained, nor am I tempted by a TV playing when I should be in the other room cleaning. The advantage of the finite time limit is so I know, rationally, that I will have the rest of the day to relax, and not be weighed down by the prospect of open-ended drudgery.
posted by Autumnheart at 1:24 PM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


The #1 thing that's helped me with division of labor and time management it to Write. Everything. Down.

Sure, it's a pain at first, and you feel like you're writing as much as you're doing, but pretty soon you start to have a clear idea of how often things need to be done, how often they're getting done, who's doing what, what works and what doesn't, etc. And if you've got a plan on paper, it's harder for things to just fall off your radar.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


I realize that "men are trash" is a gross generalization that just gets men all defensive. But between the daily sexual assault/harassment revelations and the constant day-to-day sexism of this kind of stuff, I am very much in a "men are trash" place right now.

It just kills me to read all these stories where men are blatantly taking advantage of women they love and they're totally ok with that. They'd rather their wife/partner be overworked, tired, and resentful than do their share. Who are these men? Why are so many of them this way? (I understand that the macro answer is patriarchy, but on the micro level, how do you live with someone you love, look at them struggling, and then go watch tv and pat yourself on the back for being a rockstar who "feeds the baby here and there." How is that love? How is that respect? What is that?)
posted by Mavri at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2017 [19 favorites]


Why are so many of them this way?

Like Eyebrows McGee said - they're doing their part! Or, they're doing the part they believe is theirs. Sometimes it's that circumstances have changed - kids is a common part of that but not the only one - and he's still doing "his half the chores" from his college days, not realizing that that's no longer "half the household chores."

In some cases, they grew up in a setting that did all the other parts for them so well that they barely know those tasks exist, and have no idea whatsoever how exhausting they are - and the women who did them while they were growing up didn't look drained and irritated, so there must be something wrong with their wives.

In others, they know those jobs exist, AND that they're srsly hard work, and they feel guilty for skipping them... but not guilty enough to take time away from the stuff they want to do. And besides, they tell themselves that she's so talented at it that he'd just be in the way; it'd take him 3 hours to do the cleaning that she does in 1 hour, so she does the cleaning, and he'll do 1 hour of... something her-focused... later, and they'll be ahead of the game!

After all, it just doesn't make sense to have him do something badly for 3 hours when she can do it well in 1 hour; that's just poor management.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:14 PM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


And then they say, “Well, a tiny number of men work on oil rigs and in coal mines, and are paid well for their time and risk, so that justifies all of female humanity providing free maid service to men and to me personally.”
posted by Autumnheart at 3:29 PM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Why are so many of them this way?

Because they never experience serious consequences for being like that.
posted by winna at 3:51 PM on November 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


Well, they do. They get divorced or have a string of unsuccessful relationships, and die alone while living in squalor, years before they might otherwise have done. But then they just blame it all on those crazy women (who are doing much better now).
posted by Autumnheart at 3:56 PM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


In others, they know those jobs exist, AND that they're srsly hard work, and they feel guilty for skipping them... but not guilty enough to take time away from the stuff they want to do.

To paraphrase Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand fair distribution of work, when his having time to do what he wants depends upon his not understanding it!"
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:29 PM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


The "women are just better at chores/multitasking/childcare!" or whatever thing drives me up the fucking wall. Women aren't inherently better at anything we're just made to do these things (both actively and passively made) and not cut any slack if we fuck up. That's all.

When people find out I'm a nurse I frequently get "Oooh I could never deal with all the blood and guts and sad stuff" sort of comment - which I get is intended as a compliment but that I privately find eye rolling. Nurses aren't grown on nurse trees, and drop fully formed with a skill-set that includes tolerance of poop and puke and body parts and death. We're trained to deal with this stuff, and then we get repetitively exposed to it so that cleaning up a wound and wiping someone's butt become normal and unremarkable. 9 years ago I didn't know what to do if someone shit themselves or cut their hand open or took too many drugs. And now I do. It's not magic.

Women are also not grown on the chore-multitasking-childcare-whatever tree, we also do not dropped fully formed with a skill-set that includes tolerance of washing dishes and knowing how to do laundry and making all the appointments and having endless patience for children. We're trained and repetitively exposed to it. Except we don't get to opt out of this role and we don't get to choose it. We just have it fobbed off on us because men can't be fucking bothered. And the penalty for not knowing is that we suffer, whether it's from shit not getting done, from judgemental fuckheads, or from emotionally manipulative shitty men who tilt their cow-eyes to us and start with the "I thought you loved me! I'm trying as hard as I can! I'm tired! I'm hungry! I'm too sad! You're just better at this than me! Boo hoo hoo!" bullshit. After reading these threads I thank god my husband has never pulled any of this shit on me and actually treats me like a human being because I believe I would commit fucking murders if I had to deal with this sort of shit every day.

At least when I wipe a butt at work I get paid.
posted by supercrayon at 5:22 PM on November 16, 2017 [21 favorites]


Then they complain about how “society” fails them for not teaching them these skills, for not encouraging them enough, not providing them with enough support, not providing good examples of healthy role models so that men grow up understanding that this is all a normal part of living in society. Oh, if only all of society changed to provide a sufficiently nurturing environment in which to learn how to function as an adult, without having one’s feelings hurt, or being told that one didn’t do a good enough job.

Oh my GOD. As if women get those things? Ever? If we can manage to enter academia and the workplace, and earn our advanced degrees and our leadership positions with all of society shitting down our neck for trying (legislatively, even), I feel confident that men could learn how to manage a household without personal mentoring and endless pats on the back.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:57 PM on November 16, 2017 [8 favorites]


Then they complain about how “society” fails them for not teaching them these skills, for not encouraging them enough (etc.)

For me, men through college age and a bit older, maybe up to 25, get a bit of a pass on this. I don't like whining, but they can reasonably grumble a bit about "nobody told me I would be expected to learn these things." Often that's true, and even if their home tried to teach them, all of tv and movies and so on told them their home was an exception and "normal" was women doing all the household chores and boring paperwork and so on.

However, once they're adults, and able to live on their own for a year or two (whether or not they do so), they can damn well figure out "oh hey I was lied to!" and start learning how to be a contributing member of society for the aspects of society that don't get paid. Once they're looking at life from an adult perspective of "what do I have to do to survive if nobody else is providing a roof and meals for me," they can figure out that nobody is providing laundry service and cleaning the bathroom counters and making sure there are enough eggs for breakfast, either, and that they can put their Survival Focused Manbrains on the task and figure out what skills are involved in having a home that they're not ashamed for their parents to walk into.

If they have the mental capacity to figure out how to keep a car in fuel and oil and keep the windows clear enough to drive safely and check some parts for wear damage and know how and when to change a tire, they have the necessary foundation to learn household skills. If they haven't picked up the specific skills they need by 25, and there's no specific disability involved, they're lazy or sexist or both.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:19 PM on November 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


I read these threads, and I am always stunned by how fucking horrible many (most?) men apparently are. I am by no means perfect, but I try to keep the place clean, I try to anticipate what help my wife may need with tasks (and I ask her, too), etc. Things that are just obvious, basic level stuff. And it seems like it's totally fucking beyond all of these guys. I had no idea it was like this, before we started doing the emotional labor-type discussions.

It just blows me away.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:36 PM on November 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


For me, men through college age and a bit older, maybe up to 25, get a bit of a pass on this. I don't like whining, but they can reasonably grumble a bit about "nobody told me I would be expected to learn these things." Often that's true, and even if their home tried to teach them, all of tv and movies and so on told them their home was an exception and "normal" was women doing all the household chores and boring paperwork and so on.

I’m sorry, but I disagree wholeheartedly. First of all, 25 is an outrageous age to allow someone to “pass” without having learned to cook or clean something. That is old. That is fully grown, multiple years out of college, not in your first job out of school anymore, old enough to drink and rent a car and get a reduction in your car insurance, adult. You do not WAIT until you are an established adult to learn how to cater to your own basic needs. It is not okay to not know how to do those things as an adult unless you are literally physically or mentally incapacitated.

Especially that last sentence, where you actually point out yourself that people probably tried to teach them, but they learned somewhere that they still don’t have to know these things, so they don’t, and that’s okay and expected.

No. That’s bullshit and extremely enabling. Would you give a pass to a 25-year-old woman who didn’t know how to do those things? You don’t need to answer to me, but would you buy the explanation that a girl got all the way through college not knowing she would eventually have to cook or do laundry, because her favorite TV shows never show the female protagonists doing laundry? (Think about it. When was the last time you saw a TV show or a movie where one of the main characters was cleaning or doing housework?) Or would you expect her to have picked up the message from all the paper towel and Swiffer commercials?
posted by Autumnheart at 6:37 AM on November 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


I mean, for God’s sake. Let’s consider the last 25 years of popular film and television. If people aren’t growing up believing that werewolves and vampires are real, that Superman and Batman are running around among us, that the truth is out there and an alien conspiracy is dominating the FBI, and that it’s never lupus, then chances are they are also not getting their social cues and gender roles from those sources either. They are no doubt still getting them from their friends, family members, and immediate communities.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:46 AM on November 17, 2017


"First of all, 25 is an outrageous age to allow someone to “pass” without having learned to cook or clean something. That is old. That is fully grown, multiple years out of college, not in your first job out of school anymore [...] That’s bullshit and extremely enabling. Would you give a pass to a 25-year-old woman who didn’t know how to do those things?"

I think that's a little harsh. At 25 I was still in school, and I couldn't cook AT ALL. I lived on $1 microwave pot pies and spaghetti (with no sauce, because that made it complicated) and salads. And I'm a woman. And literally everyone gave me a pass, nobody thought this was weird. An occasion for good-natured teasing about my terrible food habits, sure, but not WEIRD. Frankly my housekeeping habits left a lot to be desired as well; I lived at home until I was 18 and then in dorms (with full food service) until I was 22, so I had to call my mom a lot with questions about cleaning the oven or dealing with the cable bill or not dying of scurvy. (I was actually already married, at 24, but didn't finish grad school until I was 26.)

I started to learn to cook after I finished school and had some free time and brain space to devote to things that weren't studying. I got serious about it after I had my first kid at 31, when I had a small person that I wanted to eat healthy and tasty food and a diet of take-out, frozen food, and the four things I by then knew how to cook wasn't really going to cut it anymore.

I don't think the problem is, "You're X age and don't know how to Y?????" Everyone learns some things very early, and some things very late, compared to peers. You can reach the age of 26 without being able to cook or having had a full-time job, and be a fully-functioning, high-achieving adult! The problem is people who, when they need to learn to do Y, announce, "It's too hard, I can't learn." I didn't really need to cook much until I was 30. When I needed to cook, I learned to cook, without a lot of drama. (I mean, with dramatic failures and much hilarity, but not like OH GOD THE WORLD IS ENDING FOR I MUST COOK, just like "I am hilariously terrible at this.") Sometimes it's hard and confusing to know where to start when you don't even know what you don't know, but we are lucky to live in the era of the internet and YouTube tutorials.

The problem isn't men (or women!) who weren't taught a skill by a particular age. The problem is competent adult men who flatly refuse to acquire a necessary skill when it needs acquiring.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:02 AM on November 17, 2017 [15 favorites]


The problem is competent adult men who flatly refuse to acquire a necessary skill when it needs acquiring.

Bartleby disease: I prefer not to.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:01 AM on November 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


My two boys try "it's too hard, I can't do it" all the time to skive off of doing things. I always tell them that something being hard is not an acceptable excuse to not do it, it means it is a challenge to overcome.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


This thread is giving me flashbacks to this 2006 anonymous AskMe: How do I stop my husband from getting sick every time I'm sick?

The thing that floored me when I read it, oh so long ago, was how many answerers said, "My husband does this too."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 9:52 AM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


OMG, that 2006 thread is horrible!

I, a woman, freely admit that my housekeeping is “good enough” at best for the last few years. I have a tiny apartment and need to de-accession a bunch of stuff that was in storage, and my body is basically held together with baling wire and spit substitute. But for the most part, it doesn't affect anyone but me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:50 AM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


What did surprise me was that the women were very much enabling and even enforcing the behavior.

This continually shocks me. I used to have a colleague who had a husband and children. She and her husband both worked full time, as one does. Every day that their day care was closed, she worked from home. Every day she was the one who had to pick up the kids from day care, because even though she lived with her husband in an enclave of his relatives (seriously like 5-7 houses right together on a large plot of land) and he worked with a family business, she would walk out of our biweekly attorney meetings to get her kids. It was incredibly rude and it meant in practice that more work fell on the rest of us because she was always having to cut times short to accommodate her husband’s refusal to participate equally in childcare. This stuff wasn't just bothering me, it was something that I later found out was bothering basically everyone at the firm, along with her sense of entitlement about various other things with our schedule.

It also surprises me as a queer feminist how many of the straight women I know who self-identify as feminists just.... expect to put up with this in relationships. When I’ve talked about that part of my reason for pursuing relationships with women rather than men is because I’m not up for dealing with that kind of sexism, they’ve gotten resentful at me about it like it’s my fault for mentioning it, rather than the men’s fault for being awful to them. I’ve had enough male roommates who tried pulling stuff like this and who would complain about how I did things but not do the things themselves, I can’t imagine signing on for it long-term because it is so horrible and ridiculous. I just can’t imagine finding someone who behaves like this attractive as a partner, and spending my life saying things like "oh he's really great, but..." Yeah. If he treats you like a personal servant, he's not really great, and he's definitely not a feminist, no matter what comes out of his mouth.

My girlfriend, who is about equally attracted to women and men, decided to pursue relationships with women partly because she wasn’t up for dealing with the casual sexism men hand their partners. She and I both have health issues (more mental for her, physical and mental for me) and there’s not a question about splitting housework or using health as an excuse. Neither of us is super clean and we both have times when we run out of spoons, but there’s no “oh I don’t know how to do that, can you do it for me?” bullshit. I do more cooking because I’m better at it and like it more than she does, but she does cook sometimes and we both do everything else.

The one thing I really can't handle due to my mental health is cleaning the refrigerator, and that's not about not knowing how to do it, it's that I have really severe claustrophobia and leaning my head and upper body actually into the fridge makes something in my lizard brain start screaming that I need to run away right now before it gets me and I die. I have similar issues with cleaning the oven. When it does come up we’re going to talk about it and figure out a fair trade, because I'm not an asshole and I feel really bad about not being up for doing this.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:30 PM on November 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


Jesus, that 2006 thread.

Persuading women that putting up with this crap is a worthy price for having a man around must be the greatest swindle ever pulled off.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:27 PM on November 17, 2017 [7 favorites]


It also surprises me as a queer feminist how many of the straight women I know who self-identify as feminists just.... expect to put up with this in relationships. When I’ve talked about that part of my reason for pursuing relationships with women rather than men is because I’m not up for dealing with that kind of sexism, they’ve gotten resentful at me about it like it’s my fault for mentioning it, rather than the men’s fault for being awful to them.

I think the problem is...as a het female, these are kind of your options, you know? Like either you can be single, or you can put up with some man's shit and hope you are getting the best that you can reasonably negotiate, and even the best most "feminist" men are all kind of trash. I know we're not supposed to say men are trash because it makes the men uncomfortable but literally I have never found even one man in my entire life, not one, that doesn't have at least one factor that gives me the screaming heebie-jeebies and I am romantically partnered.

Like, of course it's the men's fault, but also, these are the dating and marriage options for het ladies, this shit-swamp of man-children, some of which are able to take at least baby steps towards being a full human being. So you choose the ones who are making baby steps, the ones who carry at least 50% of their own personal load, or the ones who at least make noises about viewing women as equals, and just deal with their shit because that is what the choices you were dealt are.
posted by corb at 4:37 PM on November 17, 2017 [12 favorites]


Y’all should unionize and go on strike for better conditions.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:15 PM on November 17, 2017 [4 favorites]


This continually shocks me. I used to have a colleague who had a husband and children. She and her husband both worked full time, as one does. Every day that their day care was closed, she worked from home. Every day she was the one who had to pick up the kids from day care, because even though she lived with her husband in an enclave of his relatives (seriously like 5-7 houses right together on a large plot of land) and he worked with a family business, she would walk out of our biweekly attorney meetings to get her kids. It was incredibly rude and it meant in practice that more work fell on the rest of us because she was always having to cut times short to accommodate her husband’s refusal to participate equally in childcare. This stuff wasn't just bothering me, it was something that I later found out was bothering basically everyone at the firm, along with her sense of entitlement about various other things with our schedule...

It also surprises me as a queer feminist how many of the straight women I know who self-identify as feminists just.... expect to put up with this in relationships.


I've worked with so many similar women, and it just makes my brain hurt if I think about it for too long. It's disrespectful to their colleagues that they just assume without asking that their requests will be accommodated and prioritized over anyone else's. And yet, they always do.

The family depends on the wife's medical, life, and other insurances, because the husband generally works for his own business, where he gets to spend most of his time not behind a desk.

And I watched some of those same people be some of the absolute worst when it came to shoveling gender essentialism down their children’s throats.

DaughtersDaughterstchen, somebody over their shoulder every second waiting to tell them what a source of shame they are because they dropped a crumb on the clean floor.

Sonsset to permacoddle, as long as they never cry or show any sign of weakness. I remember one who brushed her little boy’s hair every morning until he was like, 10 or something, convinced he couldn't get it right by himself and everyone would laugh at him for looking stupid. She Flipped. The. F. Out. when he was allowed to choose his first “big boy” bed and asked for the Dora the Explorer model.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:23 PM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is...as a het female, these are kind of your options, you know? Like either you can be single, or you can put up with some man's shit and hope you are getting the best that you can reasonably negotiate, and even the best most "feminist" men are all kind of trash.

I'm a het female and there is another option, which I have taken. That is to stop dating a guy when the shit shows up and move on to date the next one. Admittedly the thing that frees me to do is is that I don't have a burning desire to have children. I'm quite happy being single or dating casually and avoiding the relationship escalator. I'm also lucky enough to be able to afford to live by myself.

I do know a handful of couples whose relationships seem mutually supportive so they do exist, even if few and far between so it's not utterly impossible.

Y’all should unionize and go on strike for better conditions.

I know this is probably a joke but seriously we should. The resentment that bile and syntax mentions coming from other women when you bring up the sexism in their relationships is real and tragic and a major block to doing something about breaking this paradigm. Like I get that as individuals people can feel like there's not a lot they can do especially if being coupled or having kids is important to them but collectively surely there can be strength in our actions and voices.
posted by roolya_boolya at 1:53 AM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Y’all should unionize and go on strike for better conditions.

1. Good luck finding the time to unionize if you have kids
2. Striking, in my experience, means that nothing gets done because the men don't care. How long can you hold out when the house is overflowing with dishes and garbage and laundry? Presumably you'd still feed yourself and your kids, but many men would happily subsist on Cheetos and Hot Pockets rather than make actual meals. So you end up worse off than you are now.
3. If by "strike" you meant refusing to have sex, I've found that tying sex to housework is a poor strategy in the long run because men are then doing it for the wrong reasons, and you won't always feel like sexytimes just because they managed to vacuum.So then it leads to resentment when they do what they think is their part but you're not "doing your part" by spreading your legs.
posted by AFABulous at 7:03 AM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


I've worked with so many similar women, and it just makes my brain hurt if I think about it for too long. It's disrespectful to their colleagues that they just assume without asking that their requests will be accommodated and prioritized over anyone else's. And yet, they always do.

...

And I watched some of those same people be some of the absolute worst when it came to shoveling gender essentialism down their children’s throats.


I don't know how the gender socialization of the kids was going, but in general she was exactly as you described. What iced the cake for me was how comfortable she was in expressing her disdain for gender nonconforming people literally right in front of me and some very casual homophobia. Like, who do you think is picking up the work because you can't tell your husband to pull his weight? That's right, the gender nonconforming queer woman sitting next to you, the one whose personal time you keep devaluing.

It was bad enough that in an office where almost all of our admin staff were straight women with husbands and kids, everyone was glad when she quit.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also I'm not exactly kidding about the striking, but I think it's going to work a lot better if people make like roolya_boolya is talking about and dump guys immediately when they start acting like this and warn other women not only about sexual predators but also about guys who pretend to be bad at dishes. I know this doesn't address situations where guys are like "okay I can do half" and start out well but then slack off, but any step would be great, and more open dialogue about it is really good.

In the meantime, though, it would be really nice if straight women stopped getting mad at me for mentioning that this is happening. I have been single most of my adult life because it's been hard for me to find women I can date, and on the occasions where I've been interested in dating a man, I've held him to the same standards as I hold women to and thus he hasn't lasted very long. I get that dating isn't easy, but I don't get what it's like to need to have a partner so badly that being treated like that is okay.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:41 AM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


I took the opposite approach, and decided when I was quite young that I was going to "go it alone." While I don't regret it, I occasionally get sad. It's just super-hard to live as a single in a world of couples, no matter how hard you work - and I do - to compensate.

It's everywhere - from trip reservations, to the size of food packaging in the market, to not being invited or included in things that my coupled-up friends are included in as a matter of course; to just plain not having anyone to talk to. Not to mention just not having a partner, with all that entails, and, in my case, not having children, because I knew that I didn't have what it took to be a single mother.

Still, I'd do the same thing again. I know myself and I just don't want to spend my life either in battlefield, or not so silently seething in rage because my partner decided that whatever mattered to me wasn't as important as needing to spend half a hour playing Starcraft while I slammed around the kitchen.

The other HUGE piece of this, though, is that a lot of guys SERIOUSLY opt out when children arrive. It's getting better, but it's definitely still a thing. It's extremely difficult to "take a stand" and insist on chore-parity when you have this tiny, helpless, screaming thing who needs you 24/7. And, having the occasional and half-hearted help isn't really enough, it's more than nothing, and life would be so much harder if you go it alone - and triple that, if more children arrive. Plus, babies grow up needing and loving their fathers, and, again, it's really, really, really hard to dismantle all of that, because for the 2,984th time he left towels on the floor and didn't put the dishes to soak before bed.

If we want to improve the lot of "the average woman," I'd start out with re-invigorating the social safety network, which has been so weakened, and go on from there. Ideally, improved after-school programs, free health care, and 24/7 day care would be a great place to start.
posted by dancing_angel at 9:20 AM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


In the meantime, though, it would be really nice if straight women stopped getting mad at me for mentioning that this is happening.

I get that dating isn't easy, but I don't get what it's like to need to have a partner so badly that being treated like that is okay.


I think - and I say this gently, because if I came as a sociological scientist to another planet where one race of people were being treated like this and the other one wasn't, I would definitely be puzzled and think it was fucked up - probably the problem isn't in noticing, but in not understanding the root of the problem for those of us who do have those needs.

At least for women like me, it's not needing a partner so badly, it's needing a co-parent so badly. The system is simply not set up to support single parenting in any kind of real way. And I say this as someone who's been a single parent, for years. It was ridiculously insane how much better my daughter's life got once I got married. Stupidly, unfairly better, from security to happiness to physical health. Even though I was still doing most of the work.

And the inevitable "why not just find another woman who you are not romantically paired with to be a co-parent"? I tried that. I tried setting up alternative structures. They worked for a while, and then they burned down leaving nothing in the ashes. When a marriage fails, there's an understanding that the other partner will continue helping. When an alternative structure fails, there is no recourse. People told me "we will always be here for Baby Corb", and then they just weren't.

24/7 day care, as dancing_angel mentions, would be amazing, with the caveat it be both free and quality. When I was in the military, it was a lot easier to be a single parent, because the community stepped up, and there were family child care homes you could leave your kids at for two or three days while you went away for a weekend. You had to pay them, but it was reasonable (and possibly subsidized) prices. When I got out? Not so much. If I wanted another baby, I would have to find a way to pay over 1000$ a month for newborn care just during daylight hours.

But until then, women have to live in the world that is, not the world we want. We can't hold off on having kids until the utopia arrives, because if we do, we wind up with the possibility of not having them at all, or having them only when we're so tired as to be unable to do the immense amount of work it requires.
posted by corb at 10:44 AM on November 18, 2017 [8 favorites]


If we want to improve the lot of "the average woman," I'd start out with re-invigorating the social safety network

Excellent point.

At least for women like me, it's not needing a partner so badly, it's needing a co-parent so badly. The system is simply not set up to support single parenting in any kind of real way.

I can't argue with that because I don't have kids and nor do I have a burning desire to have them. I'm also European and so my normal likely includes a much higher level of social support than other places.

I will say this though, the children of my friends who became young single parents are now becoming young adults. And they wow me so much. I'm impressed by the confidence and intelligence of most young adults I encounter, they seem so much more mature and self assured than me and my cohort were at that age. But the children of the single parents. Wow. They are just such fully formed adults. Partly I guess there is a selection bias, since the parents in question obviously kept a strong social network going by e.g. maintaining a 20 year close friendship with the likes of me. I'm sure a lot of wisdom and confidence of these young people comes by dint of their many interactions with various adults on adult terms. But I also think it's because they were spared the infantilising environment of the types of relationships we are discussing.

It seems that economic reasons that often trap women like this. That fucking sucks and is another reason why we have the term systemic oppression. We should be pushing to fix this politically.

But the other reasons for fearing single parenthood, like the need for emotional support or somebody to actually do things? The kinds of men we're discussing don't provide that and in fact are probably a hindrance to getting it from a wider social network because they suck up so much time and energy that could be dedicated to more constructive relationships.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:38 PM on November 18, 2017 [5 favorites]


dump guys immediately when they start acting like this and warn other women not only about sexual predators but also about guys who pretend to be bad at dishes. I know this doesn't address situations where guys are like "okay I can do half" and start out well but then slack off

Well, you can always dump them when they start slacking.
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:44 PM on November 18, 2017


I'm sure a lot of wisdom and confidence of these young people comes by dint of their many interactions with various adults on adult terms. But I also think it's because they were spared the infantilising environment of the types of relationships we are discussing.

Word to the word. I have no doubt whatsoever that growing up in in the context of my parents’ cautionary tale of a marriage actively harmed my social development in ways I still haven't finished figuring out. And my mother was far more isolated before the divorce than after (this may have been different if we had been *little* kids who needed more time and attention when it happened).

I was an adult, forming close friendships with other adults, before I began to believe that real, happy marriages were a thing that could actually exist. I took it for granted that any couple who seemed to get along in public were really miserable at home.

(I think I've developed a pretty good eye; whenever I've gotten that “oh, this is never going to last” feeling about a young couple starting out, I've always been proved right. The key is to keep my mouth completely shut about it.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:47 PM on November 18, 2017


At least for women like me, it's not needing a partner so badly, it's needing a co-parent so badly.

This is totally valid and largely not what I'm talking about, though I often get confused as to why women decide to have more kids when their husbands aren't pulling their weight with kid #1. To be clear, I don't have, want, or like children, so it's not a drive I have an intuitive understanding of and I know there's plenty I don't understand about it. That said, the women I've seen doing this inside my social circle typically have no children and often do not plan to have children, and just assume that life is like this.

And then they get mad at me for not understanding, while making no effort to understand my life as a queer person and what kinds of shit I'm dealing with, and I'm not allowed to get mad about that.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:56 AM on November 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


My grandparents had what would now be considered pretty shitty gender equity in some ways, but their arrangement of "she cooks, he does the dishes" actually seems downright progressive compared to some of the stuff people are talking about.

I don't recall either grandparent ever feigning ignorance to get out of doing something they perceived as a task for the other's gender, so . . . good job on being more regressive than a couple old-ass (well, now dead) Mennonites, everybody.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:42 PM on November 22, 2017 [3 favorites]


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