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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- LB