A Delicate Subject

Men have absorbed the idea – who said they couldn’t absorb new ideas? – that they are supposed to do certain things, say certain things. That they are not supposed to do and say certain other things, the very things, alas, that come naturally to them. This plays out in fascinating and exciting ways.

A prototypical demonstration:

Upon observing the light of his life frantically trying to get ready for expected company, the new man asks how he can help. To which the light of his life sweetly replies, with the rises at the ends of sentences by which women seek to defuse savagery and declare their utter lack of certainty and self-esteem: “You could clean up after yourself? So that I don’t have to?”

Now, the old model male might have looked sheepish, might have said, “Sure, Honey,” and then done nothing. Or he might have said, “No way,” and then done nothing. The old model male wouldn’t have asked in the first place.

The new man freaks. It has been suggested that he doesn’t normally clean up after himself and that it would be something special for him to start now. How could anyone who lives with him, anyone who knows him suggest that?

The scene that ensues brings about several results: the light of this man’s life finds herself with less time and energy to clean her house, for which tasks she gets no help whatsoever. She learns to never to impugn her man’s – for lack of a better word – newness. And, incidentally, to keep cleaning up after the guy.

Situations like this one play out daily in homes wherever men and women cohabitate. We knew that, even without the article in today’s New York Times, “The Case for Filth.” In this piece, the (male) writer argues that the solution to dirty men is dirty houses: don’t do it for them, ladies, just learn to live with it.

What might come as a surprise to others – not me! – is a statement in the article that housework tends not to be divided equably even in homes that include the transgendered. In my admittedly limited experience, a man who was incapable of dressing, feeding, washing the clothes or combing the hair of a child will, after recommencing life as a woman, send visiting children home filthy, unfed, wild-haired and with suitcases of dirty laundry. Whatever it is that enables women to do household chores, it would seem it is not included in a hormone injection.  

So what is it? Women have demonstrated that they are capable of doing virtually all the world’s work, including mastering the many arenas from which they were once excluded. While men are still unable to pick up after themselves. Are women innately capable of doing everything well and at the same time?

And men are innately capable of – er – ?



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2 responses to “A Delicate Subject

  1. This demonstrates, again, that children are an important factor in the male oppression of women. I know many (and am myself) a woman who can live in a relatively filthy shared living space with males while still attending university. The “dirty house” solution works relatively well in that environment.

    However, when there are children, things change. Leaving unwashed dishes in the sink is not an ethical issue, leaving a baby in dirty diapers is – one would have to be very cruel to do this to a baby just to force someone else to do the work. Men seem to be more capable of this kind of cruelty.

    And, of course, if a woman were to send her children to school as unwashed as the divorced husband returned them, she would be blamed. Which is why even women who otherwise would not feel bad about letting the children run around with unkempt hair and unwashed clothes, don’t dare do it.

  2. Kaethe Voherden

    You are so devious, thankfully…. and no, alas, it doesn’t come with the hormones… which reminds me, it’s time to go and pick up…

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