A rebuttal to the Washington Post’s “The cost to parents of not hiring a house cleaner”
Lindsey Robert’s “The Cost to Parents of Not Hiring A House Cleaner” in the Washington Post made my blood boil. For a while, I couldn’t put into words precisely what caused my inner ire. After all, the article advocated for the liberation of women from mundane household chores by hiring a cleaning service, thus allowing us to focus on our more important careers. Yet lurking within this ode to feminism hid the bias of sexist inequality.
As I read the line “my sage English advisor told me in college: every working woman should get a cleaning service” I asked myself why every working woman, why not every working man, or every working couple?
Perhaps, I could dismiss my own question as overly pernickety. But then I read this paragraph and my angst grew to a fever pitch.
“Yet my husband describes me as fastidious, and stubborn. I’m not one to throw up my hands and give up. Instead, I grind my teeth and dig my heels in deeper. When the kids are in the bath, I pull in the laundry basket to fold clothes. When I pass the washer and dryer, I throw another load in. At night when I’m bone-tired, I force myself to mop the kitchen, knowing how good it will feel to wake up to a clean floor the next morning.”
The lofty goal of writing an article to liberate women was anchored by a restrictive assumption: household chores are a woman’s responsibility. Both the author and her husband are career-oriented, yet somehow she is burdened with the chores of the household. Every sentence is I do the laundry, I mop the kitchen. Where is her husband? Is there a we?
While endeavoring to liberate women from the mundane chores of the home, Lindsey implicitly takes on the responsibility of the home, with no mention of division of labor. How many women adopt a subservient outlook when it comes to their careers? Is a husband’s career elevated to a place of such importance that he retains no household responsibilities and transfers those responsibilities to his female partner? An easy retort is “no, no but you see my husband is a CEO” or something equally lofty. Does that mean that I, a female orthopaedic surgeon, can abdicate from any household chores because of my career status?
Domesticity continues to exemplify the veiled subjugation of women, tying women to unpaid positions, keeping them dependent on men. Now, we have a come a long way from the days of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, where women sought freedom from boring suburban life to pursue a career. In fact, any woman today proclaiming herself a “housewife” is more like a conscious feminist statement of choice. But nonetheless, this article exemplifies gender roles ingrained into societal norms; while women increasingly join the workforce, they have not seen an equal increase in shared home responsibility with male partners. Lindsey goes on to acknowledge the “can we have it all?” — a question that its very utterance only highlights gender inequality.
I support equality and each couple dividing responsibilities in a way that works best for them. Perhaps Lindsey and her husband found that a split of household chores such that she is primarily responsible works best for them. Perhaps her husband does the cooking. But she doesn’t mention it or refer to shared decision making. Instead of touting the benefits of a cleaning service for any working person or couple, regardless of gender, Lindsey and the Washington Post propagate the sexist assumption of female domesticity.