by KAHLA PRESTON
Confession: every now and then I like to unleash my inner domestic goddess.
Sometimes I find there’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than whipping up a batch of cupcakes while sporting my retro polka-dot apron (high heels optional).
I even enjoy a good, vigorous session of housework on the odd occasion. When nobody’s home, I’ll blast something embarrassing from my collection of 90s pop artefacts and clean away to my heart’s content, before standing back to proudly bask in the sparkle of freshly scrubbed bathroom tiles. The popularity of Twitter hashtags like #domesticgoddess and #housewifeswag tells me I’m not the only one who rolls like this.
For all the single ladies, the Stepford wife act is fun because it’s played with a big splash of irony (“Hello – I don’t even have a husband, silly!”). The performance of household duties, even when red lipstick and strings of pearls are involved, doesn’t carry any perceived threat to a woman’s belief in gender equality when it’s done strictly for her own benefit.
But what happens when a feminist picks up a feather duster when she’s married or in a de facto relationship? No irony there. So is that a conflict? Not at all, according to this article from RoleReboot.
Writer Ashley Lauren Samsa found herself in a feminist catch-22 shortly after her wedding. Having kept her surname, Ashley hoped her marriage would reflect an equal partnership, with the housework evenly split between both parties. Despite her husband’s efforts around the house, she still found there was something about fulfilling her share of the domestic duties that got under her skin:
“Every time I donned an apron to cook dinner, every time I sat folding laundry, every time I dusted a knickknack on the dresser, I hated myself for fulfilling exactly what society told me a wife should be. If I put on a string of pearls and high-heels, I’d be June Cleaver. And I hated myself for it.
You see, when I lived by myself and kept my apartment clean, it was a source of pride. I could do this all on my own, it said. When I lived with my husband, however, it was just another thing society tells women they should do.”
Polishing surfaces, pressing piles of business shirts and plating up (how Masterchef am I?) a roast chook by 6pm, all in the name of keeping hubby happy – we tend to view the role of the stereotypical 1950s housewife as the antithesis of feminism. But in today’s world, where we are afforded far more choice and opportunity than women of decades past, do household duties still represent that women are ‘under the thumb’ of social expectations?
The most recent Census results indicate that across the board, Australian women still do more household chores per week than men. It’s easy to look at these statistics, sigh and mutter that nothing has changed; no doubt, the evolution of traditional gender roles still has some way to go.
However, the simple act of cleaning, cooking or ironing doesn’t necessarily undermine a woman’s status as a feminist; whether or not it does is often more to do with choice, perception and domestic context. After all, just like taxes, cockroaches and the existence of Charlie Sheen, household chores are an unfortunate fact of life, and even the most passionate feminists’ houses aren’t immune from dirty dishes.
I consider myself a feminist. Come on, it’s 2012 – are there really that many of us out there who think we’re not on par with the men in our lives? The thing is, I like baking, and I find ironing strangely therapeutic. Sure, I don’t like cleaning quite as much, but declaring myself to be a feminist doesn’t mean my clothes don’t need washing. And that’s okay, because feminism is about women having choices over their lives and how they live them.
I’m not married, nor even close to being married (apparently having a partner is kind of a prerequisite), so I don’t know what it’s like to do household chores in that context. But for the time being, I choose to bake the occasional batch of mini cupcakes, and I choose to be clean (or at least try), because it makes me feel good. And you know what? I choose to do it in a spotty, ruffled apron.
Kahla is an almost-graduate of Journalism & International Studies, combining her love of words with her desire to become a French-speaking savant (and thus seduce Guillaume Canet). She’s currently interning at Mamamia. You can find her on Twitter here.