opinion

Maddie asked a Facebook group what to make her husband for lunch. The response was vicious.

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I will iron one of my husband’s shirts.

So what do you think of me now? Have I let down feminism? Am I “slave”, a “1950s housewife”, an idiot, downtrodden? Do you feel rage toward me? Do you need to set me straight?

Or do you think you have no idea about my relationship with my husband from that one sentence? Or about how often I iron those shirts, why I do it, what he does for me and how happy we are?

The Daily Telegraph reports that last week 22-year-old Sydney mum Maddie asked a closed Facebook mum’s group about sandwiches. More specifically she asked the 26,000 strong North Shore Mums group:

I would love to hear what other mums make their hubbies for lunch and snacks throughout the work day. We are getting over sandwiches.

Enter drama. Judgement for everything including using the word “hubbie”. Name calling. Accusations of being a “slave”, a “1950s housewife”. Nastiness. Passive aggressiveness.

Perhaps the most unsettling, apart from not giving Maddie the heads up about pesto pasta and tuna as a sandwich alternative, was women telling other women what they should do in their relationship as though they have been bestowed with some kind of all-knowing higher-being insight: “You should pack him nothing for lunch …”.

There were women who came to Maddie’s defence and Maddie came to her own explaining that her husband did housework, cooked dinners “every second night” and attended to their baby in the middle of the night.

Maddie wanted to make her husband a something nice for lunch. According to some, this makes her a bad feminist. (Image: Getty)
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Maddie just wanted to make him a sandwich because they "can't afford to eat out" and she wanted to do something nice for him.

I've found over the years, and my husband and I have been at this relationship business for a long, long time, small acts of domestic kindness result in disproportionate joy. It's unsexy, it's not Instagram worthy, but someone else ironing your bloody shirt when you least expect it, or making dinner on your night to cook, can make your heart sing.

I don't know Maddie, I don't know the people who judged her, I don't know those who defended her but I do know none of us have any idea what is going on in anyone else's relationship. I also have come to understand reciprocated kindness, whatever its form, is a marker of strength in a relationship.

Piling on to a person we don't know over a situation we have no details about? That's a double unknown and I don't understand it.

But Maddie was flayed nevertheless because her actions were seen as some kind of regressive act. Making a sandwich? For a man? What was she thinking? Go and climb a mountain Maddie.

Turns out your bumbag is a feminist. Hmm. Really? Have a listen. Post continues ...

Yes, the statistics tell us the division of household labour is unfair and women do the lion's share of domestic duties but are we certain that is Maddie's story? Who does Maddie represent - herself or all womankind?

Forget the sandwich for my hubbie question, this is where social media betrays us all. Very rarely do we comment on the question at hand asked by a stranger. We comment about ourselves.

So, call me a traitor too to feminism because sometimes I will iron my husband's shirt. He irons his own every day and occasionally if he's running late, or I'm ironing one of mine and his shirt is sitting right next to the ironing board I might pick it up and iron it.

I don't feel like a "slave" or a "1950s housewife", I feel like a woman who has been with her partner for a long time, who wants to do something that will relieve the drudgery of the day, momentarily, for him. He sometimes irons my shirts too, I assume for the same reason, and it always makes me smile.

A small random act of domestic kindness does not have to be a burning symbol in the fight for equality between the sexes. Sometimes it's simply about two people in a relationship, and maybe even, surprisingly, one moment of joy.