The Leftist obsession with gender roles extends even to stain removal

Dirty laundryI know you’re desperately curious to get to the stain removal part of this post, but you’ll have to bear with me as I first work my way through the Leftist obsession with gender roles and the Leftist denial about biologically programmed gender roles before I finally get to the dirty laundry.

Although I’m trained as a lawyer, for the last few years, I’ve mostly been a stay-at-home Mom.  I worked part-time as a lawyer through 2008, but the recession caused my clients to go away and they haven’t come back.  Last year, I spent a few months blogging full-time, but that was very difficult because I’m married to a man, who regardless of whether I earn money, wants me to be entirely responsible for the traditional feminine role in the house.  In other words, he wants a June Cleaver.  That’s not quite accurate. What he really wants is a life partner who is both a Ward and a June. I tried to do that for several years (and again last year), I decided I didn’t want an early grave that badly. Fortunately, my husband is a very hard worker (which is why I don’t mind being June to his Ward), and we are able to live on his salary.

My husband is rather extreme in his sexual role stratification, insofar as he won’t do any work related to the house.  Throughout our neighborhood, though, even amongst the working families, it’s the women who do the laundry.  They’re also the ones who cook on a regular basis, although the man may cook periodically, cook for special occasions, or help clean up.  The neighborhood women also do the bulk of housecleaning, although the men are more likely to take out the garbage and take care of the garden and garage. Those women who can stop working and focus solely on home and children have done so (as I have).

Part of the reason for the men’s lesser contribution to the house in my neighborhood is that they tend to work longer hours.  Yes, ours is the classic neighborhood in which working women earn less per hour than the men, because they’ve made the conscious decision — invariably because of children — to work part-time, flex-time, or “merely” full-time (40 hours, compared to the men’s 60, 70, or 80 hour work weeks).

I’ve heard grumbling from both men and women in the neighborhood, all of whom occasionally feel as if they’ve gotten the short end of the deal. On the whole, though, everyone recognizes that their various accommodations, although they may not be personally satisfying, work best for the family unit.  More specifically, they work best for the children.  I do know of two house husband situations that have been extremely successful, but they’re the exception, not the rule. From what I see, the average family falls in the traditional roles if at all possible:  mom at home, dad at the office.  That’s just the way it is.

The reason for this long rumination is twofold.  First, I’m thinking about these things because of the ridiculous Claire Shipman-Jay Carney puff piece in Washingtonian magazine, which has been roundly, soundly, and appropriately targeted because of the Soviet propaganda wall art; the ludicrously Photoshopped books, clearly intended to make the Shipman-Carneys look intellectual; and a carb-loaded diet that would have heads exploding among Michelle Obama’s food police.

At Power Line, John Hinderaker points out one other thing that lies in the text, not the images:  the article’s main point is that Shipman and Carney have such a wonderful partnership because she made the decision to put her career on the slow burner, so that he could work 12 hour days.  Of course, the way this is written, it’s not about a beleaguered little lady staying home, barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen, because of male chauvinism.  The focus, instead, is on Shipman’s empowerment:

“Balancing Act” is written with the usual cloying feminist slant. The news hook, to the extent there is one, is a book that Claire Shipman has co-authored called The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know:

Their book posits that while confidence—rather than competence—plays a key role in female success, particularly in the workplace, many women lack this critical ingredient. …

Many women possess a deep-seated fear of being wrong or embarrassed, which prevents them from taking risks. Risk-taking is important, in part because it can lead to failure—and surviving failure, they say, is essential to building resilience and confidence.

“How often in life do we avoid doing something because we think we’ll fail?” the pair ask. “And how often might we actually have triumphed if we had just decided to give it a try?” They advocate “failing fast,” a tech buzzword that is the ideal paradigm for building female confidence. Take a small risk, fail, learn from it, and move on. Men are more comfortable taking risks, and tend to more easily shrug off failure. Women, on the other hand, stew, worry, ruminate, and second-guess themselves.

Men, of course, don’t mind being embarrassed at all. They don’t worry, they just plunge ahead, full of self-confidence. And failure? It doesn’t bother us a bit! We shrug it off! As a man, you don’t know how easy you have it until you read feminist tracts.


And yet Carney’s own experience illustrates how silly the Democrats’ claims are. Shipman has worked part-time for the last five years to spend more time with her young children. Carney, meanwhile, leaves for the White House at 7:25 a.m. and tries to get home by 8:00 in the evening. As in most families, it is his wife who takes time out from her career to focus on children, and who devotes more time to her family: “Flexibility, she says, is what most working mothers really want.”

Even Obama’s closet associates put the lie to his blatant, hackneyed canard about women earning 77 cents on the dollar, as well as explaining the reasoning behind women’s slightly lower earning power:  given the choice, women want to be home caring for the children and men want that too.  It’s the triumph of biology over experience.

So that’s one article that got me thinking about gender roles in my home and my computer.  The other one was an NPR Fresh Air interview with a gal who has advice for getting stains out of things.  Her advice is very good.  If you’re in charge of keeping things clean in your house, I highly recommend it — but do be prepared to laugh as guest Jolie Kerr and host Terry Gross try desperately to assure any men listening that they’re not going to lose their man-card if they don’t immediately turn off the interview.

Before I get to their rhetorical contortions, let me assure you that Kerr isn’t writing like some coy 1920s “advice for the housewife” columnist.  That is, she’s not saying, “When you clean your husband’s clothes, you’re telling the world you love him.  You don’t want him to head off for work with ring around the collar and sweat stains under the arms.  Every woman needs to know these laundry tricks to take care of her man.”  Instead, Kerr just says “for X stain, do Y treatment.”  Gender-neutral, stain-killing advice.  Apparently, though, both Kerr and Gross were pretty damn sure they needed to reassure the male listeners in their audience — college educated Democrats who must have a sneaking suspicion that, notwithstanding the amount of sex the hook-up culture has given them, they’ve somehow sacrificed their core masculinity at the feminist altar:

GROSS: And I should say you address the column to men and women. You are not making the assumption that it is women who do the cleaning.

KERR: Absolutely I am not, no, no, no. I write for both men and women. It’s very important for me to that. It was actually one of the reasons that I moved my column away from its original home into a place where I could be writing for both a male and a female audience. I personally view cleaning as a human problem, not a gendered problem. I would not be interested in only writing for a female audience and to continue to reinforce the notion that cleaning is women’s work. I just don’t see it that way at all.


GROSS: OK. Now in talking about these stains you mentioned underarm stains from sweat and deodorant, and we have two people on our show who wanted to know about that. One is a woman, Heidi Saman, and the other is a man, John Myers, and they’re especially interested in white T-shirts and white shirts. So what advice do you have for getting out sweat and deodorant underarm stains?

KERR: Sure thing. Well, the first thing I want to say is that I love that both a man and a woman asked that. It’s actually probably my number one question, both from men and women, total equality when it comes to pit stains.


KERR: Which is great. I think that that is a wonderful, wonderful thing when we can start showing that…

GROSS: Equality at last.

Yes!  “Equality at last.”  Exactly what I was thinking . . . NOT.

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  • Ymarsakar

    More like hypocrisy. The Left uses the superior technical and spiritual practices of the past, but ensures that nobody else can compete with them by telling them they must explore alternative life styles or else.
    Btw, you should change “role stratification” to gender role stratification. The other one has certain different meanings implied.

  • Ymarsakar

    One of the ways Japanese housewives controlled things was in providing or withholding services. This had less to do with cleaning and more to do with cooking.
    People who didn’t like the food, didn’t get served. Some intolerance for food people dislike is warranted, but actual rudeness is not. And making people cook food for themselves, instead of the household served food by the specialized cook (mostly women), is thus a punishment.
    This was what it really meant to be in charge of the household, and women considered it a power just as useful and important as a career was to a man. There were times in feudal past that aristocratic women even held control of the purse and men who wanted a portion to pay for prostitutes had to ask their wives.
    But first of all else, traditional roles truly did attempt to make work into a labour of love. MOstly because people had little choice about it, as the tech and social engineering was just not there to provide alternatives. So women cooked food for their family because they committed love to the food. And the men ate it up, irregardless of how much there was or whether it tasted bad, and uttered a word of thanks and compassion for the work done by the woman. In an era where people had to have this gender role whether they liked it or not, people thought that they might as well make it into a labour of love.
    As you may see, when it isn’t a labor of love or when it is taken for granted, there are problems. People may not thank you every time you clean or pick something up. People may not say your food is delicious and utter a word of thanks. Gender role stratification originally allowed for such things.
    But I can tell you this. The people who were so clueless they couldn’t read the atmosphere back in the day and failed to appreciate the work of their partners, are the same people now who expect others to do the job for them without a word of appreciation.
    To the Japanese, equal share of the work is important (they don’t like free loaders and they say if you don’t work you don’t eat). Equal appreciation by all, for all, for the work done was even more important, for the Japanese peace of soul, preventing stress, and motivation for self improvement. Strangers didn’t apply, they were “outside” the circle and were treated as aliens or threats.

  • jj

    The only genuine gender roles are biological: she can have kids because she owns the factory; I can’t, because I don’t.
    But I’m compelled to laugh from time to time, contemplating the gender role stuff.  Neither of us was kids when married: we both had some miles.  I always washed clothes in cold water: they last longer, they never shrink, and the water heater doesn’t run.  She is a firm believer that hot water gets things cleaner, (she is of course wrong), despite the damage it does to the fabric, so hot water is what’s in the washing machine.  She took that over.  I can iron a shirt in about 40 seconds, she takes three times as long, but hers may – may – actually be better than mine.  She took that over.   I am a far better folder than she is, so the laundry gets dumped on my lap for folding.  That’s mine.  She is an inventive and splendid cook, and in fact gets pissy about it when you try to help, so that’s her department.  Except for the very rare occasion when she wants me to make a steak according to my own ancient recipe, in which case I order her out of the kitchen.
    (Brief diversion: She makes me eat breakfast, too.  I won’t do this unless she prepares it.  From age zero to age 12 my mother shoved breakfast into me every morning, then I went away to school and probably didn’t have breakfast for the next 30 years.  Then it took the Iron Butterfly years to wear me down, but she’s gotten it done, and I joined the breakfast eaters, though not the coffee-drinkers, some time ago.) 
    I do all the mowing, tree-cutting, raking, digging etc.  She’s in charge of the garden, because she asserts that I garden like a farmer – whatever that means.  I don’t actually know what it means, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t flattering.  (“Gimme the trowel, we’re not driving a goddam tractor up and down a field, here!”)  Yes, I did grow up driving that tractor, and I see no reason to get snotty about it…
    It strikes me that we don’t really have much adherence to gender roles, but we incline to the view that whoever’s nearest does whatever needs to be done, unless it’s someone’s specialty.  We are past the time – a time you’re still in – when we hauled out of bed in the morning and trundled off to an office all day – or, in her case, about half the time trundled off to the airport and wasn’t seen for days.  I did about a quarter the traveling she did for work, but in any case those days are gone.  We’re a lot more free for each of us to do what they do well, rather than what’s expected: there is no particular ‘expectation.’  This seems logical.   

    • Bookworm

      jj: It sounds as if you and your wife enjoy a delightful, harmonious, and productive relationship.

      • jj

        I think the point is that you come to it.  You guys are still in  the hacking-your-way-through-the-forest stage, and haven’t yet had time or leisure to contemplate the trees and see what works best.  And I think that’s probably right.  You’re busy insuring the next generation becomes functional and is sufficiently sheltered while getting there to get there.  That’s important stuff, and humanity has assigned roles for that period of anyone’s life, roles up to which most people are inclined to live.  That they are in some senses obsolete – the boys don’t require physicality the way they once did, there’s been little need to muster the manpower and go kill a mammoth for a couple of thousand years now – doesn’t change the fact that we’re wired that way.
        Time will alter that.  We had each lived on our own for a long time when we married, and had our own ways of doing things.  They have – gracefully or not – melded.  Mostly it’s convenience that melds them, and a bit of reality acknowledgement: ‘you’re better at this, you do it.’  You come to it: all the rocks that rub together long enough eventually end up round.    

        • Ymarsakar

          The fact that there are 3 or even 4 generations worth of people across the age gap, talking about the same topics more or less, is what amuses me here.

  • Tara S

    Sigh. I can only imagine what the dialogue would have been if Kerr was there to share sandwich recipes.
    “Oh, and you mention in your column that this recipe can be made by men, and not just by women, is that right?”
    “Oh, yes. I’m a firm believer in the idea that sandwiches are a food for all humans to make, not just women. I actually get a lot of questions from men asking about this sandwich recipe, which I love, because it shows that we’re really — we’re a sandwich-equal nation, which is beautiful.
    “Although it’s actually a little surprising, because the recipe contains watercress and men don’t usually like healthy things like vegetables. You know, they’re more into meat and potatoes.”

  • Ymarsakar

    Gender roles such as who is the protector and who takes care of the children, who cooks and who fights, are artificial. Sexual roles are not. JJ has them mixed up.