I’m slightly concerned that being in love might be making me into a bad feminist. Yesterday I did two lots of laundry for my boyfriend and really enjoyed it. He didn’t ask me to, but he was out and it was there and I wanted to clean for him. I enjoyed it so much that, even though I was supposed to leave for a gig, I was hugely tempted to stay so I could iron and fold.
I think one thing that bothers me is that I’m aware I didn’t grow up in a vacuum. There is an undeniably uncomfortable part of me that thinks of housework as a feminine task, and that men doing housework seems “terribly modern”, so I must have been conditioned to think that cleaning up after people is a woman’s job, or a woman’s way of showing love. It felt like a loving thing to do, and I was motivated by the thought that it would make his life easier. Couldn’t I just stick to supporting his dreams, and leave him to handle his dirty socks?
Having said that, I’ve been brought up in a very female environment. I have a sister, all female cousins, and I went to an all girls’ school, so it’s really only been as an adult that I’ve been confronted with misogyny. I also come from a family of domineering women and brow beaten husbands. Both of my grandmothers were pretty fearsome, and my mother can get my dad to do anything for her. That’s left me feeling quite protective of men, and worrying that women aren’t being nice enough to them. Although it was the women who did the majority of the housework it never seemed to be a sign of them being subservient. There’s a power in caring for people, and they also often implied that they were just better at it. If it was left to the men it would never get done.
I think I’m worried because respect is very important to me. I feel like my current relationship is the most respectful one I’ve been in, but will I lose respect for him if I don’t see him as someone who’s capable of looking after himself? Will he lose respect for me if he sees me as someone who tugs her forelock and cleans up after him?
But if I want to do it, surely doing it is the feminist thing to do? I’m a strong woman and I do what I want! It just so happens that what I want is to wash a man’s pants for him till one or other of us dies. Oh god I’m ruining all the feminism that has ever happened. I keep imagining Emmeline Pankhurst spinning in her grave, making a terrible mess of her funeral shroud, and she could ask her husband to clean it, but he’ll probably just do a bad job on purpose so she won’t ask him again, and anyway why not clean it yourself in the first place Emmeline even though you’re dead and probably knackered from all the feminist-ing, get back in the kitchen you filthy spinning bint, WHO EVEN AM I?
However, in the context of our relationship it seems to fit. He’s not very good at practical things, so I help him with them. I’m not very good at emotional things, so he helps me with that. He has been known to spend upwards of two hours calming me down about a bad gig, or because of my almost continual jealousy of every woman he’s ever met. We’re both giving what we can depending on our strengths. I asked him how he felt about me doing laundry for him and he said he was happy I did it, but he definitely wasn’t expecting me to do it, nor was he expecting me to do it again. I genuinely enjoy doing laundry, my own and other people’s. I’m not going to rebel against traditional gender roles just to avoid people’s judgement, and at the expense of my own comfort. I’m off to iron and fold like the bad-ass feminist I am.

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