There was something important missing from Sabine Durrant’s The Chore Wars, an otherwise interesting double page feature in yesterday’s Guardian about the degree to which mothers are still left to carry the domestic can. And that was any reference to any sort of feminist analysis.
After all, there is a long, troubled, truculent, fascinating backstory to this issue of the domestic division of labour, and the apparently personal complaint of women and mothers. Modern feminism – second wave feminism – whatever you want to call it – began, in part, with womens’ collective anger/depression at the way domestic life was left to them. The first wave of women to get a decent further education post 1944 suddenly found themselves in the mid to late sixties beached up at home with the dishes and the babies while their male peers discovered sixties radicalism. Whoosh; the flame of fury and, subsequently, modern feminism was lit.
And yet here we are, four decades later, and a major liberal/left newspaper publishes a feature forensically dissecting womens’ continuing domestic burdens, that so clearly have knock on effects on everything from pay differentials to the the lack of women in senior positions, without any suggestion that this IS a stark illustration of continuing structural inequality?
For me the most telling quote of the piece came from a woman who gave up her job as a lawyer to care for her children, “My fury stems from seeing somebody ( her husband) living in a world that’s not my own, a career world that feels denied [to me].”
Durrant also quotes a recent survey in which ‘60% of respondents said that they either didn’t share these experiences with their friends or, if they did, they made light of them.’ No wonder when everything is reduced to personal complaint.
The piece also quotes Denise Knowles of Relate, who says “you need to work out, am I angry with my husband or am I angry because I don’t understand what is happening?” To which I would add a third option, ‘ Or am I angry because I DO understand what’s happening?’
I know the F word has been out of fashion for decades and that ‘structural inequality’ might not be quite the way to put it in a daily newspaper but surely there was some way to say at some point: hey, you know what, the personal is still political?