Housework, Dirty Dishes, Complementarianism and Personal Anecdotes
In most of the relationships and marriages I have personally known, the males are the gold-diggers who sit around all day watching football, going bar-hopping during the day, or playing games on the internet all day, while their wife or girlfriend holds down a full time job, pays all the bills, and also comes home to take care of the house-work because the lazy slobby men won’t clean dishes, fold laundry, or do anything else.
Doing housework is not rooted in gender.
A lot of biblical passages complementarians point to in order to substantiate their claims are not intended to be timeless directives, but were products of their time and meant for their time period or locale only.
There’s nothing in the Bible that teaches that washing dirty dishes or cleaning laundry is “woman’s work” or that says women are better suited for, or designed by God more so than a man, to clean a dirty house ( see “Workers at home” or “keepers at home” in Titus 2:5? and “Busy at Home”: How does Titus 2:4-5 apply today? )
I am a little puzzled, then, by complementarians who keep behaving as though American women in the year 2017 are still living in the same conditions, societal expectations, or value systems as American women of the 1950s, or the ancient Greeks and Romans with whom Paul visited, wrote to, or visited.
Some women today aren’t even getting married. Some of them don’t want to. Some want to but can’t find a decent guy to marry.
A lot of men are staying single longer or not marrying at all.
If complementarians keep pushing this antiquated, sexist, insulting notion that housework is for women only, any men who remain single past the age of 21 or 25, especially if they move out and live on their own, are in for a rude awakening. Men will have to learn to cook for themselves, do their own laundry, and clean their own dishes, because there is no wife to do those things for them.
In yet other complementarian material I’ve seen (eg., see my other post, where I mention Doug Wilson), the male complementarians seem to assume that not only is cleaning dirty dishes and such “woman’s responsibility,” but they seem to assume women are the ones shirking this duty and need to be rebuked or cajoled into doing so by their husbands or church elders.
This was originally on Wartburg Watch blog, regarding a ridiculous post complementariain Doug Wilson wrote a couple of years ago, where Wilson feels that a wife who refuses to clean dirty dishes should be reprimanded by church elders:
Step 2 For the little woman who continues to rebel, call in the elders! I kid you not.
[by Doug Wilson]:
If she [the wife who won’t clean the dishes] rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.
In reality, the opposite is true.
Men, even in live-in relationships or marriages where the woman works in an office job, have to be nagged, pressured, begged into doing their fair share of the housework. Women still end up doing the majority of the house-work.
So why am I not seeing the Doug Wilsons and other peddlers of Christian Sexism (also known as “complementarianism”) telling men to step up, stop taking advantage of their girlfriends and wives, and do their fair share of housework?
I’m going to share some personal anecdotes.
My Sister “Marge” and Her Ex Boyfriend “Roger”
My older sister Marge (not her real name) had a live-in boyfriend for a long time.
Although the boyfriend of hers, Roger (not his real name), was usually not employed during the duration of their time together, and my sister would work 10 – 12 hours per day at her job, she would come home after a day at work to find Roger had not done a blessed thing while she was out.
Roger would not do laundry, scrub the bathroom, clean the carpets, dust furniture, pick up brik a brak around the house, and had to be nagged by her into taking the trash out once per week.
This guy not only left most of the house work up to my sister, but the few times he took the trash out (as he was supposed to do, as they had agreed upon), he expected a thank you or a pat on the head from my sister.
Uh no, buddy. You’re an adult. You’re supposed to be taking out the trash. My sister did not owe you a “thank you” for doing what you were supposed to be doing in the first place.
I asked my sister if Roger ever thanked her for all the dirty dishes she cleaned, all the times she cleaned his laundry, swept their floors and so on, and she said, “No.”
My Ex Fiance, “Walter”
For a few years, I was engaged to a guy, whom I shall call Walter (not his real name).
Walter was financially inept. He kept borrowing money from me, thousands, but would never pay me back.
After a few years of this, I told him that in order for me to consider him husband-material he had to start paying his bills on time, stop asking me for money, and he had to repay me everything he borrowed so far.
I was raised that a guy should be the breadwinner in the relationship. I have a very hard time shaking that value myself. It’s how I was raised – you don’t marry a guy unless he has a steady job, is a good provider, and is not irresponsible.
As our relationship dragged on, Walter not only did not pay me back, but one day he called me to ask me to drive 45 minutes to his apartment to clean his dirty dishes for him.
Walter had the sort of job that took him away for two weeks at a time. (He didn’t have a normal “9 to 5, Monday through Friday” job like most do.)
Any time before Walter’s boss sent him out, his boss always gave him 2 or 3 days prior notice. Walter always knew when he had to leave home.
This one day on the phone, Walt was asking me to drive to his apartment to clean his dishes.
He said, “If you don’t go to my apartment and clean them for me now, when I get back in two weeks, they will be moldy and flies will be buzzing every where.”
I said, “Is this a last minute deal? Did your boss not let you know he was sending you out today?”
Walt said, “No, I knew two or three days ago.”
I said, “If you knew 2 – 3 days ago, you had the last 2 to 3 days to clean your nasty dishes. Why are you asking me now?”
Walter, my ex fiance, is one of these lazy, gross types who literally would stack dirty dishes up in his sink until they were 2 to 4 feet high.
I am completely serious about that.
I am not exaggerating. Instead of cleaning off each dish after he was done, or cleaning off every two or three set of dishes, he would let them pile up until there was a mountain of filthy, food-crusted dishes (and utensils) in his sink.
I should also explain that I was not responsible for a single dirty dish in Walter’s sink. All those dishes were of his doing. I had not eaten off a single one.
I told Walter on the phone I refused to get into my car and spend 45 minutes on the road to drive to his place and back, all to wash a stack of cruddy dishes that were four feet high – that I had not even eaten off, they were all HIS dirty dishes.
Walter got more and more irate with me (dude always expected me to cave in, so he would get his way each time, which he usually did), and he said, “You’re always saying I have to prove I’m husband-material to you, well now, you need to prove you’re wife material to me.”
I told him, Hell No. He was comparing apples to oranges.
Me asking him to be more financially responsible, stop being late on bills, and to pay me back what he owed me (thousands of dollars!!) was NOT the same thing as asking me to drive 45 minutes to clean some plates HE MADE DIRTY and was too lazy and irresponsible to wash in the three days he knew he had before he had to leave. Those plates were his responsibility, not mine.
So, I never did clean those dirty dishes.
On other occasions in the past, I had vacuumed and dusted his apartment, scrubbed his shower and toilet, and mopped his cruddy kitchen floor.
When Walt Had the Flu
On another occasion, Walt had phoned me at 2 A.M. with flu-like symptoms (he said he had the chills, too), begging me to drive over (it was a 40 minute drive, and I hate drives that are over 10 minutes) to see him.
Walter wanted me to go to his apartment and “baby” him and doctor him back to health, or help him in some way, the big baby.
I told him I had the flu before, I had to cope with the flu on my own, and that he’d be fine on his own, and I said I didn’t want to drive over until 10 A.M. the next day.
I have had the flu before and didn’t have anyone to wait on ME hand and foot, so he too could survive it. That wasn’t good enough.
He threw a fit and a pity party, so I did the 40 minute drive, I went to an all-night Wal-Mart close to his place, where I bought him cough syrup, a bucket to puke in (if he needed it), and their only electric blanket (sucker costed 90 bucks!) because he had said he had chills. I think I also bought some other stuff – juice and flu medicines, etc.
I then went to his place, gave him all the stuff.
So believe you me, I more than once went the long distance and cared for that doofus, even when it was inconvenient for me, even when it meant cleaning up his dirt and crud.
He Broke Everything I Ever Bought For Him Or His Home
Without asking me first, Walt later loaned the electric blanket ($90 blanket) I bought to his (rude) mother, who broke the dial thing on it, which rendered it useless.
Any time I bought anything for that idiot or for his apartments (even if it was brand new, right out of the box), he’d either stain it, break it, or give it to his family to borrow, who’d in turn break it or lose it.
You could not own or buy or have anything nice around Walt. It was beyond annoying.
The Dirty Dishes
Anyway, you have this situation where Walt dirtied up some dishes on his own, waited until he got on the road to call me to demand I wash his dirty dishes for him, out of some so-called wifely duty (even though we were engaged, not married). How would a sexist such as Doug Wilson respond to this?
I have an Aunt who works full time, and her oaf of a spouse sits around in stupid over-alls all day either watching football or visits bars.
The oaf does not do housework. My aunt has to do it when she returns home, or it won’t get done.
Other than one or two couples I know of (my parents included), I don’t know of these June and Ward Cleaver marriages where the guy works all day and the wife does all the chores.
Most couples I know, the woman has a job, pays the bills AND does all the housework.
So, I do not recognize this complementarian fantasy world where you have a traditional couple but the wife enjoys housework (my mother did it but didn’t seem to love it), and the wife refuses to do the housework.
I usually see men exploiting women, financially and house-work wise.
Why doesn’t Doug Wilson tell the Walters of the world to clean their own dirty damn dishes?
Why isn’t Wilson or John Piper and the rest of these sexist jerk-weeds writing blog posts telling men to stop taking advantage of women and step up to the plate and lend a hand?
Too Picky Husbands = Emotional Abusive
This portion of this post is a January 2019 edit.
Over at Spiritual Sounding Board blog, under a post entitled, “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter 1: The Elusive Excellent Wife” a commentator named Ted mentioned that this is apparently the same Martha Peace that wrote that horrible complementarian essay (which I believe was later scrubbed from CBMW’s site?) about a complementarian husband being upset with his wife over not removing all the soapy bubbles from a dirty glass.
Ted linked to that same complementarian essay, which is on Peace’s blog here:
Seeing all that again reminds me of this:
From a section entitled “Self Blame” that starts on page 54 and goes on to page 55 of the book “The Nice Girl Syndrome” (read free samples of that book here):
Another issue women experience is that they tend to blame themselves for problems in their relationships.
For example, if a woman’s husband constantly complains that she is not meeting his needs, she doesn’t question whether he is being too critical or demanding. Instead, she will probably bend over backward to please him.
[The author then discusses a client she had named Rhonda, whose husband was very particular about how he wanted their house plants watered or how he wanted her to fold his clean laundry for him.
If the wife did not operate to the husband’s standards, he would complain bitterly about her, which drove her to depression. The therapist who wrote this book asked Rhonda to please give her examples of what she did that her husband complained about.]
“Well [Rhonda said], I can’t seem to keep the kitchen clean enough. He’s always finding spots on the appliances. And he spent a lot of money having new hardwood floors put in, and I keep spilling water on them when I water the plants. He likes his underwear and pajamas washed and folded a certain way and I just can’t seem to do it right. I either put in too much fabric softener or too little. And even though he taught me the right way to fold the laundry, I’m just not as good at it as he is.”
When I asked Rhonda whether whether she thought her husband was too particular, she said, “I guess some people might say that he is, but these things are important to him. As he tells me all the time, if I really love him I should want to do these things for him. I should be able to learn how to do them right so he’ll be happy.”
Rhonda had become so focused on pleasing her husband that she had lost touch with reality. The truth was that her husband’s demands were unreasonable. Not only was he too particular, he was browbeating her mercilessly whenever she failed to please him – which was most of the time. Rhonda was being emotionally abused.
As is the case with most women who are being emotionally abused, Rhonda blamed herself rather than recognizing that her husband was impossible to please and that he had an investment in keeping her down and off balance.
Had she not been so focused on meeting his needs, she would have become aware of the fact that his emotional abuse was affecting her self-esteem and making her depressed.
Dirty Dishes = Divorced
I recall that Lea at SSB also shared a link to this story on Huffington Post.
I remember seeing it a few years ago, then forgot about it, and didn’t recall it until she shared is a few months ago. Here’s the link:
It wasn’t a big deal to me when I was married. But it was a big deal to her.
by Matthew Fray, Contributor
It seems so unreasonable when you put it that way: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink.
It makes her seem ridiculous; and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations.
Sometimes I leave used drinking glasses by the kitchen sink, just inches away from the dishwasher.
It isn’t a big deal to me now. It wasn’t a big deal to me when I was married. But it was a big deal to her.
Every time she’d walk into the kitchen and find a drinking glass by the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage. I just didn’t know it yet.
But even if I had, I fear I wouldn’t have worked as hard to change my behavior as I would have stubbornly tried to get her to see things my way.
The idiom “to cut off your nose to spite your face” was created for such occasions.
Men Are Not Children ― Even Though We Behave Like Them
Feeling respected by others is important to men.
Feeling respected by one’s wife is essential to living a purposeful and meaningful life. Maybe I thought my wife should respect me simply because I exchanged vows with her. It wouldn’t be the first time I acted entitled.
One thing I know for sure is that I never connected putting a dish in the dishwasher with earning my wife’s respect.
I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.
I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”
But she didn’t want to be my mother.
She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.
You can read the rest of that essay here.
For additional reading (other sites):
Researchers find that men who make fair contribution to housework have better sex life after studying 1,300 couples
A new study debunks the ‘difference equals desire’ theory
A study to be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in August has found that among couples who share their chores more evenly, there is more sexual gratification. In fact, say the researchers, the only couples reporting having more sex than their forebears did are those who are both getting busy with the household duties. (Sexual frequency has declined globally in the past few decades, even before Netflix.)
This is significant, because as recently as 2013, there was a widespread belief that when men and women strayed into each other’s domestic territory, they didn’t find each other as desirable. The thinking was that guys who did the washing up and women who changed the oil on the family car were somehow muting their masculinity or femininity and thus sending less robust come-hither sexual signals.
The new study, out of Cornell University, says the old data, which prompted a New York Times magazine cover story and such headlines as “Difference Equals Desire” was old and that newer statistics report the opposite effect.
73% women in online poll say this was the reason why they were driven to infidelity
There’s no biological explanation for why women end up doing more housework, so it must stem from societal forces.
Today’s women spend more time in paid employment but still come home to the second shift. On the typical day, nearly half of them will do housework, but just 20 percent of men will do the same.
And women put more time into scrubbing the toilet or doing the laundry—three more hours each week than men. Men carve out three more hours of leisure time.
Even mothers who work full-time will still put in a week and a half’s worth more time on household tasks than their male partners each year. When the division of household labor falls along gender lines, where can we turn for an explanation?
…But there’s no biological determinant for housework. No gender is physically predisposed to want to do the dishes or take out the trash.
One study found that girls did two more hours of chores a week while boys got twice as much time to play. This dynamic carries a lesson for both genders: girls learn that housework falls on their shoulders, and boys learn that girls will clean up after them.
The gendered disparity doesn’t end at time and effort, either. Girls may do more housework, but they don’t get as much pay for it.
…The study finding that girls do two more hours of chores per week also found that boys are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing them. And when they do get paid for it, girls will get less.
The lesson: boys are doing something special to be rewarded when they do a load of laundry or mow the lawn, while girls are doing something “natural” that doesn’t require remuneration.
13.5 percent more conservative in their views of women’s roles compared to boys who grew up only with brothers. The researchers speculate that because their sisters are given the housework, those boys tend to assume domestic chores are women’s work.There’s evidence that we carry these experiences as we age. One study found that boys who grew up only with sisters are
There’s another school of thought, of course, that women just have higher cleanliness standards. “Men are dirty pigs who don’t care!” the thinking goes. But this too is at heart a social construction that culture inculcates in both genders.
…conjuring up this old label. A nag is just a person making a request that annoys the requestee.And any woman who wants to change this dynamic confronts another problem. What man has been called a nag? But when women ask that their husbands pitch in more, they run the risk of
Women are told by parents, advertising agencies and a host of other societal forces that they are responsible for making the house clean, and when they push back, they are slapped with a pejorative.
No wonder they spend so much more time tidying up. It might be more exhausting to try and have it any other way.
It turns out that you ARE doing the dishes because of the patriarchy.
…According to their findings, men especially avoid housework just when you’d think they would pick up the slack: When they make less than their wives do.
Overall in the U.S., women clean more than men do. American men did an average of 15 minutes of housework each day, while women did 45, the Cassinos write. Most men—77 percent—did no housework on any given day, while most women—55 percent—did at least some.