Stephen Marche is a terrible writer and a terrible sexist. He wrote a terrible Sunday Times essay about how men will never do more housework, so chicks should chill out and accept filth. A better move for Stephen Marche would have been to shut the fuck up and pick up after himself.
"The Case for Filth" is an extension of Marche's performed manliness for his semiregular Esquire ejaculations, "A Thousand Words About
My Penis Our Culture." This case, which runs over 2,200 words, does not begin auspiciously:
In Claire Messud's novel "The Emperor's Children," the ultraliberal Murray Thwaite comes home late, steps in cat vomit and keeps walking: "It still was not, nor could it ever be, his role to clean up cat sick," Ms. Messud writes... Murray Thwaite is like most other men, liberal or conservative, old or young.
Yes, men, we all ignore the cat vomit we step in. Who among us?... Or, we could observe that Messud is setting up Murray Thwaite as a larger-than-life elitist philandering faux-safeguard of liberal values, whose cold hypocrisy will break his family's heart. But what man is actually going to take the time to read a whole Claire Messud novel? That's as good as vacuuming, amirite? (Stephen Marche, by the way, has a PhD in literature.)
Having adequately established that every man, like him, is inclined to live with feline chunder, Marche cites STUDIES™ that show how even as women work more, they do roughly the same lion's share of housework, while the male still slips free of the surly bonds of domesticity. Even the progressive labor theorist Karl Marx couldn't solve the puzzle of women's housework, Marche writes—while never noting that Marx was a selfish pain in the ass who left his wife seven children to care for while he serially cheated and possibly fathered an illegitimate kid with the housekeeper, which maybe explains why the house was usually a mess.
Housework, however one defines it, is a drag—"intimate drudgery," Marche writes, adding: "Even the most basic housework proves ethereal on inspection." Which is a five-dollar PhD's way of saying, "Why clean up after myself if shit's just gonna get dirty again?" (See, CBS-watching, pickup-driving manly men? Stephen Marche gets you.)
But at bottom, this isn't about our culture; this is about Stephen Marche's wife, and he would like you all to know that she is crazy, crazy, crazy:
The mechanism of emptying the dishwasher in my house is typically elaborate. When I cook, my wife tends to be responsible for the dishes. But she hates removing the cutlery from the dishwasher. (To figure out why she hates removing the cutlery would require decades of deep analysis. I do not know.) Therefore emptying the cutlery is my responsibility. So if I unload all the dishes, it's a gift to my wife, but the cutlery is not. It is my marital duty. Every well-managed household is full of such minor insanities.
Actually, to figure out why your wife hates removing the cutlery would merely require you to ask her why she hates it. If you really want to know, Steve, I could venture a few guesses as to why your wife avoids touching knives. But for now, let's just go with your explanation, which I will call the Leslie Knope thesis:
Further exploring the notion that he does not get women, therefore they must all be nutters, Marche in a single paragraph derides feminism's most famous 20th-century thinker, its greatest political hero, and ladies with craft hobbies all in one breathtaking paragraph:
Simone de Beauvoir was wrong. Millions of young women are deeply attracted to the gloomy vice of domestic labor. Martha Stewart has made an empire of immanence. The bizarre phenomenon of modern young women proudly making their own candles, knitting and raising chickens, coincides neatly with the rise of working women who actually do much less housework. One of Hillary Clinton's major sources of relaxation is HGTV. The fetishization of the domestic is a mainstay of reality television. The fantasies of domestic perfection are the feminine equivalent of "Ice Road Truckers" and "Deadliest Catch" and beer ads.
It's not immediately obvious that women who make candles, knit, and raise chickens are taking their mothers' Martha Stewart/HGTV path to pleasure in domesticity. It could be that these young women are by nature creatives, or that they're opting out of a mass-consumer culture with a DIY lifestyle, or that they're taking up idle pursuits while at home unemployed or looking after children, or that they're simply trying to distract themselves from horrible relationships with horrible unreflective men like Stephen Marche. Anything is possible.
Domesticity is the macho nonsense of women. And, in this light, it is not surprising that men have not started doing more of it. Men might be willing to lose the garbage of their own gender stereotypes, but why should they take on the garbage of another?
So, men won't clean up around the house because they're afraid they'll get sand in their vaginas and start wearing pink? Sounds solid.
Here is the good news: Men's behavior may not be changing, but women's is. According to a 2000 study by University of Maryland sociologists, time-diary data from American adults show that the number of hours spent on domestic labor, not including child care or shopping, has declined steadily since 1965.
Yes! Splendid! Ladies are finally letting the house chores go. Except for raising the children and shopping for the necessities. And what could that take? Like 20, 30 minutes a week? Whatever: The point is that chicks totally don't care about that puddle of dog pee by the door anymore, unless of course that's where they'd like to drop the groceries after bringing Sally and Jimmy back from that quick playground jaunt on the round trip from the dry cleaner, car repair shop, post office, Target, and Costco.
Hooray for disinvestment. Caring less is the hope of the future... The solution to the gender divide in housework generally is just that simple: don't bother. Leave the stairs untidy. Don't fix the garden gate. Fail to repaint the peeling ceiling. Never make the bed.
Are you listening, Ms. Stephen Marche? Just let it go, already. And figure out something to do with those stupid knives.
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