Women's Complaints About Men

We women complain to our men about their not meeting their domestic and partnership agreements and consider it a personal issue. That others have the same issue does not influence our sense of personal affront.

We ask our men to share the parenting and the housework so we can have the time to pursue careers as scientists, artists, academics, and CEOs. When the men fail to deliver, we are upset. We take it personally.

Wrong. When men agree to share parenting and housework, what they are really saying is "I understand what you want, I care for you, I support your dreams, and I'll do this to the extent of my abilities." What we refuse to understand is that civilized man is not able to meet this contract all of the time. And he hasn't been able to for 8000 years.

It's not a personal problem. There is no quick fix, no DIY solution. No solution at all in a country that won't pass the Equal Rights Amendment. If the government refuses to acknowledge the equality of women, how can each of us manifest it alone?

Domestic tranquility is achieved with domestic servants. In their absence the job has fallen to women—because they're stuck at home with children when the men bolt out the door.

In the 1960s when Simone de Beauvior wrote "The Second Sex" and Gloria Steinem publicly took up the cause of feminism, women began to expect an entitlement to careers as scientists, artists, academics, and CEOs. But biology cannot be avoided. Women give birth to babies who need parenting for 20 years. Careers mean deferring childbirth and getting help with childcare and housekeeping. We see our men as the solution. If we can get them to share that work then we will have the time to work at a career. So we ask them to share, they say yes, and eventually we are pissed because they fail to deliver.

This avoidance of the women's sphere began at the start of civilization in 6000 BC. The development of irrigated farming, writing, and specialization let to the separation of men and women and to warfare, kingship, and trade. It is memorialized in the oldest story extant, of Gilgamesh. If it is still with us 8000 years later, it is neither a personal issue nor is it going away in our lifetime.

What to do? Cut each other some slack. Acknowledge that our real anger is not at a broken contract but at an impaired or missed opportunity as an independent woman outside the home. Women want men to help with domestic work so they can go out. So find another way. Public childcare. Subsidized housekeepers. Put the onus on the community—because the man cannot deliver even while he wants to. And when you are considering cohabitation, with or without marriage, require the hiring of a housekeeper and share the expense; if you cannot do that, don't live together. For a woman to move in with a man without the housekeeper is to agree to be the housekeeper yourself, whether or not you realize it. It's easier to deal with this issue before it becomes a fait accompli.

Created: 6-8-2007.