A few years ago*, my current therapist called me a misogynist**. My therapist.
Me. A misogynist.
Me. Women to the front.
Me. A radical feminist.
Me. Loud because I’m a woman and my voice deserves equal decibels.
Me. A womyn.
Me. 2nd wave feminist (the only wave that matters IMO)
And he’s right. I am a misogynist.
At some point we (I) decided that staying at home and looking after a family is a degrading way for a woman to live her life. She could be doing something more meaningful, more “important”. And those who choose – actually choose, mind you, not because they have no other options (lack of
education, meaningful work, meaningful community…) – are doing themselves a disservice. Or they didn’t have anything else to do, like a good career, hobbies…
In fact, I have said, often, just recently, that motherhood destroys the role of women in society. Motherhood is the reason why we don’t have many female chefs, and I don’t mean 25-year-old ingenues. I mean women who have made a lengthy career in their fields and have not had kids, and have had meaningful, altering careers. The Clare Smyths of the kitchen, the Poh Ling Yeows.
At some point we (I) determined that cooking and looking after a family has far less value (far far less value) than doing the exact same in a restaurant.
When it is women’s work, it is called craft. When it is men’s work, it is called art, work. When it’s women’s work, it is called healing and witchcraft, unscientific and old wives’ tales. When it is men’s work, it is called medicine.
I was complicit. At some point we (I) determined that “women’s work” has less value than “men’s work.” That the meal I am making this very day, that will give such real and absolute joy to those who will consume it gratefully, has less real-world value than, say, Gordon Ramsay’s.
At some point I became the person who agreed that women’s work is less significant. That Elon Musk’s Space X is more valuable than my chicken soup. That my mother’s in-home work of keeping us alive, fed, clothed, was not as important as my dad’s in-home work of reading the paper, or understanding the off-side rule.
What is this more “important” work women could be doing?
Working in an office entering data?Being the CEO of a multinational corporation and leading groups of people to help sell products nobody actually needs?
Working in a fast-food chain?
Being a surgeon.
Being a teacher?
Being a nurse?
Being a prime minister?
Being an artist?
Being a baker?
Being a candle maker?
A dairy farmer?
A personal assistant?
I’ve said that anything is better than being a mother, staying at home and looking after her family. In certain circles, when a woman does that, we (I) may whisper “she didn’t like her job anyway.” Or “it wasn’t a great job, what would she go back for?” “Her husband doesn’t want her to go back to work.” Or “she’s a bit lazy anyway.” Or “What’s the point of having kids if you’re just going to dump Lthem in childcare?” Or “look at him, isn’t he wonderful. He’s decided to stay home while his wife
goes back to work.”
I have been so complicit.
There was a time when societies were led by matriarchies. Because, at the most basic level, only the mother and child could be certain of carrying a lineage. That was before DNA testing. But anyway…
There was a time when it actually took a village to raise a child, to feed wanderers, to create the art, grab the water, pick out lice, plant the fields.
An artist I follow on Instagram, Lainey Molnar, recently created a piece of art around the idea that “housework is not women’s work.” I don’t have anything to add to that, because truth is truth. But my counter argument to that is this: Why do we women continue to make it our mission to have perfectly clean, tidy homes? Why does Saturday have to be laundry day? Why does the bed need to be made perfectly, without sheets dangling below the quilt? Men have rarely been brought up to see the untidy mess that most of us have had ingrained since the womb. They aren’t ignoring the work, they literally and viscerally don’t see it or care about ut. I swear to God I’m still shocked when I see memes or artwork such as Lainey’s talking about “housework is not women’s work”. You know who is responsible for keeping up that shit?
Misogynists. And let me tell you, not all misogynists are men.
But the patriarchy does make it easy for this line to continue to be spouted, generation after generation. And the answer is not for women to “nag” (fuck that word) their partners into seeing the mess that they do. The answer is not Slut Walks. The answer is just being kind. And to chill the fuck out. The world won’t end if the laundry isn’t done on Saturdays (although if it’s not done by Monday, it might suck a little).
I like a clean kitchen. Clean enough. I’ll gladly leave a small pile of dishes in the sink overnight. But I, too, am a child of the patriarchy. I would rather cook every single day (which, by the way, I love), than mow the lawn. I’m glad my husband can carry big bags of groceries into the house while I put
things away in the fridge and pantry. But these are roles that we alternate through in a pinch.
Look, I know that I’m looking through the lens of a modern, centre-left, migrant women who got to go to university despite a very narrow upbringing, and who sought and better life, who found a partner next to whom I slide beside comfortably, who is curious. But I’m not so stupid and
unobservant or lacking in empathy that I don’t recognise that not all the world’s women can make the sort of choices I’ve made without behind killed.
I’m learning to respect “women’s work”. To embrace it, actually. I’m working on my sisterhood wounds.
And I’m learning to be still. I wouldn’t recommend it to young women – fuck that, go wild, you’ll have plenty of time to be still.
I read a lot of women writers, watch films about women and women’s work, listen to music by women. Not to virtue signal. But to remind myself of the value of the ordinary, the beauty of the
everyday, and that the simple is actually profound.
I don’t want to compete with anyone anymore, not men, not women. Especially not women—mothers versus non mothers, mothers versus mothers. I just want us all to be here. Each of us taking up equal space, in whatever endeavour we’ve chosen as our life’s work, our life’s pleasure. I don’t want to be a wrecking ball, moving the patriarchal pendulum back to a time when there was just the matriarchy – that ship has sailed. So, what is this middle land? What will it be called, this community where men and women are truly equal? Sweden?
So, am I a reformed ex-misogynist? Is that like being an ex-white supremacist? Or Kanye?
I must ask my therapist.
Even if he still thinks I’m a misogynist, I’ll respect that, him.
*A few years ago” is currently a contentious phrase. It’s all relative to the pandemic.
**I may be overdramatising this a little. I doubt that Mark said to me “Jo, you goddamned misogynist!” It was probably more along the lines of “have you ever wondered if you are a misogynist?” To which I remember, quite clearly, being aghast. It was an audible shock. Me?“