The Case Against Filth And For Some Men To Stop Being Lazy Bums

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Stephen Marche, novelist and all around lazy bum, has a perfect solution for all you wives and common-law wives, nagging about how your spouses needs to help out more around the house: stop nagging and just do less of it.

That’s right ladies! Throw away your mops and brooms; ignore the stray piss on the toilet seat; avoid the cat’s hairball sitting dead center on the living room floor, and let the trash pile up high enough so that it provides perfect shelter for the rats and racoons to nest inside old Ramen noodle styrofoam containers. In a New York Times pieces entitled The Case for Filth, Marche argues that household cleaning is mostly a woman’s thing and that a clean house is truly “a sign of a wasted life.” As such, Marche believes that womenfolks would be better served if they took a more lenient approach to household filth – just like men, who really don’t care nor mind the filth anyway. Obviously, men have other more important things to worry about, like ruminating over how much cleaning and doing chores sucks and so do women for caring about all that so much: 

Think of all the other changes that men have undertaken in the period between 1980 and 2010. Taking care of kids used to be women’s work, too, but now the man with his kids is an icon of manliness. Foodie snobbism has taken on a macho edge in some circles, to the point where the properly brined Thanksgiving turkey can be a status symbol of masculine achievement.“So why won’t men pick up a broom? Why won’t they organize a closet? Why can’t housework be converted — as the former burdens of food preparation and child rearing seem to have been for some men — into a source of manly pride and joy? Why would housework be the particular place to stall? At least one thing is becoming clear: The only possible solution to the housework discrepancy is for everyone to do a lot less of it.” 

Calling household chores “intellectually confounding,” Marche backs up his anti-housework claims by citing research, which shows that men’s participation in housework has been on a backslide since its high of 94 minutes a day in 1998. He also notes a University of Maryland study, which shows that women’s participation in domestic labor, excluding child care and shopping, has also been on a steady decline since 1965. But if the statistical data isn’t enough, Marche probes the existentialist questions around cleanliness, such as, What exactly is the housework? and How should the amount of housework be established? He eventually comes to the conclusion that cleanliness is really subjective and changes with time and space and cites the Romans, who he said were generally tidier than the Renaissance Europeans, as well as women in Iran who view calling their sisters as part of their daily chore list.

In essence, Marche believes that household chores fall under “emotional work” performed more out of guilt than actual health and should be viewed as “macho nonsense of women,” as demonstrated by Martha Stewart, HGTV and other “fetishization of the domestic.” Writes Marche:

Hooray for disinvestment. Caring less is the hope of the future. Housework is perhaps the only political problem in which doing less and not caring are the solution, where apathy is the most progressive and sensible attitude. Fifty years ago, it was perfectly normal to iron sheets and to vacuum drapes. They were “necessary” tasks. The solution to the inequality of dusting wasn’t dividing the dusting; it was not doing the dusting at all.”

If ever there was proof of male privilege – and overall tone-deafness – it would be this essay. So according to Marche’s theories, not only should the household chores be regarded as unimportant and trivial because it is something done less by men, but so should the needs of women, who genuinely desire things like a clean and tidy home (maybe out of personal comfort and possibly out of health concerns). The whole tone of the piece reminds me of those dudes who like to remind single women that the reason why they’re single is because their standards are too high, but actually, the reality is that they are just responding to their own needs in a potential partner and why he, personally, fails to measure up.

Perhaps, if he would have shaved a few paragraphs off this column, Marche might have had time to empty the trash or check off one of the chores his wife has been begging him to do for years. Maybe then he might have understood what many of us unfortunate life-wasters have known for years: Very few people actually like cleaning, but everyone loves a clean house, so of course, the only way to have a clean house is if someone cleans it up.  I know that doesn’t sound very progressive, but really, it’s the same philosophy many of us have with respects to food and cooking; making money and working; getting a college degree and actually doing the boring class reading assignments, and a whole host of uncomfortable hurdles we must get over in order to get to the desired goal. The irony is that despite how wonderful it sounds to forgo all the evil and oppressive ideas we have around doing chores, eventually the egalitarian-utopia of doing nothing will crumble when you and your significant other find yourselves down to your last fork and neither one of you knows how to use those “extra” chopsticks you took from the Chinese restaurant. Through all that wax poetic pondering, Marche’s solutions to the dreaded household chore of course brings us right back to the same question: Who is going to wash dishes this time? Because the question is not “why housework?” but rather, of shared responsibility for doing it.

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