Jo Knows: How Do I Be a Feminist Advocate in My Marriage?

Dear Jo,

I need advice on how to be a feminist as a female in a heterosexual relationship, without putting my partner in a difficult defensive position. I don’t want to play the housewife, but yet I always find myself doing most of the necessary things at home while my husband works (and also earns more than me). I’ve been thinking of hiring someone to clean, my partner is in agreement, but I’ve always believed it’s easy enough to clean and save the money for something better. How do I be a feminist advocate, not perpetuate stereotypes, but also be a good, loving and caring to my partner?


The Feminist Housewife 


Dear FH,

Any of my friends (and a good number of people who are not my friends) will tell you that I am an aggressive feminist. Like, stand on my soapbox, raising my voice, quoting Gloria Stienham, fist-shaking feminist. And proudly, I might add. My husband will attest to my propensity for deriding magazine covers (loudly) at the supermarket, as well as pointedly telling the man in line, no I will not smile, and you can suck it, sir. Open confrontation is not my husband’s jam, so needless to say a lot of this used to (and still does) make him super uncomfortable. And on the other side, I used to get peeved with him for not being as outraged as I was over every Cosmo cover we came across. One night, we were watching a TV show that was reasonably entertaining. The plot centered around a childish guy who hooks up with a woman, who immediately starts trying to get him to clean up his act. She shrilly demands he clean his bathroom (how dare she) when all he wants to do is drink some beers! After the show finishes, I turned to my husband and said, “We can watch this, and it can be funny and entertaining, but I need to know that you see why this is problematic.” And he totally did. Phew.

Here is my point in all this: awareness is all. Being a feminist, as a man or a woman, is not only tied to what you do, but how you think. You can read Twilight and enjoy the hell out of it – it doesn’t mean you aren’t a strong woman. Similarly, falling into more traditional gender roles does not send you back to the 1950s. Generally, these things happen because it’s what makes sense for your home and partnership. Now, all that being said, just because it’s pragmatic doesn’t make it suck any less. If getting a cleaner will make you feel better, it is money well spent. Your other option is to ask your partner to pitch in a bit with the housework. My husband works fulltime and is our breadwinner, but we also put aside a few hours every weekend to clean or run errands together. Your partner could be responsible for dinner one night a week, or in charge of cleaning the bathroom – just something to make you feel less like the maid. And hey, even Wonder Woman has to scrub the toilet in the invisible plane – it doesn’t mean she can’t kick Superman’s ass.

Do you feel undervalued at work? Hate your boss? Crush on your coworker? Next week I will be writing about problems in the work place – write in with your career conundrums!

Jo Knows is an advice column where my dear friend, Joanna, tackles any and all of your questions every other week. Nothing is off the table (think: sex, depression, career, family, dating, etc), and all questions will be published anonymously. Email hi3chairs at gmail dot com.

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