No one is a goddamn melon, already!

A short rant*: I hate, hate, hate the phrase “Honey Do” lists. Absolutely cannot stand it. It’s like nagging renamed by a consumer focus group so that it doesn’t sound so petulant and to give marketers an opportunity to sell various reminder items in light green and pale orange color schemes.

If you’re an adult involve in maintaining a household with a partner, there’s going to be upkeep and household repair projects involved of varying descriptions and intensity. To have the wife/girlfriend generate this cutesy named list for things for that are a standard part of running household for the husband/boyfriend to do just grinds at my soul. Notice, too, that the kinds of things that are supposed to be on a Honey Do list are more like projects that can be undertaken at semi-leisurely intervals. None of them are the repetitive tasks which are required to keep a household running on a day to day basis. Two adults should be able to have a discussion with one’s partner, agree that certain tasks need to be accomplished, and figure out a way to split up the work. None of this having a wife generate chores for a husband who then pouts about needing to contribute.**

Thanks, I feel better now.

*Please forgive the hetero/cis focus of this post, which is really kind of esoteric anyway.

**Pretty much the entire conversation I overheard this morning which inspired this rant.

Author: has written 55 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

45 Responses

  1. Henry
    Henry August 10, 2010 at 12:36 am |

    thank you. such divisions are sexist – if it involves tools, lawns or the threat of injury from the tools, it’s automatically “man work” if it invloves cleaning or children it’s automatically “woman work”. Women can use tools, and men can clean things just as well.

  2. scrumby
    scrumby August 10, 2010 at 12:45 am |

    I had a friend by one of those notepads as a house warming present for me and my roommate. At the top it has a cute little cat in an apron saying “honey please do…” and a space below to fill in the request. This morning it was “if you don’t cut the grass by the time I get home I’m selling you to pirates.”

  3. Lasciel
    Lasciel August 10, 2010 at 2:07 am |

    I’d never heard of such a thing before o.o
    And I thank God for that.

  4. Clarissa
    Clarissa August 10, 2010 at 3:24 am |

    That’s the first time I ever heard about this strange practice. It sounds very weird that one adult would give a list of chores to another adult as if they were a recalcitrant child in need of being disciplined. This must skew a relationship in a really unhealthy direction.

    And then people wonder why the passion dies in their relationships.

  5. S
    S August 10, 2010 at 6:54 am |

    “Two adults should be able to have a discussion with one’s partner, agree that certain tasks need to be accomplished, and figure out a way to split up the work.”

    Isn’t that the function of a Honey Do list? For every couple I know who has one, the couple had previously agreed that one individual is in charge of the household and day-to-day tasks, and the other agreed to do the larger-scale maintenance projects. The work had already been split up and assigned ahead of time based on the type of labor and the amount of time necessary to complete it. It makes total sense for the individual in charge of the household – and who will have more occasion to notice things like leaking pipes, damaged siding, or a problem with the car’s brake lights – to just let the other party know what needs to be done. It’s not so much different than the primary cook keeping a grocery list so the other partner knows what to buy at the store.

    As for criticisms of the assumption that men will be “recalcitrant” about doing domestic work…. Well, with very few exceptions every man I know above the age of forty is recalcitrant about domestic labor, and if you ask many older wives they often had significant problems getting their husbands to do any sort of household maintenance. It’s a function of privilege. That doesn’t mean that the work breakdown wasn’t agreed upon by both parties. And to say that reminding some privileged, self-entitled person, who doesn’t want to work, about their household obligations is “nagging”…. Seriously? Nagging? Saying the men are being treated like “children”? This is straight out of the bowling club complaints about wives in a stereotypical ’60s sitcom. Why not just go full out and talk about those “harping” “shrews”?

  6. Astrid
    Astrid August 10, 2010 at 7:09 am |

    I had heard of honey do lists, but have never known anyone personally who used them, thank goodness. In my opinion, if a couple can’t negotiate housework, there is a serious problem in their relationship. Doesn’t matter really whether it’s the man doing typical man tasks or whether it’s the man not contributing at all, or the woman n ot contributing at all, etc., or even if the honey do lists are perfectly egalitarian. The point is that couples should be able to negotiate household chores amongst themselves, taking into account each partner’s abilities and inabilities.

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2010 at 7:20 am |

    Eh, we use them for various things around our house. Mainly because my SO is the epitome of the absent minded professor…he can remember his birthday (usually) and our anniversary (always) but other than that…he has to be reminded of pretty much everything that falls outside his daily/weekly routine including major holidays. We tried calendars, email reminders…nothing worked until I realized he pays absolutely no attention to the days of the month. If you say something is on the 11th…he’ll remember that its on the 11th…but he doesn’t necessarily realize that today is the 10th…or that its August. So we have modified a few of the honey do lists magnet thingies (he purchased) for the things that are scheduled for today, another for tomorrow and another for later this week.

    I suppose I could stop and he’d be forced to take responsibility for maintaining this stuff (I mean he did it somehow before we were together), but then again…I used to cook before we were together. Now my cooking is relegated to “spinning the lettuce” or otherwise following his instructions. So I figure it all evens out. He stinks at scheduling so I’m responsible for scheduling. I stink at cooking so he’s responsible for meals. He hates dealing with finances, I hate cleaning toilets. After a decade we’ve sorted out the life chores pretty much evenly.

    I completely agree the marketing is sexist, but I’m glad they have things that stick so firmly to the fridge. And sometimes even in balanced relationships someone assigns the other person tasks. There is nothing inherently sexist in the ways in which people arrange their lives…just in the expectation that we should arrange our lives in certain ways.

  8. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin August 10, 2010 at 7:27 am |

    My partner and I are usually pretty good about delegating household chores. Granted, ours is pretty atypical, wherein I do most of the cooking and grocery shopping, but when work needs to be done the both of us divide it equally.

    I’m more insistent upon keeping a very clean house than she is, but once I begin working on one part of the apartment, she is good to clean another. So there wouldn’t be any need for such a list with us.

  9. Jesse
    Jesse August 10, 2010 at 7:34 am |

    Honestly, I don’t see the problem of “Honey Do” lists. My parents have used one for as long as I can remember.

    My Dad is a very forgetful person. He looses track of time in projects, and at times projects that need to be done are missed. It would frustrate my Mom to no end that she was trying to keep track of his stuff and her stuff.

    Their solution was a “Honey Do” list. It’s kept on the fridge. My Dad looks and does the next item on the list. Then he crosses it off. It keeps him on track, and my Mom doesn’t need to remind/monitor his progress.

    This is my take: in relationships those who want partnerships will find a way to make it equitable between each other. Those who want to nag or pout will find a way to do so. A “Honey Do” list can be used by either group. It’s your perspective that changes the meaning.

  10. Heather Aurelia
    Heather Aurelia August 10, 2010 at 7:59 am |

    Tell me about it. Ryan doesn’t do anything anymore ever since he started working nights. I wouldn’t necessarily call my list to give him “Honey Do” because well, we call each other Honey or Sweetheart. Yuck!
    He is my Chub Cub and I am his Bean.
    Long story!

  11. Heather Aurelia
    Heather Aurelia August 10, 2010 at 8:15 am |

    *we don’t call each other ‘Honey.’

    damn typo demons. Lol.

  12. thiswoman
    thiswoman August 10, 2010 at 9:47 am |

    I’m not a big fan of “Honey Do” lists either. I think they serve to enforce the woman as household overfunctioner, and men as the underfunctioners. The more women manage the less men have to.

    Which is not to say we don’t have lists. We have two magnetic thingys on the fridge, (one of which is headed, “Don’t fuck this up!”). One to keep track of the grocery list, and one to keep track of longer term things. The long term list doesn’t belong to anyone – stuff just gets crossed off by whomever, as it gets done.

  13. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 10, 2010 at 10:27 am |

    What offends me about it is not the concept of a list of chores that need doing. That’s actually a great idea. What offends me is the ideas packed into it:

    – men are incapable of noticing that something is broken (I mean, it’s one thing if the broken item is something that only a person performing the traditional women’s chores would notice, like a damaged shelf in the laundry room, but a light switch won’t work? The pantry doesn’t shut? The lawn needs mowing? Seriously, men need to be told this is a problem?)

    – on top of all the chores women already have, they’re supposed to keep track of their husband’s chores list too?

    – but they are not the boss? so they don’t get to actually tell him what to do and have him do it, they have to wheedle and beg and nag and go, “Honeeey, could you do blah blah blah?”

    – and then the men get to whine about the honey do list and their wives are always nagging and they’re so manipulative and waah waah waah?

    I mean, yes, given that male privilege exists, I *know* this dynamic is an accurate reflection of what really does go on in many households. But giving it the cutesy name of “honey do” to mask the fact that not only are men studiedly incompetent at running the day to day household chores but they are actually incompetent at keeping track of their *own* work as well is just repulsive. Why don’t we call it what it is? The “Dumbass, Get Off Your Butt and Do Something Around Here for Once In Your Life” list? Or how about the “Magic Fairies Won’t Fix The Light Switch” list? Or maybe the “You Know I Might Possibly Be Inclined To Mow the Lawn Once Or Twice For You If You Stopped Asking For A Cookie Every Goddamn Time You Empty The Dishwasher Which Let’s Face It You Do About Three Times A Year” list? (Oh, I’m sorry, am I bitter?)

    Men are grownups. They should not need to be wheedled into doing their chores. If there’s a job that explicitly belongs to you, and you know it, and you’re not doing it, you don’t deserve “Honey, could you please maybe squeeze fixing the bathroom shelf into your busy schedule?” You deserve “Hey, I’m calling a repair guy to fix the bathroom shelf because you wouldn’t do it, and he estimates it’s going to cost about $300, but he can’t come out until Friday so if you want to save the money get it done by then.” Or maybe just “No, I didn’t wash your socks. You didn’t fix the bathroom shelf any of the last 700 times I asked, why should I wash your socks for you? I’m going to fix the bathroom shelf, and you’re washing your own socks from now on.”

    Personally I think it is bullshit that there are “women’s chores” and “men’s chores” in the first place. I mean, okay, putting up drywall requires physical strength and size, and as a 5’0″ weakling I cannot do it. But I can mow a lawn, and I’d be fine with mowing a lawn if I didn’t also have to wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, take out the trash… or at the very least keep track of all these chores in my head so I can tell other people, such as children, to do them. I leave certain chores for my husband to do because they *do* require physical strength, which I have less of than he does, and because I am doing other chores all the damn time. But I will be damned if I have to keep track of *his* chores. I’ve got enough of my own to keep track of.

  14. Shoshie
    Shoshie August 10, 2010 at 10:49 am |

    Yeesh, I feel so grateful right now for my relationship. We’re moving right now, and husband is stronger than me, so he did carry most of the heavy boxes up our 2 flights of stairs. And I did work on the kitchen. But decisions about the kitchen’s setup are mutual because *gasp* we both cook! And, once he was done lugging boxes, he went to work doing laundry. Because it needed to get done. Wow. And after dinner, he started on the dishes, because I’m better at organizing and unpacking than he is. It’s almost like we divided labor based on our skill sets, rather than our genders! What a novel concept!

    So I feel like the honey do lists have potential in a relationship where one or both of the partners are forgetful (yup, that’s us). But in households where there’s already an imbalance in workload, the “Honey do” thing just seems to enforce the patriarchy. Especially by giving it a cutsey name. Because women are always trying to be cute. If it was a man’s list, it would have some “clever” sexist name. Guh.

  15. Jim
    Jim August 10, 2010 at 11:24 am |

    Alara,

    That’s one take on it. But this is just as much about the Lady of the House giving up controlling the house as much as it is about who forgets to do the chores. Why does she get to say what needs to be done? The point is about deciding what works needs to be done and who will do it, and as Fizz points out:

    “None of this having a wife generate chores for a husband who then pouts about needing to contribute…”

    “Personally I think it is bullshit that there are “women’s chores” and “men’s chores” in the first place. I mean, okay, putting up drywall requires physical strength and size, and as a 5′0″ weakling. But I can mow a lawn, and I’d be fine with mowing a lawn if I didn’t also have to wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook dinner, put the kids to bed, take out the trash…”

    Here we totally agree. Laundry and dishes especially. I always did all the cooking even when i was married to a woman (partnered with a man now) because I cared more about it though me ex was decently capable. But again…let’s take doing the laundry. If you are going to have the other person do the laundry, don’t insist that it become a tea ceremony – back upm off of control of then situation. And if that means some clothes get ruined, maybe the answer is to look at clothing choices. Whole nother topic.

    “I mean, okay, putting up drywall requires physical strength and size, and as a 5′0″ weakling. ‘

    People your size build Stonehenge. They built the Pyramids and Angkor Wat. Don’t low-rate yourself on drywalling. In fact people your size, from Oaxaca or wherever, are doing that work probably in your very town right now.

  16. me and not you
    me and not you August 10, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    Is the issue the chore list, or the fact that it is usually considered the female’s task to tell the man what to do around the house?

    I am pro lists. I am a list maker. I also forget everything. I swear if my birthday wasn’t five days after christmas I would forget when it was (even then half the time I forget by the time it gets to my bday). A “honey do” list is just a cutesy to do list. If one partner notices something to be done around the house, but they can’t get to it then, for whatever reason, there’s nothing wrong with them jotting down a note for the other to see.

    The problem is the social construction of men working outside on ‘man’ projects etc, while women keep house blahblahblah bs. That doesn’t really have anything to do with the list at all.

  17. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    If you are going to have the other person do the laundry, don’t insist that it become a tea ceremony – back off of control of then situation.

    You know, I’m sure there are people who are in fact control freaks that demand that a job be done to their exact specifications… but the fact that this is *always* proposed as advice as to how to get your (male) partner to do chores that you (a female) usually do is really, really irritating the shit out of me. Because, in my experience, men do this “You demand that the job be done to exact specifications!” thing as a way of getting out of the chore.

    I, personally, do not demand that chores be done to exact specifications. I don’t care how they’re done. I just want them done right. Laundry, for instance. We have perfectly normal laundry. There are a very very small number of delicates that almost never come up in a regular laundry run, and everything else is whites, lights and darks. The only person in the house who is a tender flower about his special clothes is my husband, who wants his shirts not to be wrinkled and doesn’t want to have to iron them himself, and is allergic to many brands of detergent. No one else has clothes that even show wrinkles.

    All you need to know to wash most of the clothes in my house is: don’t wash colors with whites in hot water (which every single adult person should know, and if they didn’t know, they should find out the very first time they make that mistake and never make it again), and know how to read so you can make out what the dials say. There’s a lot of more specialized stuff I know how to do, but anyone who follows those two simple rules can successfully do 90% of the laundry in my house. But my husband claims he cannot do the laundry because “I own it” and thus he “doesn’t understand my system.” There’s no frigging system! I don’t do crap with oh, starch this, and iron that, and this needs to be washed in a cycle that lasts exactly 17 minutes, and whatnot… just throw the damn clothes in, set it to colds unless it’s all white, put in the detergent and press the button!

    Meanwhile, my son engages in creative incompetence in order to not do chores. Such as, when putting laundry in the wash, drop about a sixth of it on the laundry room floor. Then, when putting laundry in the dryer, drop another sixth. Then walk all over the clothes you dropped. Then don’t tell anyone that the dryer is done, and don’t take the clothes out yourself, and if you do take them out yourself, dump them in a dirty laundry basket because “there weren’t any other baskets”, and then don’t tell anyone you did it. And don’t forget to drop more laundry!

    If other people cannot do the laundry competently, when the rules are very simple, it’s probably because they have such contempt for the job that they are either deliberately refusing to learn or they don’t care. Also, they have contempt for you. I mean, I have sympathy for the cases where someone has a job for you and it’s really really complicated and since you rarely do it of course you don’t remember exactly how and then they take your head off… but I have never *met* anyone who acted that way, and I personally think the frequently proposed advice to women to “back off” and let men do the laundry the way they want to do it is a. insulting to men (poor stupid guys can’t figure out how to do laundry! They need to do a simpler job, like rocket science!) b. insulting to women (of course, every time a woman tries to explain the proper way to do a job to a man, she’s a shrill castrating harpy) and c. insulting to the job (if you were employed, and you told your employer that you wouldn’t do the job you were assigned unless you could do it the way you feel comfortable with doing it, which means on your schedule and with your methodology, how long would you keep your job?)

    I think men feign incompetence and then blame women for being too demanding. In fact your post sort of suggests it: And if that means some clothes get ruined, maybe the answer is to look at clothing choices. Um, yeah, if someone keeps washing whites with darks in hot water, maybe there shouldn’t be whites in the house. Oh, wait, who are the majority consumers of white socks, t-shirts, and underpants? Hmm… Oh, did you mean that women’s frilly lacy delicate things would get ruined if they weren’t washed right? Oh, those women and their complicated silly clothes! No important manly man would have clothes with silly washing rules, like “iron this business shirt or it will wrinkle”, or “dry clean these suit pants because they are woolen”, or “don’t put this cardigan in the dryer or it will shrink”, or “don’t wash the tighty whities with a red towel on hot or they’ll be tighty pinkies.” The truth is, the job needs to be done, and it needs to be done right. And yeah, I’m sure there are women with ludicrously high standards for the right way to do the job, but again, I don’t know any. Most of the time, if women explain complex rules for washing something, it’s because the thing in question requires complex treatment… and cutting clothes with complex treatment out of your life includes don’t ever wear business attire or anything white.

    People your size build Stonehenge. They built the Pyramids and Angkor Wat. Don’t low-rate yourself on drywalling. In fact people your size, from Oaxaca or wherever, are doing that work probably in your very town right now.

    The people who built Stonehenge, the Pyramids and Angkor Wat undoubtedly had tools and building materials that were designed for people my size. I could lay bricks more easily than I could hang drywall, because bricks are *small*. They’re heavy, but humans have designed great tools for dealing with heavy. I could put a lot of them in a wheelbarrow, push them where I need to go, lay them, and climb on a stepladder when the wall gets above my head. I don’t actually have to get my arms around something that is longer than my armspan in its shortest dimension. The sizing of drywall is really, really inconvenient for a 5’0″ person because longways, drywall is 8’0″, and shortways, it’s 4’0″, so there’s no convenient direction where you can get your arms around it and still get it through doorways.

    I don’t know many men who are 5’0″ even if I count Asian men and Hispanic men, but I’m pretty sure that if there are a bunch of men who are 5’0″, they work in teams with like-sized men. They don’t have to work with people who are a foot taller, significantly stronger, and who blame them for not being able to balance the load in the same proportion or at the same level. I could hang drywall in a team of women, but if my husband wants to hang drywall he can do it alone or get someone his height to help.

    Construction, in general, is designed for people who are not just stronger than me but *taller* than me. In countries where people are consistently close to my height, the traditional construction methods probably are adapted for people my height, and in this country, short guys don’t do the work either unless it’s their profession, in which case they work in groups. The individual do-it-yourselfer is at an extreme disadvantage if they are abnormally short for an adult man (which includes a large, large number of women who are not in fact abnormally short for women, as well as some number of men). There’s plenty of women who can do do-it-yourselfer projects with construction materials designed for tall people because they are of a perfectly reasonable height for a Western white man or because it’s their job and they do it for a living all the time, but given two amateurs who don’t know much about construction trade, if one is 5’0″ and the other is 6’0″ the 6’0″ person is going to find it *much* easier.

  18. figleaf
    figleaf August 10, 2010 at 1:03 pm |

    It’s not so much the concept of an ongoing projects list that’s the problem, as various commenters have made clear. And yeah, if you’ve got a near-Asperger’s partner then they’re going to need a lot of supervision regardless of gender. And if the list is just a cache of previously negotiated tasks or one that all parties contribute to then what’s the problem.

    Thing is those are rarely called “honey do” lists.

    Another couple of things: I don’t know about these days but a generation or so ago it was predominantly a male term, heard mainly around hardware stores, poker games, or golf-courses to refer to things men had to do for their wives on weekends before they could “go out and play.” And at least before “honey do” became an evident marketing phrase, I doubt many women spoke of the projects they either needed help with or wanted done in those terms.

    Anyway, I’m with Evil Fizz that it’s an egregious term: if nothing else the supplicating “honey will you please do…” construction just reeks of institutionalized gender dependence.

    There’s also the bit where classic “honey” do lists rarely contain male-instigated projects, which can include stereotypically male tasks like aerating the lawn or as neutral as organizing boxes in the basement. Instead they’re typically limited to things the woman doesn’t just want done but wants her partner to do.

    In other words the idea of “honey do” lists dangerously canonizes the notion that, no matter how egalitarian (or not) day to day tasks might become, women are ultimately responsible for master-planning domestic infrastructure.

    To which I say “eww!”

    (Note to fizz: in a lot of households, domestic and dorm-room alike, day to day stuff goes on “chore charts” not “honey do” lists. But it’s worth noticing that in dorm rooms and roommate situations lists of incidental projects are never called “honey do” lists. All the more reason not to use it the term in hetero domestic settings.)

    figleaf

  19. Sprout
    Sprout August 10, 2010 at 2:57 pm |

    @ Alara – yes, yes, YES. I was starting to get annoyed at all the comments explaining how “honey do” lists are not such a bad thing, and was starting to compose a post like yours in my head, but then I got to your post and you said it all, and better than I could, and with more experience to back it up. /end run-on sentence. I’m not married and don’t have a partner of any sort, but I hate the idea of a honey do list, and cringe when I hear other married friends and acquaintances make cutesy little jokes about them. It’s not the list of chores, or even so much that it’s typically the woman that makes the list (though that’s a problem too), it’s the name. The cutesy awful name. Like you said, it implies a relationship where the woman has to beg and plead “Honey, pleeeeeeeaase can you do ___?” It puts her in that position of having to be sweet and cute and deferential in order to get something from her husband. Which, yuck.

  20. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm |

    Sprout: It puts her in that position of having to be sweet and cute and deferential in order to get something from her husband. Which, yuck.

    Again, I think people are conflating things. If I want my SO to do something that is actually my responsibility (like washing my car) then yeah, I ask him nicely and deferentially. He sometimes says no and I suck it up and wash my own car. Or he washes my car if I vacuum the stairs (an all around hated household task). If he wants me to do something that is actually his responsibility, like grocery shopping, he asks me nicely and deferentially. Sometimes I say no and either he sucks it up and goes or we eat whatever is left in the house.

    Power structures in relationships are more complicated than “1950s roles for upper-middle class white women are bad” or “being deferential is bad” or “not sharing laundry is bad” or any chore is bad. Unbalanced relationships are bad…period. If two (or more) people find their balance in traditional roles…good for them. If they share power differently….good for them. This all or nothing categorization is useless. If it bugs you that your husband won’t mow the damn lawn or wash the laundry unless you ask him 40 million times then that’s a problem with the relationship not with lists, honey do or otherwise.

  21. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 10, 2010 at 4:30 pm |

    Again, I think people are conflating things. If I want my SO to do something that is actually my responsibility (like washing my car) then yeah, I ask him nicely and deferentially.

    But here is the problem. The concept of the “honey do” list is that you are asking him nicely and deferentially to do things that are *not* your responsibility. They are either joint responsibilities that both of you ought to be doing, or, if you have organized a traditional gender-based division of labor where he does “man’s work” like handyman stuff, they are *his* responsibilities. So why do you have to wheedle him into doing them?

    Yes. If you want your partner to do you a favor, ask nicely. This is kind of obvious. But the “honey do” list manages to take the noxious concept of “a household where tasks are divided on traditional gender lines” and add to it the *further* noxiousness of “him doing his job is a FAVOR for you.” If mowing the lawn is the man’s job, then shouldn’t he own it? Shouldn’t he keep track of when the lawn needs mowing? If fixing the light switch is the man’s job, and he doesn’t know it needs fixing, shouldn’t you just have to tell him once and then it’s on his task radar and he will take care of it because his job, his responsibility, his ownership?

    This construct essentially treats men as employees of their wives, where she directs his tasks even when it’s his “job” — but since she is subservient to him and not the other way around, even *though* he is her employee, she doesn’t get to just tell him to do it and have it done like she was the boss; she has to wheedle and ask him for it as a favor. She’s in charge of the job getting done, she’s in charge of the tasking, therefore she’s the executive — he’s the grunt who does the job. But she has to beg?

    Let’s see what happens when people who are in charge of assigning tasks to others who hold the responsibility of carrying out the tasks use honey do language!

    Generals:
    “Hey, sweeties, could y’all do me a big, big favor and march to the mountain pass? And then when you get there, could you hold it for me? It would be really helpful if you could keep the enemy from breaking through there!”

    Doctors:
    “Nurse, if you don’t have anything else going on, could you please hand me that scalpel? Oh, and also, I would totally love it if you’d get me the sterile tweezers. And six cc’s of saline solution! Could you do that for me?”

    Boss in an office:
    “Honey, when you get a chance, I really need those figures for the quarterly report. You think you could get those together for me this week? That would be awesome if you could. And also, if you don’t have the billing projections for next quarter yet, I would love it if you could get those to me, please?”

    It is not a favor to your boss to do your job. *Either* the assignment is yours, you own it, and you decide when and how you do it (and if other people are depending on you to get it done, they are totally in their rights to get angry that you dropped the ball), or the assignment is not yours, your role is just to do the jobs you’re given within the parameters of your work role, in which case the person assigning the job IS THE BOSS, and should not need to be sweetly deferential to you. Either way, someone should not need to ask it of you as a favor.

    The only construct where the “honey do” list makes sense is where *all* responsibilities are on the woman, and every single job in the house is hers, but because she’s a poor incompetent little weak woman, she can’t possibly do the parts of her job that involve big strong manly work like screwdrivers, so she needs to beg and plead with her man to intervene and save her. In this construct, it’s the woman’s job to do *everything* but she has been disempowered to do certain tasks, even though they’re assigned to her, so she needs to beg the man for his help.

    This is where the mindset of the “honey do” list comes from. This is where the idea that you need to wheedle and ask nicely and plead with someone to do jobs around the house you both live in that you are unable to do comes from. Everything is the woman’s responsibility, and the man doesn’t actually have to do anything, so she needs to beg for his help when she hits a wall where there’s something she can’t do. (Meanwhile other patriarchal forces are busy designing all the tools in such a way as to make it even harder for her to do the job if she chose to, and also putting enormous societal pressures on her to inhibit her from even learning how to do it or believing she might be capable. So she’s going to be in the position of having to beg her man to do parts of “her” job that she is incapable of doing, the parts that have been assigned by culture to people with penises, ALL THE TIME. I suspect that is a feature, not a bug.)

    The issue is not the list. Making a chores list that everyone turns to is a good idea. The issue is the *name*, because embedded in the name “honey do list” is the concept of the wheedling/nagging wife giving the henpecked man assignments, much to his chagrin and eye-rolling, where he can’t go out for a beer with the guys until he’s completed the little woman’s honey do list! Whereas, you know, no one drew up the list for her that had “cook dinner”, “wash dishes”, “do laundry”, “vacuum rugs”, “sweep floor”, and “put babies to bed”, but she can’t go out with her gal pals until she’s done all those things, either; it’s just that she doesn’t get to blame it on someone else telling her that she has to do her job before she has fun. She’s just expected to know.

  22. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 10, 2010 at 7:23 pm |

    Alara Rogers: The issue is the *name*, because embedded in the name “honey do list” is the concept of the wheedling/nagging wife giving the henpecked man assignments, much to his chagrin and eye-rolling, where he can’t go out for a beer with the guys until he’s completed the little woman’s honey do list!

    This is your construction and not universal. I actually have friends in very good, balanced relationship where she is responsible for absolutely everything in the house (plus she’s a part-time child psychologist) and he is responsible for absolutely everything out of the house (which is a lot, considering he’s a farmer). She has a honey do list…they call it that…they like it…it works for them. When she needs something done that she can’t do, she puts in it on his honey do list…he has 14 days and then she calls a professional. If he doesn’t do it…its not a sign of disrespect. It’s a sign that there are other things he thought were more important. Just like when he asks her to help with the chickens or the horses she can say no, and it’s not because his vocation isn’t valuable…its just that she has other things to do.

    Like I said…you’re interpreting honey do lists in a certain way that I think conflates a particular type of relationship with how the relationship is organized. Women having to nag men to get them “help” with chores is, regardless of what you call it, indicative of a problem in the relationship. The problem is not HOW she nags.

    The dynamic of someone saying “here is a list of chores I’d like you to do around the house, please” is not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced. A woman being completely responsible for home maintenance is not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced. A woman having to ask her partner to mow the lawn…not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced. All of these things can happen in a perfectly balanced relationship which is why I think you’re conflating. You’re talking about these arrangements as if the arrangements are wrong. They aren’t…they’re just ways people can choose to structure their lives.

    Also, some of us DO ask those we supervise very nicely. Orders can be easily couched as requests…

  23. Cactus Wren
    Cactus Wren August 10, 2010 at 9:43 pm |

    It’s forty years — forty years! — since Pat Mainardi’s classic article The Politics of Housework

  24. Sprout
    Sprout August 10, 2010 at 9:57 pm |

    Once again, ditto on everything Alara Rogers just wrote.

    1. Jill
      Jill August 10, 2010 at 10:40 pm | *

      This is your construction and not universal. I actually have friends in very good, balanced relationship where she is responsible for absolutely everything in the house (plus she’s a part-time child psychologist) and he is responsible for absolutely everything out of the house (which is a lot, considering he’s a farmer). She has a honey do list…they call it that…they like it…it works for them. When she needs something done that she can’t do, she puts in it on his honey do list…he has 14 days and then she calls a professional. If he doesn’t do it…its not a sign of disrespect. It’s a sign that there are other things he thought were more important. Just like when he asks her to help with the chickens or the horses she can say no, and it’s not because his vocation isn’t valuable…its just that she has other things to do.

      It is certainly not Alara’s personal construction that “Honey Do” lists are marketed towards women telling men what chores need to be done. The fact that your relationship or your friends’ relationships may be outliers does not invalidate her point. Also, that she has to make him a list and then has to call a “professional” if he doesn’t pull his fair share because there are things he thought were more important? That assumes that he is the final authority on what is more important around the house, and that if he doesn’t pull his fair share then it’s still her problem to get someone else to come in an do it. Because of course it’s inherently her responsibility and not his. Do you seriously not see the problem here?

      The dynamic of someone saying “here is a list of chores I’d like you to do around the house, please” is not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced. A woman being completely responsible for home maintenance is not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced.

      Ok, except nothing is really “inherent” in a society that has a long history of women being responsible for the home life. These things can happen in a perfectly balanced relationship. And you know, a man can also hit a woman in an inherently balanced relationship — maybe they hit each other, equally as hard, and equally as often! I’m being polemic, but my point is, nothing happens in a vacuum. And if we all took your perspective and divorced everything from context and history, well… there would be no feminist movement. This blog wouldn’t exist. It would just be a bunch of us shrugging our shoulders and saying “Not MY Nigel!”

      Which is basically what you’re doing here.

  25. figleaf
    figleaf August 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm |

    @Alara: “This construct essentially treats men as employees of their wives, where she directs his tasks even when it’s his “job” — but since she is subservient to him and not the other way around, even *though* he is her employee, she doesn’t get to just tell him to do it and have it done like she was the boss; she has to wheedle and ask him for it as a favor. She’s in charge of the job getting done, she’s in charge of the tasking, therefore she’s the executive — he’s the grunt who does the job. But she has to beg?”

    Thank you, that’s what rubs me wrong about the name.

    I happen to think a lot of women really do still take ownership of domestic process and not just have it thrust on them. And I really do think it’s a notion that a lot of people, both men and women, have to get past. But making the official term a stereotype-reinforcing is not a step in the right direction!

    That said, I guess if Kristen J and others are right that the the name is sort of a dead metaphor gender-wise compared to generations ago (and hey, if the notes are blue-green instead of pink, maybe… I dunno.) I guess I could let it go with a perpetual eye roll instead of the sort of blackboard-fingernailing reaction it gives me now. I just don’t think it’s true for enough people.

    figleaf

  26. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm |

    I’m really rather confused by the defense of the Honey Do list. Do pernicious gender stereotypes magically go away if we just ignore them or pretend they aren’t applicable?

    Side notes:
    I had never heard of Honey Do lists until I moved to Georgia and Sonny Perdue (our governor) ran ads talking about a Sonny Do list. I was so confused and thought my governor had no grasp of English–I kept yelling at my TV, “WHAT exactly are you going to do? For the love of god, finish the damn sentence!”)

    Also, whenever I hear the word “honey do” (or “honeydew” as I prefer to render it), I just get visions of unripe hotel fruit.

  27. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil August 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm |

    The dynamic of someone saying “here is a list of chores I’d like you to do around the house, please” is not inherently sexist, wrong or unbalanced.

    It’s unbalanced: there’s one partner dictating what chores need to be done when and by whom.

  28. lilacsigil
    lilacsigil August 10, 2010 at 11:52 pm |

    I’d never heard of these – probably because “do” and “dew” are not homonyms in an Australian accent – but that doesn’t mean the very same gendered dynamic isn’t alive and well here.

  29. Kaz
    Kaz August 11, 2010 at 1:07 am |

    Regarding lists:

    If I had a partner, I would probably really benefit from a list where they wrote down the things I should be doing. This is because I am really, really bad at that sort of organisational stuff, and when I say really bad, I mean I have a disability of which one of the symptoms is difficulty with planning and executing tasks. Living on my own throws up some… interesting challenges. (Note: am female, so, you know, hurrah for sexist gender role expectations that say women can’t have these issues.)

    However! If my hypothetical partner tried to wheedle or beg for me to do this stuff, I would actually be really offended. Because, you know, I may have serious trouble with everything related to getting-stuff-done but I am still a reasoning human being and I know that these things have to happen and that them not happening has consequences and that they’re also my responsibility. Having them act like they expected me to treat doing my job like a favour or something seems like it’d be incredibly patronising and condescending.

  30. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 11, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    FashionablyEvil,

    I think the reason this may not be making sense is because we and a lot of my partnered friends actually sit down at a table and explicitly divide up the chores. It’s my responsibility to do X, Y, and Z. Its not our shared responsibility. Its solely my responsibility. If I want him to do X, then I ask nicely. Because it is a favor. And a list of favors even if they are chores aren’t unbalanced. The other person can always say No, I won’t wash your car or go to the bank.

    And yes, where chores are negotiated I do think pernicious gender stereotypes are irrelevant. My SO doesn’t expect me to maintain his schedule because its my wifely duty, he expects me to do it because its one of the areas we negotiated that I would handle. Just like dealing with all repair persons is his job not because he is male, but because he agreed to it.

    Which is why I find these all or nothing categorizations are useless on an interpersonal level. Honey do lists are macrolevel sexist…the marketing is idiotic, but on the interpersonal level they’re just tools.

  31. Jim
    Jim August 11, 2010 at 2:29 pm |

    “You know, I’m sure there are people who are in fact control freaks that demand that a job be done to their exact specifications… but ”

    Yes yes yes. Yes to the whole rest of that part of your comment. Especially that bit about your son’s artful incompetence. I hope he hasn’t been getting tips from mine. And husabdnas definitely do this shit too.

    As for the construction, I would giove you the proper tools and you are also right that these days everything is made for 5’6″ and up. Hand tools are too big for hands your size. I can’t always handle them well, and I’m 5’9″ and have, well, man-hands.

    “Honey do lists buy into a really pernicious understanding of gender roles: that women are responsible for the household, ”

    Yes. There’s basically no other way to spin this. And it is defintley a fuiunction of gender roles. But where in the gender roles does it come from – is is not possible to see this as a function of a sense that the woman controls the house, and is therefore responsible for it? And is there no basis in men’s daily lives for this sense, as well as what they observe in other men’s lives? How often does the husband get the house in a divorce, and how easily is he dismissed form family life in divorces? This is as pernicious as the arrangement where the wife is always in a position of asking/pleading/supplicating for money and then accused of overspending – from family funds! – because he brings in all the income.

  32. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm |

    I think the reason this may not be making sense is because we and a lot of my partnered friends actually sit down at a table and explicitly divide up the chores. It’s my responsibility to do X, Y, and Z. Its not our shared responsibility. Its solely my responsibility. If I want him to do X, then I ask nicely. Because it is a favor. And a list of favors even if they are chores aren’t unbalanced. The other person can always say No, I won’t wash your car or go to the bank.

    Yes, but NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS.

    We are not talking about the situation where you are asking your SO to wash your car. We are talking about the situation where you are asking your SO to perform the chore that *he* negotiated and agreed with you that he would do. Chores that are not your shared responsibility, but solely *his* responsibility. Why would *you* be writing down *his* chores on a list for him if they are solely his responsibility?

    If he has a disability (such as ADD), it may make sense. He may have agreed that he wants you to keep track of this for him and may have made a concession in exchange. If that’s the case, however, you still should not have to wheedle and nag. They’re his chores. You remind him what to do on a list, and either he does it or he doesn’t, but if he doesn’t it should be his responsibility to make sure someone else does. You should never need to open your mouth again once you have reminded him, and you should only need to remind him *if* the two of you have explicitly agreed that it is your responsibility to remind him of his own chores, and I would consider this a ridiculous imposition on you unless he is disabled in a way that makes it very difficult for him to manage that for himself, *or* he made an equal concession to do a job for you that is equally irritating.

    And yes, where chores are negotiated I do think pernicious gender stereotypes are irrelevant. My SO doesn’t expect me to maintain his schedule because its my wifely duty, he expects me to do it because its one of the areas we negotiated that I would handle. Just like dealing with all repair persons is his job not because he is male, but because he agreed to it.

    And you felt comfortable with handling his schedule, and he felt comfortable handing it over to you, in a complete vacuum! Neither of you were ever exposed to the concept that women manage men’s schedules for them. In fact, on your planet, robots do that work, and that’s why you were eager to take it on, because it seemed like a fun and different challenge!… Or, possibly, the two of you agreed to that particular division of labor because social roles had already prepped you to be comfortable with them.

    Don’t mistake me. If you find it easy and pleasant to manage someone else’s schedule, and he likes to have you do it, there is no reason the two of you should change your behavior. On the personal level, do what works for you, as long as it works for both of you. But at the macro level, the majority of couples do *not* conduct such a negotiation in the first place and those that do usually have gender roles lurking in the back of their psyche informing them of what they would feel comfortable doing.

    See, if you look at a snapshot in time of a situation, often it may look completely egalitarian and balanced, and the only way to know it’s not is if the situation changes. When I was laid off while pregnant, I was totally burned out on the workforce. I wanted to stay at home, run a small business part time, breastfeed on demand, *not* pay outrageous sums of money to get to miss my son’s infancy in exchange for workplace bullshit, and recover from what I’d put up with in my last year of working. So my husband and I agreed that while I was working part time from home and caring for the baby, I would be responsible for all the household domestic chores. He would work a full time job and also handle all of the home improvement work we were doing.

    That was fair and reasonable. And if anything, in those days I was the one who got the Honey Do lists, since I drive and he doesn’t. A lot of “Honey, can you go to the hardware store and pick up X, Y and Z for me?” For that matter almost every trip to acquire drywall involved him watching the baby (or babies) and me going alone, because in order to fit the drywall in the van I had to take out all the back seats, so I couldn’t take babies on those trips. That had nothing to do with gender roles, it had to do with who has eyesight good enough for a driver’s license.

    But when I had a full time job too, and the home improvement work was done, he didn’t take over half the domestic chores. When I had a full time job and *he* was unemployed, he didn’t take over half, let alone all, of the domestic chores. One month, I worked to support us and he played a lot of Rock Band. And this is how I know that regardless how fair and equitable it seemed to have me do all the household chores when I was home all day with the babies, and he was working full time and doing home improvement work, it was in fact a gendered division of labor based on male privilege. (Not sexism– he doesn’t think I should do the job because I’m a woman. He doesn’t think any jobs are man’s work or woman’s work. He claims he would totally step up to the plate and do the work if I didn’t own all the systems in place in the household and if he couldn’t contribute more by busting his ass to find a new job. Why he thinks a special system is in place to wash dirty dishes, or that I will confuse playing Rock Band all day with busting ass to find work, I don’t know. The problem is simply that he thinks housework can be someone else’s problem, and since I’m here, that someone else is me. And it’s male privilege that allows him to think that way.)

    Your friends the psychologist and the farmer have a good system worked out now. But what happens if the farm fails, and she needs to work full time as a psychologist to pay the bills, and he can’t get work? Will he smoothly take over all the household/domestic chores, or will he sit on the couch resenting her and his life, or will he spend most of his time trying to either find work, or do fun and relaxing things to take his mind off his struggle to find work, and in any case dump the household chores on her despite her full time job? Your system where your SO takes care of the repairman and you take care of his schedule works fine now, but if you became disabled in a way that made it very hard for you to maintain his schedule, would he take it back over or would he expect you to continue to do it and resent that you can’t?

    The problem with gender roles is not that there are no women who like to manage all the tasks in the household and are good at it, not that there are no men who really need help with their time management… but that *even* when you are dividing on those lines because it’s what works for you, the fact that you’re falling into a rut outlined by gender roles means that when it stops working for you it will be much, much harder to change. And, of course, that people it doesn’t work for at all will have a very hard time with it.

  33. roses
    roses August 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    As far as: “But my male partner is just absent minded” – I am female, married to a man, and I am very absent minded. Like yesterday when I was leaving work I grabbed my keys from my purse in anticpation of leaving. Then got to my car and realised that my keys were neither in my hand nor in my purse. Evidently I forgot I was holding them and put them down somewhere, but I had no recollection of doing so. That is the kind of absent minded I’m talking about. And to be fair, my husband is very good about doing things like running back to get my keys, or making a last minute grocery store run to pick up something I forgot to get. But I’m still the one who had to make a list of chores to be done. And I’m still the one who has to sweetly remind him to do his chores. The ones explicitly assigned to him. Because he may be the organised one, but keeping track of things that need to be done around the house is something women are taught to do and something men are not taught to do. So if the gendered status quo happens to work for you because you are the one who is better at making lists and don’t mind doing it… great, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem at a societal level.

  34. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 11, 2010 at 5:38 pm |

    Alara Rogers: Yes, but NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS.

    Actually, people were talking about it as being unbalanced. That asking your SO to do things deferentially was unbalanced…

    Alara Rogers: And you felt comfortable with handling his schedule, and he felt comfortable handing it over to you, in a complete vacuum! Neither of you were ever exposed to the concept that women manage men’s schedules for them.

    OR…maybe just maybe…we have learned and examined the gendered systems that affect our lives and through self-reflection come to some sense of ourselves and our preferences outside of that social programming? Or is he just a broken automaton because he likes to cook and I’m a broken automaton because I like working outside the home. People may be influenced by their social programming, but they are not the sum of their social programming.

    Alara Rogers: Your system where your SO takes care of the repairman and you take care of his schedule works fine now, but if you became disabled in a way that made it very hard for you to maintain his schedule, would he take it back over or would he expect you to continue to do it and resent that you can’t?

    Ummm…the answer is no. When I worked 80 hours a week and he was working on his degree he did all the housework, I did nothing chore related but pay the bills. When I was temporarily disabled he did everything, everything including his schedule, my schedule, driving me everywhere I needed to go, learning massage techniques from my physical therapist to help manage the pain I was in…even carrying me into the bathroom when the pain was so severe I couldn’t walk.

    We’ve negotiated and renegotiated the work arrangements dozens of times over the last decade. Hell, we renegotiated laundry this weekend. (He accidentally shrank his favorite shirt…so from now on he’s responsible for all the linens, towels, beddings, blankets, dog stuff, and dusting and I’m taking over washing the clothes. Ironing still falls on the party wanting something pressed…which works for both of us even though…OMIGOD…I’m washing his clothes.)

    As for my friend and her husband…they have to. She had FOUR difficult pregnancies were he had to run the farm, keep track of all the household chores and take care of her. One year between kids 3 and 4 she wasn’t working so she harvested the hay (which he is sadly allergic to) and for those weeks he took care of everything else. When the kids get older I suspect they’ll renegotiate again since I know she misses working with the horses and I know he dislikes being out for 16 hours a day.

    The problem with bringing gender roles into interpersonal relationships is that no one is a “gender role.” If a husband doesn’t want to do his fair share…he’s being an ass. Society may approve of his assishness because society is sexist, but the problem is still his being an ass not social structures. You can go change all the social structures you want…he’ll still be an ass. Conversely, society may approve of women doing certain tasks, but a woman doing them of her own volition in a negotiated relationship doesn’t make her husband an ass or her a puppet of socialization.

  35. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 11, 2010 at 5:40 pm |

    stupid block quoting…I thought I had it figured out…doah

  36. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 11, 2010 at 6:22 pm |

    Evil Fizz and Jill,

    See the problem I see is that we have this reoccurring conversation about THINGS being sexist. High heels are sexist, makeup is sexist, certain types of sex are sexist, this is sexist, that is sexist. And it turns into judgment about how women run their lives because there is a lack of specificity. How honey do lists are marketed is sexist. That women are expected to act in certain ways is sexist. If we get intellectually sloppy and start assigning blame to objects then we rob people of their agency.

    This is not about my SO, or my friend’s relationship, although I use them as illustrations…this is about pointing to the wrong things as oppressive. Honey do lists are not a source of oppression. Social expectations that women are responsible for X is oppressive. Conflating those two things leads to the same conversation that we’ve had about makeup (recall the long ass thread about makeup as a feminist statement in other societies?) or the five million conversations feminists have had about sex (can stripping be a feminist statement?). It’s not useful…it leads to sloppy thinking particularly cross culturally…and it denies agency.

    None of which is about my Nigel.

  37. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 12, 2010 at 5:11 am |

    evil fizz: And you don’t think that honey do lists are a manifestation of that privilege? evil fizz

    They can be…they can also not be. That’s my point. The object isn’t sexist. The social construct that makes them sexist. You change the social construct, live a different experience and…voila…it’s not sexist anymore. Which is why conversations about objects being sexist are not useful.

    And the original post didn’t talk about “a dynamic which is enshrined, perpetuated, and enforced in which women are responsible for the entire household, men are recalcitrant adolescents who might deign to contribute” which I COMPLETELY AGREE IS SEXIST..it talked about stupid words someone ascribed to a certain type of list and marketed in a sexist manner. Which I thought was interesting, and conflated but we do that all the time so eh.

    Then the conversation devolved into OMIGOD someone makes lists of things for other people to do! How unbalanced/wrong/bad! (Which always seems to happen when you assign sexism to a thing instead of saying…this social construct for which this object is used by many people is sexist.)

    So yeah, people here were denying agency and I was responding to that.

    I’m sorry that this has been frustrating for you. If you prefer, I’ll bow out. I really don’t think our opinions are that far apart, I just wish feminist discourse would stop falling into this same pattern. Hell, we just had a similar conversation during Jaclyn’s post on Sex and Compromise where people were denying the agency of asexual people because they think certain patterns of behavior are the only appropriate way to go about things. Two weeks from now we’ll be having the same type of conversation about pink gamer gear (oh wait! we had that one too!) or bdsm or some bit of stupid bullshit sexist consumerism. And those conversations are important…but if we keep having them about pink or shoes or whatever instead of about the social constructs that expect women to like those things or do certain things then we do in fact deny the agency of the women who choose those things or that way of life.

  38. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 12, 2010 at 10:21 am |

    And I also think the phrase “Honey Do” is pretty much irredeemably sexist. Chore lists? Household management? Those are semi-neutral identifiers. Honey Do lists are not neutral.

    Absolutely, evil fizz. And *specifically*, “honey do” is a phrase invented *by men* to describe the chores lists their wives would make up for them, and whenever you see this list referred to in this form by men, it is *always* accompanied by whining and moaning (joking whining and moaning, but whining and moaning nonetheless) about how they have to do all this stuff for their wives.

    Now, you can jokingly whine and moan about all the work your boss makes you do… but you don’t have social privilege over your boss (as an inherent construct; it’s perfectly possible for a person with x privilege to work for a person who is disadvantaged on x axis, such as an ablebodied person with a disabled boss, or a man with a female boss, or a white person with a black person for a boss, but the nature of employer-employee relations is that, on the axis whereby that person gives you work, they are privileged and you are not.) And you can jokingly whine and moan about all the work your kids make you do, but everyone understands that children aren’t reasonable and you do work on their behalf, even though you have adult privilege over them, because they are incapable of doing things for themselves (and half the things you do for them are things they would rather you didn’t anyway, like arguing them into doing their homework or making them go to bed on time.)

    But if you jokingly whine and moan about the work given to you by a person you have privilege over, you’re tapping into the same construct we apply to our kids — “My so-and-so is so demanding and so unreasonable and so hard to deal with because they make me do all this work for them!” From an adult venting about their kid, this makes sense. From an adult venting about another adult who is asking them to do the tasks required for their shared household to run smoothly? Not so much.

    You can *use* a list that says “honey do” on it to track chores in a reasonable and equitable way. You can also use a list that says “Some dumbass told me to do this shit” to track your assignments at work, and if you’ve got the right kind of relationship with your boss, he or she will laugh and won’t be offended. That doesn’t mean that, in general, the expression “Some dumbass told me to do this shit” isn’t an offensive expression of contempt for the person who gave you assignments and the assignments they gave you, even if in a personal and individual context you and your boss both think it’s hilarious. And likewise, you can use a list that says “Honey do” as your means of breaking out chores in an equitable manner… but that doesn’t make the inherent concept behind the expression any less sexist.

    On an individual level, people do what works for them. On the macro level of society, there are repeating patterns. And the repeating patterns wouldn’t be nearly so much of a problem if *everyone* who was caught in them was convinced they were doing it of their own free will because in their specific instance it makes sense… the problem is that a repeating pattern inflicts itself on people who don’t want it.

    I don’t want to make this thread all about me, but my experience is relevant here. I wanted and expected a relationship of equals. I wanted and expected that whoever was doing the bulk of the breadwinning would do less of the household chores. I met a guy who was a single dad with two kids who would clean my house for me while I went off to work, who after I moved in with him 2 and a half hours away from my workplace cooked dinner while I was gone and packed it in tupperware because my job was so far away, I couldn’t possibly eat it when he made it. Then I quit my job, he got a job, he got his kids back from his mother (who’d been caring for them while he was jobless), and he taught me how to diaper them and take care of them because I would be home alone with them.

    And ever since then, regardless of which one of us has a job, I have done between 60-90% of the child care, and 70-90% of the household chores. Even when I’m employed and he’s not. And when I complain about it he says “Well, you never ask me to help. I’d be happy to help you out with a chore if you’d just ask.” Except I don’t want him to help me with my chores when I ask. I want him to consider them his own chores too, and just *do* them, in some equitable ratio, without my having to go to him begging for assistance. I *never* negotiated this, I never signed on for this, I would never have gotten involved with him in the first place if he’d acted like this when I met him. And it isn’t sexism — he doesn’t think it’s my job to do these things because I’m a woman and that’s what women do. It’s privilege. He thinks he gets to pick and choose what chores he wants to do, just because he’s *him*, and just not think about the other chores at all, doesn’t even think about gender dynamics in the context because he has the luxury of not having to, unless it’s to his disadvantage, and then when he does think about gender he complains at me that it’s not fair that I never mow the lawn and he really wishes I would do that sometime and if I’m a feminist why am I okay with just dumping the lawn on him? And if I give him a straight answer, which is, “Because you were okay with just dumping the whole rest of the house on me,” I get that whole “But I’d help if you only asked!” thing, or the “I’d help if you ever thanked me for helping,” or “You don’t even notice when I help!”… all of which has the operative word “help”. He thinks it’s my job and when he participates in it he’s helping me. When he thinks it’s his job as much as it is my job and his participation in it is just what’s expected of him, I will go outside and mow the goddamn lawn twice a month. But right now? If the entire house is my job, then the lawn is his job and he can damn well do it when he feels like it, because I don’t honestly give a damn about the lawn and I will never nag him about it or even bother to keep track of how tall it is, because it’s Not My Problem.

    And that is why I despise the Honey Do list. There are people in this world who really did work out an equitable and mutually agreed on distribution of labor where the woman keeps track of the household chores and puts the ones the man agreed to do on a list for him. And there are people who, had they known that was what they were getting into, would have run in the opposite direction, but are stuck with a completely unequal and imbalanced situation because *they* thought “marriage of equals” and the man thought “someone else will do my chores, and keep track for me of the ones I was supposed to do, because I’m just not good at that!”… regardless of if the person they dumped it on is any good at it either. The “Honey Do” phrase reinforces the concept that women own the household and all the chores in it, that men just do jobs in the house for women because women will nag them if they don’t, that men are big irresponsible babies (but with enormous social privilege over the responsible adults!), and women are humorless shrews who think about nothing but dull, grinding chores. And it doesn’t matter if an individual couple has made it work for them; as a social phenomenon, it is a trap that is causing enormous harm to many, many people.

    And because it envelops *so* many people, even the famous Dan Savage advice of DTMFA (dump the motherf* already) doesn’t work because if you picked out a guy once on the basis of “hey, it looks like he respects me and treats me as an equal when it comes to chores”, and then it totally changed once you’d settled in together, why would you ever think it would be different with anyone else you met? And if you live alone, you have to do all the chores anyway. And you probably love the asshole and would rather not dump his ass over something as trivial as him never doing the laundry. So you pick your battles, and you live with it, and you seethe inside, and then let’s say you *do* put together a chores list and you *do* put the shit he was supposed to do three months ago on it and he never reads it and he doesn’t do it, and then he *mocks* you for it? Tells his guy friends that he’d totally go to the game except for having to do the chores on the Honey Do list? (Which, for the record, I am now exiting the realm of personal experience — my husband has *never* used a supposed list of chores I made him as a reason why he can’t do things with his friends, nor has the phrase “honey do list” ever crossed his lips in my hearing. Which is good. Because I would explode.) The term is inherently disrespectful to women because it is used by men to express the concept that their wives are nags. An individual couple may not have a problem with it, but this does not change the fact that in society at large it’s used to express the concept that women nag their husbands to do chores and that this is not a good thing.

  39. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm |

    evil fizz: Except you can’t just change the social construct and live a different experience.

    evil fizz: I still manage to contribute to the idea that women are ornamental and don’t need to do anything “strenuous” (like walking at a brisk pace or over an uneven surface). I don’t have to mean to be part of that narrative, but I am.

    This is perfectly illustrative of what I’m objecting to. Yeah, I grew up in the US, but my USian experience is very different from your USian experience. Until I was 10 I lived in communities where women were not allowed to wear heels, or pants or hair ornaments….So the narrative you’re talking about is YOUR narrative and reflective of YOUR experience of sexism. Yes, the vast majority of women in the US may have that same experience…but that doesn’t change the fact that for some women even in the US decking yourself out is an anti-oppression action. It’s not just neutral.

    I don’t know of a context where burning a cross would work, but I do know that context matters for bigoted language. My SO and his friends throw around racial language all the damn time and I cringe, but if they want to call themselves by the derogatory terms people have leveled at others like them I understand that those words don’t have the same meaning in their context even though they’re in the US.

    And context of this sort does come down to the interpersonal.
    We live in spheres of society…not the whole of society. And by assuming that people share our interpretation of what is oppressive we create a dominate narrative of what oppression looks like that focuses on things rather than on oppressive forces.

    Said differently, when we sit down and define objects as sexists we do so from our specific world view. But in doing so we are essentially defining feminist discourse by our world view. If we instead discuss the oppressive forces…if we just tweak our thinking a little to be more specific…then feminism is defined as anti-oppression rather anti-the oppression that certain types of women who dominate feminist discourse experience.

    But here’s the other thing: just because I am part of that narrative doesn’t mean I should be bullied or judged for it.

    Yeah, except that doesn’t make sense. If X is bad and a person does X, then you’re saying they are doing something bad. Qualifying that by saying…oh, but they shouldn’t be bullied or judged for it is logically impossible. You create a value judgment about a persons actions…you can’t then say that you aren’t judging.

    Which is basically what happened here. You said…honey do lists are sexist! Commentors said Yeah, and people who use them or give their partners lists are in unbalanced relationships! The leap from assigning a value to something to judging people based on that valuation is about 2 or 3 millimeters.

    To use a modified version of your example. If you said….the word [insert anti-Japanese racial epithet here] is racist! The logical inference is that people who use that language are engaged in racist discourse. Except that’s not always true. Even in the US. It may be true in your context, in the social spheres that touch your life…but it isn’t universally so.

    And what does it cost to be more specific? Do you really mean that the word is racist? Or do you mean that the use of [Z] as tool to harass, demean, and terrorize marginalized people is racist? The last construction also has the benefit of being useful to other people who are harassed, demeaned and terrorized by language that is outside your context. The former has the consequence of judging and alienating people who are doing nothing wrong.

    To use another example when I was a little girl, “woman” was used in my community as essentially the equivalent to “slut.” The female identifier for “good” female people was lady… If I wrote a post about how the word “woman” is sexist that probably wouldn’t make sense to you and you might feel irritated that someone would challenge your use of that word. But if I wrote a post about words being used against women to belittle and intimidate including the word “woman” then we’d have stuff to talk about and you wouldn’t feel like I was judging you for using the word woman on a daily basis.

  40. The gold digger
    The gold digger August 15, 2010 at 9:45 am |

    Ironing still falls on the party wanting something pressed

    My comment is not serious or thoughtful like the other comments here (my husband works for money and travels about 50% of the time and I do not, so we have agreed that I will run the household and spend his money on bon bons, which is a lot more fun than dealing with the clueless boss I had at my money job), but I did want to give you a trick that my husband, who hates to iron but likes cotton shirts, taught me. (I also hate to iron and always wore no-iron shirts with my suits when I was working.)

    Toss the wet shirt in the dryer for a few minutes to smooth most of the wrinkles. Remove it from the dryer and use your fingers to smooth the collar, cuffs, and placket. Pull the seams to eliminate that puckering. Dry on a hanger. Voila. I don’t know if this works for super fine cotton dress shirts, but it is just fine for broadcloth and polo shirts.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.