So here’s the thing. I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I have never thought of myself as less, or more deserving, than anyone because of what’s in my knickers or a few genes.
My husband is very similar. He was horrified at being called a sexist pig by a very well known feminist writer when he opened a door for her when she spoke at his college. Truth is, he’d open the door for anyone as would I. It’s good manners.
But despite my beliefs, I have found myself doing something very peculiar. Several of my friends have commented that they do the same and it’s caused them quite an alarm. They’ve been horrified by the words leaving their lips, although it doesn’t stop them saying it repeatedly.
The thing is, whenever their partners do a domestic chore, they thank them for it. More specifically its “thanks for doing that for me.”
We all agree that the home is occupied by both parties and that neither person benefits from taking the bins out more than the other. We both have equal responsibility for our son. Although I work part time to take more of the responsibility for actual care, this is largely because I can get flexible working and he can’t.
I suspect that the reason for this is actually quite straightforward, and I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t happen for both sexes. Times have changed and the ambition of most women is thankfully not to bag a husband.
For most young women, and men, the goal is job, home, relationship, family…usually in that order these days.
That means that people are typically living on their own before cohabiting with a partner. With increased difficulty getting on the housing market, very often cohabitation means that one person has to move into their partner’s home.
This what happened with my partner and I. When he didn’t live with me, when he did something to help around my flat, I’d say thank you. It was my flat. But when he moved in, it sort of stuck. I have no idea why.
But now I’ve caught myself doing this I wonder if this subliminally sends out quite a different message. Am I saying that the particular chore should be mine. Have I fallen foul of blue jobs and pink jobs? I bloody well hope not, particularly as I’m quite handy when it comes to DIY and my husband does a better job at cleaning the bathroom. Still, could I promote a bad role model for my son? It’s not like he doesn’t see his Dad do chores or anything, but language can have a powerful effect.
I am training myself to say just “thanks” because that’s good manners. But not doing some for me. It’s for us. It’s for the family… and we’re all doing our fair share.
If we keep using language in this way, without the occasional check of our vocabulary do we run the risk of enforcing stereotypes. So what behaviour are you going to try and keep in check? Do your words fit your actions?