My male housemate isn’t the greatest when it comes to household duties. He claims he “forgets” to hang the shower curtain up after a shower and turn the fan on during it in our mold-susceptible bathroom after nine months of it being part of our daily routine. He also “doesn’t notice” the rack of clean dishes waiting there for him to put them away, two days after I washed them. When I complain about this to friends, colleagues and mutual acquaintances, the inevitable response—even from the supposedly progressive ones— is, “Oh, he’s a guy; you can’t expect him to remember to do those things.” While said semi-daily occurrences infuriate me to no end, I refuse to believe he does them because of his gender.
Rachel Hills wrote about mama’s boys last week on Daily Life and had this to say:
“It is not an excess of emotional intimacy and support that breeds a man who can’t take care of himself, after all… It’s a society that says that men shouldn’t need to know how to take care of themselves, and that puts women in constant competition for male attention and validation.”
A friend commented on Facebook that the patriarchy is to blame for the mama’s boy phenomenon:
“… [Mothers’] value to their family is generally based around being the main homemaker and not teaching their son any independent life skills because they assume they will marry someone in the same defined gender role who will do the same thing… [M]others who treat their sons this way often do not treat their daughters the same.”
Which, in turn, got me thinking about an article Sarah Ayoub-Christie wrote a while ago about her struggles marrying a traditional Lebanese upbringing in which the women lived to serve the men with her modern marriage.
My argument that all men aren’t household-hopeless dolts and all women don’t thrive in domesticity isn’t held up by any men I know personally, but (in addition to the foundation of my feminism essentially being that the genders aren’t alien to each other; we’re all just people) it is by a lot of women I know, whose homes, apartments and (let’s be honest; most of my friends still live at home!) bedrooms look like a bomb’s hit where cleanliness and hygiene aren’t top priorities.
I just refuse to believe that 1) women are inherently better at homemaking whilst men shun all domestic responsibility, and 2) that this is because of their relationship with their mother. If this is a gender-exclusive trope, then the fact that my mum used to be my “slave”, as I semi-affectionately called her, waiting on me hand and foot certainly flies in the face of my modern-day incarnation as domestic goddess in comparison with my housemate. Mum is somewhat of a Martha Stewart herself, though…
Elsewhere: [Daily Life] Myth of the Mama’s Boy.