According to Professor Maggie Andrews of the Women’s Institute the domestic is being re-evaluated by feminists who, thanks to the popularity of kitchen-based shows like the Great British Bake Off, are turning away from the workplace and retreating in their frilly aprons to become ensconced in the varied delights of home-making, presumably with Stepford-style smiles and hefty doses of valium to blunt the tedium.
Prof Andrews was addressing the audience at the Hay Festival in Wales when she said women are finding that work is not as much fun as they had imagined so that they are looking at the domestic realm as they did 30 years ago. Professor Andrews seems to forget that it was the boredom of being stuck at home that galvanised women to fight the patriarchal powers that be and get out from under the domestic drudgery into the big bad world to earn our own buck, since most of us realised that intelligence and talent is wasted on hoovering and washing up - which is why men hardly ever do either.
I see no evidence of this female domestic retreat though it is true that boring home-making skills such as baking and DIY craft activities are enjoying a resurgence thanks to austerity and a flurry of TV shows romanticising things like crafts, cakes and sewing. Domestic goddesses like Nigella Lawson, Rachel Khoo and Kirstie Allsopp are the glossy poster gals for heavenly home-making.
Prof Andrews continued to talk a load of cobblers when she added that women are coming to regard the domestic space as a “venue for female power”.
All of which makes me realise that the only thing I have ever wanted to do with a rolling pin is perhaps use it as a weapon. I have never baked a cake, polished brass or ironed a shirt and cooking, doing dishes or putting a wash on are tasks so grindingly dull I complete them only with gritted teeth and frustration that we are trapped in a material world that has not yet invented robots capable of doing this stuff for us.
Chores are necessary, granted, but nobody could possibly enjoy their completion unless they are finicky and fussy about order and hygiene to the point of OCD. Who wants to spend their precious time at the kitchen sink?
I do not doubt that some of us take pleasure in grafting to keep things spic and span but personally I can only find the motivation to clean when the house has reached such delapidation that infectious disease is a very real possibility.
It’s because women have been culturally cast as home-makers that we are so much less prominent in the top professions - we spend too much time cleaning up after errant men and children, time that could be spent running for office, working for NASA, mastering theoretical physics, fighting a campaign for world peace, learning Mandarin or climbing Everest.
While gender stereotypes have relaxed somewhat women are still traditionally expected to complete the lion’s share of the house work; house husbands are rare and those with impeccable dish-washing capabilities yet rarer.
The domestic is not a sphere for female power, it’s a horrid altar of female submission, a horrid waste of autonomy and strength that will leave you with callused hands and an embittered sense that the best of life has passed you by.
So put that dish cloth down and keep out of the kitchen as much as possible. Drudgery is just dull and dispiritng and life is so short.