Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Housework and the Dreaded E-mail Forward

Last week, my mom sent me another one of her "hilarious" e-mail forwards, which she receives daily in mass quantities from her elderly, assumedly bored relatives. I would let you read the "joke" in its entirety if I still had the e-mail in my inbox, but in replace of the actual document, my stilted summary will have to suffice.

The e-mail contained the story of a man who thinks that his wife, who is a stay-at-home mom, "has it easy," and asks God to allow them to switch bodies for a day. God does so, and the man experiences a long day of demeaning household chores and back-breaking labor, which are meticulously listed item by item as they occur throughout the day. The final "job" on his list of chores is having sex, which he consents to, even though he is quite tired and would really rather skip it.

The next morning, the man wakes up and begs God for forgiveness, admitting that his wife does, indeed, work quite hard. When he asks God to switch them back, God responds with the knee-slapping quip "That's great, but you'll have to wait 9 months. You got pregnant last night."

That's supposed to be the punch line.

At the end of the e-mail, I was completely confused. Which part is the joke? That the man "learns his lesson" by realizing how much his wife does around the house? That he ends up getting pregnant at the end? Or that men's worst nightmare is to endure what women experience on an everyday basis?

To me, this "joke" is so very, extremely sad. Of course women have horrible lives. Of course society wants us to be domestic servants and sex slaves and baby makers. But you know it's getting bad when women's lives literally start to become an actual punch line. "At least you're not a woman! Then things would be really bad!" "Think you had a bad day at work today? Just be lucky you still have a penis, or your life would be as horrible as a woman's!"

Anywho, aside from the rage it incites, this "joke" does bring up an interesting feminist issue, which is that of household duties. Here's what I don't get - why does every single commercial selling some type of household cleaning product have to feature a woman? Why do cleaning commercials always joke about women having to clean up after their husbands, who are consistently depicted as witless clods? Yes, it's yet another insidious lie perpetrated by American patriarchal capitalism: Women clean because they're smarter than men! That's right ladies, even though your husband is a grown man with a college degree, he just can't seem to figure out how to wipe off a counter! That's why you need to do it, you clever, savvy woman you! Now get to that kitchen and maybe your husband will give you a cookie when you're done!


Jarod said...

The joke isn't even funny.

I kind of feel the same way. I like to cook and bake, and one day my friends made fun of me because I owned a cook book. I think part of the problem is that too many men are put down when they do choose to do chores or cooking.

john v said...

Check this 1970 article by Pat Mainardi:


Shaina said...

That's a really great article, thanks for the link.

Porlock said...

"To me, this "joke" is so very, extremely sad. Of course women have horrible lives. Of course society wants us to be domestic servants and sex slaves and baby makers."

This is a bit of an over generalization. Not ALL women have horrible lives. Many do, of course, but certainly not all. I find it somewhat ironic that someone who has a degree in Women's Studies would feel this way.

You also seem to overlook the fact that many women enjoy the role of wife, mother and homemaker, and do not see themselves as "servants" or "slaves".

For that matter, many men enjoy the role of homemaker, while their wives are the ones pursuing professional careers.

Sure, sexism still exists. But feminism has made enourmous strides over the years. The surest sign of that is that no sane person (at least in this country) would ever try to get away with saying that women are somehow not the equal of man. Heck, a woman just ran for president!

Not trying to pick a fight with you, I just think it's important to remember the many accomplishments women have made over the last fifty years on the one hand, while acknowledging that many women still find happiness and self esteem in the more traditional roles of wife and mother.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Shaina said...

MRAs like "porlock," who conveniently don't leave a name, e-mail address, or website after posting a seemingly ballsy and disagreeable comment, are obviously why we still need a feminist movement.

porlock said...

I don't know what an "MRA" is, my email address is irrelevant, and I don't have a website.

As for my comment, I did my best to be polite and respectful. Apart from the simple fact that I happen to disagree with you on some points, in what way was I "ballsy and disagreeable"?

porlock said...

The fact that you have not even responded is quite telling. You have made no attempt to refute my arguments, or even defend your own. All you've done is make an ad hominem attack on me, which proves nothing. Am I to conclude that simply posting a comment that disagrees with you, however politely phrased, makes me "disagreeable?". If so, that says more about you than it does about me.