Dear Fannie,

I'm a 25 year-old straight woman. My boyfriend of two years recently moved in with me. Now, he's not the cleanest person in the world, but it isn't bad. However, recently I've found myself pinned down with the majority of the housework. He does some of his own chores, like his clothes and stuff he leaves around. But it irks me because I have a normal 9 to 5 office job where most of his work is sporadic (he's an actor). Although when I get home I'm not doing any additional work than I did while I was living alone, I feel like I'm not valued. And it's not as if my boyfriend doesn't want to help me… but even when he tries to help me, he just isn't very good at cleaning/cooking/etc. Do you have any advice?

Bored with Chores

Bored, you've run into a problem women have been struggling with for centuries: the Chore War.

The question of who does the housework is an integral part of relationships, hetero or otherwise. Housework is still by and far seen as "women's work" and thusly devalued has been one of the greatest schisms that frequent couples. When one partner is burdened with all or the majority of the reproductive labor for the household (not a reference to child-bearing or childcare; I'm referring to the labor required to reproduce and sustain the home), the relationship becomes unequally yoked and oppressive. It's easy to gloss over house work as insignificant, menial chores that shouldn't be a big deal. I mean, they're just a few dishes, right?

Wrong. Housework comprises a huge amount of energy, resources and time; all of which have been historically made invisible by a patriarchal sexual division of labor. Recent studies estimate that, if properly compensated for the work she performs free-of-charge for the betterment of her family, the average full-time housewife would out-earn her husband's annual wages. Now, Bored, you're pegged with being doubly screwed by your lecherous boyfriend. Working full-time AND doing the majority of the housework means you not only have one job, but many (maid, cook, launder, etc.)!

And for those of your queer folk out there, don't think that this issue doesn't also affect you. Many queers believe that patriarchal structures such as this don't apply to queer couples because queer relationships subvert patriarchy by disrupting the heteronormative gender politic. But studies show that while lesbian relationships tend to be more egalitarian, gay male relationships are equally if not more likely to have an unequal sharing of housework.

So here's what you need to do:

Sit your boyfriend down and talk it out. Rules need to be set about what each of you will be contributing to "home care." Make sure you don't let him get away with "manly" tasks like fixing the drain or washing the car. When men actually do housework, they tend to perform tasks that are one-time tasks that don't have deadlines, like mowing the lawn, cleaning the attic, etc. Meanwhile, women tend to do perform tasks that are daily, repetitive and have deadlines, like shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, or cooking. Make sure you break up the household care into truly equal parts. Also, don't get trapped into the "ineptitude vice." This is where men use the easy excuse of not knowing how to perform a task, or purposefully doing it badly. Your boyfriend should be just that – your BOYFRIEND – and not a child. You're not his mother, so stop babying him and treat him like an adult.

If he refuses to grow up and be an adult, Dump The Mother Fucker Already! (also known as DTMFA as popularized by the nationally syndicated advice columnist and my personal hero, Dan Savage).


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