Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Confessions of a Bourgeois Asshole

I confess: I hired a housekeeper to clean up after me.

I loathe cleaning, especially the bathroom and kitchen. I can organize, tidy, and move piles around with great efficiency. I don't hate laundry or even handwashing the dishes. But I HATE scrubbing toilets and floors.

So, after I finished grad school, I got a recommendation from a colleague, and discovered I could pay for cleaning twice a month for less than I was spending on tuition. Those two Tuesdays a month that I come home to a clean house are glorious. I am gleeful with anticipation, and never less than delighted. My quality of life and mood has improved exponentially. I never have a yucky tub or tumbleweeds of cat fur drifting through my house.

As a feminist, I know that I am exploiting another woman by paying her to do my dirty work. I know that I'm participating in a global patriarchal economy of oppression of women of color. But then I think: why is it okay to pay a guy to do my yard, or change my oil, or paint my house, but not okay to pay a woman to clean my house? Is it because cleaning is "women's work" and I feel guilty for not doing it myself, not being an obedient, conforming woman who scrubs her own floors?

Check this: she makes the same hourly wage I do. I have a PhD, $100k in student loans, and a professional job. I make the same hourly wage as a person who cleans houses for a living. How is THAT fair? Really, we should both be making more money. If she worked for a cleaning service, she'd get benefits and vacation days, but then she'd only be making $7-8/hour. I do get health insurance and vacation days on top of my salary, but when it comes down to it, we're both getting paid far less than we're worth. One because she's doing "women's work" and the other because I'm doing non-profit cultural work.

I just can't defend this choice but I also don't want to give it up. I don't grow my cotton and make my own cloth and clothing; I don't grow my own vegetables; I don't make my own electronics; all of these industries - EVERY INDUSTRY - relies on exploiting the labor classes. I know this. I hate it. I don't want to live off the grid and dig potatoes all bloody day long. I don't think I have to in order to be an ethical person. I do resent being typecast as a spoiled honky because I spend $80 a month on avoiding something I really just hate doing, but I also know that I AM a spoiled American honky. Not as spoiled as many, but certainly living like a queen by third-world standards.

I guess this is all about white liberal guilt, isn't it? It's the oldest and most boring story in the world. Sigh.

1 comment:


I hate cleaning as well. I agree with every thing you said... wish I said it myself