Ah, April Fool’s Day. There’s nothing quite like not trusting anything I read, see, taste, feel or hear for a full 24 hours. The only problem is when I see something so aboundingly absurd that I assume it’s a piss-take only to discover that it’s as serious as David Cameron tugging himself onto a digestive biscuit with all of his other Eton chums. For that I can thank the indubitably spiffing Ali Catterall for showing me an article in yesterday’s faux-newspaper, The Metro. That’s because, there under the banner of Today’s Talker. were eight words that made me shit out my own duodenum before reaching for a bottle of lye: Why men can’t be trusted with the cleaning.
Yup, on Tuesday 1 April 2014, that’s what The Metro printed as an excuse for the up-to-date, ahead-of-the-curve, bang-on-the-zeitgeist reporting of a survey of women and housework by Karcher. You can see it up there on the left. It gets one fuck of a lot worse than just the headline though because it includes such arse-nuggets as, “They dust around objects”, “Brush crumbs onto the floor instead of binning them”, “Put coloured clothes in with whites” and “Leave smears on windows or mirrors”. Oh, and of course all of this is accompanied by a bewildered and miserable man holding a selection of dusters and bottles and a vacuum cleaner while a sobbing baby dangles from his chest in a papoose. It’s what Anthea Turner would look like if you shoved her into an orphanage, wedged a can of Pledge up her arse and then plugged her into an electric current formed from vole manners, concrete powder and regret.
You have no fucking idea how much I despise articles like this one but gird yourselves because you are about to find out. Let’s start with the festering chestnut that men are crap at housekeeping, not least because I find it hard to believe that we, as a nation, are still talking about it. Claiming that all men are incapable of rinsing a mug is the equivalent of claiming that all women are incapable of mowing a lawn and it’s predicated upon the idea that cleaning is either a mystical art – the rules of which are whispered by witch doctors into the ears of female babies during a sacred birthing ceremony– or that men are genetically incapable of recognising a duster when they see one. Now, both of those are bollocks of such humongous proportions that, right now, we might be living inside a giant testicle. See that there snow? Well, I hate to break this to you but it’s not actually snow. Think about it.
The fact is that men and women are as equally capable of doing housework as each other. The only thing that stands in the way of our domestic equality is this dogged social assumption that men are so pathologically unable to clean that handing them a broom is akin to handing the International Space Station over to a meth-feasting monkey. Does anyone seriously think that a grown, adult male is physically incapable of lobbing dishes into a sink? No. But when society is told often enough that that is how men behave that’s exactly what society starts to see.
That is why The Metro’s article is so utterly fucking bleak. Not only is it claiming that men are too staggeringly dim to wash up, it’s implying that it is therefore only women who are capable of doing the housework. And if men really are living incarnations of domestic fucktards then perhaps we should all leave women to get on with the cooking, cleaning, washing, rinsing, polishing, brushing and mopping after all. Girls! Why bother asking your male partner to change the bed when you’ve been told by The Metro that there’s no point? Just turn down that promotion at work so you can keep coming home early to do it yourself!
Now in my Kraken cave, the real domestic goddess is Conjugal Kraken. He helps do the washing, dishwasher filling, bin emptying, food shopping, recycling and bed making as well as cooking every night. I, on the other hand, could burn a Pot Noodle and can’t remember where we keep our iron. So, is Conjugal Kraken secretly female, then? Or does his body simply contain the secret genetic code that allows him to remove the cap from the bottle of washing-up liquid? I might drop The Metro a line and ask it for the answer although I suspect it’d spontaneously combust even before it has finished reading.
And you know what? If there are men out there who are so incapable of clearing up after making a slice of toast, here is why: thanks to the assumptions that they would be shit at cleaning anyway, and just as women are never told how to change a tyre because it is assumed that men will do it for them, men are never shown how to wipe a counter top because it is assumed that women will do that for them too. You can see that logic in action by taking a trip to Toys R Us because that’s where the boys’ aisles are full of trucks and guns while the girls’ aisles are full of plastic babies and ironing boards. If men really are shit at cleaning it’s because they are told they are shit, so why should they even bother trying?
So the next time you hear the intellectual knob-cheese of a claim that men can’t do housework you can thank The Metro, and anyone else who gobbled up Karcher’s survey, for clinging to a stereotype that should have been put out of its misery thirty years ago. The need for ovaries when buffing glass has long gone. There is just one thing though: when you put out the bins, whether you are a man or a woman, just make sure The Metro is the paper that’s covered in potato peelings, tea bags and cat sick. It’s the least that it deserves.