3 min

Bread and roses

Happy International Women's Day

I don’t know whether it was a feminist notion on my mother’s part or not, but I never learned to cook.

It’s possible that she wanted me to focus on endeavours other than ‘women’s work’-but I suspect it may have more to do with the fact that I was a ridiculously strong-willed child that didn’t much do things I didn’t want to do.

There may have been some 1970s child-rearing practices at play, too. I remember winning more than one argument by declaring that it was my bedroom and it should be my choice to keep it messy if I wanted to.

Whatever the reasons, I ended up a terrible housekeeper. From cooking to cleaning and all that is involved-it’s all a bit baffling to me.

For instance, it’s hard to identify where my lack of cooking skills ends and my lack of grocery shopping skills begins. A completely normal grocery haul for me might include seven avocados, a can of bamboo shoots and a big bag of plastic forks. And once I get my purchased items home, what I’m supposed to do to make a meal out of them is a magical mystery, too.

When it comes to cleaning and organizing, I’m no better.

I like to stack things a lot. Laundry-both dirty and clean-has been known to tower near ceiling height at my house and, on occasion, topple over on an unsuspecting cat or houseguest.

If you ever can’t find something, it may very well be found on my desk. Give me a call and, if I can find the damn cordless phone in all this chaos, I’ll check for you.

As for dishes, I could probably be employed by a circus somewhere with my dirty dish-stacking skills. (Here’s a hot tip for you: when you have stacked and stacked and there is no longer a single clean dish in your house, simply fill your bathtub with sudsy water and transfer your dirty dishes from kitchen to bathroom. You can wash them all at once and then just turn on the showerhead to rinse them. Take that, Heloise!)

All this is to say that keeping a clean house has never been my highest priority.

I thought I would become more adept at housekeeping once I moved out of my parents’ house and had to fend for myself, but I didn’t.

I had the cockamamie idea that it made me a feminist if I refused to engage in domestic duties. I was a daughter of the Feminine Mystique women and I wasn’t going out like that!

However, throwing off the shackles of domesticity is a shortsighted idea unless you are in a position to hire someone else to take care of such things for you. Which I am not.

When I took Women’s Studies in college I came to understand feminism as being about ensuring a woman’s right to choose. Reproductive choices, career choices, sexuality choices-women should be able to make their own choices about their own lives and bodies.

And what did I choose? Sloth! Mess! Macaroni in a box!

The irony of this is not lost on me; my choice to be entirely un-domestic has rendered me utterly incapable of self-reliance. This is not a result of flawed social theory but of my amazing ability to warp feminism to fit my own laziness.

It wasn’t until I started dating someone who loves to cook and keep things clean and tidy that I truly regretted not having any housekeeping savvy.

It would have been so much easier to develop as a child. As an adult, I’m not so enthusiastic. Apparently you can teach an old dog new tricks-she just won’t learn them willingly.

My girlfriend has resorted to assigning me chores, and you should see me pout like a princess when she tells me I can’t watch TV until I’ve done them. I would probably have my feminist card revoked lickety-split if anyone ever witnessed my ridiculous behaviour.

When I heard on the radio that Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique and catalyst for cultural change, died recently, I found myself thinking about what a jerk I am.

Friedan wrote about a previously unnamed lack of fulfillment women experienced because they didn’t have the choice to work outside the home or pursue careers or anything self-actualizing that didn’t centre around raising a family. Such choices are a given in my life. I often forget that and, in doing so, forget to be grateful.

With International Women’s Day upon us again, I find myself thinking about the call for “bread and roses” and the long history of women’s activism demanding not only economic equality for women (bread) but also quality of life (roses).

My life is filled with roses because of the efforts of so many women before me. With all the options now open to me, would it kill me to pick up a dish now and then?

I’m not saying I’m going to, but I think it’s important to ponder the subject. Happy International Women’s Day.