I am writing to ask you for your opinion,
as this is a very subjective matter and I do
not believe that there is any conclusive answer.
I want to know if you believe that it is genuinely
possible to have an egalitarian relationship
with a man? I used to think so, but these days
I feel as though my feminist principles are often
compromised. I've had a bit of a "click" and
it is making me bitter. I have lived for three
years with a pretty great bloke. True, we have
had problems and some time ago, when things were
bad, he had an affair. I subsequently left him
for another woman, but came back when I realized
that I we still loved each other.
Since then, things have gone really well. We
have traveled together, worked together, written
music together ... in all we have a good and
balanced relationship. At least, we did until
I came back to university. Since then, things
have started to go a bit awry. I won't go into
all the details, but mainly the problem is concerning
domestic labor. For the sake of economy, we share
our house with a mutual friend. A depressed,
seasonal affective disordered pseudo-transvestite
with every emotional and physical ailment going.
I'm sorry if I sound unsympathetic, but just
hear me out!!
This man is filthy. If I described the filthiness
of his room to you, you wouldn't believe me.
In the six months that we have lived together,
he has twice cleaned the bathroom, even though
all the duties are meant to be shared, and even
then very badly and under a strong coercion.
He has never once offered to help with anything
domestic. He is entirely selfish and won't even
empty a bin that he has filled or a cooker that
he has dirtied. I even end up doing his dishes
for him 50% of the time. Understandably or not,
this bothers me more than it does my partner.
I cannot sit or relax when there is housework
left to be done. It puts me on edge and whilst
I can handle a little disorder, this goes beyond
the bounds of reason.
Today, my partner and I had an enormous fight
before he left for work because our house mate
had filled the kitchen bin and not emptied it.
I know that this sounds petty, but it is truly
making me unhappy. I had asked my partner to
discuss this with our house mate, as I have tried
on several occasions, both overtly (shouting
at him) and subtly (dropping hints, asking gently,
posting house rules). Every time he has ignored
me and only pays attention to my partner. I think
that he may subconsciously be an out -and -out
misogynist. My partner did not speak to our house
mate about this. Furthermore, (and this is the
crux), he said that he didn't know what I was
thinking of, bringing problems like this to him
before he went to work. He said that he didn't
understand what was wrong with me. To me, this
smacks of sexism. "Problems like this"?
I got the distinct impression that my partner
was belittling domestic concerns - I know for
a fact that he thinks they are beneath him, even
though he does pull his weight. I am so angry
with them both for this. I feel as though I am
being disregarded by one man and treated like
a skivvy by another. For economic reasons we
cannot afford to throw this house mate out, although
I would dearly love to do so. I appreciate that
this is a very long and angry email and I apologize
for that. I would just like to know your opinion,
because I feel like a "hostage" of
the 1970's, rather than a woman in my own right
who is struggling to obtain a degree and hold
it all together. I look forward to hearing from
With kind wishes,
Dear Kelly --
As you have probably guessed,
your question is impossible to answer.
is no one answer, of course, I can share my opinion.
As you know yourself, every relationship and
every individual is so uniquely different that
it's pretty hard to generalize. I know from my
own personal experience that I always approached
relationships hoping/assuming that they were/would
be equal -- but either I brought baggage to the
relationship that made that impossible or society
of the other person just wouldn't let that happen.
I have to say, however, that in my current
relationship it feels pretty equal and yet, I
think most of what I think that required on my
part was to really assess everything that goes
in to making our relationship work and then examining
who does what and I think it's easy for me to
assume that I am doing the bulk of the work to
keep our household running, but that's because
I was overlooking his contribution and I was
mostly measuring it based on what I considered
When we talk about our priorities, I realize
that's where the give and take has to come in.
I think that we each have different standards
and our partners certainly have an obligation
to meet us there -- but we also have to recognize
them as desires, not as musts. I hope that's
Good luck negotiating it all,