Monday, April 6, 2009
Frustration and a case of the dirty dishes
So, this will be a perhaps shorter entry, and attending to a more personal topic than my previous few. I often find myself frustrated with friends of mine, people that for every other reason unlisted I adore deeply. What is my issue? Most of my friends identify as being quite politically and socially progressive. They will verbally exhaust their ideals of egalitarianism at any chance they get, with furvor and with poeticism. Of course they are feminists. Of course they belive in equality and respect for all regaurdless of age, race, sex, gender, class etc etc. And I do truly appreciate their public affection of and declaration for such viewpoints. But, I have to admit that there seems to be more and more instances piling up in the widening pit of my memory that rather illuminate a wide gap between words and actions. Perhaps this is quite common and is really no suprise, as we are all human I suppose, but I think that this pattern has just recently really struck a cord with me...that somehow it mustered its way up into my consciousness...unavoidably begging for my attention like the clink clank of a cord hanging from a ceiling fan swirling too quickly on a humid summer night when you can't fall asleep, when you can't quite tell what it is that is making you feel uncomfortable to the point of insomnia but you know that the fact of your discomfort is undeniable.
It may seem a small happening, but like I have surely alluded to, the small clicks and hummings can make quite a stir when built up and shifted into ones space of awareness. Perhaps I should tell the little story that has inspired me to rant and rave about my otherwise dear friends. You see, I live in a house with three other individuals. Two of these identify as male. Now, while I know that keeping a clean house becomes an issue for any housemates, whether in college or not, we seem to have this ridiculous problem with keeping a sink empty of dirty dishes. We have tried putting up signs (“please do your own dishes” – ha – what a joke). We’ve tried having a house meeting and deciding that we would wash our dishes immediately after we were through with them (something that I find very simple, and do myself…but alas, ‘twas an effort that failed quite early). Being admittedly somewhat OCD when it comes to cleanliness, I often found (and still find) myself being the one who takes the brave move to tackle the overflowing sink of dishes. At first, I thought that I was being somewhat “naggy” about it, maybe even selfish in not realizing that I might require more cleanliness in my own life to be able to operate efficiently. (I mean, why should I expect others to have to change their ways just to suit my tastes right?) But then I realized, as this pattern was beginning to notably grow, that it seemed as though no one else was doing any of their dishes because it was assumed that one of the women of the house was going to take care of it. Now this was never stated of course, how could it be as it would be a contradiction to those proud progressive values we claim to hold amidst our circle. I could probably add much more to this story, but I think the main information is there. It seemed like a little deal, but the little deal grew into a big deal that was really actually bothering me in a deep kind of way, even seeming to effect my relationships with these people I love as I began to question their respect for me and my own time and well-being.
I think that for a while I had managed to kind of push it into my unconscious mind, as if I could just pretend that it really wasn’t an issue that needed to be dealt with. I think that the shift came from my arrival at a point that any of us may find ourselves situated in which one becomes hyperaware of ones own complicity in the matter. I realized that by my silencing my feelings, however hazy and confused they were within my own mind, I was essentially approving of the everyday happenings taking place.
I remember one of the first times that I gently, casually mentioned the issue to one of my housemates, he simply replied, “I have so much work, I’m so busy, I’m not going to clean other people’s dishes.” It made me so furious, because at the same time, it felt as though he was saying that his time was more valuable than mine, as if I wasn’t also overwhelmed with work.
So in response to all of this and in attempts to sort of draw attention to the matter, I have started loudly singing a little song I wrote about reinforcing gender roles whenever I do the dishes. It’s pretty great actually (if I do say so myself), a folksy little ditty complete with rounds that add an additional ridiculous household chore that I may find myself having to do that, more often then not, involves a mess not of my own, (pickin’ up the beer caps) and sometimes particularly of a mess only possibly made by those with male anatomy (for example, stray piss in the bathroom…I mean…seriously?!*) The important element of the song, I think, is that it is clearly being ironic in that the lyrics are sung not so much as a lament but as a joyful praise at how much I LOVE doing these things everyday and especially how much I LOVE reinforcing the gender roles that I am here at Allegheny studying and working to challenge and dissolve through academic work. So this song is my own little comfort in a way, and honestly, I think it has brought about a couple improvements. It seems to have made my housemates more aware of themselves, what they are doing, and most importantly, of how what they say they believe needs to be reinforced by actions.
*regarding the whole stray piss in the bathroom thing – I feel the need to clarify that this was kind of a one time issue…one of my housemates thought it would be fun to attempt playing the saxophone while relieving himself after a return from the bar on his 21st birthday. It was only semi-successful as you can imagine. Still, who ended up cleaning it? You guessed it!
*blog entry edit* - I feel the need to make a comment about the photo that I posted with the entry. I did not take that picture for this entry. No, I actually realized that one of my housemates had taken that picture of me candidly. "Wow, that even makes it kind of more fucked up" as a guy friend of mine pointed out.