When it’s hard to accept good help

Because housework should be done out of love, right?

Why aren’t men criticized for paying someone else to shovel the sidewalk, rake the leaves, or cut the grass?

Why aren’t eyebrows raised when men take their car to the shop to change the oil or repair a flat?

How come nobody judges men who call a plumber to repair a clogged drain?

Isn’t that “men’s work?”

Isn’t that work that needs to be done to maintain a home?

Then why aren’t men doing it themselves? Shouldn’t they be doing it out of a sense of love and duty to their families?

That’s crazy! you say. It’s just work that needs to be done for a family to function! Who cares who does it?




Then why do people care so much about who cleans for a family? Who cooks for a family? Who launders for a family?

Do you know anyone who has a cleaning lady?

How do you feel about it?

How does she feel about it?

I guarantee you there are Feelings.

My friend Rachel had a cleaning lady. Rachel did not feel conflicted about it, but her friends did. They thought she was exploiting another woman.

I can assure you that Rachel – a lovely, fair woman – paid and treated her cleaning lady very well.

The friends never said a word about Rachel’s gardener.

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed, she wrote about cleaning houses and feeling exploited.

That may very well have been the case, as she worked for, if I recall, some cleaning agencies that paid very little and expected a lot.

But the labor of cleaning houses itself is not exploitive, although the work of sometimes literally cleaning shit is awful. Some people do that – some people leave that kind of mess.

Some people are horrible.

But does that mean someone else should clean shit for free? Because that person is related to the shitter?


It means people should clean their own shit.

Another friend is going to Ecuador this spring for her job. She’s a professor and will be doing research. She’s renting a house and the house comes with a maid and a gardener.

We talked about how we struggle with the word “maid.”

“When I was doing my dissertation research,” she said, “if they didn’t call her the maid, they just called her ‘la muchacha’ (the girl). I couldn’t do that.”

I agreed. “When I was in Chile, they would call the helper in the office ‘the junior.’ Even when it was a grown man.”

We also struggle with the concept of paying someone else to do the work that we have been taught to think of as our own. Does it mean we are lazy? Does it mean we don’t love our families? Does it mean we are exploiting another woman?

She initially didn’t want a cleaning lady. But when she was doing her dissertation, it was quite helpful to have someone to clean and cook while she wrote. Shocking how much of a person’s time can be taken with housework.

Oh – and she and her husband had a new baby at the time.

This time, she does not have to worry so much about whether to hire someone. The decision has been made for her. The cleaning lady is part of the deal.

I was on a work trip to Dubai. A bunch of us Americans were at dinner with our Emerati counterparts. One of the Emeratis had called her driver to pick her up and discovered that not only did we Americans not have drivers, we also did not have maids or cooks.


We shrugged and answered, “We do.”

That’s what happens when you don’t have a desperate immigrant underclass to exploit or you’re not rich.

If you’re ordinary middle-class people working ordinary middle-class jobs, you don’t make enough money to hire household help. Or if you do, it’s only once every few weeks. It’s not enough money to pay someone to do the daily drudgery of washing dishes and making beds and washing and putting away clothes and preparing meals.

But it’s also part of a culture where that labor is not supposed to be paid labor.

Where a clean, well-run home, like gravy, is supposed to just come.

When I read about how educating women leads to an increase in a nation’s GDP, I thought, “Oh right! Of course! Women go to work and that work is paid and that’s excellent!”

What I didn’t realize is that part of that increase in GDP is because much of the labor that women do for free – child care, elder care, housekeeping – now becomes paid work.

That is, as women work outside of the home, they have to pay someone else to do the work that they usually do for free inside the home.

Suddenly, that work has value.

My professor friend and I wondered if we were lazy, not-family loving, other-woman exploiting people for thinking it’s OK to hire another woman to clean a house.

Let me address those issues.

Lazy. Even if I am lazy, so what? Is it bad to be a lazy person who also wants a clean house?

Not family loving: If cleaning a house is how a person shows love, then why aren’t the men doing it?

Other woman exploiting: This is a possibility. However. There is an easy way around this one. Don’t leave literal shit around. Pay a fair wage.


There is no shame in paying someone fairly to do honest work. None.

Bernice is pissed and she’s still fighting

“I’ll be damned if my granddaughter is going to have fewer rights than I did”

Mr T and I knocked on a lot of doors in the week before the election.

Not everyone answered their door, but the times I did get to talk to voters and the voters were older women, they were angry.

Here are some of their stories.

Bernice #265, 73 years old.

I was Republican when I grew up. I campaigned for Goldwater. GOLDWATER! And I cried when he lost!

And then I met Nixon and shook his hand.

Now I wash that hand all the time.

I got pregnant before abortion was legal. For me, it worked out OK to have the baby, although there were times when it was touch and go.

But I have friends who had abortions. This was before you could get birth control. I took them to Madison. It was the only place.

And I have a younger friend who had a planned pregnancy. She and her husband were so happy and excited. Then the doctor discovered that the baby had serious problems. The baby would live for only a short time after birth – there was no way it would survive – but would be in terrible pain the entire time.

My friend could not bear the idea of her baby suffering, even for an hour. Suffering and then dying. So she had an abortion.

What happens to someone like my friend now?

Bernice #821, retired nurse.

I don’t like abortion for me, but you see a lot when you’re a nurse for over 30 years. You see cases where it’s the life of the mother or the life of the baby and you can’t save both. You see babies who aren’t going to survive. Or who are going to have horrible painful deformities.

And with a rape – what, the mother is supposed to have that baby – a baby who might look like her rapist – and see that child every single day of her life?

And a child who is raped? A little girl? Whose body is not mature enough for a pregnancy?

(Bernice starts to cry.)

We’re supposed to make her carry a pregnancy?

No. I will not do that. I will not tell another woman what she can do with her own body.

Bernice #746, retired nurse.

I wouldn’t choose an abortion for myself, but I was a nurse for 30 years and oh I have seen some things. Little girls who are raped? What? Those women think counseling solves that problem? NO! I used to volunteer at a counseling center. No, counseling is not the solution. And even if it were, are those people willing to pay higher taxes to fund counseling services? Of course not.

When girls who had been raped came in, we took care of it. They never needed to know. There is no amount of counseling that can make it better for a girl.

My husband – my ex – used to beat me.

(Bernice is about 5′ tall and weighed about 100 lbs back then. Her husband was much bigger.)

I would call the cops on him and they would come and say they couldn’t do anything unless I was dead.

I have spent my entire life fighting for women’s rights. We’re going backwards. I thought we were finally going to have time to fight for the ERA but now we have to go back and fight for abortion rights again.

I’m taking my granddaughter to vote on Tuesday. She’s 19. It will be her first time. I’m fighting for her.

Bernice #523, takes care of her grandson while her daughter works.

I don’t like abortion, but it is none of my damn business to tell another woman what to do with her body. I think Michels [Tim Michels, who was the R candidate for governor in Wisconsin] is going to take women back. That look in his eyes – there’s just something about him. He’s a rich kid who’s never had to do anything and he just has this look. He looks like a child molester to me.

And he doesn’t know anything about what ordinary people live like. I walked into the grocery store and almost passed out. Have you seen those prices?

And child care! Forget it! If you can even find it, it’s too expensive. That’s why I watch my grandson.

I don’t like Michels. He’s going to take us back to coat hangers.

Bernice #478, was pushing her granddaughter in a stroller while I was campaigning.

I’ve been fighting for women’s rights my whole life and I’m not about to see my granddaughter’s rights go backwards. I will be voting blue.

When I was 19, I started working at Allis-Chalmers. One day, my supervisor grabbed me. I was tiny back then but still with a lot up top.

I told his boss and he laughed. “Bob’s a married man with five kids!” he said.

“Are you calling me a liar?” I asked.

So I went to his boss and told him the same thing. And he said the same thing – that Bob was a married man. I asked *him* if he was calling me a liar.

He didn’t do nothing, so I reported it to the West Allis police. I never took it further than that – there’s no way I coulda won, but at least it was there.

And when he grabbed me? I was holding a big stack of time cards. I slammed them down on his arm and knocked him down. He fell – but all he did was laugh at me. He thought it was funny!

But I won in the end. He had a heart attack. I don’t wish a heart attack on nobody – but he was out for a long time. So I took over his job. And I was good at it.

And when the company started to shut down, they kept me on instead of him. *I’m* the one who kept *his* job. I had a job until they closed completely.

I will vote. I will probably just be canceling out my husband, but I will vote.

Will they give us some space, please?

A room of our own. That’s all we want. A room of our own.

I know we have a lot going on with Roe and with democracy in general, but the other fights haven’t disappeared.

This is at a theatre that was just remodeled last year.

On the left is the line for the women’s room.

On the right is the line for the men’s room.

Do you see the problem here?

The next day, we went to another show in the same complex. I stopped at the women’s room in the hotel on the first floor.

The men’s room – right across from the women’s – was closed for cleaning.

I walked into the women’s room and there were a couple of women there and a man who was clearly exasperated that the men’s was closed. It seemed like he knew the women so I was pretty sure he wasn’t some predator.

But still.

When I was done, he was still at the sinks. His friends had already left.

I kept my eyes down, washed my hands, and got out.

But WTF dude?

You really think that you are so important that you should not be inconvenienced in any way whatsoever? That you should not have to wait? That you should not have to walk three minutes to the next men’s room?

You think you should not wait.


What do you think my world is like?

There might be some who say Pot meet Kettle about a man in the women’s room. After all, I have used the men’s room before.

I used it when it was empty. I used it after calling out to make sure it was empty.

And – No man feels threatened seeing a woman in the men’s room. No man feels fear when he sees a woman in the men’s room. He might feel confusion, but he doesn’t feel fear. No man keeps his head down and avoids eye contact when he sees a woman he doesn’t know in a space where he’s not expecting to see women.

And the most obvious reason – I used it BECAUSE THERE IS NOT ENOUGH PROVISION FOR WOMEN.

Mr T asked why I didn’t say something to the invading man.

“Why not just ask, ‘Dude! This is the ladies! What are you doing in here?'”

Spoken like someone who has never been worried about being flashed or attacked. Spoken like someone who has never had to wait to pee.