Why it’s wrong to have a cleaner: a feminist perspective

This is controversial: I know lots of feminists who either have a cleaner, or who want to justify why it’s ok.  I disagree.  I don’t think it’s ok.

Feminists have long been fighting for gender equality (obviously!) and a big part of that battle is liberation from the drudgery of domestic chores.  In a world of gender equality, men need to pick up their end of the bargain and contribute equally to washing their own undies and mopping the floor.  All pretty obvious.

I believe we are fighting not for total liberation from domestic chores, but for the load to be shared equitably.  If you get a cleaner to do it for you, you have solved the problem of gender equality in that domestic arrangement – noone has to do the housework and everyone is happy.

But by employing a cleaner, you haven’t solved the inequality – you’ve just transformed it to an inequality of class.  Surely as feminists the whole point is to deconstruct and redistribute who holds power and privilege in society – not just to reshuffle it so we find ourselves in the coveted position of privilege and power.  To solve gender in equality by introducing a new inequality of class defeats the whole purpose.

That’s what I’m getting at in the verse to this Lurkers song which doesn’t have a proper name, but we call Reasons:

A rich friend I know gets a cleaner to come to her home
Cause feminists these days don’t like to wash their own clothes
She thinks servants they love eating the crumbs that she throws

Mithra

PS Tell me if you disagree!  Let’s have it out.

6 Responses to “Why it’s wrong to have a cleaner: a feminist perspective”

  1. What about if a man who knows he contributes unequally to the cleaning hires the cleaner to salve his conscience? Not that I have done so, but it has crossed the mind, especially as the house fills up with messy children. And what if you find a cleaner who you pay well, who is not exploited and who just enjoys the work?

  2. why are you assuming that being a cleaner is disempowering?

  3. So… one at a time!

    That’s my whole point – if you feel guilty about not doing your fair share of housework, it’s probably because you’re not! But someone still still has to do it, whether it’s someone in your household taking up the slack, or if it’s someone paid from outside.

    There’s lots of evidence to show that part of the reason men have had more money, status, leisure and power than women is that they had a wife (and/or servants) to pick up after them. There’s a good article here if anyone is interested:
    http://www.newint.org/issue181/wages.htm

    Anita is right – being a cleaner doesn’t necessarily have to be disempowering. If they were being paid equal or more to the person hiring them for instance. Or if we had a system where people were paid for the desirability of a job (so a high status, highly sought job like a university professor or boss would be paid less than a cleaner because more people want to do it. But that’s not the system at all. Most people get a cleaner cause cleaning is boring and they don’t want to do it.

    I also think there’s a lot more potential for equality in a commercial setting, where employees all do different (and often boring) jobs – that’s why we get paid!

    But in the domestic setting, I think if you get a cleaner that action says that housework is beneath you. It’s really no different to upper classes having servants – except that most people I know don’t like to consider themselves as upper class.

    By the way, I also dislike housework. But I figure that’s my problem and I either need to stop being lazy and just do it, or live with my own mess.

  4. but arent you evaluating the worth of the cleaner using the capitalist paradigm? why does how much they get paid define their empowerment? The entire working class is disempowered..we are all trapped in the system..regardless of what type of work we do…if you have to work then you are working class..whether you are a university professor or a house cleaner. Some of us may titillate ourselves becuase we have a few extra luxuries… but we need to work for them…we dont inherit them. Believing that other working class pple are different to us is divisive.

  5. …i guess i think that until we have a revolution…i really hope that too many people dont theorise themselves out of having a house cleaner….cause this would mean leaving people out of employment all together. ( and remember: and in many societies cleaning is done by undocumented migrants) and i think that house cleaning is a far better option than absolute poverty.

  6. Im dead set against having a cleaner for the reasons you outline. However my house is still very messy

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