Is There Anything Worse Than Losing One’s Maid?
Ah, how I love Downton Abbey! (I’ve just finished Season Two, so no spoilers, please!) Yes, the upper classes providing for the lower classes by creating jobs for them as servants. How civilized. Talking with he-who-doesn’t-want-to-be-named, I was marveling at how it must have felt to have someone do everything for you: cooking, laying out your clothes, cleaning, laundry. And then it struck me.
It’s not all that different for about half the people in this country. For while Lord and Lady Crawley and their family had scads of footmen, maids and valets, so do many American men. Only instead of being called servants, they’re called “wives”.
Oh, yes, I know there exceptions out there. There are husbands who take responsibility for some household chores. . . though, honestly, most call it “helping out” as though the real responsibility lay elsewhere. Nevertheless, read any of the recent studies or surveys and it becomes clear that our gender is, generally speaking, still part of the “service” class. But before you start composing your contrary response, let me add a twist: the reason women still bear most of the household duties, even when they work a full time job, is because they have decided to.
Yes, ladies. If your husband/partner just throws his clothes on the floor, it’s because you’ll pick them up. If the laundry doesn’t get done unless you do it, who is making you do it? If it always falls on you to cook dinner, clean off the table, do the grocery shopping, there is one thing you can do that a ladies’ maid or a butler couldn’t do.
You can go on strike.
Yes, sisters, strike while the iron is hot (especially all that ironing that you’ve been doing). Refuse to do everything that used to be handled by a cadre of servants – and for no pay – and stand up for your rights. American men will experience what the Dowager Countess asked: is there anything worse than losing one’s maid? What’s the worse that can happen? Your house becomes a pig sty? Your kids go to school looking like ragamuffins? Your husband starts wearing your underwear for lack of clean jockeys?
I can live with that.