Q: Why Can’t a Man Pick out China in the White House? A: America.


Are you mad? I'm mad

by Stephanie Kaloi, Content Manager

hillary clinton side eye

Last week it was brought to my attention that if Hillary Clinton is elected as President of the (Fucking) United States, there is no way that Bill Clinton will find himself picking out china patterns or tending to the vegetable garden. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let me say this: we’re not talking about who you will or will not vote for this year. I don’t even care, unless it’s Trump. What we are talking about is that even though it’s 2016, America is still so deeply steeped in sexism that we, the general public, can’t handle the idea of a powerful man doing “useless girly” things.

It’s tempting to jump in on Hillary for this (because don’t we jump in on her for everything else?). After all, she’s the one who made sure to clarify that Bill most certainly will not be tending to any “woman’s work” in his role as First Gentleman. But you know, I’m not going to do that, because Hillary isn’t actually the aggressor here. Hillary, in fact, is simply responding to the expectations that have been set before her by the populace. As Jill Filipovic explains, Hillary is responding to the message that Americans sent to her loud and clear, way back in 1992:

During Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, she was routinely compared to Lady Macbeth and denounced as a “rogue feminist.” Attacked for her thriving legal career, she defended herself by saying that she “could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession”—and was swiftly pilloried (she published her oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookie recipe in Family Circle magazine in part to defuse the controversy).

So no, Hillary isn’t the one who is pissing me off. But, AMERICA… America is making me very angry.

Why, you ask? Because for all of our talk, we still can’t walk the walk of celebrating men who perform tasks we think of as “women’s work”:

The public now also seems uncomfortable with the idea of Bill Clinton, once the most powerful man in the world, doing what’s always been seen as women’s work. Articles questioning the place of Hillary’s husband in a second Clinton White House abound, taking for granted that the usual duties are beneath him: It would be an insult to have a man of such experience and intellect using his expertise to promote a lightweight issue such as children’s health, or doing something as frivolous as deciding between gold-rimmed plates and silver-detailed ones. Even the Clintons say they’re unsure what moniker they would use: First dude? First mate?

Of course, these articles fail to mention the fact that when HRC was first lady, she was coming off a rather powerful career of her own. Back in their Arkansas days, Hillary joined the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock and became the state’s first professional first lady (she also became partner at that firm in 1980). President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the board of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978. She was twice named on the list of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” and represented a variety of Arkansas businesses. Throughout her husband’s tenure as governor, Hillary chaired committees, co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, served on the boards of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Legal Services, and the Children’s Defense Fund, and wrote a weekly newspaper column. In other words, she hustled. And still, all we wanted her to do was leave healthcare alone and pick out some nice flowers.

Guys, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t keep spouting out that gender is made up, and social norms are fictions—if what we really believe, deep down in our insides, is that it’s absolutely nuts to imagine a man doing something we’ve historically ascribed to women. We can’t celebrate our baby-wearing dads, dads who know how to put their daughter’s hairs in ponytails before school drop off and cook dinner that night. We can’t keep pretending like we think it’s cool that more men are talking about their feelings, exploring their emotional sides, and then make it clear that Bill Clinton can’t actually be expected to be “that” kind of man.

Plus, it is exhausting that we cheer for men who figure out how to loop a hair band three times around their daughter’s pigtails. I don’t know if you’ve ever toted a baby around in a carrier, but I sure have, and I’ll be the first to tell you that being able to do so isn’t something I’ve ever been applauded for. You know what will really happen if Bill Clinton does sashay into the Oval and start picking out china? We’ll perpetually applaud him for it, even though Hillary can’t get a golf clap for anything from us.

I’m sure there are some of you who are all, “But wait. Bill Clinton is a former President! That’s why he can’t pick out china and go visit elementary schools! He’s important.”

To that I say, oh hell no. I don’t care if he had been Leader of The Entire Planet, homeboy can still make sure the drapes match the interiors, give interviews about the importance of a well-balanced school lunch, oversee the White House chef (and make sure Lady H is getting the food she likes), and make sure he’s coordinating his ties with Hillary’s suits because he can handle it. She was a powerful First Lady who more than took one for the team while Bill was playing Most Powerful Dude in the Free World, but we didn’t care about that. In fact, we didn’t like her until she decided to take a seat, like a lady should (tell us about it, Jill):

By the time her husband was embroiled in a sex scandal, Hillary had scaled back her domestic policy objectives, advocating for Bill as the House impeached him and the Senate voted to keep him in office. She also campaigned, often behind the scenes, for the rights of women and children. Her approval ratings soared.

You know what it would be like if I were President and my husband was First Dude? I would be walking around, being badass and making powerful decisions while also being like, “Oh [husband]! Don’t forget! Field trip with the local school today!” or like,  “Love you so much, but I think the garden is suffering. Can you check on that?” Or maybe “Boo! You’re the best! Think you could pick out some new bed linens this week?” Because you know what? That would be his job, and that stuff matters. And powerful women have been filling that role for a long, long time… and dudes gotta take their turn. Even awesome, super smart ones that I might be married to.

By virtue of running for office, Hillary is challenging gender roles like nobody’s business. The level of sexism that is consistently leveled at her from all sides is astounding, and she keeps rolling ahead. She’s challenging our apparently very ingrained perceptions about what a woman should and shouldn’t do. If Hillary gets elected, there is no reason for Bill to not do his part to shake up gender roles as well:

If he really wants to challenge gender divides, Bill Clinton should take on these traditionally female obligations. He would send a powerful message: There’s no such thing as “women’s work” and “men’s work,” “women’s issues” and “hard issues.” And the aesthetic, domestic and social labor women have long done in the White House—indeed, the labor they have long done in many houses, with smaller budgets and fewer flower arrangements—is valuable, too.

I know plenty of women who work outside the home, and plenty of women who work inside of it. Let me tell you this: maybe you scoff, but running a household isn’t fun and games. It’s not easy, and you deal with a lot of bullshit while you’re doing it. My husband works twelve hour shifts at a hospital in a really intense unit and regularly complains about the men he knows who insist that their wives have it “easy” because they’re staying home with the kids (as if staying home with the kids is a treat 24/7) and cleaning the house. How powerful would it be to see a man, a former US President at that, giving interviews about running the house? COME ON.

If she is about one thing, Hillary Clinton is about improving the lives of women, full stop. So why don’t we expect Bill to be?

Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her husband, their seven year old metalhead son, and a crew of beasts. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and smiley faces.

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  • KiwiSarah

    Totally agree with all of this, but what kills me is that in the (awesome) scenario where you’re running the country, you’re also STILL doing your husband’s emotional labour! I sincerely hope that once Bill comes on board with this whole gender equality thing, he doesn’t expect Hillary to pause while running the world to remind him that he has to go kiss some babies tomorrow afternoon… I know that wasn’t your point though :)

    • stephanie

      OMG YOU ARE SO RIGHT IT NEVER ENDS. I mean, you’re right in that it wasn’t my point but IT IS SO INGRAINED.

    • Meg Keene

      RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT. I think that is kind of the point. And I feel this pain SO FUCKING MUCH SO OFTEN. Love my husband, love love. But I’m like “lemme pay a whole ton of bills and then also make sure all the emotional labor is taken care of and pick out the china and remind you to do the chores.”

      And then I feel badly for feeling grumpy because he really is SO good. He cooks, he does a ton of shit. But it STILL never fucking ends.

      • ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
        Yeah, how to deal with, “You are performing above average for homo sapiens of your gender, but I’m still paying the bills and constantly side-eyeing the soap scum growing in the bathtub…”? Need help shutting that part of my brain off. And just not giving any shits. That’d be nice.

        • Marcela

          So much side-eye.

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      • Stephanie B.

        I upvoted not because I like this, but because DAMN, do I identify with it.

    • Jessica

      I thought this too! Soooo ingrained.

    • Sarah

      I thought the exact same thing! I hope if I were President, I’d just be like “I love you so much! You’re the best!” and the First Gentleman would have to figure out the field trip and the garden and the linens for himself. (Having said that, my partner’s dad texted us both about a family event this weekend, which clashes with plans my partner already made for us…I’m leaving it to him to figure it out, respond appropriately to the invitation and let me know where I need to be and when. He hasn’t mentioned it yet though. Pretty sure we’re missing his grandma’s birthday. I know it’s not for me to worry about, but gosh it’s hard not to.)

  • Eenie

    This whole election season is exhausting.

    • I’m over it. I can’t even vote in the democratic primary because I care so little. I’ll vote to avoid Trump, but this election cycle is super awful. I wonder if it only gets increasingly awful as we get older because we’re more in tune (i.e., remember) with what has happened previously?

      • Eenie

        I’m voting in our local elections tomorrow and I’m super fucking pumped.

        • BSM

          I’m in CA, so next week, but I was psyched to learn that our polling place is at a great neighborhood park down the street from us. VOTING AT THE PARK!! I’m weirdly excited about it (clearly).

      • Meg Keene

        No. I’ve been paying a whole lot of attention to elections since 1992. We haven’t seen anything close to like this in my lifetime. I mean, also, we’ve never had the fear of fascism very realistically looming over us.

        • Danielle

          Eh. George W. Bush was awful. Remember when the Supreme Court basically stole the election in 2001? Awful.

      • emilyg25

        No. It’s extra super cray this year. I keep reminding myself that we as a country go through cycles like this (um, hello Civil War!), but damn, it’s hard.

    • Amy March

      I’m finding it really energizing. A- I hardcore love HRC. B- Bernie has provided a really interesting alternative and obviously appeals to a large (non-nomination winning) proportion of Democrats, and I’m interested to see how that shapes the party. C- It is deeply personally satisfying to see so many of the Republicans around me frankly embarrassed by their party. D- I am so ready for a fight against Trump. McCain, eh sure whatever, Romney, okay I get it. Trump? Game on.

      • Eenie

        I was with you through super Tuesday. I found it energizing. Now I’m terrified Sanders is going to burn the party to the ground. I have yet to meet any of these embarrassed Republicans. Multiple neighbors have Trump signs in their yard now.

        • Lisa

          My husband has a staunch Republican friend who is saying he’s planning to write in Condoleeza’s name on the ballot instead. Most of the other Republicans I know are begrudgingly organizing themselves to support Trump.

          • Eenie

            Thankfully our friend group is this lone sane island in all the trump craziness around us. I was afraid to ask about politics (newer friends, it’s the south), and then we named our trivia team “Donald Trump is a horrible person” and my worries were put to rest.

          • NotMarried!

            oh, if only Condolezza would run!

        • Keeks

          I live in a conservative area of the country, and during the primaries every Republican I knew said, “Oh that Trump guy is disgusting, I would NEVER.” Now that it all seems to be a done deal, those same people are saying, “Well, anything to keep Hillary out of the White House.” it’s scary to hear my family members talking this way.

          • Eenie

            I do not look forward to family events this summer.

          • Marcela

            Just this summer?

          • Eenie

            The family events filled with bigots only happen in the summer. I’m not sure I’ll be able to hold my tongue this year against the trump supporters. I’ve learned there’s just no point in arguing with them. Sigh.

          • Marcela

            I volunteer to do the dishes a lot.

          • lady brett

            this is how i got through the years of vising my girlfriend’s family who “didn’t know we were together.”

          • Marcela

            Damn. Solidarity fistbump.

        • NotMarried!

          Embarrassed Republican Here.

      • stephanie

        I just really like everything you said.

      • emilyg25

        Part of me agrees with you—I watch politics like normal people watch football. And the other part hears my social worker neighbor say that she’s working overtime to deal with a new influx of refugee kids trying to get here before Trump becomes president, and suddenly it’s a whole lot more serious.

        • MC

          John Oliver recently said something on his show about how politics are sports for nerds and my husband and I were like, “Oh. Yep, that’s us.” But lately it has become so exhausting and depressing. A bunch of unconscious bias/sexism on the Dem side, literal xenophobia & racism & white privilege personified on the GOP side.

          • Marcela

            There’s a whole hell of a lot of white privilege happening on the DEM side too.

          • MC

            Very true. This election is kind of bringing out the worst in both sides of the aisle.

        • JC

          “I watch politics like normal people watch football.” YES. Us too. The other night, we had a grand ole chuckle when he mixed up Lincoln Chaffee and Jason Chaffetz and we thought we’re probably the only ones in our acquaintance who know who those men are…

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      Same. Between Travyon Martin, Mike Brown, riots, the faux war on police, having to debate my humanity and that of others in conversations about police brutality, the nasty rhetoric of this election — I am so so exhausted. I don’t have the bandwidth to pay much attention to this election anymore until Ca primaries and election in Nov.

  • lady brett

    skipping the meat of this and down to the bit about running a household is not easy, my honey has started referring to my upcoming move to housewife/stay-at-home parent as “mission control.”

    • Meg Keene

      TOTALLY. Which is why I find it so bonkers that we somehow expect women to run the world AND do mission control. Or have a high powered career and somehow do mission control when… we might otherwise be sleeping? I don’t even KNOW. Mission control is hard work, man.

    • stephanie

      I know way too many women who are with men who consistently tell them that they have it easy because they “get to stay at home all day.” Mission Control is totally accurate, and vital.

      • emilyg25

        People who say that should be immediately sentenced to 3, 12-hour shifts alone with the children.

        • My husband spent the last few months having one day a week at home with the toddler.

          I felt so smug the first day, when I got home to a very exhausted man complaining that he hadn’t had time to get anything done. :)

    • Sarah M

      THIS. This is exactly what my mom does. I didn’t appreciate it AT ALL when I was a snotty teenager (not saying all teenagers are snotty, just acknowledging that I was kind of unnecessarily a dick to my mom when I was a teen) and thought she had it so easy being a stay at home mom. Now that I’m working full time and moved out of my parents’ house several years ago, I fully understand and appreciate how much WORK she did. She was the one who did all the budgets, financial planning, bill paying, shopping, childcare duties, scheduling, AND emotional labor without ever dropping the ball and raising three kids in the process. All my dad did was bring home the paycheck, because everything else was handled. I don’t think my dad has even bought a single item of clothing for himself since he and my mom got married because she keeps his wardrobe stocked. “Mission control” is exactly the term I’ve been looking for to describe how much she does every day behind the scenes.

      • Shawna

        Huh, just now realizing that this may be why I made such a good project manager. I loved the shit out of being Mission Control at Space Academy.

        Doesn’t mean I love the emotional labor part of running our household. It’s nice to have someone to work with in your department, yeah (and not just chat about the grind with someone from the same role in an office down the street)?

      • Jessica

        My parents (both worked outside of the home) used to joke that what they both really needed was a wife–someone to take care of everything so they could go kick ass/take names at work.

        • Sarah M

          I make that same joke! I spent a lot of time in school preparing for my career and work hard to build a strong reputation for my work – I’ve been joking for years that I don’t want to be a “wife” to a “husband”, but that I want a “wife” of my own (quotes to indicate I’m talking about gender roles, not actual sex of marital partners).

          • Nm

            Ditto. A huge part of the whole conversation is that our work lives don’t give anyone time for the emotional labor/childcare/domestic labor that women have traditionally done. I know a lot of people think government childcare is a big solution, but I am more interested in revamping work so that everyone has time to participate in that work and is expected to do so. Why are we stuck on 40 plus hour work weeks and no flexibility and the idea that ” taking a break” (haha) to raise children or care for ill or aging family members disqualifies you from a professional career.

          • AGCourtney

            THIS. I’m reading the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte and there’s a big section on these issues.

      • This is a topic I was trying to articulate to my husband this weekend, because we were talking about Steph Curry and how he thanked his wife for everything she does at his MVP speech. It grinds my gears to hear so many men talk about “she wasn’t with me shooting in the gym” as if it’s ONLY their talent/smarts that makes them successful in their careers. Steph Curry CAN just worry about shooting baskets cause his wife is taking care of EVERYTHING else and their two kids, and you’re damn right he’s able to be so successful because she’s taking care of everything else. I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept to understand.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          Guurrrllll.

          And then you get women who agree and you want to slowly slit your wrists.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          As an aside we need to discuss this couple because the way that Ayesha Curry is used to shame women on opposite ends of the sexism spectrum is really interesting to watch. Like on one hand, she’s “using” her husband’s success to build her own career (so she’s a low key gold digger) or she’s a ride or die chick who daps her man even when he loses a game (and why can’t the rest of y’all be like her).

          • Yes, all of that. I really don’t understand the folks who are offended that she’s using her husband’s success – ain’t that what marriage is for? Is she supposed to struggle solo to “prove” she isn’t a gold digger? And it’s very curious that I see that argument coming solely from Black men – I really think the lack of marriage in the Black community has completely warped my generation and their ideas of what partnership/marriage is supposed to look like.

            My husband is working on making the PGA Amateur Tour and you can best believe that I’m going to capitalize my ass off if he becomes the next Tiger Woods. When he comes up, WE come up.

          • Lily

            The “gold digger” criticism is particularly rude (and likely invalid), given that they’ve been together since college. Early college. Before Davidson made it to the tournament and all that. Why can’t folks just be happy for them? Or, at the very least, neutral?

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            This critique of Ayesha Curry being a gold digger is actually misogynoir. If she were white, the men critiquing her would not consider her a gold digger. It’s specifically because she’s a black woman that they come for her in this manner. It’s also ahistorical, this idea that black women are only with successful black men for money given that black men by and large haven’t had that kind of capital AND black women have always had to work to help support their families and hold it down. Entire think pieces can be written about the way Ayesha Curry is both applauded and shamed by the same men who critique her.

        • Sarah M

          “Steph Curry CAN just worry about shooting baskets cause his wife is taking care of EVERYTHING else and their two kids, and you’re damn right he’s able to be so successful because she’s taking care of everything else.” EXACTLY. I support the person in the comments who said anyone who disparages the work stay at home moms do should be sentenced to 12 hour solo shifts. Like, let her go on vacation for a couple of days and let’s just see how well you handle running a household and wrangling tiny humans with zero support staff. This is WORK.

      • april

        This reminds me of a story my MIL (who was a stay at home mom) tells about my husband. Apparently, when he was in first grade he had to write a couple of sentences about what he wanted to be when he grows up. MIL goes to pick him up from school, and the teacher hands her this sheet of paper and is like “now, don’t be mad.” Apparently he had written that he wanted to be his mom when he grew up because “she doesn’t have to go to school and she gets to take naps whenever she wants.”

        • Laura

          Ha, I just went through some old stuff my mom had saved from school and found a similar gem. We were given prompts to say what our parents were good at.

          “My dad is good at….saving sick animals!” (he’s a veterinarian).
          “My mom is good at……making Kraft mac and cheese.”

          My poor mom. Super smart, college educated, and taking time away from her teaching career to care for her three children, and all I wanted was someone to mix fluorescent orange cheese sauce into some pasta.

          • Sarah M

            Much to my very polite mom’s dismay, I have little patience these days with anyone who I think is talking down to my mom because she’s “just a stay at home mom.” My mom should be running HR or working in finance in a Fortune 500 company and people talk to her like she’s not very bright because she dropped out of college for financial reasons and quit her job to be a stay at home mom. She actually out earned my dad since she met him and they had to do a lot of planning for how to make things work on his salary alone when they decided she would stay home. I’m going to be spending the rest of my life letting her know how valued and appreciated she is, because I didn’t do it nearly enough while I was growing up. She’s so much more than just my mom.

    • BDubs

      Hell. Yes.

  • UGGGGGHHHHH, I’M SO MAD ABOUT THIS. I’m fully expecting Bill Clinton to get paid for his work if he ends up in this role because…America.

    Also, this is a perfect example of where it’s on men to say the unpopular thing that challenges gender roles, not leave it to women to say it. Rather than leaving Hillary to answer a question that was surely going to be asked, Bill had an opportunity (and, I’d argue, a responsibility) as a straight white wealthy man to be like, “I’m looking forward to picking out the china while my wife runs the country!”

    Also, as women have been demonstrating for YEARS, it’s possible to both have an “important” job and also pick out the fucking china.

    Gahajhdjashdjhasjh fuck I cannot with this. I’m so mad.

    • Meg Keene

      YESSSSSSSS. She can’t really say it. He sure as fuck can.

    • stephanie

      “Bill had an opportunity (and, I’d argue, a responsibility) as a straight white wealthy man to be like, ‘I’m looking forward to picking out the china while my wife runs the country!'” My husband said basically the same thing—he was disappointed that it had to be on Hillary to address this, and Bill wasn’t already like “Of course that’s what I’ll do.”

    • lady brett

      yes. but also, i think even if he’s 100% on board with that, it will hurt her in the election to say it. which is part of all the how fucked up this is, but i think everyone who will be like “hell, yes!” is already supporting her (or will be), and it will feed all the crazy sexist bullshit frenzy.

      • Yeah, I just cannot imagine that people who would not vote for her because of this utterly irrelevant thing will ultimately vote for her anyway? Like, surely some other bullshit reason will come up before the election.

        • Meg Keene

          God, but having watched her carefully since ’92, that’s already why people are not voting for her. I mean, it’s covered a zillion other reasons, but we don’t like her because she’s breaking barriers.

          (I don’t actually mean that it’s not valid to have political disagreements with her, or like the other guy better. I mean that the way that she’s been treated and vilified for 20 years TOTALLY is related to her gender.)

        • lady brett

          not like “this will be the single issue that destroys her campaign” but just that it would add fuel to the fire, and exactly where the tipping point is for folks who are on the fence we won’t know ’till it happens. (although i’m still pretty boggled that there would be people on the fence this election, it does appear to be a thing.)

          • Eenie

            I agree with this. There isn’t a fence.

    • emilyg25

      I actually have concerns about Bill’s ability to stand back and let Hillary do her thing. He has been … not great … lately.

    • joanna b.n.

      See Ben Wyatt entering the pie-making contest, on Parks and Recreation, for a first step in this direction. Because even if you ARE the man running for office, why should your wife’s main talents be COOKING!? In fantasy land where Leslie and Ben are real. Sigh. Don’t I wish!

      • MC

        I was literally thinking earlier today about how perfect their (fictional) relationship is. Sigh indeed. You know as First Gent Ben would be planning dinner parties, perfecting his calzone recipe, playing Board games with all the diplomats…

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    • BSM

      Really loved this quick interview with Rhode Island’s first First Gentleman (his wife is the governor): http://www.glamour.com/story/youre-going-to-love-what-this

      An excerpt: Clearly, the most important thing I can do is to support and emotionally enable Gina to make sure she can be the best governor she can be.

      Note: I do not love all the fawning over him for doing what First Ladies have done forever, but that’s on Glamour.

    • Maeab1
  • Hannah

    Oh no, I disagree a little bit. No one’s partner should have to pick out ceremonial china or linens. Let’s not continue the tradition that because your partner is the leader of the free world, you must take on ceremonial tasks like picking out china or gardening instead of whatever job you actually planned to do in life. Pay a trained decorator to pick out the china for God’s sake. This is the topic of an episode of Parks and Rec :)

    • That has been the tradition for a long-ass time. It would be some serious bullshit if we only did away with it because a MAN came along and didn’t want to do it.

      • stephanie

        GIRL, you’re reading my mind.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        This is the argument Michael had when I brought it up with him. He was like, “We should do way with all annoying things!” And I was like, OH NO YOU DON’T. You (the collective patriarchy, not Michael himself) don’t get to decide something is important for goddamn forever, so important that I have to devote time and energy I could be using elsewhere to do said task, and then decide it’s not important the minute a dude is responsible for it. That is more infuriating than me having to do it in the first place. Because then suddenly this thing I’ve been responsible for this WHOLE TIME, this thing which I could not falter on, is not deemed worthy enough? THEN WHY DID I HAVE TO DO IT TO BEGIN WITH?!

        • ART

          preeeaaach!

        • Kayjayoh

          WHY CAN I ONLY UPVOTE THIS ONCE????

        • Caitlyn

          Yup- had the same conversation with my husband. How about Bill picks out some damn China patterns and then MAYBE we can discuss this not being a thing for spouses of elected officials anymore?!

      • savannnah

        I think the really annoying part to all of this is that when/if Bill becomes First Gent, he’ll open up the role so much for future first ladies and that will be good…but also so so frustrating and annoying that it will take a male presidential partner to redefine that role.

    • Meg Keene

      I fundamentally agree with Rachel, but I’m sort of pondering the deeper parts of this… and trying to tease out what my feelings are. I think it’s deeper than just the white house and ceremonial roles (which is why I wanted us to cover it). Sure, in the White House we could just outsource it. But in life, we can’t. However it looks in your household… whether it’s picking out china or picking out paper plates, this sort of somewhat ceremonial/ somewhat practical duty has to get done, and only the super rich can afford to outsource it. I find it frustrating that even though women have moved to the workforce, even though we may have more earning power or longer hours than our spouses, we’re still doing almost all of this. I’m still picking out our thank you notes, and making sure they get written and sent out. Managing the china and the paper plates, almost all of it. The idea that we can just outsource it isn’t realistic, but also rests upon the idea that none of this traditionally women’s work has real value. That we could all live without it, if no one was around to do it. But society depends on paper plates or china being procured for social events, thank you notes getting sent, weddings getting planned, potluck dishes brought… so we devalue it and figure women can do it in their spare time. EVEN if their day job is BEING PRESIDENT.

      • Amy March

        Plus, like, Bill Clinton is the ultimate hostess. I am sure his parties will be amazing and I want to go. He’s actually going to be great at First Gentleman-ing.

        • Keeks

          That’s the thing, I really want Bill to OWN it and really revel in the role of First Gentleman. Like when my husband gets really excited about hosting brunch. Also I want to see HIS cookie recipes.

          • Meg Keene

            DO Y’ALL REMEMBER HIS RECIPES WHEN HE WAS IN THE WHITE HOUSE? It was like “Christmas Turkey Brined Coca-Cola And Deep Fried.” There were these hilarious interviews with the White House chief being like “Well, Bill is…. from… Arkansas…”

          • eating words

            OMG yes! But now he’s vegan, so maybe it would be… beer-battered tofu?

          • Emily

            This would be so cool!

        • Meg Keene

          TRUTH. The conversations would be epic and we’d all stay up till like, 4am playing cards and drinking whisky.

      • Danielle

        Does society really depend on thank you notes and weddings? I don’t think a lot this stuff is actually necessary.

        Agreeing with your main point (emotional labor sucks) but pushing back on certain things actually being necessary. I rarely get thank you cards anymore – and it’s fine. I don’t expect them from my friends, who are busy with their jobs and families.

        At this point (after several critical life events) I’m running my household at a bare bones level, and it’s actually ok. Me and husband are still getting fed and paying bills, but extra stuff is not happening, and that’s fine. I’m not sure I will want to go back to our old ways (additional emotional labor) even after things calm down.

        We don’t have children; ymmv.

        • Emily

          “Does society really depend on thank you notes and weddings? I don’t think a lot this stuff is actually necessary.”

          I think this is an interesting question and I tend to agree with you. Who has decided these things are so important… sometimes it seems like women police other women to make sure they get done. Could we agree to not police each other?

          • Danielle

            Policing and also, maybe just preferences. Some women are used to these traditions/formalities, and tend to prefer them in their lives. Others of us couldn’t care less. I do think women are the ones continuing these traditions for the most part. (Most guys don’t write or GAF about thank you notes.) Maybe we can also agree that, hey, thank you notes aren’t everybody’s preference. You can have them in your life if you want — but it’s just that, a preference and a choice. Not a mandatory life need. It doesn’t make you a better or worse person for choosing to have them in your life.

          • Emily

            I like the way you put it– a preference, not a mandatory need. And, if I don’t write my husband’s thank you notes (which I don’t), I am not a terrible wife or human being.

            (As for thank you notes, as I’ve read these comments I noticed that no one every talks about a FIL being upset about not getting a thank you note).

          • Danielle

            Do FILs even know what thank you notes are? Srsly, though.

          • Emily

            LOL, and that’s half the population! Yet look how much energy gets put into thank you notes on APW. Imagine what that energy could be going towards!

          • Danielle

            Girl. You’re right.

            Women are the ones creating and upholding these etiquette tips. We can be the ones to ignore or update them if we want.

          • Caitlyn

            I almost responded “YES, society does need thank you notes. Hello etiquette!” But then I saw your comment and thought about it and realized that if we did not receive a thank you note my husband wouldn’t even notice. And it would actually be freeing if I felt the same way. I like giving gifts and I know my family and friends are nice people who likely enjoyed my gift. So do I really need to insist that they take time to write me a card telling me that (especially after likely hosting me for some sort of event)? No. So why do I care? Because my mama taught me to do it and that has translated into me judging a bit if others don’t met that expectation – which now that I put it into words, I’m not so proud of. So thank you for that bit of introspection. I’ll try to be more attune to my future etiquette policing and knock it off.

      • It’s worth noting that when rich or middle-class couples outsource chores like this, they still typically outsource them to women (see also; hiring someone to clean your house, hiring someone to watch your kids) and those women are typically earning VERY low wages for the work.

    • Marcela

      I wrote out a long thing, but it comes down to what Rachel and Maddie said.

    • Elinor

      Couldn’t agree more (apart from the ‘free world’ term but I ranted about that already).
      Bill doesn’t have to do those things if he doesn’t want to. Pushing someone down (doing tasks they don’t want to do) doesn’t lift someone else. Screw tradition!
      Speaking as someone who’s lived with 21 years of female presidents in power, not once minute of time was ever wasted talking about their husband’s taste in china.

  • A

    1. Why do they need new china? Can’t they use the old stuff? Do Presidents get to take it after their tenures?
    2. I just learned that a lot of china is made from ash of cattle bones. That shouldn’t be too surprising but it creeps me out.

    • Amy March

      They usually “pick” china from the settings the White House already has.

      • ART

        So Bill would just have to point to one? Well fuck, that means all the former first ladies have done the hard work already! AS USUAL!

    • Bone china!

      • lady brett

        huh. never put that together. now i feel like i should have known this sooner.

        • ItsyBit

          Huh! Same, I had no idea. Although in my (our?) defense, “bone” is also sometimes used as a color label. (right??)

          • Stephanie B.

            Oh god, I assumed the “bone” in “bone china” was for the color, too.

            I’m now creeped out.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I keep thinking of this one scene from Scandal where they talk about how Eleanor Roosevelt (I think) intentionally picked a particular type of China during her tenure as First Lady to promote American jobs during the depression. It matters!

  • MC

    Ugh, yes, all of this. I was so annoyed when this was a question that Hillary got in one of the early debates – meanwhile, in the nine debates we have, there hasn’t been ONE question about reproductive rights, probably one of the most important issues to women in this election year. But y’know, they gotta ask Hillary what her spouse plans on doing. Not that they need to ask anyone who’s married to a woman.

  • Violet

    Still confused why the term du jour is “emotional labor.” I can’t see myself getting emotional about a china pattern, but it is part of running a home to have something to eat off of, and thus, must be done. What happened to “home economics”? I know APW didn’t coin the term “emotional labor,” because I’ve been reading those articles, too. But I wonder what is the purpose of using a term that seems, at the face of it, really inaccurate. Anyone know?

    • Meg Keene

      Emotional Labor is about say, remembering that you have to send a Thank You note to your MIL or she’ll be really mad.In this case it’s about the idea of the President having to remind the first gentleman to take care of the garden, or pick the China, because she knows people care about it, and it will be a big mess if it doesn’t get done. It’s not the actual picking, it’s the fact that women are usually remembering (say, in my real life) that the kids need to bring something for show and share, or it’s teacher appreciation week. It’s the constant managing of the stuff that needs to happen.

      • Violet

        Thanks for the additional context. In some examples, I can see how emotions might get involved if things don’t get done. But people (not always on APW, mind you, but here too) are using it in reference to things like remembering when someone needs to re-order dish soap. There are literally no emotions involved there. It just needs to get done.

        • Meg Keene

          Well I’d argue the emotions are mine: RAGE. But I digress.

          Seriously though, it’s about the emotional energy that it takes to run an household and a life, emotional energy mostly contributed by women.

          • Violet

            Lol, rage indeed.
            It just seems odd to give a new name to a concept that’s been around for ages, which is: it’s hard work running a household. This work usually falls to women. That default should stop. I think calling that litany of tasks that are not emotional “emotional” confuses things.

          • Jessica

            Naming things is a part of addressing and changing the relationship to said things. For instance: sexual harassment didn’t really have a name until the Anita Hill trials, and now we have protective laws about it. However, sexual harassment has been around since…forever.

            So, while they may not seem ’emotional,’ having a name for what is done (beyond ‘running a household,’ which can be done a million different ways) so it can be discussed and the relationship with the concept can be altered in a progressive way.

          • JLily

            I think the distinction is important, actually. Its pretty clear that there is some labor involved in buying dishsoap, cooking dinner, etc. The part that was missing from the equation, before people started talking about emotional labor, is all of the extra labor that goes into building and maintaining relationships. Sending a card, wrapping a present, setting the table using fancy china–these things do not seem like work because they are related to emotions, but the reason they are important is because they help make people feel happy/loved/other positive emotion, which helps the whole family maintain relationships. The idea of emotional labor is to say that these things do take brain power, they do involve certain skills, they take a lot of time, and they should be considered work.

          • MDBethann

            Right, and they can take just as much, if not sometimes MORE, energy than what a person might expend doing their paid job. Emotional labor can be more exhausting some times than physical labor.

          • Violet

            I agree with you there that naming helps change happen; I just happen to think labeling things that don’t clearly involve emotions as “emotional” would not resonate with my male partner. It really doesn’t even resonate with me. So I’m having trouble extrapolating that it could be helpful to get others on board. But maybe that’s just because my partner and I happen to be overly literal people? Not sure.

        • Ashlah

          I think it’s just to designate it as separate from physical labor. You could argue that it should be called mental labor or something because I see your point, but I bet it’s a simple as the first person who gained leverage with the whole idea happened to choose the word emotional, and that’s what stuck.

        • Keeks

          It’s not just domestic-related tasks, but also the *management* of daily responsibilities & household tasks. Like the dish soap – who notices when it’s empty? Who orders it? Who picks it up & refills the dispenser?

          • Violet

            I know, but none of those managerial steps involve emotions. They involve thinking.

          • It’s too late to change the name now, but yes. When I read “emotional labor” I also think “logistical labor”.

        • JLily

          I think what you say about the dish soap is true–but its related to emotional labor imo. For me emotional labor is more about managing other’s emotions. Like, FH will remember to buy dish soap if we are out, but not necessarily make sure we have enough when preparing to host a dinner, for example. Whereas I will think of all those things in advance, because I am thinking in terms of making people feel at home/comfortable–in this case because we have dish soap. And making the whole party run more smoothly because we didn’t run out mid-dishes. And yes, that could just be considered good dinner party management, but it happens as a way of trying to make people feel comfortable, therefore well-taken care of in our house, therefore facilitating closer bonding between those people.

          • eating words

            Yes, exactly re: emotions. Getting presents for a birthday party? Writing a thank-you note? Doing just about anything for hosting people, because the welcome they get has everything to do with emotions? Not every household task is emotional, but so many of them are.

          • Violet

            I see what you’re saying. Unrelated, I’m realizing we could be throwing more (i.e., any) dinner parties.

        • Ilora

          For me the reason that I specifically like about the word emotional being part of this whole issue is that it’s not about the jobs that need doing but the energy that’s being drawn on to get them done. Anything that involves interacting with other people requires emotional energy (the reason I love self-checkouts!). So it’s not that I find dish soap to be a really emotional thing, it’s that unless I want to do all of the household logistics myself I have to ask my husband to do them, and that takes up my emotional energy,

          Because it’s not as simple as just saying ‘hey can you grab dish soap?’ I add it to our shared shopping list app, and he gets a notification, then I also have to ask him to grab it, because the notification tells him something was added but not what and he’d rather ask me what I added than just look at the list and figure it out.

          It also comes into play with chores, it’s his job to do the dishes, so on principle I don’t touch them save for the rare occasion. And he consistently leaves them unwashed for days, and we have a dishwasher! So then I have to decide if I’m willing to ignore them, or if I’ll just do them myself, or if I’ll tell him to do them (but not tell him, that would make me a nag, I have to ask). Of course he doesn’t think that telling him would be nagging, he thinks it would be super helpful (well of course it would!) and would rather I just tell him to do them rather than say nothing until I’m so mad I explode.

          So we’ve both agreed that dishes need to be done daily, we’ve agreed that it’s his job to do them, but when I get mad that they’re not being done he says “Sorry that I didn’t do them but why didn’t you say something sooner?” and I’m left wondering “well why didn’t you wash them sooner?”

          So somehow this thing that is his job has become my responsibility, and now I’m stuck in a supervisory role of using my emotional energy to tell a grown man to take care of his own house…. That’s why it all counts as emotional labour for me.

          Can you tell we fought about this just the other day :/

          • Violet

            Okay, well you’ve convinced me. This sounds exhausting!! Emotionally draining, for sure. Ugh, I’m so sorry. : /

          • Ilora

            Yeah, I love him to death and he’s great in so many other ways…but household stuff is not one of his strengths.

          • Kayjayoh

            “household stuff is not one of his strengths”

            And isn’t this one of the ways that guys get to be let off the hook so often? I mean, who really has household stuff as one of their strengths, unless they work on it? None of us are born being good at housework. We “let” children help with the chores, knowing it will take three times as long and need to be redone after they are in bed, so that they learn how to do it.

            I often think, “Darling dearest of my heart, you can learn where *everything* is in Minecraft. Why can you not remember which drawer the kitchen scissors goes in after all these many months?” (And the answer is that he cares about Minecraft and does not care about the kitchen scissors.)

          • Emily

            Yes. Often when I read these discussions I find myself thinking that we have to stop treating men like children (letting them off the hook and not expecting them to do something). On the other hand, because it has never been expected of them, we may need to allow them to do the thing at a child’s level for a year or two while they are gaining mastery.

          • Kayjayoh

            But with the extra level of “ugh!” in that we can’t treat them as children. Instructing and reminding is so much easier when the learned really is a child. Different egos.

          • Emily

            I agree that we shouldn’t treat them as children. When I read about men who expect women to do their laundry or always cook dinner or write their thank you notes I tend to think those men are acting like children. This concept (men as adults/men acting like children) is all mixed up in my head… I need to tease it out more.

          • Ilora

            Ugh, yes! Exactly to all of that! We’ve had almost exactly that argument and he’s actually even said outright that he “just doesn’t care” where the xyz goes, but he tries cause he knows I care… Well it benefits both of us if you put things where they go so don’t act like you’re doing me a favour by putting the cheese grater in the same spot on the shelf that it always goes in….

          • Kayjayoh

            You have typed my life.

            “So then I have to decide if I’m willing to ignore them, or if I’ll just do them myself, or if I’ll tell him to do them (but not tell him, that would make me a nag, I have to ask).”

          • Emily

            Yes! Emotional energy. I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this and you said it perfectly.

      • Gina

        OMG the goddamn thank you notes. They’ll be the death of me yet.
        MIL: “have you sent [husband’s] grandparents a thank you note yet?”
        Me: “I don’t know, ask [husband].”
        Every FRIGGIN time.

        • Nonny

          But it becomes this self-fulfilling cycle—even on APW, I’ve been unequivocally told that Thank You notes are an exception. Meaning that if your husband won’t write TY notes to his friends and family, you should just do it because it’s more important to show them gratitude than to let your husband not thank them. Obvs, try to get him to do it first, but if he puts it off, don’t just let it go by the wayside because that’s not the right thing to do. Which I get. I do get that. It’s not their fault that my husband wasn’t conditioned to write TY notes and I *do* want to express gratitude, truly.

          But god, other times I do feel like there are so, so many things that can be in the “it’s more important to [EMOTIONAL LABOR ITEM] than to let your husband not” and while TY notes are just one example, it can all always pile up and becomes the impetus of the whole thing. So yeah, sometimes I want to just not care if my MIL’s best friend’s sister gets a thank you card because that was HIS JOB and well, he just couldn’t be bothered, what can you do? That’s what would happen if he were single! Sigh.

          Of course, I know that’s not how it works in a partnership or in life. I just get tired sometimes and feel like there will never be an end to the slack I have to pick up, to keep other people in our sphere happy. And my husband tries and he’s such a good man, but it still feels like there’s always *something.*

          • Nonny

            Huh, apparently thank you notes are a rant trigger for me right now! :p

          • A.

            Yeah, that’s the thing with emotional labor: most of it DOES have to be done, in one capacity or another. And it SUCKS that it falls to women so much and it can definitely create burn out, especially if it’s not part of ongoing communication.

            And honestly, sometimes it’s really hard even if it IS part of an ongoing conversation because deeply conditioned divisions of labor / gender roles are REALLY hard to fully disentangle from, especially in hetero relationships. While I’m probably in the ‘Ugh, yeah, I’ll just write the damn thing’ camp myself, I think little things like that can get overwhelming for lots and lots of women. And it can be a real drain.

            FWIW, I get that way about picking up my husband’s shoes. He is a fantastic husband, a 50% partner in almost every way in could possibly matter, but I sometimes want to just throw his GD shoes out the window because they are everywhere and it just never occurs to him to pick them up. I don’t even care if they are put away nicely in our closet; I’d just like him to keep them out of, like, the kitchen. But then people come over and they’re in the way or our dogs start chewing them…and it’s easier to for me to pick them up. Usually I can laugh it off, but there are other times that I’m like, “…I’m going to be picking up his shoes for the rest of my life.”

          • Jess

            Can we just all rise up one day and be like, “LISTEN. We are sick of this shit. Pick up your shoes, your mother won’t do it for you here. And children? I’m not picking up after you either. I will stand here until you do it yourself, and henceforth you will always do it yourself, and never rely on your girl roommate or wife to do it for you.”

          • JLily

            I feel like dogs who chew on things are really good at teaching people to keep the house tidier… (I move anything made of italian leather but the rest I leave to their fate)

          • Jennifer

            My dogs don’t chew. It’s unfortunate but they drag the socks around and play with them while the kitten drags the shoes. Cutest thing but not good for teaching.

          • Jess

            In the end there’s battles you’re willing to fight and casualties you’re willing to have.

            Like, if I refuse to write thank you notes, am I ok with those people not being thanked? Or do I choose to make this a fight that we have? Or do I (after a reasonable waiting period) write the thank you notes myself, make a point of letting him know that I’ve written them and that it was unfair to make me do that on his behalf, and that he can make it up to me by cooking dinner for the next week?

            In another instance – am I ok with eating off paper plates because the dishes are still sitting in the sink and I’m not going to be the one to wash them? Do I wash the plates and require a different task? Do we talk about why doing the dishes matters and why it can’t always be my job? Do I ask a million times for them to get done until they do?

            To hit the second notes of your post – There are SO MANY times that women pick up the slack for men. And I’m not sure that it ends until women and men train their male children to do things as much as they train their female children.

            This balance of “do I just do it or do I make it a thing” gets really frustrating, exhausting, and sad for those of us who expect better from our partners and ourselves.

          • Eenie

            As someone patiently waiting for her husband to write his 16 thank you notes, I FEEL YOU. I felt bad at first, because my friends and family sent gifts before the wedding, so I only had to write 10 post wedding. I wrote 21 overall and I’m not writing another damn one. It’s a thing, and as soon as three months hits it’s going to be a THING.

          • Abby

            Can we dig into the willingness factor? On all of this, I think there’s another level to the question “am I ok with this task not getting done.” Using cleaning as the example here because it’s simpler than thank-you notes, if it were just innate personal preference as to how many dust bunnies could be tolerated on a daily basis, I think who got fed up and picked up a broom first would be a lot closer to 50-50 on a societal level.

            But for tasks traditionally been classified as “women’s work,” society is conditioned to expect these things of women and not of men, and to judge accordingly if they don’t get done. If a single man’s apartment is a pigsty, we laugh it off. If a single woman’s? Indicative of a major character flaw. When it’s a hetero partnership, though, the (conscious or subconscious) societal blame for a dirty home falls on the female partner.

            So when the question for my husband is “would I rather sweep or see dust bunnies in the corner?” and the question for me is “would I rather sweep or see dust bunnies in the corner AND risk my reputation as a generally presentable human if anyone comes over before I get around to sweeping?” it’s no wonder that I “care more” than he does about things being clean.

            The reason women today are conditioned to keep managing the emotional labor isn’t because we care more than men do about living in a clean house or following etiquette rules– it’s because society hasn’t yet started judging men when these things don’t get done. So how do we shift the conversation (with society and with our partners) to acknowledge this imbalance?

          • Jess

            Oh absolutely in agreement. “Am I ok with…” includes all the fall out, including that women will be the presumed person at fault (I don’t agree with this sentiment, but I know it happens).

            Just like my FMIL will text me to discuss wedding planning and blame me emotionally for not reaching out to her enough, when I’m not her child and we’re both involved and we’re not actually doing that much stuff, because we’re hiring people to do that for us and crafty little details aren’t my style at all.

            I personally shrug and tell her “I’m not the only one planning a wedding,” but this does not result in happy feelings.

            I’m not sure how we affect societal change, but I wonder if it can be influenced on a day-to-day level. Imagine if all women truly believed that they shouldn’t be in charge of this stuff.

            Imagine if we started expecting and demanding that our male friends, partners, and children fully participate in household things, without worrying about being “nags” or about causing sad feelings in men, but with complete confidence that this is a thing we deserve in a companion, and having zero time for anybody who refuses.

            Maybe those men would start seeing themselves as involved in a team effort and push back against the judgement of their wives and partners and sisters. Maybe they would take pride in a clean house the way we expect women to. Maybe marketing groups for cleaning solvent or paper towel companies would stop talking about selling to “Mom,” constantly reinforcing that only women do laundry or clean floors.

            I don’t know how we get there from here. I do feel that I have the right to demand that those things are done as a team – and the right to tell R when he’s not holding up his end even if it makes him feel guilty (because he should feel guilty!).

            There are whole conversations between women saying, “Can I ask him to get up and vacuum?” or “I feel like I can’t say anything.” or “I just don’t want to be a nag.” or “I just need some time to myself after taking care of kids all day and making dinner and cleaning, but I feel guilty asking for it.”

            We have to start feeling like we deserve to speak up for ourselves, because we do.

          • Emily

            “Imagine if we started expecting and demanding that our male friends, partners, and children fully participate in household things, without worrying about being “nags” or about causing sad feelings in men, but with complete confidence that this is a thing we deserve in a companion, and having zero time for anybody who refuses.”

            Yes. And I think there is a period where the consequences of not cleaning or remembering appointments or whatever have to be experienced, and it has to be ver clear that the person who is setting the boundaries on the emotional labor will hold those boundaries.

            My stepchildren have a Mom who will do whatever they ask. When I became their stepmom I had to hold the line of “No, I’m not okay with that.” many times before they finally understood it. One of my stepdaughters would text me from school, saying she was sick and asking could I pick her up? This wasn’t a one-time thing, and it was often interrupting my day. Obviously, if she was really sick I would care for her, but this was a case of her playing the system.

            Finally I started responding, “No, text your Dad.” I found out that she wasn’t willing to text him– when I asked why her response was, “He’s at work.” I was furious, ”What do you think I’m doing???” I finally told her that for the rest of that school year (which was about 2 weeks) if she needed to come home she had to text her Dad first and if I needed to be involved he would involve me. She was furious with me claiming that I wasn’t supporting her or her Dad and that wasn’t how I was supposed to act (how young we learn these societal expectations) and it wasn’t okay, etc. I held the line and over time she got it. In the long run I hope I’m showing her how to not take on other people’s work.

            TL, DR: Yes. We have to speak up for ourselves and hold our boundaries. This can feel uncomfortable and that is okay.

          • Meg Keene

            Oh, I don’t think you should be writing your partners thank you notes. You know? If he doesn’t get them done, it’s on him. (Personally, I always make sure his notes are like, to his mom’s friends. That way he feels the pain and I don’t.)

    • Ashley

      My original understanding of emotional labor in what I have read was the emotional labor of say, having to be nice to people you don’t want to be nice to in the workplace, that women work those jobs more often historically, though that extra effort is not reflected in their pay.

      I think it also applies to the things others have said- the tasks that are trivialized but that actually keep things moving in a social sense. Making sure holiday rituals happen, people are thanked, etc.

  • Alexandra

    I love HRC. Love her. And the more I ask…why is she so unpopular? The more I become convinced it really is pure sexism. She has worked her way up to where she is and she deserves it. She’s a badass.

    I stopped watching HBO’s “Veep” halfway through the first season, even though I thought it was pretty funny, because of this issue. Maybe I’m being too sensitive, but it bothered me enormously that Selina was constantly portrayed as this unlikeable, incompetent harpy. I felt like it was setting Hillary back. Female politicians just can’t win, and I find it infuriating.

    And don’t get me started about Bernie, who my mother loves–a fact which I take irrationally as a huge betrayal. Silly, unrealistic, opportunistic old man, taking advantage of the fact that if Hillary were a man she’d have this thing locked up with practically no controversy!

    • joanna b.n.

      Oh please let’s don’t have the HRC vs Bernie debate, mmkay? Both have political positions that people align with, and both have personal aspects that people like to use to dismiss them out of hand. You can be for who you’re for, but let’s not jump on Bernie here, k?

      • Alexandra

        Fair enough. I actually kind of want people to commiserate with me on “Veep”. Don’t really care that much about Bernie. Just ragin’.

        • joanna b.n.

          Sorry if that seemed huffy. I just, I think there’s a place for those thoughts, but I’d rather not see APW become that place? Thanks. :)

          • stephanie

            Same!

          • anon

            I don’t think a polite request in response to calling somebody’s favorite a silly opportunistic old man who’s only successful thru sexism is huffy. Thanks for calling her out.

      • stephanie

        Coming here to say exactly this—this isn’t the place for a Bernie vs Hillary discussion. <3

    • Marcela

      I have these feelings about Mellie on Scandal. She is protrayed as this awful person, but really she is no less flawed than everyone else around her.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Saaaammeee.

    • emilyg25

      I feel like the character of Selina Meyer just demonstrates how far women in politics have come–they can be mocked now! But I love Veep, so maybe my bias is showing.

    • A.

      YES about Veep. My husband and I tried watching; we got through 1.5 seasons before throwing in the towel. I couldn’t stand that Selina was so incompetent! I actually felt like there was more potential humor to be mined if she was an exceptional/brilliant female Senator who took the VP position without fully realizing that it’d be 99% fluff stuff, then tries to make it better but keeps running into ridiculous government roadblocks. That would make the government and our political system the butt of the joke, rather than har-har-har “Female Politician” har-har. (But then I probably just wish Selina was an f-bomb dropping Leslie Knope, sooo…bias!)

      Maybe it gets better, but I was disappointed in what I watched. I feel like it has so much potential to be a real incisive look at sexism in politics, along with the main premise of day-to-day life in the most under-appreciated/under-utilized yet high-profile role in the federal government.

      We also stopped watching it because it’s blindingly white, with the exception of Sue and Danny Chung.

  • Not Sarah

    Hear, hear!

  • Anne Schwartz

    THIS.

  • Olivia

    I think we celebrate baby-wearing dads and men who can do their daughter’s pigtails because we see them as going above and beyond their normal duties. We think “they didn’t HAVE to do that, but they CHOSE to.” So when a man is put in a position where “woman’s work” would be his job, it’s no longer a choice to be celebrated, and people loose their shit. Another interesting / totally infuriating example of a double standard.

    • ItsyBit

      THIS.

  • Pingback: Q: Why Can’t a Man Pick out China in the White House? A: America. | weddingcarshiregeelong()

  • clarkesara

    It’s a known fact that whenever men start working in a previously female field, that field and the tasks associated with it become more prestigious. When men started cooking professionally, they became Chefs and had fancy hats and now people like Anthony Bourdain and Masaharu Morimoto are the manliest men who ever manned around a kitchen. At first, computer engineering was a dainty pink collar job that got no respect. Then men got into the game and now there’s an HBO series about being a programmer.

    What if Bill Clinton made all the social duties surrounding the Presidency masculine and Important?

    • ktmarie

      That would be a pretty awesome upside.
      Side note to your comment…unfortunately the reverse is true as well. When more women enter a (previously male-dominated) field, the overall salaries become lower. Not sure about the prestigious/social implications but the salary part’s been proven.

      • Daisy6564

        Teaching. The prestige and respect for that field has steadily eroded. It used to be a prodominantly male field and it has been dominated by females for the last 150 years or so.

  • MsDitz

    This is going to be nit-picky, but I am an elementary teacher coming to the end of a very hard school year, and I was disappointed to see “visiting elementary schools” lumped together with “picking out flowers” as a sort of, silly traditional first lady job. Can more elected officials visit elementary schools, please? Preferably ones in low income areas?

    • stephanie

      I definitely don’t think it’s silly! It just sprang to mind as something I know first ladies have done. I’m all over the videos of Michelle Obama visiting schools all the time. (For what it’s worth, I also don’t think picking out flowers is silly, and when I told my husband about that section of the post he was like “Of course I would do that stuff, that stuff is awesome.”

      • MTM

        Hmm. I’m going to push a little on this… You’re talking about interacting with people/placing an importance on education vs. choosing things. Visiting schools IS different than picking out flowers and china.

  • Maeab1
  • Juliet

    GOODNESS this article and comments/discussion are really striking a chord today. Minutes before I read this I was g-chatting with my husband, essentially explaining to him basic meal planning.

    He’s invited some friends over on Friday night, at the end of a crazy-busy week for me (which he knows), so he told me he will take care of everything and cook dinner. But the last time he did this, he bought 1 pound of fish for 4 people, had planned to make a salad but had not shopped for it because he just assumed we already had the ingredients (we did not), and did not plan anything else to eat. He also didn’t know we were out of several ingredients for the fish marinade he was planning to make, even though he makes this recipe all the time and was the person to use up those ingredients.

    So when he says “I’ll take care of it” what that means practically is that I spend 10 minutes outlining on g-chat how he should buy 1/2 a pound of protein per person, also plan a vegetable dish and grain dish, and check the fridge and pantry for ingredients, especially spices and condiments, before he goes shopping. And I’ll ask him tonight and tomorrow night what he’s planning to cook, if he’s gone shopping yet, if he checked to see if we have garlic salt because I think we might be out and I know that recipe calls for it, etc. etc. etc.

    My husband is fantastic and fun and helpful and supportive. But this is the reality of him saying “I’ll take care of it” in our house, because culturally he was never told this was shit he needed to know or remember. We work the same hours, but I also manage our house, 24/7. Emotional labor is really real and really hard, friends.

    • I don’t want to sound glib, but…what would happen if you didn’t do all that? What would happen if you just let him fail? He said he had it under control…it sounds like he doesn’t, but why not just take him at his word and opt the fuck out of the emotional labor?

      • Emily

        Yes, this was going to be my response. It sounds like you (Juliet) can see the emotional labor you are doing. If you and I were friends and I was having dinner at my house, would you walk me through meal planning and shopping and give me reminders? He said he’ll take care of it. He might not do the quality of job that you would… but what if you give him space to do his own job on this?

      • Juliet

        Because then it’s Friday night and I’m really hungry and I have to share 1 pound of fish with 4 people. I mean, right? From my perspective/experience, that’s the consequence of opting out of the emotional labor in general, that shit just doesn’t happen and we are affected by the results.

        • Emily

          We all have to choose our own lines on this and I’m not fighting with you (I hope it doesn’t come across that way). If this was me I might take care of myself knowing this situation might happen– eat an extra big lunch or even a late afternoon snack and then let him be in charge of the dinner and company.

          • Yep, I had the same thought.

          • Juliet

            I totally get your point, I guess I just ultimately really want to be able to expect that our guests and I will get a full meal (something I know my husband expects and enjoys when I’m cooking for guests) as opposed to making personal accommodations in the event that doesn’t happen if I don’t help. Probably not winning/sustainable perspective long term, but today if feels like the best option. Beyond the actual emotional labor of the situation, I think it’s more just a bummer that I need to pick one, you know?

          • Emily

            It is a bummer and I understand the “today this feels like the best option” thinking–sometimes I have to do that too. In the long term, it’s my opinion that emotional labor won’t end until we choose to stop doing it.

            Also, I wonder if your husband might surprise you. Maybe not this Friday, but if given enough opportunities and space to learn? Imagine how nice it would be to completely trust that he will get a full meal on the table for you and your guests. My husband can do that (better than I can, in fact) because he has had the opportunity to do it many times. He’s made many mistakes and grown through those experiences.

            (For us, the battle has been keeping a calendar which he fought for years. Finally I had to give him the opportunity to miss appointments and be forced to keep his own schedule. He now gives me a hard time when I forget to put something on the calendar).

          • Juliet

            I hear you, for sure. I mention this above, but an extra added dynamic in our relationship that complicates the situation is my husband’s ADD. He was diagnosed as an adult and has been put on truly life-changing meds that help him be successful during the day, but they wear off by dinner time and he really struggles to plan and remember come evenings. While I love the idea of letting go and allowing my husband to surprise me, 7 years of experience tells me it’s just not how his ADD allows his brain to work.

            Anyway, a shared calendar has really helped us as well, and my husband got a white board for our house, just like he has for work, which has really TRULY helped him organize household stuff. It’s just these DAMN meals!!!

          • Emily

            I get you on the ADD– my husband has ADHD. It sounds like your husband has learned what helps him – meds, a whiteboard. Like Rachel said can he plan/shop/cook before 7? What if you aren’t his resource for learning how much food four people eat–that can be found in books or YouTube or by asking at the grocery store or even by paying someone (cooking class?). The point isn’t that he has to do this stuff himself, but that he has to do it without asking for emotional energy that you may not have to give.

            It’s a work in progress for all of us. I’m glad that we are having the discussions. :)

        • I have personally gotten to a place where I’m OK with some level of personal discomfort if it serves the greater goal of not having to do the emotional labor forever. I also try to make problems caused by others THEIR problem as much as possible. Like, if you’re hungry/cranky at the end of the night, that’s HIS problem that HE caused. So what will he do about it? Order you some takeout? Apologize and not let it happen again? IDK if it’s the first time that he’s been clueless about something, it would be one thing, but the way you are describing the situation makes it sound like the stuff going on this week is part of a pattern and that you’re frustrated and annoyed with it.

          • Juliet

            I guess I’ve found myself in the other camp where I’ve decided I’d rather do the emotional labor than experience the personal discomfort. I don’t think either is right or wrong, but I think it really comments on the reality of gendered emotional labor that its a choice we need to make at all.

            Here’s my favorite quote from the Metafilter emotional labor thread, which this situation/exchange is reminding me of:

            “At some point I realized I was being a huge nag about dinner, because I cooked dinner every night, because when my boyfriend cooked dinner it took forever
            (see: not cooking for himself his whole life) and we were dieting and I didn’t want to eat snacks all evening waiting for dinner to be done at 9:00 o’clock. Then I realized hey– I can just let go. I can ask him to make dinner, and I can eat a peanut butter sandwich or something, and save my leftovers for lunch the next day. It was a great revelation in terms of my personal mental health– I got fed, I didn’t have to always
            be the cook, and I didn’t have to be mad at my boyfriend. But even in that situation I was just saying, “hey, if I completely let go and eat like a kindergartener, I don’t have to be mad at my boyfriend!” It’s just so sad that that’s the solution. I don’t get a warm, homecooked meal at a regular dinner time. That’s not how heterosexual reciprocity works. I get a peanut butter sandwich and “peace of mind” (i.e., freedom from domestic/emotional labor). Getting the homecooked meal and the freedom from emotional labor is male privilege.”

          • :(

          • JLily

            “Getting the homecooked meal and the freedom from emotional labor is male privilege.”–so much this!!!
            There really are no choices that DON’T involve some kind of work (unless, I guess, you have a unicorn for a husband). I’ve chosen to be the nag–in the sense that I’ve decided I will teach him. I instruct on the meal planning, literally show him how I check the pantry and make the list, tell him when I’m on pinterest doing some meal planning, share my receipt to show him how using what’s already in the fridge saves money. It’s kind of sad/annoying to me that I have to show him every little step, but I think he does actually need that amount of detail. Of course it would be better if he just learned it himself, but I feel like at least this way I won’t always have to work as hard. (As a bonus, I think he’s starting to *get* that I do way more work than him–like he is understanding that this kind of work is real.)

      • Juliet

        So, I really appreciate the perspectives that have come up from the discussion on my comment and it’s made me revisit my approach/assumptions on this issue.

        To that end, I have a genuine question for @rachwilks:disqus, @disqus_SFNN6pQtca:disqus, and others in relationships where you have made the choice to forgo the bulk of the emotional labor around meal planning (I think meals are the true Final Frontier in our house- I stopped managing family gift giving which we both agree has been a positive change, and our household cleaning has generally been equitable.) How do you personally deal when issues come up? Talk about disappointments with your partner? Make yourself a sandwich? Or did you all just partner up with better cooks than I did :)? I just feel like meals are different because they affect me in a personal day-to-day way that I just don’t feel as strongly with other household chores, and when you throw in a case of hangry, things just get really intense around food preparation.

        (I do think it’s important to add here that our dynamic may be different than others because my husband has ADD that he takes daily meds for that really and truly help him get through the day- but very inconveniently wear off around 7 p.m. This means that it gets really hard for him to remember details or effectively adjust his habits when it comes to evening meals. A common issue that comes up, for example- I don’t eat pork, and my husband knows this, so he’d never buy, say, pork chops for dinner. But he likes sausage a lot, and gets it for many meals, and often forgets that most sausage contains pork. So, probably 2-3x a month he buys sausage for dinner that has pork in it, which I can’t eat, which means I need to then plan my own meal on a night my husband has planned to cook.)

        • Well, you can start here! :) https://apracticalwedding.com/2013/10/learning-skills-as-adults/ (If that doesn’t cover everything you’re wondering though, feel free to ask more questions, as I wrote that a long time ago and it may not address your questions specifically.)

          As for the sausage thing, that would drive me bananas! Do you get angry/frustrated when this happens and let him know how you’re feeling — like, does he know this is a problem to be solved? Does he do the meal/planning and grocery shopping after 7 p.m. too, and, if so, is that something he can change to do it when he’s feeling more focused? (Again, these are questions I wish he was asking himself/working through, but, well, here we are.)

          • Juliet

            Thanks Rachel- as for the sausage; yes, he knows it’s a problem, I mention the issue and how it makes me feel every time it comes up, remind him where in the grocery store they keep the chicken sausage, and yet he just can’t recall at the time of purchase that most sausage has pork in it (we usually don’t go grocery shopping together because of our schedules so I’m not there to intercept.) He TRULY just forgets. I’m telling ya this ADD stuff is a challenge, to put it nicely :)

        • Emily

          My husband had ADHD too. He is still able to learn. I used to sometimes cue him — “What can you do to help you remember X?” At this point he generally remembers to cue himself (alarm reminders in his phone, etc). Being able to manage himself is part of being an adult, with or without ADHD.

          As I read your comment (and I really appreciate your willingness to continue discussing this) I wondered if your husband wants to improve his cooking skills? Part of this Friday’s issue sounds like the fact that you have a really busy week at work and I get that. If you had a relaxed week at work would you want to be putting energy into making dinner for guests? Or would it still be emotionally draining for you? Would a compromise be for you and your friends all go out to dinner? Is the issue the scheduling for this Friday or the cooking (or both)?

          My husband is a better cook than I am and than I suspect that you experience, so I have to translate this issue to scheduling or bill paying–things that have been contentious for us in the past. I’ve dealt with issues in multiple ways. There are times when I agree with myself (a conscious thing) that I am going to stay completely hands off and let what happens happen. Another thing that happened was that we had a conversation about how incredibly uncomfortable I am when something becomes urgent (verses being a priority. I like to get priorities done before they are urgent. I hate getting letters from the IRS because things haven’t been paid–that feels urgent to me). We had a long conversation about how one way he could really care for me is to make an effort to keep things out of what we call “the urgent box.”

          I have fully and completely taken over bills in our partnership. It is an explicit agreement. We have other things that he completely does and I don’t do. Since I have full control over the bills he has to be okay with it if I forget one or create a strategy for paying that is different than he would do. For the things that he completely does, I am okay with how he does those things.

          On the pork/sausage thing–I’d ask him, “What can you do so that you remember that sausage often has pork in it?” (I would probably also say “I don’t want to have this experience of not being able to eat dinner on a night that you cook again”… I’m pretty blunt.) Depending on your husband, you might point out that it’s selfish of him not to remember that you don’t eat pork. He’s acting like he’s only cooking for himself and that’s not the case, unless you plan it ahead of time.

  • Emily

    I love love love this piece! Thank you for writing it! It is angry and it is the best piece I’ve read in a long time that expresses the amount of anger that I feel.

    I’m thinking about the reverse of the emotional labor situation– when I work on a vehicle (like I did yesterday). I decided to change a brake light, something that I know isn’t that complicated and I’ve done before. Still, I had to find a drill, find the bit, get the screws out (and one dropped down a drain, of course), get the bulb out (and it turned out to have a different mechanism than I’m used to), go to the store and buy a new bulb (and screw) and then put everything back.

    I was doing this at work and, I admit, for me this is getting out of my comfort zone. There were multiple men around. None of them hovered over me to see that I was comfortable and knew the steps of what I was doing. I had to search them out when I had questions. I felt a little unsupported, but I know this is how men act in this situation.

    I successfully changed the brake light. Maybe it time we support less.

  • Kayjayoh

    On the topic of emotional labor that came up several times in the comments with regard to things like thank you notes, cleaning, meal planning, etc. There is the question of “well, what if you don’t do it? Make him sink of swim?” And the really difficult part is that, generally speaking, him sinking in these situations just takes you down with him.

    *I* get stressed out when I have to remind him to write his part of the thank you notes, but I get stressed out when a gift includes us both and a note is not forthcoming in a reasonable time. *I* get stressed out when I have to clean up the kitchen mess or our shared studio/office space, but I also get stressed out when those spaces are messy. *I* get stressed out when it is on me to plan dinner and the groceries, but I’m also stressed out when the answer provided is “well, I guess we can order something from Foodler” every time.

    I *also* get stressed out when I have to have conversations with my husband about household chores and emotional labor, but my tiny hope is that the repetition will build understanding.

    • Juliet

      This REALLY resonates. Also, throw in the cultural expectations that these things are generally the responsibility of women, and I feel like I suffer most of the consequences in terms of relationships when these things aren’t done (for example, this year I opted out being in charge of organizing my husband’s gift to his mom for mother’s day. And to do that without being too stressed about it, I had to accept the fact that my MIL might be disappointed in ME as the de-facto gift giver based on gender expectations.)

    • Emily

      This is interesting to me because I don’t think I experience the stress as much as you sound like you do. Is there a possibility that you’ve learned this stress? I also found myself wondering where his limits are–when have you had too much take-out or when is your shared space too messy for him?

      I can see that this is where the double-bind happens with emotional labor.

      • Kayjayoh

        To clarify: I’m not talking losing sleep levels of stress.

        Also…I don’t know if you realize it, but this comment comes off sounding much more condescending that I’m sure you intend it to.

        • Emily

          I didn’t realize that and I appreciate you pointing it out. I apologize and am not wanting to be condescending. I’m going to edit it to say that I apologize for the tone.

          You’ve defined the bind that women feel with emotional labor so well– what I think you are saying is that when you don’t do emotional labor it hurts you and him. To really work on emotional labor it seems to me that women need to work on this experience you are describing and I’m curious about how we do that.

          • Kayjayoh

            Thank you. I hate being “tone police” but… :) Glad we worked that out. I <3 this comment section so much.

  • Elinor

    Oh dear, you lost me at ‘Most Powerful Dude in the Free World’.
    Please, please let this not be a website that endorses this expression. Or its bff ‘Leader of the Free World’. Even typing it makes my blood boil. I cannot imagine how annoyed I would be if someone had the cheek and narrow-mindedness to say it to my face.

  • Dave Kom

    If you have outdoor pictures… Don’t forget sunglasses are awesome… We had pics out in the sun and the photographer mentioned sandysunglasses.com for the wedding party… So we bought 15 pairs and they looked amazing… Saved the pics for sure!

  • Anya

    Yes. Thank you for writing this. It has angered me for so so long.

  • Carissalhostetler1

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  • Gregory

    Gee, Steph, it’s simple. Feminism is all about the right for a woman to choose and she chose him. Hillary wanted and married a strong, masculine man. It’s up to the two of them to decide what roles each on them play, not you or any army of feminists. So why don’t you just butt out?

  • Pinkrose

    It just occurred to me: Is Bill color blind? Because, if he is, I wouldn’t want to be looking at those drapes.