Why men can’t blow dry and women can fight tough stains
‘First Bloke’ Tim Mathieson has been tried and found guilty of not living up to the manly stereotype, despite all his work in sheds.
You didn’t hear about Therese Rein running former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s baths, or about Janette Howard pouring the bubble bath after former Prime Minister John Howard had a hard day.
It’s all part of the novelty of having our first female Prime Minister.
Let’s hope it wears off soon. It’s patronising (or should that be matronising?). Columnist Andrew Bolt said he was like “the old-fashioned wife”:
“Now, the first bloke Tim Mathieson has been trotted out for an interview and he sounds like the old-fashioned wife. If there was a male prime minister with his wife like this, there would be screams of outrage.”
Any “screams of outrage” should be reserved for that phrase there – “old-fashioned wife”. Spouses get ‘trotted out’ all the time. By Prime Ministers and wannabe future Prime Ministers, as it happens.
Or save your outrage for this headline from Menzies House – ‘Julia’s houseboy has duties’ - with all its condescending innuendo of slavery, of domestic servitude.
It’s hard to imagine them writing ‘Kevin’s housegirl has duties’ of Ms Rein.
The subtext to all this disdain is that men just aren’t meant to have it in them to be good at housework. It’s not their thing. Suits and utes and tradie-type jobs are their thing. Take out the garbage, sure, but they can’t run a load of laundry to save themselves, right?
Every night on every television channel pretty much every single advertisement for cleaning products stars a female doing what, clearly, females are meant to do. Cleaning up after the kids, changing nappies, wiping down benches, cleaning the bathroom.
And they LOVE it, too! Their eyes sparkle the more the tiles gleam. It obviously gives them deep satisfaction to have fluffy clean carpets and ovens devoid of black bits. It is of crucial importance to them that they rid all surfaces off 99.9 per cent of germs, that their children crawl around on dazzling floors, that other women are envious of the perfection of their kitchen.
That’s women’s work, see.
And if you let a man try to do it, watch out. He’ll bungle the washing and doesn’t even know about separates. Boy, he can get stains on his overalls, but can he get them out? Hell, no! He’s so incapable of such houseboyish activities he can’t even follow the ridiculously simple explanations on the bright pink pack!
The takehome message here is straight out of the 1950s. What Mr Mathieson does for Ms Gillard is womanly. Wrong, somehow unnatural.
As an aside – it is perfectly acceptable to talk about his ‘cost to the public purse’; it’s always important to have transparency around pollies and who they take on overseas junkets. But to put that firmly in the context of blow-drys and bath pouring and to ignore the fact that he is treated just like other Prime Ministerial spouse reeks of sexism, of old-fashioned stereotypes.
Having our first female Prime Minister shook things up a little, and for some people it never quite settled back down. They’ve got ants in their pants about it. And having a First Man who is into hair and housework? Well that’s just poking a stick in the nest.
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