While reading Pat Mainardi's article "The Politics of Housework" I couldn't help but think of that tired old line, 'the more we change the more we stay the same.' I wish that this article didn't ring true, that I could say the division of housework was an issue for my mother but I have overcome it, or even that I know anyone who has achieved perfect harmony with her partner regarding who does the dishes. But I cannot.

The 'liberated' woman- she who is always sexually available, doesn't require marriage, has career goals, and makes a good vegetarian stir-fry- is the ultimate accessory for the 'sensitive nineties guy', now the 'man of the new millennium'. Women are still a commodity, perhaps even more so living in a time when even 'alternative lifestyles' seem to be for sale. What disturbs me is that most of us don't even talk about it outside of women's studies. We just go on with school and summer jobs, continuing to faithfully pay half the rent every month, believing that this is equality. If we occasionally speak of unsatisfying relationships it is to say that the passion seems to be gone, or that it seems stagnant, or we don't want to get too tied down. What we really mean is that we see ourselves becoming domesticated and often feel powerless to stop it.

Most of my male friends seem to actually believe that their relationships are equal partnerships, after all they both work, and he occasionally cooks dinner and picks up after himself. Many men are still too 'hip' to admit that they still participate in an oppressive system.

The nature of reproductive labor is that it is never done. Meredith Tax explains in "Woman and Her Mind: The Story of Daily Life" that the job of the housewife is not to produce a tangible product, instead her labor serves "to maintain the status quo" thus it is never ending. Yet this labor is necessary for all human beings to continue living their lives. Marxism acknowledges this labor within the family as vital to capitalism, but does not acknowledge working-class men as exploiters of women's domestic labor. Betsy Warrior explains the relationship of women's domestic labor to the means of production very clearly in "Housework: Slavery or Labor of Love." It is not only the capitalist male, but also the working-class male who benefits from women's domestic labor. She shows that, despite his own oppression under capitalism, the working-class male is also a capitalist profiting from the labor of women. She states, "When he sells his labor power on the market he is selling a commodity he owns but did not produce, thereby profiting from the slave labor that went into the making of this product."

Warrior suggests that the only way to overcome the sexual division of housework is to incorporate domestic work into the "public economy." But I have to ask, who will do this 'public' work? As long as the patriarchal capitalist system is in place won't drudgework still be delegated to oppressed groups? Will being a maid ever be a job that someone aspires to? Hiring a maid to do the housework and watch the kids may be a very attractive option if one can afford it, but if the maid is not paid for the true value of her work (something few could afford) then one is simply foisting one's oppression off onto another person. This is no real solution.

Mainardi make the important point that it is difficult for someone who has always considered himself to be against oppression to admit that the he oppresses others. This is not unique to men, it is also difficult for many straight white middle-class feminists (including myself) to admit that we oppress racialized women, or lesbian women, or working class women. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the struggle, but sometimes we can help best by admitting our faults and working to change them.