Photo by Michael Rababy from Vice Magazine
So Vice Magazine recently published a photo essay by Michael Rababy called ‘Photos of the bathrooms and kitchens of America’s bachelors.’
As you probably inferred from that creative title, the spread features photos of the bathrooms and kitchens of America’s bachelors — or rather, photos of the bathrooms and kitchens of some of Michael Rababy’s twenty-something single friends (a decidedly smaller sub-group than all of the single men in an entire country; more of a niche thing, really.)
The results are pretty much what you’d expect: a lot of unwashed dishes and empty alcohol bottles, a couple gag-worthy toilets.
The most interesting shot is of a kitchen with a punching bag installed in the middle of it.
Viewed as a collection, messiness is a reoccurring theme — but what really caught my eye was the introductory write-up. It explains:
The “bachelor pad” exists in a fleeting window in a man’s life. Being a bachelor means not having expectations put on you by someone else. The living space of the bachelor often dramatically changes when he lives with a woman. As a rule, the woman’s aesthetic wins, and that’s usually [a] good thing.
I set out to capture that time in a man’s life between living with his parents and marriage; before the aesthetic touch of a woman influences his living space.
And this is where my feminist hackles raise because some bullshit sexist assumptions about gender roles are wrapped up in that description.
LET’S UNPACK THEM.
Leaving aside the blatant heteronormativism on display (except to say UGH and also LOLWHOOPS), the inference here is that men are dirty slobs who need women to swoop in and enforce standards of cleanliness and/or clean for them lest they be left to their own devices and, as a result, drown in their own filth.
cleaning lady woman will do — a mom, a girlfriend, a wife. REALLY WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE, RIGHT? SO LONG AS SHIT GETS CLEANED.
Note that it doesn’t matter that Michael Rababy appears to be trying to give women a compliment; his premise perpetuates rigid, antiquated ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman and that is a problem.
Basic cleanliness is not “the aesthetic touch of a woman” (OBVIOUSLY THE COLOUR PINK IS, DUH), nor should it be understood as an expectation that’s ‘put’ on a person by someone else.
It’s just something you do because you live in the world, like shovelling your driveway when it snows or filling up your car with gas when you run low or paying your taxes.
Cleanliness and messiness are gender-neutral traits — or at least, they should be. And yet in our society, they’re not.
In our society, household chores are most definitely the domain of women. (That household chores are also unpaid, thankless and never-ending? CLEARLY JUST A COINCIDENCE.)
Furthermore, the ‘men are pigs’ trope also perpetuates the disturbingly widespread trend of learned helplessness, whereby men are given a pass for not knowing how to perform traditionally female-coded domestic skills such as cooking a meal, changing a diaper or scrubbing a toilet. HOW CONVENIENT FOR MEN.
Allow me to blow your mind: the ability to tidy is not related to gender.
If women are better at cleaning when compared to men, it is only because we’ve been groomed since childhood to mop floors and cook and do laundry, with the understanding that our place in the world is actually in the home.
Cleaning is, after all, girl stuff.
Not only that, but if a house does happen to be dirty and unkept? It’s the woman of the house who’s going to be judged as a failure, not the man. (That is, of course, if there is a woman and a man in the house. Because unlike Michael Rababy, I don’t live in a ’50s sitcom and therefore acknowledge that familial diversity exists.)
Obviously, women aren’t necessarily cleaner than men — a point raised repeatedly in the comments left on the Vice photo essay.
(Fun fact: another common comment was the complaint that the piece was sexist. At first I was surprised that Vice readers were agreeing with me. Then I realized they meant the piece was sexist against men. As if that was, you know, an actual thing. GIANT SIGH.)
Indeed, women most certainly can be dirty pigs, too! And I’m happy to report that Vice has that angle covered.
Last year, it published a photo essay that could almost be viewed as a companion piece to ‘Photos of the bathrooms and kitchens of America’s bachelors’ — except that, instead of appearing in the photo category, it was categorized under fashion, and instead of being titled ‘Photos of the bathrooms and kitchens of America’s bachelorettes,’ it was called Garbage Girls.
Photographed by Maya Fuhr and ‘styled’ by Chloe Wise, the piece features a bunch of twenty-something women from Montreal and Toronto lounging in their extremely messy bedrooms while wearing very little clothing (ironic since ostensibly this was a fashion spread).
To be clear: when I say these women’s bedrooms are messy, I mean gross messy. Like, used-tampon-in-a-cup-on-the-floor messy — that particular shot being the pièce de résistance of the entire collection, truly.
Sexism didn’t come up much in the comments left on Garbage Girls. (WHAT A SHOCKER.)
Instead, a bunch of commenters voiced their disgust at how nasty these women were while simultaneously imagining how gross it would be to fuck them.
Because obviously, when we’re talking about women, fuckability is always a pressing concern.
To recap, then: If you’re a single man and your living space is a sty, it’s likely because you haven’t yet settled down with a woman who will deal with your messy bachelor ways, as is her role as a dutiful female partner.
And if you’re a single woman and your living space is a sty, you’re just a repulsive skank.