A Marriage Disagreement

A Marriage Disagreement

Early in 1969, when my children were five and seven, I wrote “A Marriage Agreement” proposing that the tasks of child care and housework be divided equally between husband and wife. Like most women of my class and generation born in the United States before World War II, I had accepted, if sometimes grudgingly, traditional gender arrangements whereby the home belongs to women, the world to men. But during the previous year, when the electrifying ideas of women’s liberation had lifted me out of my marriage into the world, I had become sensitized to the issue of traditional divisions of domestic labor by reading sister-Redstocking Pat Mainardi’s satirical broadside “The Politics of Housework,” then circulating in mimeograph (subsequently published in the 1970 collection Notes from the Second Year), which wittily detailed her mate’s ploys for avoiding housework. That housework was up for political grabs, subject to maneuvering and negotiation, was only one of many previously unexamined premises of private life whose political bases were suddenly being exposed in the powerful light of feminist analysis. In a marriage complicated, unlike Mainardi’s, by the presence of two impressionable children, I came to see domestic equity not only as simple justice but as one means of transforming society: by reforming the rearing of the young.

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Lima