A dude promoted his book last week by publishing a long, bloated, purple prose opinion piece in The New York Times Sunday Review that set out to solve the gender gap in who has to do the housework.
But I’m a fan of speculative fiction, so I have the answer: Robots.
Obviously we aren’t quite there yet, but pretty much everyone can agree that basic, boring house chores are both essential and absolutely craptastic to have to do. If men don’t want to step up (plenty do, book-selling NYT guy!), and women are sick of doing it, we need a third option.
If you haven’t yet seen “Robot & Frank,” head out and rent it/Netflix it pronto. That’s the kind of robot I’m talking about. Or basically a non-sassy Rosie. Or a super-powered Roomba. Something that will clean the floors, remember to do the dishes, wipe down the countertops, dust the shelves, maybe water that peace lily you cherish. Nothing fancy.
Sure, we’ve made some art/movies/books about how these domestic robots would be a problem, but really, I think they’re the answer. They wouldn’t replace many jobs — in fact, it may elevate those butlers and housecleaners to a higher-pay position, because having a human housekeeper would become a status symbol. And we’re a really long way off from autonomous robots, so the first tiers of these helper-bots would be pretty limited, and therefore not a serious threat to human jobs.
But if we want that — and I think we can agree, we ALL want that — we are going to need some clever lady engineers to get on that for us.
Why lady engineers, do you ask? Before you cry sexism, just look at history: most of the time-saving housekeeping products we rely on today were invented by women (even if they themselves didn’t do much in the way of housework).
- Cannister Vacuum, Nancy Perkins, 1987
- Cooking Stove, Elizabeth Hawk, 1867
- Dishwasher, Josephine Cochran, 1872
- Electric Hot Water Heater, Ida Forbes, 1917
- Mop-Wringer Pail, Eliza Wood, 1889
- Refrigerator, Florence Parpart, 1914
- Washing machine, Margaret Colvin, 1871
- The Practical Kitchen layout, Lillian Gilbreth, 1920s
- Scotchguard, Patsy Sherman, 1952
- Improved Ironing Board, Sarah Boone, 1892
- Vacuum canning and oil burners, Amanda Jones, 1880s
- Gas heating furnace, Alice Parker, 1919
Really, I don’t care who invents our perfect butler-bots, but history implies it’s going to be a woman. Ladies, just let me know when I can place my order, okay?