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How to Solve Nagging with Feminism

By Sierra Black |

Does your marriage have a nagging problem? You know, the kind where one of you keeps pestering the other to do some simple tasks that never seem to get done. The more you nag, the more your partner dawdles and blows off your requests. Which leads to more nagging.

A recent Wall Street Journal article called this problem potentially as toxic as adultery. It’s a pattern that has certainly caused some chaos in my own marriage, and I’ve watched it corrode intimacy between friends. Nagging can be a vicious cycle, with both partners feeling like they’re being pitted against each other over things they should be on the same side about. You both want the dishes to be done and the bills to be paid. Why are you fighting about these things?

Amanda Marcotte has a great solution over on XX

Amanda writes:

If the male partner stops viewing it as women’s work to anticipate what needs to be done, and instead chooses to do his work without being asked, that works really well! And if he is asked to do something, as long as it’s reasonable of course (it usually is), he does it without having to be asked twice, either by getting right on it or telling his partner when she can expect to see it done. Interestingly, I’ve seen bona fide conservative couples who managed to figure this magic formula out, so it’s not like you need to be radical feminists to embrace this frightening new lifestyle. It just requires abandoning the notion that domesticity is emasculating or that open communication is more difficult than it is.

She has this nailed.

Nagging doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s usually the woman doing the nagging and the man feeling nagged. And it happens because of a power imbalance in the relationship: men have more power to blow off what women say to them, in almost every sphere of their lives. I’ve found this especially exaggerated in relationships where one partner stays at home and the other works full time.

I put a stop to the nagging cycle in my own marriage a few years ago, doing it exactly the way Marcotte describes. My husband is a feminist. He cares deeply about gender bias. But he’s still a guy who was raised with male privilege, and it’s not always visible to him when gender dynamics are at the root of a problem.

So I sat him down and made it clear that he could not “help” me with childcare or housework. Parenting the children and caring for our home are shared jobs that we’re equally responsible for. That means that not only is it his job to change half the diapers and fold half the laundry (roughly speaking), it is also his job to know that these things need to be done and take responsibility for doing them.

In essence, I resigned my position as household CEO. It took a while for the changes to sink in. I did have to lower my standards somewhat and give him room to catch up. He needed time to learn what needs doing. But now we have a family where I don’t even know what the kids eat for lunch. He makes the lunches and does the grocery shopping, so it’s entirely in his realm. Not only is he doing the tasks, he’s also doing the executive functioning to know what tasks have to happen and plan for them.

As a result, we have a real sense of sharing when it comes to parenting and housework. There’s little to no nagging because neither of us is in control and neither of us feels like we’re magnanimously helping the other. Instead, we’re a team, taking on the work of our shared life together.

Photo: Lara604

Read fellow Strollerderby blogger Joslyn’s take on the WSJ article

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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31 thoughts on “How to Solve Nagging with Feminism

  1. chenoameg says:

    I’m in a slightly weird situation — our division of labor (not only am I staying at home with our daughter, but I was also not working before she came along) means I _am_ primarily reponsible for the housework — BUT we aim to share the parenting as equally as is feasible.

    We used two terms for parenting responsibilities starting when she was a baby that seemed to work well for that.

    - Your turn
    - I have the con/who has the con/I’d like to give you the con now.

    It was never a question of “oh, hubby, could you please do one diaper for me?”

    It’s still a balancing act, but I feel like there’s not much nagging about parenting going on in our relationship.

  2. mrg says:

    If I’ve done something a few times in a row (like the dishes or washing the clothes) and my husband hasn’t, I WILL let them sit there (and only do enough for my own personal use and my child’s) until he does them. It usually doesn’t take long, I never even have to ask or nag.

  3. Jen says:

    I don’t nag. I ask once and then do it myself. This results in me having less time and energy to pay attention to him in general, which he doesn’t like. He is getting better about doing things I ask him to do.

  4. Ron says:

    Male privilege? Have you come to terms with your female privilege?

  5. Owlissa says:

    Oh my gawd! This post is exactly what I needed to read. I get so sick of asking, of having to check things, that I just stopped doing it. And you know what, we left the house with a nappy bag that didn’t have all the things in it a few times, but do you know what happened after that? HE LEARNED! Yep, and I learned that if i stop trying to control everything, it will still get done eventually. Cool, right?

  6. Matt says:

    So I guess, Sierra, that in embracing full equality via feminism you are also contributing exactly equally to all the household expenses and paying for half the cost of all dinners out, entertainment, etc., and you buy him flowers or something of equal value and appeal on Valentine’s Day, birthdays, etc., have given up using sex as a means of manipulation (and forgive me if I am assuming something here that isn’t true), as well as have stopped assuming or expecting any kind of so-called chivalrous behavior from your husband like having him open car doors for you, etc.?

    I’m guessing this is true, yes? Is it?

  7. lucullus says:

    Good for you Sierra! I assume this means that, after you are done fingering yourself to a photo of Amanda’s rather horse-faced physiognomy, you also “share” in mowing the lawn, cleaning the leaves out of the house gutters, and changing the oil in the car…right?

  8. Xtrnl says:

    I would highly recommend couples in a relationship where one person provides and the other nurtures not take your advice. This leads to an unfair division of labour, where the man is responsible for 100% of the finances, and 50% of the domestic chores. How would that be fair? The only way a relationship can be fair is if one person works, and the other stays home and takes care of the kids and house, or if both people work and both take care of the kids and house. It’s all about equality, is it not? Of course, Marcotte isn’t interested in equality. For those of you who don’t know, she’s a proponent of misandric gendercide (

  9. gwallan says:

    Sorry but anything citing Marcotte can only be satire.

  10. Tom Martin says:

    How to solve professional victim-feminist nagging, with a lawsuit…

    I am suing Europe’s largest gender studies department, at LSE in London, for exaggerating women’s issues, and blaming men, to justify ignoring men’s issues.

    The court date is on March 13th.

    Read the press, listen to the interviews, watch the hit video, and donate to the legal fighting fund, all at sexismbusters dot org

  11. John says:

    If a man yells and tells a woman what to do it’s called DV. When a woman yells and tells a man what to do it’s called nagging and he should do what she tells him to avoid more nagging. Gotcha.

  12. bunnytwenty says:

    where are all these MRAs coming from?
    y’all would be funny if you weren’t so scary.

  13. Steve says:

    Bunnytwenty… nice try with the shaming. Scary? What, that we actually demand some of that equality? The article doesn’t state it, but is her husband the only one that works and brings the money necessary for the household in? If so, he’s already doing his part in this contract. Again, why is it, in that case, he’s also responsible for 50% of the in house work? That means he’s contributing 75% to the household and she’s contributing 25%.

    If that’s your definition of equal, you’re the one being scary. Simply because your math sucks.

    As a side note, likely, what scares you, is that men are starting to stand up for themselves, and you are afraid of losing your priviliges. Welcome to the world of equality.

  14. mrg says:

    You know, these men posting about “providers” and “nurturers” are cracking me up. when my child was born, my husband stayed home with him and did not work until my son started kindergarten. (Whether he was a “nurturer” is a debate for another day, but I can assure you I was the “provider” and STILL do all finances) Guess what- I STILL did most of the housework when I brought in 100% of the money. Nowadays we both work, and I can assure you I WILL let him run out of any clean clothes whatsoever if I’ve done laundry, folded it, and put it away 10 times in a a row, while he’s done nothing around the house during the same amount of time. There’s nothing like having no clean underwear as a wake up call!

  15. bunnytwenty says:

    Steve, you’re going to have to pardon me for refusing to take you seriously. It’s just that what you’re saying is so patently divorced from reality that all I can do is laugh.

  16. Ginkgo says:

    “Steve, you’re going to have to pardon me for refusing to take you seriously. It’s just that what you’re saying is so patently divorced from reality that all I can do is laugh.”

    Hey, Bunny – care to explain hat is so “patently divorced from reality “. Do you fancy yourself the authority on what is and isn’t reality? Just trying to prove Steve’s point about equality, are you?

    “where are all these MRAs coming from?
    y’all would be funny if you weren’t so scary.”

    “Bunnytwenty… nice try with the shaming.”

    Actually Steve, that may not be an attempt at shaming. That may just be Bunny posturing as all trembling and dainty and feminine.

  17. bunnytwenty says:

    Anyone who believes that there is such a thing as “female privilege” is delusional beyond belief. The only sane way to deal with this influx of disgusting misogynists (check out the classy looks-snarking on Amanda Marcotte above) is by laughing at them. Their bizarre ideas are rooted in loneliness, insecurity, and a sense of powerlessness – they think that the only way to seize any power in the world is by placing themselves above women, and are angry that they don’t have a woman of their “own.” These are the kinds of dudes who get mail-order brides because they think women from overseas are submissive… and the rest of us should be submissive too.
    Sadly, though, their beliefs do real damage – remember that one guy who shot a bunch of women at a gym? that’s where the scary part comes in.

  18. John Galt says:

    To the MRA’s posting, you’ve forgotten the definition of feminism. Let me remind you. It’s the idea that you can create equality by focusing on the issues of only one sex. Don’t expect feminist to be concerned with you, your thoughts, feeling or how their actions impact men. To quote Gloria Allred “If You’re Not a Feminist, Then you’re a Bigot.” How can you expect feminist to acknowledge us when this is how they view us.

  19. Xtrnl says:

    “Anyone who believes that there is such a thing as “female privilege” is delusional beyond belief.” Actually, Bunny, anyone who believes that there are not pros and cons that come with being either gender is delusional beyond belief. That being said, ‘male privelege’ is a delusion. And how exactly are our ideas divorced from reality? You keep writing checks with your mouth that your back-up facts can’t cash.

    Our ideas do damage? We’re misogynists? Actually we’re egalitarians who are tired of society caring more about women than men. Here you are defending a woman who would kill 90% of the male population of the world if she could get away with it, and then you compare us to Marc Lepine (a deranged loner who has nothing to do with the MRM), simply because we disagree with your view that women should only have to contribute only 25% to a household if she doesn’t work. It is truly saddening that ignorance of this extent could exist in a person.

  20. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    “Anyone who believes that there is such a thing as “female privilege” is delusional beyond belief. The only sane way to deal with this influx of disgusting misogynists (check out the classy looks-snarking on Amanda Marcotte above) is by laughing at them. ” No kidding. I especially love the ones with the statistics. They must not have any children with their ficitious wives. Even if you want to do something as inane as dividing up children, let’s all remember that a mother (or father) who doesn’t work often has their partner taking care of their 50% of the children 100% of the time.

  21. bunnytwenty says:

    “Actually we’re egalitarians who are tired of society caring more about women than men.”
    bahahahhahahahhahahahhahahha! wow. All those poor, poor male CEOs and politicians, crying themselves to sleep in their beds of money.

  22. Xtrnl says:

    If any of you women believe that a coherent man would put up with providing all of the income, and still be responsible for 50% of the domestic chores, you are being completely unfair and unrealistic. No man with a shred of logic or self-respect would put up with that unfair distribution of labor. If you want your man to help more at home, help more outside the home by bringing in income, so he won’t have to work as much and will have more time to contribute to the domestic chores. If that seems unfair to you, then I take it you’re likely not the type of girl one would find in a calculus, or engineering class.

    It is true the top earning bracket is overwhelmingly male, but that doesn”t mean the men didn’t have to work to get there. It’s not like being born with a Y chromosome makes opportunity and money fall from the sky. Also, men tend to choose degrees and paths that lead to better paying jobs. Take my physics and math classes for instance, each of which have 3 and 1 girls respectively. I’m getting tired of hearing about this glass-ceiling crap. A lot of men don’t make it to the top either, but have nothing to scapegoat for it! Feminism is basically this: Any problem women face can be fixed by blaming men, even if the problem is said women acting obnoxiously! This article clearly demonstrates that.

  23. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    I see a lot of Peter Pan syndrome here. Shockingly enough, grown men have a strong tendency to love their wives and children. They also have opinions about how those children ought to be raised. Opinions like, “I think it’s best for my child to be nurtured and cared for by his mother instead of an institutional daycare, therefore I will go to work and my wife will stay home with our baby” and “My wife has been caring for my sick child all day and has still managed to cook my dinner. I am not a self centered asshat, therefore I will wash the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, and pick the toys up off the living room floor this evening.” As dim as it is to try to reduce personal relationships down to some mathematical formula, it’s even more thick-headed to presume that that a loved one’s worth should be based solely that person’s ability to earn money. I think men who are unable to grasp this are the ones without a shred of logic or self respect. They are also likely the ones without a wife or girlfriend.

  24. digital_dreamer says:

    “All those poor, poor male CEOs and politicians, crying themselves to sleep in their beds of money.”

    What a silly argument!
    New flash: The vast majority of men are NOT CEOs or politicians! Got it? Quit comparing your status to the top 1%. If women really wanted equality, and we all know this is not the issue at all, women would be applying for all the other jobs men are known for doing, like mining coal, construction work, logging, working on oil rigs, working as trash men, doing actual combat in the military, etc., etc. Where are those women? That’s right, they don’t want those jobs. They only want the top 1%, which why most women work in the public sector and other white collar jobs. Relatively easy and comfortable in the A/C building.
    Men work the most dangerous jobs out there. 96% of deaths on the job are men. Privilege you say?

    85% of the homeless are men. Privilege you say?

    On average, 65-year old men today will receive only 43.6% of the net benefits that women receive, and young men today can expect a net tax burden over their lifetimes that will be 3.4 times greater than for women. Privilege you say?

    Men commit (not to be confused with attempt) suicide at a rate of 4-6 times that of women. Think this is because of privilege, or rather, the direct result of the higher demands placed on men?
    I could go on, you know.

  25. digital_dreamer says:

    I’ll mention, too, that the reason men usually get the CEO jobs is because they are most willing to expend the necessary sacrifices required to do so. Plus, men are more willing to make these sacrifices in behalf of their families, as their wives take care of the children and home.
    Need to work long hours, like 80-100 hrs per week? Men will.
    Need to travel long distances? Men will.
    Need to spend a lot of time away from home? Men will.
    Need to make gut-wrenching, touch decisions? Men will.
    Can women do this? Most certainly. But, most do not wish to do so.
    Do your research first before repeating the same feminist dogma.

  26. Xtrnl says:

    Linda, you’re putting words in my mouth. I never said a person’s worth should be based on what they earn. I simply said that it’s not fair for one person to be the provider and be expected to do half of the domestic chores on top of that. My girlfriend totally agrees with me (sorry to disappoint you). I’m very thankful to have found a rare gem of a woman, someone who finds this article as laughable as I do.

  27. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    Yes, but you’ve pretty much confirmed that caring for your own children will be considered a part of the “domestic chores.” Listen carefully: Don’t, Have. Any. And don’t be so sure that your celleg romance will pass the text of time either. Good luck with all that.

  28. Xtrnl says:

    That actually won’t be an issue. My girlfriend and I share both the financial and domestic responsibilities 50/50. This is a fair arrangement. We have no problem with nagging because we both pull our weight in both departments. Taking care of our kids will be another task that we will share when we get to that point. Even if we had a traditional setup, I would still help take care of the kids, but I would find it unrealistic to expect me to do that anywhere near half of the time, when I’m responsible for 100% of the household income.

  29. Mark Neil says:

    “In essence, I resigned my position as household CEO. It took a while for the changes to sink in. I did have to lower my standards somewhat and give him room to catch up. He needed time to learn what needs doing. ”

    I think you severely under valued this aspect. Feminists tend to think men have so much power and dominate a wife and household, yet right here you acknowledge that it was you, not him, that controlled the house, and it was only after you let that go, and allowed him to do things HIS way (even when they weren’t up to your standards, until he could perfect it till it did meet you standards), was he allowed to participate. You are all so quick to blame men for their not taking part, and to label it male privilege, yet never do you consider your own part in all that. I was YOU that needed to give up the control, and when you did, he stepped in to fill the void, and you didn’t immediately slap him down for the efforts, and let him adjust, he continued to do so. It was not him (alone) that was the problem. But this article is too busy man-bashing to hold yourselves accountable for your part in the problem.

  30. mike says:

    i read this article and was dissapointed i dont care who is at home and who is working 40+ who ever is sitting at home needs to pitch in more not 50/50 unless the one at home is putting in 40 hours at work as well

  31. KW says:

    How many angry men out there google “feminism” and then go on to leave long, ranting comments about their terrible, terrible persecution at the hands of those power-wielding females? Apparently at least 13.

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