The Lost Art Of Female Cleanliness

One of the most necessary aspects of human socialization is cleanliness. You cannot function effectively in the world without the ability to keep yourself tidy. I can assure you that if I smell like I just ran 10 miles, ate a whole clove of garlic and then jumped into a pool of Vicks VapoRub mixed with vinegar, would have a hard time keeping a job or relationship. I’d also be a candidate for immediate psychiatric evaluation. Hygiene is a basic element of everyday life. That’s why I am perplexed as to why the generation I belong to is so horribly incompetent when it comes to maintaining sanitary conditions.

Shower mildew seems to come standard in every apartment occupied by someone in their 20s. There’s more hair trapped in my friends’ carpets than I have on my head. Of course, as a man approaching 30 and learning to cope with a thinning mane, maybe that’s not quite so spectacular. Regardless, no matter whose domicile I step into, I expect a relatively clean situation, but I rarely get it.

In college, I grew to understand the male tendency to be slovenly. Empty beer cans were something like décor for a college age man. Some people collect Beanie Babies; others collect filth. It was not until I graduated from my university that I understood that this phenomenon crosses all gender boundaries. In some cases, women are actually far dirtier than men.

This could be a symptom of the patriarchy’s manipulation of culture, but I grew up assuming that all women were like my mother. They cleaned up the mess of the men in their lives. They dusted, vacuumed, washed dishes, scrubbed sinks and showered on a regular basis without having to be blackmailed with incriminating photos of sexual misconduct. As a person heavily influenced by maternal suggestion (aka guilt), I developed a need to have order in my home. I do my laundry with gusto. I take the trash out before it starts to smell, not after. I have wood polish…that I bought.

Even though I grew up to be the physical embodiment of the utter fallaciousness of my childhood stereotype, I still wanted to believe that all women were neat. I hate to break it to my younger self, who I am sure is reading this through the use of the time machine that will be invented in 2035, but there are plenty of gross women. I can trace my discovery of feminism back to the moment when I first saw bras left casually strewn across a cracked leather couch in my girlfriend’s apartment. I had such a hard time reconciling my love for her with her cavalier attitude toward undergarments. Did she not realize those were private, and more importantly, not sanitary? Did she have no respect for my presence in her home? How many discarded tampon wrappers were underneath her couch? Women really are equal to men, because they can be just as repulsive with their habits. I shudder to think back to this seminal event, but I must for the sake of society.

This has to change, ladies. I need my innocence back. I demand it. At the very least pretend that you care, for my sake. If you really can’t bring yourself to straighten up the place, let me do it. I know now that the ignorant cliches I grew up with were merely a construct of male hegemony. I get it. I respect the diversity of the species. I will wash everything. Your dishes, your floor, your walls, your shower. I’ll even give you a non-erotic sponge bath just so you don’t have to go to the trouble of washing yourself platonically.

Cleanliness is not a male or female issue. It’s just an issue. We are rolling toward the base of a slippery slope of sloth, and the bottom of the hill is full of old Burger King wrappers. Have we lost our way so completely that a well-dusted Hallmark Star Trek ornament on your mantle isn’t a sign of cultivation? Am I some kind of backwards, National Geographic-reading square just because I get my suits dry-cleaned once a month? Am I just old?

Perhaps I should embrace modernity in order to retain some semblance of perspective and sanity. Trash is, after all, a readily available reminder of what humankind is actually doing to the planet and to themselves. What we put in our body and into the earth is just as repulsive as what we leave growing in our bathtub grout. Your colon generates waste material. Your car pumps out noxious fumes that are destroying the atmosphere. The cigarette butts that you leave in front of your favorite bar are not going to decompose for years, not to mention the fact that you are inhaling poison when you smoke said cigarettes. The blatant lies propagated by cable news outlets are fairly close to wasteful speech.

People are actually incredibly gross without even trying. We pretend that we smell like a mountain spring, but we actually do just smell like a lunatic marathon runner who rolls around in mentholated ointment. I guess I should just quit faking it and take my metaphorical bras out of the closet. TC mark

image – Joe Dykes

More From Thought Catalog

  • http://twitter.com/TheFauxMilaniaG a milania parody

    What the fuck is not sanitary about putting bras on your couch? This article is idiotic. 

    • Guest

      I did not mean to post this as my idiotic parody account. But this article is still more idiotic.

    • scrubadubdub

      boob sweat. unless you’re lacking. in which case, I’m sorry for mentioning.

      • Guest

        oh so you mean, it’s unsanitary TO THE COUCH.

    • BrasAreYourFriends

      Maybe he thinks that boobs leak mud, and puss and bits of rotten fish and old cheese.

      Or maybe he’s never seen boobsBoo.

      • BRASAREYOURFRIENDS

        Where the hell did “Boo” at the end of that sentence come from!

  • Gmo Saza

    This.

  • Jessica Knapp

    Discarded tampon wrappers under the couch? Seriously? I’ve lived with some pretty messy girls, but THAT has never been an issue.

  • Tnpb7d

    Did you just tell me to get back in the kitchen? 

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re overreacting with the  bra thing. But yeah, in general people can stand to be more hygienic. Not necessarily tidy, but at least hygienic 

  • http://twitter.com/mariannemichael Marianne M Chrisos

    I’m pretty sure you can’t title an article “The Lost Art of Female Cleanliness”, pleading for your “innocence back”, which only a clean woman can give you , and then use this throwaway line: “Cleanliness is not a male or female issue. It’s just an issue.”

    The real issue is that men expect women to be “feminine”; society demands and expects women to do the work of cleaning, of upkeep, of projecting an image for men to fall back on, so that their “innocence” can be intact.

    There are much more important things than shower scrubbing, and if you are capable, go do it, and don’t waste time writing an article where you plead with me to do it. I’m at work, making money and wishing I could the minutes of my life back I spent reading this.

    • guest

      he just expects you to clean after yourself, not him..

  • Annie

    Women don’t owe you anything. I can’t believe this article has been published.

  • http://twitter.com/MisiaGalka Misia Galka

    Who the fuck inserts tampons on their couch and then discards the wrapper under said couch? Maybe you’re just hanging out with dirtbag slobs. 

    Boobs are unsanitary? You may have some deep seeded issues from your childhood. Good luck finding some to touch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

    Can anybody ever read anything and grasp the overall concept without picking apart every single sentence?
    Come off it.
    Christ.
    This is the best article TC has had in awhile. It’s well written and he notes on the equality of both men and womens lack of cleanliness and makes it OBVIOUS that he’s not being a dick and just picking on women.
    Hostility is annoying.

    • Guest

      if you really think this was one of the best articles TC has had in awhile, then you need to re-evaluate why you come to this site.

      if he’s not picking on women, he should – oh i don’t know – change the whole title of his piece?

      this article should just be titled “obvious observations with no real overall point” or “excuses i use to avoid intimacy”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

        My intentions of coming to this site are no matter of yours so I’ll save my efforts of re-evaluation for more important matters.

        The title serves it well because he is talking about his sparkling perspective of women and that he realized not all women were 1960’s spick and span housewives as he grew older. 
        I’m sure mosto f you started typing out your response before you even read the damn thing and defensive mode kicked in as soon as you read the title. I know this because mine did as well, and then I took the time to actually read  the article to see the actual point and how the title relates. He used a specific idea to be relatable and brought it to an overall common standpoint that people in general should have respect for themselves to be cleaner.

        Maybe I’m wrong and he’s just being an ass. But that’s what I gathered from it initially, since I and non oe you know his intent or what he’s thinking. You chose to see it that way just by reading the title. I’ll re-evaluate my intentions when I feel necessary. And you shouldnt assume that you know someone elses.

        Making statements. Not starting an argument.  

      • Jessica Knapp

        Just curious why you think they only read the title just because THAT is what they chose to comment on. And saying “most of you” is complete bullshit. Obviously that doesn’t make sense since they would have would have to read the article in order to comment on it’s relation to the article.

        Oh, and saying “Making statements. Not starting an argument.” is just ridiculous. You’re basically shaking your finger in GUEST’S face.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

        Again, You’re assuming.
        And I never said they ONLY read the article.

      • ELLE

        ashley anderson, shut up. 

    • Jessica Knapp

      You might want to re-read your own last sentence.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

        I can read just fine. You assumed hostility in my comment, I’m guessing?
        You’d be wrong. But thanks for reading.

  • Anonymous

    While at the end of this article you seem to try and reconcile this sexist shit with a “well everyone is gross now” statement, its still sexist shit.

    If you want your girlfriend to have a spotless apartment (and job, and interesting hobbies, and a rich social life) hire her a cleaning service, or shut the fuck up.

    THX!!

    • guest

      yeh, cause the only way to have your house cleaned is hiring a cleaning service…

  • guest

    As a woman, I agree. I grew up in the cleanest household, and when I moved out I learned to appreciate my mother. Cleanliness has gone to shit. Everyone assume things clean themselves, and I blame it on how selfish our generation has become. We have no regard towards others, or common courtesies. There’s a lack of pride in the way people present themselves and their homes. Call me old fashion, but there’s nothing wrong with being clean, man or woman.

  • Sappajawea

    as a woman with three 20-something male roommates, i constantly struggle with the issue of cleanliness. i know i am a total neat-freak and expecting my roommates to uphold my standards is ridiculous. at the same time, i don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to occasionally do some dishes, vacuum, take out the trash, put their shoes away or empty an ashtray or two. i spend almost all of my time away from work cleaning the apartment, but when i complain about them not doing anything it’s always, “well, you always get to it before i do.” yeah, i get to it before it becomes aware of itself and grows limbs. i don’t understand why it’s so difficult for people to just clean up after themselves, whether it’s a bra on the couch or dishes in the sink. it seems easier to me to just put things away when you’re done with them rather than having to deep clean your whole goddamn house once a month when you can’t find anything and it smells like something died in there.

  • Anonymous

    I think the point being made is that people need to be cleaner, which is true and good. Unclear why this is a gender issue.

    • http://twitter.com/emilcDC Emil Caillaux

      Some people just read the title and scroll down to the comments section.

    • Michaelwg

      gender issues are “in” right now. We actively sift through content, like Google, for key words like “Female” + “Clean” + “Tampons” and proceed straight to Outrage Town.

    • Guest

      The way he used the phrase ‘female cleanliness’ in the title, maybe? Not because his girflriend’s a slob, that means he can demand that other ladies (who doesn’t even care about him) be clean the *feminine way*.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t mean the comments! I get the comments. I meant why the article framed it as a gender issue. 

      • Anonymous

        The article is framed as a gender issue because of my own personal experiences with gender roles.

  • Ppants

    This article is offensive. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/TrinaToxic Ashley 'Untamed' Janosko

    And here we go, with the angry women flooding in. Yes, if you work, it goes hand in hand that you take care of yourself, obviously; this article isn’t addressed to you. This is the guy’s opinion, stop treating it like he’s trying to tell you offended gals to do something about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

    There is slight humor in his explanation of his fairytale perspective of how women are suppose to be that he’d gotten from childhood. That seemed obvious.
    You all are seriously just trying to pick a fight just to pick a fight.

  • Booyouwhore

    Go back to your momma.

    • Asdf

      Can’t. My momma is dirty.

      • Booyouwhore

        Now, that… is dirty.

  • huvkbjl

    yeah, this is really fuckin’ dumb

  • Leisa

    Maybe her bra was on the couch because she took it off while cheating on you with some guy that wasn’t an OCD misogynist germaphobe?

  • Tom

    Cue hundreds of commenters saying this is sexist and misogynistic, etc.

    But I’m with you on this one – I expect ladies to be clean and tidy. As long as women are allowed to say stuff like ‘I won’t go out with a dude who can’t kill the spider in my bathtub’, or will tell a guy who likes musical theatre to ‘man up’ or other such retarded sh*t, I reserve my right to prefer ladies who have retained the ‘female cleanliness’ that the author speaks of.

    • Guest

      great, then clean your balls.

    • Guest

      It’s the idea of ‘female cleanliness’ that we’re not agreeing with here. Why not just say cleanliness itself? And that, this guy, wherever traditional/sexist town he came from, won’t date a girl who’s messy because he doesn’t like poor hygiene *not* because the ladies are the one SUPPOSED to be always so squeaky clean.

      • Tom

        Right, and I get that you’re upset that he’s specifically targeted ‘female’ cleanliness, but that’s because it’s ‘females’ who are ‘supposed’ to be clean in ‘traditional’ gender roles. Just as males are supposed to be tough, strong, ‘manly’ etc. There are some dudes out there who row crew and drink beer; there are some that like Buffy and musicals. There are ladies out there who clean more than Martha Stewart; there are some that don’t give a shit. Both are fine, but the author is expressing his nostalgia for the traditions of super-clean ladies.

        Bottom line, if there was an article like ‘Where Have All The Tough Guys Gone?’, lamenting how 21st century men are all pansies, the TC female community would be LMAOing all over the shop and commenting like ‘hell yes, where my sistas at, et cetera’.

        You guys can’t get mad at EVERYTHING.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

        EXACTLY. However, Tom, I’ve tried explaining to and they still cant open their eyes wide enough to see beyond the title.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alexandra-Glorioso/10025811 Alexandra Glorioso

    I’m totally for this article! I agree the title may be off, but am actually not so sure – the article reveals a revelation of the author half way through. He starts thinking this is a problem with women and then moves to thinking this is a problem with human beings and then moves finally to thinking this is a problem with himself. He covered human self-awareness in a very cute full-circle way. Bravo.

    • Guest

      -_-

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=668212789 Ashley Anderson

      THANK YOU. I cant like your comment enough. Thankfully their are some ladies out there who think before pulling the ÖH MY GOD YOURE SEXIST” card.

  • Michaelwg

    You sound OCD, and I’m going to guess you have a small bottle of Purell in your left…no, right inner jacket pocket. That being said, any article that gets the ladies all riled up makes me chuckle. So kudos on that I guess.

  • http://twitter.com/MerDiann Meredith Hirt

    “Cleanliness is not a male or female issue. It’s just an issue.” THEN CHANGE THE NAME OF THIS TITLE YOU SEXIST IDIOT.

    • Asdf

      Time to step away from the keyboard, breathe deeply, count to 10, come back and then deactivate caps lock.

      • Uh

        If cleanliness is not a male or female issue, rather an issue for all, then he should really change the title of this article. It not only directs an expectation of being cleanly for females but also perpetuates a double standard. It’s not fair to assume that the art of cleanliness lost solely by women is the issue fueling the lack of hygiene in all of society.

  • Saikia

    I think there are some female readers who are looking at this and highly offended because their feminist attitude has blinded them from seeing that the idea of the woman keeping a tidy house has somewhat been expected for generations. I realize that women today work and do not have the time like they used to, when they stayed at home and raised children, to keep everything in neat order, but there are some aspects of modern society and their structures that have changed for the better today, and on that side, it is important for people to be mature and realize that making a relationship work still requires two people to work together and split the work 50/50.

    My boyfriend and I both work, and he expects me to keep a clean house, which I feel rightful in doing so because he is a man and his work is more physically demanding than mine is, but he also picks up the slack and helps with cooking when he gets home. It’s not about who or what is right, but it’s about working together and getting it done. I may procrastinate to get the house clean right away, but I make sure it IS CLEAN before anyone steps foot into this house because I respect both myself and my home, and take pride in it, and that’s just how it should be.

    And for all of you feminist who got butt-hurt reading this article because you practically felt like Dave here was telling you that you need to get back in the kitchen need to grow up, because he explained himself that he will help you clean. Stop being so closed minded.

    • CA

      Hear, hear!

    • bee

      I am a feminist, living with my boyfried (who is also a feminist), and I wasn’t “butt-hurt” by reading this article.  We both clean, because we are both clean freaks.  We both cook (though, him more often – he is far more meticulous with recipes than I), we split the cost of living…  It’s not ‘anti-feminist’ to be a woman and clean a house… People have some really skewed ideas of feminism.  If you feel comfortable in your relationship when you’re the one keeping it tidy, then GREAT!  The goal of feminism isn’t to make women stop cleaning (gross), it’s to make women realize they aren’t OBLIGATED to do so if it’s not what they want to do.
      I HATE doing the dishes with a passion, and my boyfriend doesn’t mind.  He hates vacuuming, and I enjoy it.  Sometimes I clean/cook more than he does.  Whatever.  Will our feminist cards be revoked anytime soon?  …No.  Just, no. 
      The only problem I had with this article was the assumption that cleanliness is a gender issue (even though he claimed it isn’t).  Sure, for generations, women took care of the home.  But honestly, in my experience, cleanliness levels vary by personality – not gender.  My father was faaaaaaaar more tidy than my mother – but he was also more level-headed, patient, perfectionistic, etc.
      I’m sorry if you’re “butt-hurt” now that your stereotypical idea of feminism has been challenged.  You could also try to stop being so close minded.

    • work

      “which I feel rightful in doing so because he is a man and his work is more physically demanding than mine is”

      He work being physically demanding isn’t a product of him being a man. A lot of us women have very physically demanding work as well!

    • http://twitter.com/SongUpInMyHead Jenny Williamson

      “And for all of you feminist who got butt-hurt reading this article because you practically felt like Dave here was telling you that you need to get back in the kitchen need to grow up, because he explained himself that he will help you clean. Stop being so closed minded.”

      …How about if I help HIM clean? Since it clearly matters more to him, this can be something he takes charge of. I’ll just…help. If he asks nicely. And if I’m not too tired. 

      When men say, “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll help with housework,” they’re basically still laying the responsibility for it on the woman. 

    • Guest

      i didn’t get butt-hurt reading this article, but i sure did get butt-hurt reading this comment. 

  • http://twitter.com/amber_obaid Amber Obaid

    I’m pretty sure the problem isn’t some grand “oh this modern age produces women that don’t know how to clean themselves” thing. It’s more a “I don’t know how to pick someone I’m compatible with when it comes to cleanliness and I’m holding society accountable for it”. Women come in all shapes, sizes and personality traits. Some are clean and some are dirty. 

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