For some years, as a young adult, I felt that perhaps I should have The Ironing in my life - all my female role models did so. It must be a generational thing; not many of my peers think of The Ironing in the way our mothers and grandmothers did.
The Ironing has ceased to be for my generation (and probably subsequent ones) what William James would call a "living option."
I was reminded of this by an excellent article by Jonathan Ree, in The New Humanist (Jul/Aug 2010), which reflects what I felt about reading William James in university:
I love William James. He’s just about the only philosopher who didn’t end up as either a pettifogging nit-picker or an overbearing egomaniac with delusions of genius. He was generous too – witty, honest, modest and flexible – and more interested in promoting productive conversations than hogging the last word. He was also a brilliant writer.The discussion of options, from his famous essay "The Will to Believe" (1896) is my favourite "takeaway" from reading James.
A genuine option must be three things; living, forced, and momentous.
A forced option is a real either/or situation: no way out, no third choice. The Ironing is a forced option only if being a housekeeper is the only choice and only if being a housekeeper means doing The Ironing oneself.
A momentous option carries grave or serious consequences: for example not doing The Ironing will result in the total demise of western culture and society, financially and morally.
For some, for sure, doing or not doing The Ironing is still a genuine option. For many, it has ceased to be living, forced, or momentous. Being a housekeeper is no longer the only choice, or one of the few choices, for women. The idea of being a good, bad, or indifferent housekeeper is no longer so compelling.
And I have found that there are virtually no consequences at all for not doing The Ironing - except that my older female relatives sometimes roll their eyes at my rebelliousness.