Comment: Sexism & stripes in this week’s property news

Does this house offend you?

Does this house offend you? - Credit: Archant

Dissecting the tall tales in this week’s property headlines...

Who wears the marigolds in your household?

Who wears the marigolds in your household? - Credit: Archant

Odd jobs are sexist (apparently)

Thanks to the informative tweeting of BBC property expert (and my companion in steak eating) Henry Pryor, an article by Laura Bates in the Guardian came to my attention this week concerning household chores. Bates’ wheelhouse is “everyday sexism”, and in this case she dissected the odd jobs that women and men supposedly do around the house. This was provoked by two things:

1: The 2016 #ChoreChallenge - a project championing households to “gender swap” some or all of the chores that each resident typically does over the next year. As I write this column, Twitter is gearing up for its global #ChoreChallenge chat at 2pm, which I’m sure will be thrilling.

2: Laura Bates saw a tweet from a lady claiming that in her 31 years of marriage her husband has not once cleaned the bathroom.

Cue a bit of a diatribe from Bates about how women spend twice as much time on chores (according to the BBC and Mumsnet!) and that gender equality is lacking in household chore-doing. The article suggests that things like washing the dishes and taking out the bins are gender specific, women being more likely to do the former, men the latter.

I am a man. I live alone. So I have to do it all. The poor woman whose husband hasn’t touched the toilet for 31 years potentially only has herself to blame for not thrusting a jay-cloth into his hands in 1985 and forcing equality upon him. And frankly, if given a choice of doing the dishes or taking the bins out, I’d rather spend some time with my hands in soapy warm water than I would dealing with the rest of the household’s waste.

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Personally, I find this article to be rather regressive. Bates claims to be forward-thinking but are we really still cataloguing things like this? Are we really grouping and assigning one thing to one gender? The idea of swapping chores suggests that the opposite sex should get a taste of what it’s like to do the hard graft. But what if your household is brazenly un-sexist? What if the wife has it easy, and the husband mows the lawn, oils the hinges and puts together the flat-pack furniture as well as folding the laundry and re-filling the Glade Plug-Ins? Could it possibly be the case that your man likes whipping up a cake of a Sunday while the lady of the house enjoys carving ornate rocking-horses in the garage? Maybe this is #HobbySwap rather than #ChoreChallenge, but you get my point.

Stripe strip

In Kensington, a district judge has told – sorry, ordered – a woman to re-decorate her home. This isn’t as outrageous as it sounds. The bit that needs re-doing is the front exterior, which homeowner Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring decided to paint white and red. In vertical stripes.

The offensively festive Harpenden crane

The offensively festive Harpenden crane - Credit: Archant

Now, yes, this is perhaps a little too “Cirque du Soleil” for some but it is, after all, this woman’s property. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea slapped her with a section 215 notice last May, which the homeowner appealed on the grounds that her home was not in need of repair, and so unworthy of such an instruction. District judge Susan Bayne threw out the appeal and said that “visual integrity is fundamental to the Kensington Square Conservation Area...painting a property with red and white stripes, where other properties use a limited palette of muted colours, results in an adverse effect on the amenity of the area”.

My problem with this judge’s ruling is that she has displayed traits of snobbery that we all roll our eyes at when judges make rulings like this. Whilst a limited palette is very chic and modernist, using it as a reason for her decision smacks of hoity-toity bias. The point here is that the stripy house just probably looks a bit silly – but Judge Susan makes it personal with comments about how the paintwork draws attention to the property’s “proportions and more unattractive features.” If this kind of thinking was requisite in deciding law, surely it should be illegal for out-of-shape men to wear small speedos on beaches.

Shush your noise

Residents of a house in Daventry have had their TV and speakers seized following continual warnings from the local council about noise disruption. The culprits had the volume up so high, continuously, that the neighbours’ walls were shuddering from the vibration. After ignoring warnings from the council and the police, a team of sound specialists had to set up camp in a house over the road to measure the precise level of noise erupting from the property.

When the results came back as ridiculous (not the technical term) the occupants were warned yet again. And ignored it, yet again. So their equipment was in turn confiscated. How stupid must you be to keep on watching the Kardashians at volume level 1000 when the entire street hates you and you’ve got MI5 pitched up over the road wearing ear defenders?

Jokes aside, residential trouble like this isn’t uncommon. It can be a serious lifestyle issue. Just last month a resident in Harpenden went through the horrendous stress of being able to see fairy lights, wrapped around an industrial crane to make it more seasonal, through her lounge window. Why a SWAT team wasn’t assigned that case is beyond me.