Noah Brand at No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz? writes about how the narrative of cleanliness versus messiness has been framed according to the fictitious gender divide:
It’s taken as cultural gospel that men are, by nature, sloppy, unhygienic, and generally filthy. Women, by contrast, are neat and clean and constantly exasperated by the unending tide of filth that is the male gender. Indeed, a standard way of calling a man’s masculinity into question is to show that he is neat and well-groomed (i.e. thousands of throwaway gay jokes, or every episode of Frasier). This is part of a larger cultural narrative, one that I’ll call the “civilizing” narrative, wherein men are grunting, violent, ill-smelling brutes, and women must overcome these disgusting attributes and train the men to ape the manners of civilization. (Usually via their role as sexual gatekeeper, dontcha know.)
This kind of narrative is not only is insulting to men, as this talented blogger points out. It also marginalizes many women by presenting them as not fully female if they are not bravely fighting germs for the benefit of their entire family.
My sister and I, the slob of the millenium and the slob of the century respectively, are a case in point. We both have many amazing attributes: we are intelligent, funny, loyal, and also extremely feminine, among other things. However, we were born to be messy. The men in our lives are very traditionally masculine in appearance and general modes of behavior. They are also very neat, clean, meticulous people who are doomed to be picking up after their messy partners. Thankfully, they both really dig cleaning and are great at it.
The four of us are very opinionated and, as a result, have never bought into the dominant narrative that tells us that a woman who washed the floors in her house once every six months when she lived alone and a man who gets annoyed when somebody does the dishes instead of him must have something wrong with them. Many people, however, spend their lives trying to fit into a model that is alien to who they are because they don’t want their gender identity to be questioned.
It is truly sad that in year 2011 we still have to talk about the fact that having a penis or a vagina means absolutely nothing in terms of whether you will be messy or neat.