A son’s mother knows how to do laundry: 150 words on a Chicago Tribune advice column

The intracategorical complexity of laundry: 150 words on a Chicago Tribune column

In an open advice column in The Chicago Tribune on February 6, 2013, on how to encourage a son to do laundry, nearly every response simultaneously 1) presumed the “you” was a mother and 2) appealed to the boy’s masculinist desire to appear attractive to women, e.g., “the mother should tell her son that girls like guys who do their own laundry.” Such sexism and heterosexism demonstrate the importance of intersectionality in communication studies. I approach cultural analyses from intersectionality rooted in “intracategorical complexity,” which critiques the social construction of categories while acknowledging their durability (McCall 2005). From this standpoint, multiple axes of identity interact concurrently with dominant, oppressive social forces to produce social inequalities. Consequently, public advice is imbued with cultural values regarding knowledge structure, hierarchical relationships, power asymmetries, class affordances, racial difference, domestic work, gender roles, and sexual prowess, all co-occurring and co-evolving. It is never only about laundry.

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