The ADgenda: Jamie Oliver's Cook it, Snap it!

Annoying ad campaigns.

Jamie Oliver divides opinion. An unassuming little fella he first took to our screens with a bish bash bosh approach to cooking, teaching us that it's ok to make sub-par vaguely edible food as long as you do it with a cheeky grin and a wink. There were a few naysayers but we chucklingly dismissed them as out of step. After all this was Jamie, our lad about town. He clearly couldn't believe his luck, having come from humble beginnings in the kitchen of his dad's pub he was now fronting a primetime cookery show where the more slapdash and lairy he was, the more the public lapped it up -  chuck in some pasta, add a bit of salt, you got yourself a gourmet meal. He quickly maximised his exposure, tramping through fields squeezing mozzarella balls as the poster boy for Sainsburys and made time to set up pretty worthwhile projects like Fifteen, giving employment to teenagers who were struggling. But clearly, he never wanted this fame - his face grinning out from every bookshop window, his merchandise packing the supermarket shelves - such fame was too much responsibility for one man to shoulder. All this had been a little joke that got out of hand, a dare conceived down the pub - fake an Essex accent, throw some food around a kitchen and see how long it takes the British public to cotton on.  The adoration of the British public has lost its appeal for Jamie, it's the only explanation for the frankly antagonistic move he's now pulled. He's going out with a bang, with the ultimate annoyance that will make the public shun him forever. He's done his research and discovered that the most heinous culinary crime is taking incessant photos of food. A pastime that has seen a surge in popularity recently thanks to the young things' obsession with Instagram - a tool that lets you add a rosy vintage-feel filter to photos, magically turning your sausage and mash into gourmet fodder at the tap of a button. So popular is this penchant for documenting every morsel that passes our lips that there are whole websites devoted to it, and now Jamie's cashing in. With his Cook It, Snap It! ad campaign - a call-out to the nation to buy his latest cookery book, have a go at piling all the ingredients together, and then photograph the results which will be compiled into yet another stocking filler - no doubt he's hoping that in one fell swoop he can line his pockets for the future and piss off the British public enough that they will leave him be. Life of a solitary mountain goat herd, here he comes.

Jamie Oliver. Photograph: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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Leaving the cleaning to someone else makes you happier? Men have known that for centuries

Research says avoiding housework is good for wellbeing, but women have rarely had the option.

If you want to be happy, there is apparently a trick: offload the shitwork onto somebody else. Hire cleaner. Get your groceries delivered. Have someone else launder your sheets. These are the findings published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it’s also been the foundation of our economy since before we had economics. Who does the offloading? Men. Who does the shitwork? Women.

Over the last 40 years, female employment has risen to almost match the male rate, but inside the home, labour sticks stubbornly to old patterns: men self-report doing eight hours of housework a week, while women slog away for 13. When it comes to caring for family members, the difference is even more stark: men do ten hours, and women 23.

For your average heterosexual couple with kids, that means women spend 18 extra hours every week going to the shops, doing the laundry, laying out uniform, doing the school run, loading dishwashers, organising doctors' appointments, going to baby groups, picking things up, cooking meals, applying for tax credits, checking in on elderly parents, scrubbing pots, washing floors, combing out nits, dusting, folding laundry, etcetera etcetera et-tedious-cetera.

Split down the middle, that’s nine hours of unpaid work that men just sit back and let women take on. It’s not that men don’t need to eat, or that they don’t feel the cold cringe of horror when bare foot meets dropped food on a sticky kitchen floor. As Katrine Marçal pointed out in Who Cooked Adam Smiths Dinner?, men’s participation in the labour market has always relied on a woman in the background to service his needs. As far as the majority of men are concerned, domestic work is Someone Else’s Problem.

And though one of the study authors expressed surprise at how few people spend their money on time-saving services given the substantial effect on happiness, it surely isn’t that mysterious. The male half of the population has the option to recruit a wife or girlfriend who’ll do all this for free, while the female half faces harsh judgement for bringing cover in. Got a cleaner? Shouldn’t you be doing it yourself rather than outsourcing it to another woman? The fact that men have even more definitively shrugged off the housework gets little notice. Dirt apparently belongs to girls.

From infancy up, chores are coded pink. Looking on the Toys “R” Us website, I see you can buy a Disney Princess My First Kitchen (fuchsia, of course), which is one in the eye for royal privilege. Suck it up, Snow White: you don’t get out of the housekeeping just because your prince has come. Shop the blue aisle and you’ll find the Just Like Home Workshop Deluxe Carry Case Workbench – and this, precisely, is the difference between masculine and feminine work. Masculine work is productive: it makes something, and that something is valuable. Feminine work is reproductive: a cleaned toilet doesn’t stay clean, the used plates stack up in the sink.

The worst part of this con is that women are presumed to take on the shitwork because we want to. Because our natures dictate that there is a satisfaction in wiping an arse with a woman’s hand that men could never feel and money could never match. That fiction is used to justify not only women picking up the slack at home, but also employers paying less for what is seen as traditional “women’s work” – the caring, cleaning roles.

It took a six-year legal battle to secure compensation for the women Birmingham council underpaid for care work over decades. “Don’t get me wrong, the men do work hard, but we did work hard,” said one of the women who brought the action. “And I couldn’t see a lot of them doing what we do. Would they empty a commode, wash somebody down covered in mess, go into a house full of maggots and clean it up? But I’ll tell you what, I would have gone and done a dustman’s job for the day.”

If women are paid less, they’re more financially dependent on the men they live with. If you’re financially dependent, you can’t walk out over your unfair housework burden. No wonder the settlement of shitwork has been so hard to budge. The dream, of course, is that one day men will sack up and start to look after themselves and their own children. Till then, of course women should buy happiness if they can. There’s no guilt in hiring a cleaner – housework is work, so why shouldn’t someone get paid for it? One proviso: every week, spend just a little of the time you’ve purchased plotting how you’ll overthrow patriarchy for good.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.