Will my husband notice this trash on the floor? Chinese women test their partners.

Society & Culture

A Chinese wife who was fed up with her lazy husband left garbage at home unattended for days. Her social media posts documenting her story inspired other women to create similar experiments to test their partners.

Image from Xiaohongshu

When an anonymous wife from Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province, grew exasperated by her husband’s indifference toward garbage on the bathroom floor of their house, she decided to start chronicling her frustration on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media app.

To the woman’s surprise, her videos of the ensuing quiet showdown attracted passionate responses from wives, who said they could relate to her struggle. A lively discussion about gender inequality in household work ensued.

“This piece of tissue and its packaging paper has actually been on the ground for two days,” the wife, known as @Lydia on Xiaohongshu, wrote on August 1, the first day of her mini cleaning strike. “My husband uses this sink every single day, but somehow he never picks up the trash. So tonight, I decided to start documenting this to find out how many days it will take for him to ‘see’ the garbage and toss it.”

Image from Xiaohongshu

Xiaohongshu users encouraged her to stand her ground and keep them updated. “Please don’t back down and don’t give in! I need to know how this one is going to end,” a Xiaohongshu user replied. Another joked, “You will probably find the tissue still lying there when your kid turns 18.”

Others revealed that they were in similar situations before, and warned the disgruntled wife not to be too optimistic about the outcome. “One time a book fell off the shelf in my house’s living room and my husband and my dad ignored it for three days before I broke first,” one user confessed.

“Stop wasting your time waiting. I once went on a business trip and left a broom on the floor of my balcony. When I got home, the broom was in a really bad shape because my husband was kicking it around instead of putting it up,” another woman chimed in.

Some commenters, however, disapproved of what they labeled as “passive-aggressive” behavior on the wife’s part, stressing that open communication is vital to a happy marriage and the woman was falling short in that regard. “If it’s such an eyesore, you should just clean it up. What’s the point of fuming in silence? If he still has some traits you love, maybe just don’t let these trivial things ruin your relationship?” a Xiaohongshu user advised, while another person said, “This issue could have been solved long ago if you just cleaned up the mess instead of whining about it here.”

So far, the original post has amassed nearly 18,000 comments and has been bookmarked by over 6,000 people who are eager to watch the saga unfold.

The wife didn’t let her fans down. In a series of follow-up posts, she updated her followers on the situation. “My husband is not terribly lazy, but he is selectively ‘blind’ to chores. It wasn’t my intention to ridicule my husband online. I was just curious about how long he could remain ‘blind.’ This is hilarious and irritating at the same time,” reads the caption of her day-five post.

Images from Xiaohongshu

Her breezy attitude didn’t last long, though. Three days later, the wife appeared to have lost her composure. “It’s been eight days if I didn’t miscalculate! I’m starting to admire myself for still keeping at it,” she wrote.

On the same day, she expanded her protest to a different part of her house. In a separate post titled, “Day 1 of waiting for my husband to re-line up his shoes,” the wife shared a picture of the foyer, where a pair of unorganized sneakers are next to a group of shoes that are neatly lined up. “I picked up my son from his extracurricular class tonight and when I got home, I noticed that my husband had casually left his shoes at the foyer. I’ve told him many times to organize his pairs, but he never listened,” the wife wrote.

Image from Xiaohongshu

As the wife’s chronicle went viral in the past week, her experiment has turned into a social media challenge, with a slew of women constructing similar scenarios and sharing their husbands’ responses. “This is my own version of the experiment. Today is the first day of me waiting for my husband to toss them,” a wife from Guangdong shared, with a photo showing several finished beverage bottles on a desk.

The spirited discussion also saw participation from single women, who wrote in the comments that the wife’s experience validated their fear of walking into a marriage where they have to take care of a “man-child.” One user described the tissue saga as “the most effective anti-marriage advertisement ever,” while another person asked, “Why can so many people relate to this? Is this what marriage is supposed to be?”

As China grapples with flagging birth rates and a shrinking population, Beijing has in recent years ramped up its efforts to encourage young people to get wed and have babies through a host of measures, including organizing mass blind dating events and cracking down on high “bride prices” (彩礼 cǎilǐ), a wedding custom in which the man gives money to his prospective wife’s family as a condition of engagement. Despite these policies, the number of marriages in China fell to 6.83 million last year, the lowest since records began in 1986.

Around the world, women collectively spend billions more hours than men on domestic chores and family care. China is no exception: According to a report released in 2020 by the National Bureau of Statistics, Chinese women performed an average of nearly four hours of domestic unpaid work per day, which was more than double the amount of time put in by men. The distribution was even more unequal in rural areas, where the time women spent on chores around the house was almost three times that of men.

The report also noted that the lopsided division of housework was one of the main reasons cited by women when they quit their jobs. In 2018, more than 30% of the women who were jobless said that they had to give up their professional careers because of their domestic responsibilities.

The imbalance in housework was in part caused by outdated gender norms in Chinese culture, which forced many women to adjust their expectations and fulfill their “roles” in different-sex relationships. According to a survey conducted by Peking University in 2014, nearly 72% of the female respondents agreed with the statement “Men should focus on their careers, while women should focus on their families.” Among married women who were surveyed, nearly 70% reported being satisfied with their husband’s contributions around the house despite the unequal time spent doing housework. Only 12% of the wives said they were dissatisfied.

However, in recent years, as feminist ideas have gained traction in China, especially among the younger generation, more and more women have begun to question and push back against gendered expectations in various aspects of their lives.

For married women, the quest for gender equality naturally takes place at home, where they call for a fairer split of responsibilities and better acknowledgement of their labor. Some even succeeded in having their housework valued: In a landmark ruling in 2021, a divorce court in Beijing ordered a husband to pay his wife more than 50,000 yuan ($6,900) in compensation for the housework she performed during five years of marriage. Last year, a similar case played out in Suzhou, where a court decided that a man must pay his ex-wife 30,000 yuan ($4,150) for having borne the brunt of housework and child-rearing during their marriage.

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