Apparently, back in the 40’s, women wore jazzy headscarves and frilly pinnies as they clutched their bread tins close to their hearts or swept the checker-tiled kitchen floor. They probably hummed happily as they surveyed their shiny kingdoms of surface disinfectant and cake mix and giggled sweetly as they pictured their husbands’ beaming faces on stepping over the threshold after a hard day at work. Back then, household chores were a woman’s work and it probably did take all day before affordable household machines came along to do the dirty work. Except I’m pretty sure there were ladies who hated their brooms just as much as I hate my vacuum cleaner. They just didn’t have a lot of choice over whether they used it or not. I do.
I don’t hate my vacuum because it is an icon for the voluntary or imposed household slavery of women or an emblem for the ‘ideal’ woman’s ‘ideal’ role in an ‘ideal’ world. True, none of that holds much appeal for me, but this machine is more my partner’s than my own if ownership is judged on who uses it the most. No; I hate this vacuum cleaner because it is almost entirely useless for the purpose it was created for and also causes deafness and much exhaustion in the process, whilst using up the earth’s valuable resources, adding to our energy bill, and leaving my flat just as fluff filled as it was before.
Honestly, I would much rather grovel my way over the carpet on hands and knees with a clothes brush in hand, tugging at reluctant hairs and fluffy residue tenaciously (and that’s saying something). I wonder if I am the only person who needs to wear ear defenders when vacuuming..? The shrill scream of my vacuum is enough to put anyone (with the ability to hear a normal frequency range) off cleaning for life, or at least until their hearing starts to drop off. My vacuum is a glorified broom with a vague sucking motion that only picks up loose fragments of paper on its third attempt. I could inhale harder than this plastic beast (but I don’t fancy sucking the carpet).
Yes, I bought it cheap. It’s a regrettable case of false economy. But it makes me wonder, what other machines we harbour in our homes that do very little towards the goal they claim to achieve? I would like to put forward an idea: let’s try to do away with some housework gadgetry and see if our quality of living is dramatically degraded as a result. I’d wager that it won’t. So: out with the vacuum cleaner that needs dragging forcibly across the carpet several times before static can take over and actually pick something up (I am not stupid vacuum cleaner: I know you shouldn’t be relying on static); out with the iron that I really don’t use anyway (why on earth are we putting energy into making fabric surfaces flatter when they’re about to be applied to 3D objects anyway?!); out with the – oh Ok, I like the washing machine. I’ll keep a hold of that one (although in favour of keeping things fair, consider how many bras it has eaten in its lifetime. Yes. Think on that.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to just apply this hammer to my vacuum cleaner (this is almost as feminist a notion as burning your bra, but more comfortable in the long run) and have a good laugh with my energy bill.