According to the flyer in yesterday’s mail, “Life’s too short to clean your own home.”
Naturally, for the people who work for The Cleaning Authority, life is not to short to clean someone else’s home – and love it, as this woman on the inside flap apparently does:
Maybe she’s happy because she has a job she likes — even though she would be miserable cleaning her own home — like in the 1970s feminist version:
Remember, nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV.
Your mommy hates housework,
Your daddy hates housework,
I hate housework too.
And when you grow up, so will you.
Because even if the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach
That you use is the very best one,
Housework is just no fun.
Children, when you have a house of your own,
Make sure, when there’s house work to do,
That you don’t have to do it alone.
Little boys, little girls, when you’re big husbands and wives,
If you want all the days of your lives
To seem sunny as summer weather,
Make sure, when there’s housework to do,
That you do it together!
The sociological truth is that it is different to clean someone else’s home. Today’s corporate cleaners are different from an informal cleaning relationship. I once tried to imagine that “keeping house” should be considered a real occupation — which would help reveal the overall gender division of labor, not just the segregation of occupations or housework, which are almost always studied separately.
Corporatizing housework does change its social nature. It’s not the physical labor itself that makes it about gender, after all. That doesn’t mean it’s not unpleasant work. But cleaning the toilet of an anonymous person may be less degrading than cleaning the toilet of someone you have a personal (subordinate) relationship with. On the other hand, maybe people love cleaning toilets for people they really love.
The rationality of market dynamics ideally makes irrelevant the gender of workers in general. Men are more somewhat more likely to cook and clean for money than for free, for example. In that ideal, not real, marketized world, then, maybe there is no such thing as housework — just work and workers. Would that be better?
Maybe it would be better — a genderless world of labor and capital. But as Joan Acker wrote 21 years ago, and reiterated last year, the generic worker in the mind of employers is usually actually male — in the sense that “he” has no family responsibilities; and if he does, “he’s” not a good worker, committed to the job, and the ones that get promoted are more often actual men.
That makes this ad from Groupon especially ironic (thanks to Ken Kolb for the tip):
If you follow the links to Designer Maid, it gets more interesting still. On the home page, the copy reads:
For many upwardly mobile and dual income families today, the home we’ve worked so hard to obtain is a time consuming chore to maintain. We give you more time to do those things you need to do or would rather be doing. So, instead of spending endless hours on mundane housework, Relax… We’ll take care of the rest! (emphasis added)
That’s rich, because on the Employment page – where there is the same picture of the smiling woman doing the backbreaking work — those “endless hours” of “mundane housework” become a fabulous professional opportunity:
Designer Maid is a great place to work… Designer Maid provides all of the equipment and supplies you will need to fulfill your role as a professional house cleaner. In addition, we provide all of the training necessary for for you to achieve the distinction of Certified Professional House Cleaner.
So, just forget what we said about the endless hours of mundane work, and common down to apply!