LAUNDRY AND LINGERIE AS FEMINIST ISSUES

 

When we returned to the village from the US one of the things I couldn’t wrap my head around was that women had to do the family laundry by hand. I hated doing laundry by hand, what happened to washing machines? Well there was no power in the village but even my town living relatives didn’t own one. How backward I thought.

When I got married (at 17) and asked my husband for a washing machine his infamous response was “There are dozens of people without jobs and you want a washing machine?” but he wouldn’t pay those people to wash for us, he expected me to.

I hated washing for so many reasons; the time could have been spent better reading or listening to music but most of all because I didn’t want ‘dish pan hands’. I’m very particular about my hands. I think them quite beautiful and manicure them regularly and religiously. I had no intention of spoiling my manicure because someone thought it was ‘women’s’ work to do laundry and do it by hand.

I didn’t even want to wash my underwear myself. Of course my husband expected me to wash his but wouldn’t wash mine. The men I grew up with felt washing a woman’s underwear the height of insult. “She expected me to wash her underwear” one said to me with disbelief and indignation. I took the hint and never asked any man to wash mine. I did not see it as a sign of anything much anyway, just like I didn’t see washing a man’s underwear as anything much either. Certainly not a declaration of love.

I lived with a lover and his wife for a while, we were one big happy family till the day she saw me washing his underwear. Mind you this was not by hand, it was with a washing machine (he was more progressive than my husband) and I was just trying to be efficient. She took it very personally. “You are washing my husband’s underwear?!” she fumed. “Ummm. No. I just put them in the washing machine and then took them out into the dryer.” It was a huge uproar. I guess it was okay to have sex with her husband but not touch his underwear. I don’t get it either.

Underwear was an area of conflict. I always wanted pretty underwear and when I grew up pretty lingerie. The women I grew up with in the US always wore pretty sexy underwear; the women in my father’s village saw pretty underwear as sinful. Only ‘sluts’ wore sexy underwear. Lingerie was evil.  My father had to buy me underwear as my primary care giver. I think he went to the market and said “give me the cheapest one’s you have”.  I hated them and hated washing them.

I have lots and lots of sexy lingerie now, drawers full many unopened as a response to the lack of it when I was a young dependent daughter and wife. Curiously, I noticed recently that I don’t wear my sexy lacy lingerie when I go to see my lover. I wear it for me, I feel good when I wear it and I never see my lover when I’m wearing it. When I go see my lover I’m usually wearing a sports bra and my cotton comfort briefs. I go to see him to feel good. What will the shrink make of that I wonder?

 

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