Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life
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Homes are defined by smells, sounds, textures and objects, all of which reflect how people live their everyday lives. From spray-painting the wall to relaxing in the bath, the products we use speak volumes about who we are. Home Truths explores material and sensory spaces of the home to uncover how gender roles are performed. Sarah Pink shows how everyday items ranging from perfumes to soap powder imprint and reinforce daily experiences and identity. How has the home been affected by the fact that more women now work and more men spend time engaged in domestic tasks? How do more traditional family-centered homes compare with those belonging to diverse family forms and people living alone? What does a study of domestic gender tell us about how change occurs? Answering these questions and many more, Home Truths shows how everyday activities can be deeply revealing of gender roles in the twenty first century.
housework 02 Home Truths 29/7/04 9:20 am Page 32 32 • Home Truths telling me that ‘I must admit I quite like the hoover now because of the new one I’ve just bought – that Dyson. Because it does lift up a lot of the dirt that you didn’t think was in the carpet.’ In this case Maureen’s reference to the Dyson was not only concerned with her aim to maintain a home that was more than visibly clean. It also related to the gendered practices and knowledge she shared with one of her local friends
know, and I can work better to music as well.’ She sometimes varied this, also enjoying Scottish music and Gilbert and Sullivan. She left music playing in the kitchen so she could hear it ‘in the background’ when she cleaned upstairs, and listened to it when she ironed in the kitchen. She combined this with creating an olfactory environment by burning candles with flowery smells ‘if I do my cleaning I always have that. I’ve always got smells, candles and whatever going’: 01 Home Truths 29/7/04
in their home and was objectified in the form of routine. For English non-housewives, the right balance in one’s life was objectified by independently following one’s own natural emotional and personal narrative, into which a clean home might be incorporated as and when this narrative allowed. The importance of following one’s natural disposition is illustrated in the case of Christine, who considered herself ‘undomesticated’ and practised minimal and sporadic housework but organized her care of
imaginative agents who work with a variety of material, sensory, social and emotional resources to create expressive spaces that are the outcome of negotiations between these multiple agencies. How can we view these womens’ departures from traditional gender as constituted in their housework and home decoration as an index through which changing gender in Spain and England might be discussed? 02 Home Truths 29/7/04 9:20 am Page 111 Departing from Obsession • 111 Agency, Performativity and
mysterious, dangerous and not to be engaged with. For example Malcolm told me ‘I stay away from the oven. I find them scary places – go there with a lighted match and you don’t know what’s going to happen.’ Similarly Gonzalo mystified the processes by which dirt is produced and removed in his home by using natural and supernatural metaphors of fauna and the miraculous. I always spill my coffee, and that’s normally dirty because I don’t have time to clean it up, I mean I always spill my coffee,