Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Raiddrops keep falling on my head

Today, the sympathetic weather is working overtime. The skies above this little corner of the Czech Rep. have generated the kind of overcast cloudiness that reflects my general muzzy headedness that not even floor-varnish-dissolving coffee can cut through. And thus the randomiser is born: a collection of those small wisps of thought that on a good day might have been quashed 'neath the weight of more sensible matters. Or thoughts of manatees.

First to walk the plank is the "Special Edition" washing-up liquid. It honours our kitchen sink with its noble presence. After the supply flatmate's wild flirtation with the dark side of grapefruit-scented detergent, her departure to Frenchishier shores and the inevitability of time's effect on supply means we're now back to a more normal green.

Of course, as the lovely D'Eath is sure to remind me if she can put down the Daughter Of D'Eath quickly enough, by using the qualifier "normal", I am imposing my own version of "normality" upon dish-washing Others in the form of liquid detergent stereotypes. In fact, even the term "liquid" is deeply suspect, redolent as it is of westernized industrial manufacturing practices and dismissive of the paste-based substance widely used in the South and other parts of the world.

Furthermore, to essentialise this product based on its most narrow purpose within the domestic sphere ignores the potential for its change and growth beyond the narrow confines of the kitchen and its consequent reinforcement of gendered relationships. After all, is it not also a useful de-fogger for diving masks? Although the debate between the relative merits of this substance and saliva in this arena should probably seek to avoid a focus upon loaded Western conceptualizations of "health" and "gentility".

In any case, before venturing further into this territory, I must acknowledge that my own culturally-biased view of washing-up liquid is probably a form of cultural imperialism, situated awkwardly upon the false dichotomy of "normal"/"grapefruit".

In an effort to move from this central focus upon "green"-ness at the centre of my personal cultural universe, I must therefore also acknowledge that while green, the substance in question rather than being lemon or pine-scented, in fact has the more peripheral odour of apples, I think. Not speaking Czech, I am basing this assumption on the pictures of fruits which strongly resemble (to my mind) green apples on the bottle.

Of course the individual who has never seen an apple, may perceive this image as one representing another fruit or even another object altogether. Such as a tennis ball. And their perception of tennis-ball-scented detergent is of course equally valid, given the filtering experiences of our own lives.

However, since the more novel (to my culturally-limited viewpoint) grapefruit-scented detergent does not merit the label, "special edition", and the colour green predominates in the supermarket shelves (except for deuteranopic individuals), it may in fact be the dispensing pump that is the basis for such an attribution.

For there is no squeezing of bottle in the domestic sphere of Peril & co. Instead, use of this "Special Edition" dispensing system subverts those attributes deemed masculine within the dominant western idiom that governs our ritual hygiene practices, by the enhancement of a simple task with the application of technology.

Of course, this consumption of technology is in fact more ambiguous than it appears at the outset, since while the appropriation of technology subverts certain masculinized traits, the role of the consumer is considerably more nuanced. Furthermore, the label "special edition" itself signals the uniqueness of this particular act and thereby underlines and reinforces the association of masculinity and westernization with the novel and the progressive. Perhaps we are collaborators, merely confirming entrenched practices and biases.

Perhaps this is why I am feeling slightly underwhelmed by the "specialness" of this "edition". And yet this may also help me to place into context my annoyance at the way flatmate XYZ uses three WHOLE pumps when cleaning a few plates. It must be due to subconscious anxiety about social roles and the suppressed urge to reinforce "traditional" feminities within the domestic sphere. Perhaps we should be adopting entirely new ways of doing the washing-up.

(Is it very obvious that this studying thing has kicked off again? But I'm still using that bourgeois punctuation nonsense. Must try harder.)

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