The girl in Arnold’s picture (above) works as a secretary, she is unmarried and divides her free time between home and ‘going out’. She thinks it wonderful to be asked out for supper because it means not having to eat much for lunch. She earns between £9 and £12 a week and shares the cost of the flat with the other girls. She gets help from her parents with money for clothes and extras. She loves living with the girls, and doesn’t even mind if the bathroom is occupied when she’s getting ready for a date. She is able to care for herself in her free time, she can take pleasure in the shared housework. The image suggests another aspect of clothes washing – it suggests that washing done alone or in the company of women is different to that done in public or close to men. This difference is key to this research: where washing gets put, and where the people who do it are positioned – in homes, cities and society – is a question that demands our attention because of what it reveals about distinctions made between good work and bad, paid and unpaid, valued and undervalued. This difference shows how laundry work approaches what André Gorz describes as ‘the limits of economic rationality’.
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