On “Electrodomestics”

20thOct. × ’20

Electrodomestics: 1. (noun), an electrical apparatus used at home; e.g., refrigerators, washers, dryers, the clothes iron, the electric stove, etc. 

It is not just about gestation and lactation. The authors of the collective 1976 text Conciencia de Explotadas highlight:

It is not possible to imagine a society in which it is not necessary to raise and educate proles, cook their meals, keep their living spaces clean. These (next to the production of the means of subsistence) are the presupposed elements for life and the existence of individuals. What is not in any way “natural” or indisputable is that this work of immediate and fundamental utility has to develop inside the frame of the current private family and consequently trusted exclusively to women. It is understood, generally, to give no importance to this work, or to insist that the electrodomestic industry has made it practically nonexistent, or in whatever case superfluous.

Electrodomestics have been presented as symbols of feminine liberation even by catholicism. In its March 2009 issue, the Vatican diary, L’Osservatore Romano, titled an article: “The Washing Machine and the Emancipation of Women. Add detergent, close the lid, and relax.” It affirmed:  “In the 20th century, what was the most influential thing for women’s liberation? The debate remains open. Some say it was the pill; others, the liberalization of abortion, or even waged labor. However, some go further (and propose): the washing machine.”

To believe electrodomestics are in any way tied to the emancipation of women you have to be somewhat credulous of religious lies and business advertisements. The development of the electrodomestics industry does not signify any contribution to emancipation, on the contrary, it is a mayor compromise with Capital.

We have to understand why these technological leaps which we refer to here occur. Those same ones that raise such optimism, even between those who refuse or find themselves discomforted by the dominant order. The research and development of these technological advancements were never about satisfying our needs and desires, rather, they were about amplifying and reproducing the dominant order.” (Cuadernos De Negación nro.8, Tecnologia y Ganancia)

During the year 1920, the number of North Americans with electricity increased from 25% to 80%. Big companies like General Motors, General Electric, or Westinghouse, sensed the opportunity to create a massive market for electrodomestics, incentivized by electric generation companies (more appliances meant higher bills.) These first mass produced electrodomestics were clothes irons, stoves, and washing machines. These constituted what some call the “industrial revolution at home”.

A bourgeoisie myth is that these machines serve human needs. It is precisely the opposite. The automatization of fabrics, for example, has not meant less work for any worker, it has only meant working more intensely and producing more. In other words impoverishing themselves even more. The same way, electrodomestics are modern instruments of slavery, generally of women, giving the illusion of liberty. Everything must be cleaner, hotter or colder, ironed better, shaved better, vacuumed better. The ones benefiting from all of this are not women, but neither is it their husbands, or their kids. It is the capitalists of the industry in question and the bourgeoisie in general which reap the benefits.

Electrodomestics are also elements of atomization, subjection to the living space and family unity, as well as symbols of status. Their implementation relates to the the dismemberment of collective living. In many regions, clothes washing spaces were points of contact for prole women outside the family unit.

In issue no. 7 of Cuadernos de Negación we recalled examples of diverse ways living which were conceived and, generally, constructed by the State with the idea of limiting all contact between tenants. Open stairways and rest areas were considered extensions of public roads, and were as such prohibited and reduced rigorously, just as like many public walkways and patios. The plan was the separation of a community into families and then the separation of one from the other. That was and is the necessary condition of all the state politics of prole living spaces.

Mr. Claudius-Petit, having asked developers to build living spaces in which, instead of anticipating spaces for the installation of washers and dryers in each of them, to attempt to create a washing space-laundromat-clothesline for everyone in the property; was advised that it would not be prudent to bring the housewives together, due to a risk of the development of political propaganda and the provocation of a mayor adherence to worker’s associations. (Phillipe Meyer, El Niño y la Razón del Estado, 1981)

The prevalence and sophistication of electrodomestics is a major success of the family, of the nation, and of Capital.


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