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Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Love conquers all. And that is the problem.

The Second Shift by Clare Gallagher is a book about 'the invisible domestic labour of housework and childcare carried out by women on top of their paid employment. It is physical, mental and emotional labour which demands effort, skill, and time but is unpaid, unaccounted for, unequally  distributed and largely unrecognised.'

It's a homage to the domestic, with small details coming out that flicker between the quiet moments of the small drudgeries of everyday life and the love for one's child that is expressed through those domestic labours. The two aren't separate and even the small comforts of cutting a child's hair or comforting them on your lap come with an afterlife of fatigue, mess, and more labour. It's a vicious circle where one cannot be separated from the other, where the costs of love, affection and caring are a myriad sources of unpaid, and unrecognised labours.

It's a great subject, one which has been present since, ooh, however long you care to imagine, and is expressed in brilliant domestic works by loads of people including Jo Spence, half of the feminist avant-garde exhibition from a few years back, and the American artist whose name escapes me who had an exhibition at the Arnolfini a few years ago on maintenance art - that's art that you can do while you're clearing up the house basically. Google it, you'll find it, I've decided that it's more fun to try to describe stuff I don't remember rather than googling everything.

It's a quiet book with images that resonate. The mess looks like a mess, it feels like a mess, it lies there inert waiting to be cleaned. And it's very likely that Gallagher is the one who will be doing the cleaning.

There's text in there, statements that pinpoint the mindsets that create and uphold this labour by women, this mental load of motherhood (I'm running a series of images on Instagram). Here's a little example from de Beauvoir and Sartre who manage to crystallise the dilemma perfectly.

And you can bet your bottom sou that Sartre left the toilet seat up, probably pissed up against the wall, and flicked ash all over the floor and didn't give a shit. But then nor did Simone I guess. But then maybe she did, I don't know. I could look for that - google Sartre and messy fucker and de Beauvoir and housework and see where it takes me, but mmm, that's just like reaffirming the problem in digital form. And sometimes it's more fun to imagine.

... Anyway this is what they said.

‘Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition. The clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.’                                                                                            
Simone de Beauvoir

I understand the snare of the slimy: it is a fluidity which holds me and which compromises me; I cannot slide on this slime, all its suction cups hold me back; it cannot slide over me, it clings to me like a leech.’
Jean-Paul Sartre

It's a thoughtful book, a book with a soul and with a little tinge of anger and frustration that is kept mostly under wraps. Because love conquers all. And that, essentially, is the problem..

You can buy it here maybe?

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