who washes clothes in africa?

In Notes on 14 December, 2011 at 1:14 am

here’s a little exercise for you: go to google images and search for “washing clothes in africa”. try it. all the results in at least the first few pages show women only. (there is one exception here – kudos to the male missionary that could!).

the same exercise bears identical results if you remove the words “in africa” from your search. it’s not a far stretch to say that “washing clothes is women’s work” constitutes a global gender stereotype.

where is this little rant coming from? partly from the feminist behind these notes. but principally, this post is inspired by a young-ish ghanaian man who works as a business facilitator in agriculture/development. last week, we had an enlightening conversation about the possibilities and problematics of gender equality.

my favourite thing he said went something like this –

“why is it that i can give my dirty panties to my wife? she goes and washes them and it’s ok. but if she tried to give me her panties to wash then it’s a problem? it shouldn’t be like this. we should both be sitting washing our clothes together – spending time with each other and talking about how to progress together.”

ahh. that’s what i like to hear.

side note – when i did the search for “washing clothes”, google suggested that a related search could be “man washing clothes”. if you don’t look for it, you won’t find it. but it happens!


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