Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life

Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life

Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life

Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life

Synopsis

Homes are defined by smells, sounds, textures and objects, all of which reflect how people live their everyday lives. From spray-painting the wall to relaxing in the bath, the products we use speak volumes about who we are. Home Truths explores material and sensory spaces of the home to uncover how gender roles are performed. Sarah Pink shows how everyday items ranging from perfumes to soap powder imprint and reinforce daily experiences and identity. How has the home been affected by the fact that more women now work and more men spend time engaged in domestic tasks? How do more traditional family-centered homes compare with those belonging to diverse family forms and people living alone? What does a study of domestic gender tell us about how change occurs? Answering these questions and many more, Home Truths shows how everyday activities can be deeply revealing of gender roles in the twenty first century.

Excerpt

When I began to research other people's domestic worlds the topic held a compelling contradiction for me. Exploring practices of housework and home decoration that are usually hidden or done alone I delved into a fascinating world of activities about which some of my informants had never spoken before. By simply stepping into the intimate context of a domestic world I became involved in narratives, practices and sensory experiences that were not usually available for public view. Other people's homes became almost exotic sensory spaces where others live strange lives and I often felt privileged that they had allowed me access to these parts of their worlds. Simultaneously, having lived myself in numerous homes in England and in six homes in Spain, there was something unavoidably familiar about the homes I explored. Each was framed by cultural, gendered and biographical reference points. By collaboratively exploring other people's homes with them and my video camera, I began to see each home as a creative domain, a space where each individual I interviewed could articulate her or his unique gendered self in negotiation with the sensory, social, cultural and material environment in which she or he lived. in fact, in our video interviews, each informant used her or his home as a way of representing their gendered self. Our tours of the home followed narratives structured in relation to the material physical home, which was simultaneously used as a device for self-representation.

When I interviewed Maureen in 1999 she was in her fifties and retired. Now a housewife who enjoyed her housework, she had lived in her current home for eleven years. For her, maintaining a clean and tidy home entailed constantly recreating a particular sensory environment. She told me, 'I get satisfaction out of [the housework] because as I say I like to see it clean and tidy, you know. So I like the finished article, when you look I think you get a lot of satisfaction out of it.' Olfaction was also a priority because she treated the smell of her home as an index of its cleanliness: 'I feel the house has been cleaned and it won't be cleaned if I just dusted it, as far as I'm concerned. It would need to have, to smell fresh when you go into it.' Maureen organized the burning of oils and joss sticks according to other olfactory agencies in each room. For example:

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