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Feb 19 2007

The wait is over: mother’s job description formally elucidated by garment industry

100percentcotton.jpg
Reader Asheesh sends along the above excellent footnote to our recent discussion on the nature of motherhood. Photo uploaded at Snabbstart.com.

It has often brought a disconsolate sniffle to the Twisty schnoz that clothes, which should be undemanding and sympathetic and, above all, on your side, always come to you infested with these authoritarian commands sewn into them. The commands are themselves meaningless, but I have detected their broader purpose as the Voice of Patriarchy.

First, the labels physically lacerate the back of your neck. This is the hair shirt of American capitalism, a constant reminder that you, a worthless drone, must suffer the consequences of your cheap insignificance in the form of your dependence on cheap crap from China and your willing acquiescence to manipulation manufactured by a megatheocorporatocracy indifferent to your suffering. If you try to remove these antagonizing labels, even carefully, with your X-Acto knife, you will rip open a seam and destroy the garment.

Second, the instructions on the tags are subliminal messages from the Ministry of Women’s Perpetual Busywork, intended to afflict the launderer with feelings of gnawing insecurity, inadequacy, and anxiety. Note the incomprehensibility of the instructions.

“MACHINE WASH WARM, INSIDE OUT, WITH LIKE COLORS. USE MEDIUM IRON.” “HAND WASH COLD FAN WITH GOOSE QUILLS ON VERANDA TO DRY.” “DRY CLEAN ONLY USING THAT REALLY EXPENSIVE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CLEANERS.”

The impossibility of fulfilling these divers and nonsensical laundry requirements is symbolic of the insane futility of housework in general. What the heck does “like colors” even mean? Hue? Saturation? Who, except a goth kid, has load-quantities of clothes of “like” colors? And what high moral purpose is served by turning a thing inside-out? It merely adds an extra inside-out-turning step now and and another right-side-out step when it emerges from “tumble-dry-medium.”

For chrissake, if you actually followed the instructions on every piece of clothing, you’d do nothing but hover slavishly over the Maytag, individually washing each scrap of your drudge’s trousseau, day in and day out, your life a ceaseless ablutionary blur of All-Tempa-Cheer and polyester dryer lint.

I spit in the eye of “DRY CLEAN ONLY’.

88 comments

  1. JRoth

    That Label: depressing

    Labels in general: should be printed right on the shirt. I have some T-shirts that follow that method, and they are a delight. Although it does require double-checking front-from-back.

  2. leen

    I read a tidbit (I don’t remember where. I could be making the whole thing up!) saying that the average American mom spends *more* time doing laundry today than she did in the 50′s, because people used to wear clothes more than once before a washing.

    I too like the labels-printed-on-the-shirt, but sometimes they break up and get all crackly, and then they’re even worse than a real label.

  3. magickitty

    So which brilliant company came up with this? My letter-writing fingers are tingling.

  4. Sarah

    Well okay now you are just being paranoid. Yes I agree, that label is sad. But washing instruction labels in general are not out to get us. The only evil they can perpetrate is the evil you allow them to. Also, the hatred of dry cleaners can easily be avoided by having clothes made of comfortable cotton and not having creases and collars that need crisping and starching. This is something that any sensible woman would aim for anyway.
    Your rage brings to mind a freshman college student faced with her first run-in with the crappy dorm basement facilities rather than that of a radical thinking blogger.
    If you hate labels so much, learn to sew enough so you can repair or navigate around any damage you might perpetrate in their removal. This is not the patriarchy fitting you into an established role. This the common sense that you should try to have as full an understanding of the objects you use in everyday life as possible.
    (Sorry, I realize that much of your post was intended to be humorous but it struck me as something completely different.)

  5. Betsy

    I finally figured out that my core competencies lie elsewhere, and now I take my washing across the street. The Korean laundry does an excellent job for 89 cents a pound.

  6. Lalock

    Any piece of clothing that can’t survive a regular wash cycle in warm water, and a cycle in the dryer at nuclear hot (for speed) shouldn’t be in my house in the first place. Toss!

  7. edith

    Here’s how I do laundry, since you didn’t ask.

    First, let me just say that I don’t do laundry unless I have enough clothing items that are sufficiently soiled so that I can over-fill three to four washers with my garments. If I’m gonna do laundry, I’m gonna do some laundry.

    Then, I stuff every item, regardless of color, style, “delicacy,” “dry clean only” tag, “hand wash with like colors” tag, “surface wash only” tag, or linen-ness, in the washer(s). I arbitrarily push a button.

    Next, I throw the entire load into the dryer. To mix it up, I push a button that says something different from whatever button I pushed on the washer.

    Voila, clean clothes. Yeah, I go to college.

  8. edith

    Also, Sarah, you say that like there’s something WRONG with seeming like a college student complaining about basement laundry facilities. As a somewhat-non-traditional-student-who-actually-lives-in-a-dorm-despite-being-somewhat-older-than-the-other-students-and-therefore-on-the-receiving-end-of-a-lot-of-pity, let me just say that dorm laundry facilities suck just as hard now as they did when you went to college, if not more.

    Oh, and sew? Give me a break.

  9. yankee transplant

    I would love to know the origin of that label. Put it on my list of products not to purchase.

  10. Twisty

    Thank you for the advice, Sarah, but I automatically tune out of any discussion whenever I see hate speech, such as the words “you should,” addressed to me.

  11. jami

    and “learn to sew” to boot.

    here’s a third request for the name of the company to boycott. my hope, based on clicking on the “snabbstart” link, is that this a lone norwegian boy’s idea of funny photoshop, rather than the creation of adults who get to decide what tags go in clothes.

  12. FemiMom

    Pesky tags? Try a seam ripper. It’s a handy little knife-like doodad, which (for non-sewing Blaimers) can be used for various stabbing and poking tasks.
    The “they” do not make men’s/boy’s clothes with impossible laundering directions. HOWEVER, we supposedly high maintenance wimmin’ folk enjoy spending our *spare time* keeping everything all pretty & such. I don’t have so much spare time, given the time I spend giving 5 minute blowjobs and filing false rape reports. That is, when I am not driving from Walmart to Walmart attempting to score some birth control.
    IBtP (for my wrinkled clothing).

  13. Sean

    I’m with Edith. Wait until I can’t possibly fit all of my clothes in the wash at once, and then proceed to do just that. If something doesn’t smell, or I only wore it for a little while one day, save it for one or two weeks from now.

    And even though Twisty’s post was slightly hyperbolic to humorous effect, I think she once again reiterates how insane marriage is. Even though no one in there right mind would ever follow anything printed on labels, men somehow think that women have 48-hours in a day, 8 to take care of the kids when he’s at work, 3 to take care of the kids when he’s having sex with their neighbor, 4 to take care of the kids when he’s waiting for her to prepare dinner, 3 to put the kids away so he can try to get “it” up, 4 to take care of the kids while at the grocery store picking up the next night’s dinner and his erectile dysfunction pills, 24 to take care of the kids while doing every bit of laundry individually or else he’ll yell at you for being incompetent in regards to a small fray on the inside of his 12-dollar Sears dress shirt cuff, and 2 to sleep, in bed with him of course (only two–I mean, who’s going to take care of the kids when they cry in the middle of the night?)

  14. Varnish Eater

    Wait, why not sew? I know that telling Twisty to shut up and sew is douche-baggy, but being self-sufficient is cool. A male friend of mine absolutely refuses to learn to sew on a button; he asked me to do it and is now petitioning his roommate’s girlfriend. I have given up all hope.

    On topic: I abhor laundry. I live in Brooklyn so I will probably never own a washing machine – thus, the laundromat! What a depressing place. Especially since it is full of moms each washing, drying, and folding metric tons of laundry for their husband and children!

  15. Frigga's Own

    I have a lot of “like colors” at my house, but that’s because clothing designers think fat women should only wear black. (Or white, because finding a bra that hides under a white shirt is a snap when you don’t wear standard sizes.) Laundry tags are evil, I clip them out close to the seam when I get the garment home. Then I spend hours wondering if the shirts I’m looking at are 1X or 3X.

  16. Orange

    My stackable washer/dryer is so small, each load of laundry ain’t so big. It is not unheard of for me to wash six separate loads consisting of green, dark blue, red/purple/brown, black, pale, and white laundry. My personal favorite is the green load.

  17. Twisty

    I submit that you guys are already boycotting this company, if it exists, because if you owned anything with that label you’d certainly know it.

  18. Hawise

    Since my home from school son refuses to get changed so that we can drag the week’s laundry out to do (doubles as a humidifier in the winter), I have some time to chime in. Four loads- white, warm colours, blacks and cold colours, heavy materials like pants. Anything else is just excessive. If it can’t go into a washing machine, I had better love it alot.
    I’ll fix it the first time, second time is the how not to stab yourself with a needle lesson.
    I concur- “you should” is hate speech.

  19. Antelope

    Me, I just dress lighter than the weather calls for so that I never sweat, and never have to wash anything except underwear, which is pretty well indestructible.

    Okay, small exaggeration, but that’s the general idea.

  20. Rana

    I remember one cartoon once that had a woman railing against laundry labels, and she ended up furiously stuffing everything into the washer at once, yelling something like “Survival of the fittest! Everybody in!”

    With the one exception of nice wool sweaters, that’s my laundry philosophy. If the clothes can’t handle the washer and dryer, odds are good they won’t survive being worn by me.

  21. S-kat

    Seam Rippers: Also useful for removing logos from the outside of clothing so you’re not a walking advertisement.

    The one thing I miss most about my ex-boyfriend was that he always did my laundry. I hate doing laundry, and have been known to put it off for months at a time.

  22. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Not only have I stopped buying drycleanables, I’m giving away (most of) the drycleanables I already own, and I bought an at-home kit for the remainder. Stretchy machine-washable knits are da bomb, especially wrap dresses because they’re adjustable and don’t have any buttons, snaps or zippers to fuss with (or mend).

    I do two clothing loads: Stuff that bleeds color and stuff that doesn’t. If the bleeders bleed on one another they’ll all end up the same color eventually, right? Problem solved!

  23. Flamethorn

    Try a seam ripper. It’s a handy little knife-like doodad, which (for non-sewing Blaimers) can be used for various stabbing and poking tasks.

    Such as vasectomies?

  24. Joanna

    As I age, my wardrobe has simplified: no ironing, no dry-cleaning, nothing that binds or itches (no more wool) and enough underwear so that I don’t have to do laundry too often.

  25. jami

    i’m not anti-sewing. in fact, i’m fer it. but i am anti-thinking-you-get-to-tell-twisty-of-all-people-what-to-do-and-not-in-an-advisory-capacity-but-imperiously.

    if only i knew german.

  26. donna

    I refuse to buy anything that’s dry clean only, or that needs ironing.

    And I cut all the tags out of my clothes.

  27. jami

    i suppose the word in english is “arrogance.”

  28. jenevieve

    I count myself fortunate that my husband, who does almost all the laundry and other regular chores, cares more about fabrics and their care than I do. He turns things inside out, separates by “like colours”, even hand-washes specified items. My clothes gasp gratefully in his tender charge, then cry in horror at my washing method, which resonates strongly with that of Edith. Stuff that requires handwashing usually gets worn twice by me, then sits at the bottom of the hamper until I am extremely bored/motivated one unlikely day.

  29. the first born fish

    I hate housework too, but even more than housework I hate running out of clean clothes and simply buying new ones or being cold and uncomfortable.

    Laundry for Lazy People:

    * New blue jeans and some died cotton should be washed alone the first time so that your white shirts don’t turn baby blue/patriarchy pink.

    * Instead of dry cleaning wool, throw it, unwashed, into the dryer with a wet sock and a small piece of one of those fabric softening sheets. Viola. It will smell better and even be kind of fluffy and clean feeling.

    * Cotton can pretty much all just be thrown in together. Who the hell cares. Unless in cases of bullet point one.

    * Bras probably should air dry, if you have an underwire. Otherwise it warps and you live with uncomfortable mammaries. Boo.

    Oh, and shirts are supposed to be inside out because washing machines can wear away at the color around the seems, and I guess that bothers some people. If you buy it made that way, however, you will pay 300 dollars more (I blame ripped jeans/the patriarchy for starting this Only Rich People Can Dress Like They Are Poor trend, while actual poor people spend more than they can afford on nice clothes as their status symbol; See “All Souls”).

  30. Sniper

    Who, except a goth kid, has load-quantities of clothes of “like” colors?

    Everything I wear is the color of my favorite beverages.

  31. the first born fish

    Also, I am a fan of dress clothes that never need to be ironed. Wrinkle-free, and now stain free. Heck yes.

  32. magickitty

    Sarah said: “But washing instruction labels in general are not out to get us. The only evil they can perpetrate is the evil you allow them to.”

    Well actually, I would suggest that they are out to get us, in that they perpetuate and impossibly high standard of care for clothing that no modern woman can attain, thus making us feel guilty for yet another thing we don’t or can’t do properly for ourselves or others.

    But yes, I’ll only feel guilty about it if I make myself feel guilty, which is why you can find me cheerfully tossing in three loads – lights, darks, and stinky towels.

    Incidentally, I don’t mind doing laundry. My husband does laundry more often than me, but he has more clothes than me, so yeah. I haven’t liked doing laundry recently, because my landlord only maintains a totally filthy machine in the dankest corner of the basement, and we’ve had to drag the family’s laundry to the laundromat for years. But we’re moving to a new house soon, and I will have (JOY OF JOYS) my own in-suite, energy efficient, front-loading washer and dryer. My housewifely dreams will come true at last.

  33. Tarr

    Mom says, “No. Go get me another beer outa the fridge.”

  34. Kerlyssa

    If you peel your shirt off over head when you take it off, it’s inside out anyway for washing. Though when you then wear it inside out after the washing, it becomes right side out on removal. I wonder if they make Moebius tshirts?

  35. curiousgyrl

    wearing clothes the color of favorite beverages= genius. If only wine and spaghetti sauce red were colors which flattered me…

  36. mearl

    Hey, I drink spaghetti sauce, too! :)

  37. thebewilderness

    The labels have two purposes. One to protect the manufacturer for liability when they shrink, crease, fold, staple, or mutilate themselves. Two to irritate the back of your neck until you rip them out and cannot remember what kind of crappy shirt you never intend to buy again.
    The seepy colors can be prevented with a salt soak and natural fibers should never be drycleaned. Nasty chemicals ruin them, especially silk. The chemicals eat elastic just like the dryer does only faster.

  38. Ledasmom

    I wish I could figure out, before buying an actual garment, what exactly the difference is between the labels that make welts form on the back of my neck and my waist (not usually from the same piece of clothing) and the ones that don’t.
    All my clothes go in together, except anything that’s been peed on by anyone and nice fleecey things. Fleecey things get gentle cycle and no dryer. Peed-on things get warm water and Oxy-Clean or generic clone thereof. I am sure many of my clothes have changed color, and I don’t give a good goddamn. I wouldn’t walk ten feet to get rid of a stain anyway.
    If the choice was between learning to sew and wearing clothes with huge embarrassing rips in them, I’d try to make sure all the rips were in different places to avoid drafts.

  39. Jezebella

    Ledasmom, you have just added one more reason to my list of Reasons Not To Have Children: you have a laundry category entitled “peed-on things.”

  40. Ron Sullivan

    I consider washing instructions more an ideal than a practical goal. But I hate replacing clothes, especially underwear, so sometimes I err on the side of caution.

    My own sainted mother once got pissed off at everyone for piling clothes up instead of putting them away, and threw the whole pile out the front door into the snow. Now and then, I still find that inspirational.

  41. octogalore

    “If you hate labels so much, learn to sew enough so you can repair or navigate around any damage you might perpetrate in their removal. This is not the patriarchy fitting you into an established role. This the common sense that you should try to have as full an understanding of the objects you use in everyday life as possible.”

    Sarah — this is EXACTLY the patriarchy fitting the “mom” into an established role. If she knows how to sew and he doesn’t, guess who is going to be sewing in EVERYONE’s labels. Why should women need a monopoly on common sense about everyday objects? I’ve found that major incompetence at things like sewing can be quite useful.

    The sneaky flattery implicit in how mom’s sewing, diswashing, cooking, etc. is absolutely the unbeatable best, and she’s the natural to do that job, is a neat way to slip out of scutwork. My dad perfected this by agreeing to go to the store once to do the shopping, and then calling home ten times to ask stuff like where the toilet paper was. Guess who never had to do that task again?

    I don’t think this is paranoia. Granted, it’s a symbol of a larger issue, but any description of a job being that of a “mom” is a problem, and worth our attention here, I think.

  42. curiousgyrl

    spaghetti sauce has antioxidents. Or electrolytes. or oxytocin or some crap.

  43. rainie

    My mother takes everything out of the dryer before it gets totally dry and hangs it on doorways throughout the house. Undies and bras go straight to hangers in the doorways. She treats stains like a possessed banshee. She presoaks. She prewashes. She double rinses. Her washer is enormous, but she washes tiny loads of every hue individually. The only acceptable laundry products are Downy and Tide and Stanhome products degreaser.

    Oh, and she criticizes me for not adhering strictly to her sacred laundry rituals, in addition to my scientist gig that occupies far over 40hrs per week. I may have a Ph.D., but I fall very very short of the mark as a laundress. If I forget she reminds me.

  44. mustelid

    I’m firmly in the slacker school. It’s either heavy-duty, delicate, or sitting at the bottom of my closet awaiting the day I get bored enough to do the dry-cleaning thing. As for sewing, it’s an excellent tool for extending the life of my jeans. They have to live until designers come to their senses and once again start making jeans that actually have some correlation to the human form. Oh, and IBTP that I can’t buy friggin’ jeans that fit!

  45. cycles

    When my brother and I were very young, my mom used to come into the living room and dump a pile of freshly laundered bath towels onto the floor. Our chore was to fold them.

    Only she insisted that the towels be folded in thirds. Not a sane fraction, like halves or quarters. Did you know that it’s physically impossible for a five-year-old to estimate a third? Harder than it looks from an adult’s point of view.

    Oh, and she always bleached the hell out of them, and encouraged us to launder them after every use. Because our just-washed buttcheeks wiping across the surface of a towel more than once gave her the heebie jeebies. These days, I have “my towel” which gets washed every 3-4 months. I just don’t see the point of constantly laundering something that only comes in contact with perfectly clean skin.

  46. kiki

    Just become an artist…all of your clothes have burn holes from welding, are covered in paint and gesso stains, and the liver destroying smell of Gamasol completely covers any stank. Luckily, you spend your days in a shop/studio alone so there’s nobody to notice that you wear the same thing every day…except for your kids who laugh at you.

    As for laundry, the washer explicitly warns against washing such flammable clothing so I’m off the hook…

    And all kids… boys and girls should do their own laundry. Makes em think twice about tossing something in the hamper.

  47. Pony

    Cycles did you know you can get perfectly damp dry (like the instructions on the body lotion bottle tell you to achieve, more orders) if you use a washcloth (face cloth). You wipe, wipe, wring, buttcheek, wring. There. Now slather the lotion all over you and hang the 8 inch by 8 inch cloth to dry.

  48. Buffalo Gal

    Way back when my kid was born and I didn’t have in-house washing appliances, I decided that having enough small clothes – undies, socks, bras – to last for at least a couple-three weeks was the way to go. You can stuff a lot of those items into a washer at one time. Other stuff like jeans and sweaters can be draped over furniture to air out between wearings. Towels can be hung over the shower rod or radiator to dry so they don’t get mildewy. Cuts down on laundry tremendously.

  49. Spinning Liz

    Back when my children were toddlers I lived in mortal fear that they would toddle off and join the cult of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, whose disciples were only allowed to wear garbs that came in various eye-stabbing shades of red. Because being toddlers, they would of course end up bringing their damn laundry home and those obnoxious red garbs (red has always been my own personal laundry day bete noir) would inevitably turn all my white stuff pink. Forcing me to either do separate color loads, or join the stupid cult myself.

    Moral of the story: as soon as they’re tall enough to reach the doorknob so they can wander off and join cults, they’re tall enough to do their own fucking laundry, especially if it’s saffron or red.

  50. mearl

    Did you know that you can wear underwear six ways before washing it? The regular way, inside out, through one leg hole, inside out, through the other leg hole, and inside out.

  51. Edith

    mearl, I’m taking notes.

  52. thebewilderness

    I love you guys.

  53. greengirl

    I buy nothing that requires special care. I don’t have time to read “special” instructions. I remove any label that doesn’t cause the article to fall apart. Yes, I know how to sew, but diaper pins, remember them? have been employed more times than I care to count. The only exceptions are my bras which get washed gently and are air-dried. Due to my boobaliciousness (thanks for the word TWISTY), most of them are underwired. They would otherwise be unwearable and are bloody expensive for which IBTP! I keep a two-week supply of panties (what a wussy word)and regularly ignore the laundry slot dedicated to me in my apt. building, (4-8 on Sunday) because I refuse to be scheduled by anyone but myself.
    I haven’t always been so “radical” but there is nothing that would make me go back. I will no longer provide free advertising for any greedy capitalist by wearing brand logos on my body so all labels are immediately removed.
    A woman friend and I were talking about how we don’t iron anything anymore as our mothers did. “I have more pressing things to do,” says she.

  54. Jodie

    Pony! I thought I was the only one who did that!

    And Jezebella, if you don’t want peed on things, avoid male dogs as well as children (unless you neuter ‘em early — the dogs, not the children).

    I once had the evil dog from h*** who never missed a chance to pee in suitcases, on shoes, on furniture, on cardboard…really, on anything he could get to. Once he learned how to open the bedroom doors, well, it wasn’t pretty. I don’t know how so much pee fit into one 25 pound dog.

  55. Pony

    Panty washing occurs in the shower. What’s the matter with you people? You soap up the pair you were wearing, rinse them under the shower nozzle, wring, hang over shower rod. Put on pair you washed yesterday which were hanging over the rod when you stepped in the shower. Always buy black. You also brush your teeth in the shower. Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste in a cup in the thing hanging over the shower nozzle. Brush, spit, rinse.

  56. magickitty

    I forgot to tell this lovely story from my upbringing; Spinning Liz reminded me by her mention of red.

    My mom was an almost-feminist – she was of that generation of women who, instead of getting an education, job, and independent life, instead married, got a joblet, and then had kids. Aaahhh, the early seventies. Anyway, it was only after I graduated from high-school and went to university and started doing my own laundry (okay, i admit my former lame-assedness) that I realised that my whites didn’t have to be pink. My mother had been tossing the red towels in with the white wash for years as a form of silent protest at having to to all the laundry. No wonder she chose red for the bathroom colour. My poor mum.

    Tangentially, I loathe dishwashing as much as I like laundry. I have the attitude of many here concerning clothes – if it can’t survive in the dishwasher, then it doesn’t belong in my house.

    (Keep in mind that I never had a dishwasher until my mid-thirties. That saved my marriage more than blow jobs ever could.)

  57. jami

    i started out doing my shacked-up boyfriend’s laundry with mine, thinking it wasn’t much more work. it was twice as much work, and he blew it within a few months by failing to even once throw a single pair of my jeans in with his.

    he’s also really adept at the learned helplessness cited by octogalore. he and one of our male housemates (both were 26 years old) made a big show of putting the wrong kind of soap in the dishwasher, flooding the kitchen with bubbles. the boyfriend’s culinary expertise runs the gamut from cereal to sandwich because anything else requires the use of more than two dishes.

    in my experience, men are not even helpful at the infrequent tasks they once claimed as their “fair share.” when a boyfriend and i have a lawn, i mow it. i jiggle the battery cables when the car won’t start. this weekend, my grandma, sister, and i installed grandma’s dsl while two men dreamed masculinity dreams by watching basketball or reading cowboy books in the other room. yes, my sister and i were much more qualified to install the dsl. but we’d also tended rambunctious great-grandchildren and helped grandma set the table and wash the dishes on our “days off.”

    i sure hope my boyfriend keeps his wit and looks, ’cause this comment reminds me that i ain’t keepin’ him around for his industriousness.

  58. qiqa

    Twisty,

    thank you. I have been lurking here for a long time, but this post brought a tear to my eye (not sure if from laughter or pain, maybe both) and I finally just had to chime in gratefully for teaching us all to blame the patriarchy and laundry labels.

  59. metamanda

    jami, I had a boyfriend like yours once. he kept his wit and his looks, but eventually I dumped him anyways.

    I don’t mind laundry, but I do mind folding. So what often happens is I have a hamper full of clean clothes, with a pile of dirty accumulating beside it. Then one day the hamper is empty, I move the pile into it, and then dump it all back into the laundry.

  60. su

    “drudge trousseau”

    That just cuts straight through twisty. Years of pointless unrecognized wheel treading married life just flashed before my eyes. I swear if you keep this up you are going to have to put a trigger warning on every post.

  61. xax

    Noramlly I just throw everything into the wash without regarding potential damage-see many other people’s comments about how anything fragile enough to rip or tear while being washed probably would not survive on my body for long-but once, I felt like I should actually pay attention to the label on a pair of pants.

    They got totally shredded in the wash, and in fact those pants were the only garmet that I have ever gotten ruined in the wash.

    So I think the labels /are/ out to get everyone.

    (and stitch-pullers are great for detagging clothes, but as mentioned before clothes tend to have them sewn on in bizarre positions to prevent you from ever removing them without damaging the clothes)

  62. Ledasmom

    I wouldn’t do laundry more than once a week or so, except I only have two pairs of pants.
    Most of what gets peed on in this house is peed on by the cat, who has just, quite literally, climbed into my arms and started purring at me, proving that the only difference between a cat and a politician is that a cat won’t lie about crapping on your stuff.

  63. hedonistic

    Howbout this? Don’t wash anything until it stinks or is covered in something noticeable. This includes socks and underwear!

    I have an at-home drycleaning solution (bought at Target, relatively cheap) that works on armpit smells (even on washables) so I use it instead of throwing a garment in the wash. I turn the garment inside-out and let it air dry/freshen. I can wear the same shirt three or four times before washing it! Then again, I don’t sweat much in the first place.

  64. LouisaMayAlcott

    The patriarchy just raised the tariff on the washing machine downstairs to $1.75 from $1.50, so I am taking all of these suggestions under advisement.

    IBTP for making my laundry life so vexing.

  65. Ugly in Pink

    After I ruined several towels, my husband took it on himself to start doing the laundry. After he totally failed to keep up with it, we now send all our laundry out once a month. In terms of work-hours and aggravation saved, 50 bucks a month is a small price to pay. We are considering getting my mom’s cleaning guy too, so that’s off our hands. Another reminder of how much easier it is to be egalitarian when you’re rich. IBTCapitalists. Well, and the patriarchy.

  66. FemiMom

    Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap is great for between wash “pit stops.” Just dab some on a damp cloth & rub on the underarm section of a garment. I have even used it on the lining of suits. Just think: Blaimers living with lazy menfolk will dirty less laundry, while *his* clothing piles up. Eventually, the man will have to give in and wash his own damn stuff.
    This relates to some recent posts about making sure men are too TIRED to be oppressive: I TAME the patriarchy.

  67. hedonistic

    Dr. Bonner’s eh? I used to buy that! These days I have a watered-down shampoo in the soap dispenser on my bathroom counter for “pit stops” and quickie shampoos. My mother hipped me to the sink bath: When the babies were young we were both too damn busy to bathe every day. These days I only bathe two or three times per week. Nobody notices, but if someone complains I’ll tell ‘em I’m European.

    Other tips, along the lots-of-socks-and-underwear line:

    1) Buy a whole bunch of extra wash cloths (you can get decent ones that don’t fall apart for about 40% of retail from an off-price store like a Marshalls). Do a towel wash once you run out of clean washcloths. You’ll go longer between towel-washings this way. Saves on the water bill too!

    2) Buy only one kind of sock for your whole family. That way you don’t have matching issues. I don’t need to pair my socks at all anymore: I keep them all loose in my dresser and just grab two when I need them. My daughter and I have the same Peds feetie socks, so if I run out or find myself with a spare I just raid her dresser. She doesn’t pair her socks, either.

    3) Used dryer sheets make great Swiffer pads (so do old rags, and real Swiffer pads may be rinsed out and reused). $$$ Cha-CHING! $$$ Spend the money you save on chocolate.

  68. slownews

    Ah, men and housework. My sainted grandma, who had the best marriage in the family hands down over four generations, even said you musn’t criticize his efforts, or they will come to a screeching halt.

    A feminist mom of three I know says she lives at Our Lady of Perpetual Dishes and Laundry. She regularly screams at her kids and husband, “I am a VOLUNTEER! I DON’T get PAID!”

    I am of the firm opinion that dishes and laundry fall into the “necessary for sustainable life” category, along with eating and feeding/cleaning children too young to do it themselves, and therefore ALWAYS takes precedence over any vacuuming, bathroom cleaning, trash-emptying, or other goofy “housework” a husband can devise to get him out of doing the first category. IBtP.

    And yes, my brother and I were raised to do our own laundry from the time we could reach the dials. Thank you, mom.

  69. Preston L. Bannister

    Funny (the label) if insanely twisted (the commentary).

  70. Ugly in Pink

    Giving housework tips (which seems to sum up the majority of the thread) is “insanely twisted” where you come from? I’d like to know where that place might be, and if it does indeed contain no laundry.

  71. BlameIsBetterGivenThanReceived

    Ironically women’s clothing tends toward difficult to care for fabrics. If you don’t wish to become a slave to a pile of dirty clothes buy easy to care for products. I have put my foot down and declared that I will only wash clothes which can be washed in cold/cold water (no bleach) and then dried on the low heat setting and then hung in the laundry room. If anything is put in the laundry that’s how it’s washed dried and cared for. If there are spots or other problems you better take care of that before the garment makes it to laundry room. If anyone in the house objects they of course may do their own laundry; just don’t leave clothes in the washer or dryer as I will finish the loads my way.

  72. Ginger Mayerson

    Y’all could take over Heloise’s column.

    What’s a Swiffer?

    Oh, and I go to the laundrymat not because I like it, but it does gives me a chance to catch up on my reading and I can grocery shop next door during the wash cycle. I can’t afford a washer dryer at home and the space in my pad is too small for one anyway.

  73. lucizoe

    Re: learning to sew. Is it totally ridiculous that I have a really hard time reconciling the fact that I like to sew (and, for now at least, it’s my job as a costume designer) with my larger rejection of the trappings of patriarchally-enforced “femininity” and “women’s work”?

    I never really questioned how much I liked sewing until some dumbass Mormon boy my roommate was attempting to seduce ordered me to sew a button on something for him. As the roommate giggled inanely – shocked that I wouldn’t comply – I wandered back to my room, and I remained firmly-ensconced there until I could move the hell out. And now I’m pissed that such a pathetic waste of flesh could make me question myself on this issue at all.

    I blame – y’all know who. And garment labels are useless.

  74. Roov

    As far as I’m concerned, ‘dry clean only’ means ‘wash in cold water, and if it shrinks, give it to a smaller person.’

    If it’s something I really like, sometimes I HANDwash it in cold water, but usually I just toss it in with the rest of the laundry. Most of the time, nothing terrible will happen to a ‘dry clean only’ garment if you just wash it in water, and if I can’t wear it later, I figure it wasn’t a relationship that was meant to last anyway.

    I have no patience with demanding clothing.

  75. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Ginger: I’m not one for spending loads on household implements but I swear by my (plain) swiffer: It’s just this little, very ordinary sweeper-thingy that you attach a pad to and it picks up all the cat hair off your linoleum or wood floors. Since I have three cats I find it very handy! I think it works with the natural static in the pad. I rinse mine out and reuse them instead of disposing of them.

    Lucizoe, you’ve just expressed the feelings we all have about genuinely LIKING some of the things considered by many to be either demeaning or just “women’s work” (same thing to some radfems): Everyday maintenance cooking for the family, sewing, cleaning house, blowjobs, high heels, lingerie, generally submissive behaviors, need I go on? Do we refuse to do the things we REALLY REALLY LIKE on feminist principle? Ask a hedonistic pleasureseeker and you’ll get a resounding “NO!” (my dirty secret: I like cleaning!) Ask a hardcore radfem? Since I am not hardcore I don’t know what one might say. Probably any number of different things since there’s no playbook.

  76. edith

    I’m a hardcore radfem, and you know, I genuinely like being shrill.

  77. magickitty

    (watches the worms wriggle madly for cover)

  78. the first born fish

    I like baking because I enjoy brownies.

    I like pleasuring my geekboy because he also likes pleasuring me. He’s a bit naive, and a lot of young men seem to think blowjobs are a given but oral sex on a woman is sort of awkward and maybe happens later on “or something”. Like hell.

    I like some fashionable clothing simply as objects d’art: the arrangement of colors and shapes and textures is pleasing to my senses. I draw the line at wearing anything I find uncomfortable or stupid just for the sake of BEING an object d’art by the transitive property of fashion. Light blue patent leather spike heels are shiny and give my eye some nice curvy shapes and straight angles to play with and divide. I’m a bit OCD and like visual novelty as well as mathematical art. My “thinking brain” knows these are tools of the patriarchy in function (rather, functionlessness), however, so I do not feel compelled to own or wear them for any reason.

    Looking is nice… but they ARE objects. And women who wear them become the objects, I think…

    I like gardening, but that is probably because I enjoy fresh vegetables and dislike driving the super market and thinking about e. coli. Also, living things make for happy First Born Fishes. I like dogs, hedgehogs, cacti, and sunflowers.

    If I don’t have to touch, smell, hear, or generally deal with a baby or small child, they’re kind of “cute”, because if people didn’t think babies were cute, we would rationalize that they are useless and not take care of them. Most animals have this cuteness response. It does not make me question my wish to keep a barren uterus for the rest of my days.

    I don’t like being sick or tripping over things in the dark, so sometimes (albeit, rarely) I clean. Does this mean I secretly long to be a housewife? No, it means I don’t like crawly things in my food/bed, and, although I like to keep everything in a pile, I like to know which layer of the pile my radical feminist literature is located.

  79. keep it simple

    I know 2 kinds of laundry. Cold = outer wear, warm = inner wear. I own nothing white, I have one white T-Shirt, which falls under dress clothes and doesn’t get worn. Nothing I have gets ironed. And actually I turn my Jeans inside out, but not boyfriends. The reason is that I wear dark blue, which needs conserving and he wears light blue, which is washed out anyway.
    The nice thing about this routine is that the clothes live longer. Ironing is bad for the fabric and my nerves. Boyfriend does iron his shirts alone and does the half of the laundry too. Would he not, his clothes would be sorted out of my laundry immediately.
    It is very liberating to realize that actually nobody forces you to wear white silk blouses, which need to be hand washed and are impossible to iron. I knit, so my wool sweaters have to be hand washed, but wool needs fresh air more than it needs water.
    I don’t buy anything for normal wear that has to be dry cleaned or hand washed. As a woman I don’t have to wear suits, ever.

  80. PhysioProf

    “I submit that you guys are already boycotting this company, if it exists, because if you owned anything with that label you’d certainly know it.”

    If a tree falls in the woods, but…?

  81. justtesting

    the things considered by many to be either demeaning or just “women’s work” (same thing to some radfems): Everyday maintenance cooking for the family, sewing, cleaning house, blowjobs, high heels, lingerie, generally submissive behaviors, need I go on?

    I don’t think that list is considered the “same thing” by radfems at all. The last four items are all about socially constructed submission to male superiority, the first three are about sustaining life and should be recognised as genuine and important work.

    Big, big, difference.

  82. hedonistic

    Ooh! Here’s a time, money and laundry-saving tip for the new moms:

    Forget kids pajamas (those flame-retardant polyester abominations). Ditto turtlenecks and girls tights; they’re LAME and babies hate them anyway. Bunny spent her formative years in some version of a comfortable cotton jumper or tracksuit that she could sleep in. There was no distinction between daywear and nightwear.

    I would dress her for daycare the night before, instead of the morning of. There was a 75% chance she wouldn’t blow out her diaper overnight, which meant her father and I needed to dress her in the morning only 25% of the time.

    When she was a baby I sent her to daycare in one-piece jumpers, with a clean jumper in her bag. I put her to bed in whatever she came home in if it was still clean.

    When she was a toddler it was the cotton tracksuit or, in the summer, leggings and (boys) T-shirts. For dress-up I’d throw a plain smock over the shirt/pants ensemble. (The daycare women thought we were Amish, because I would also wear my very plain, no buttons/zippers/etc. dresses over pants!)

    The mother-in-law complained that Bunny’s track outfits were “inappropriate” for grade school. I told her to bite my ass. Diplomatically of course.

    Bunny slept in it all. If she magically made it through the day without soiling herself she wore it the next day too. Consequently, once she was out of the cotton diapers her impact on our laundry burden was practically nil. As long as it wasn’t poopy we threw her clothes in with ours. I used (generic brand) gentle baby detergent on all of our clothes, sheets and towels because I couldn’t be bothered with two kinds of detergents.

    I think I might have bathed her a few times inbetween all that. It’s all a blur though; I can’t remember.

  83. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Drycleanables and mustirons are banished from my house.

    My sister’s former neighbors (a pack of 18-yr-old fellas) used to wash their clothing and dishes the same way — line ‘em up in the driveway and hose ‘em down. Quick and effortless, but not necessarily effective. Funny to watch, but I don’t recommend it.

    This spinster aunt lives in blissful solitude and laundry is a task I enjoy. Like the Talking Heads said, down in the basement, we hear the sound of machines. It’s oddly comforting. I prefer line drying to using the machine, but I’m not too proud to use the dryer if I’m in a hurry. And the cats love to dive into a pile of just-warm-from-the-dryer stuff. None of my stylish ensembles are complete without cat hair.

  84. octopod

    I think laundry is my dad’s hobby. He just got a new set of washer and dryer and keeps telling me about how awesome they are — it’s hilarious. He’s also possibly the best cook I’ve ever met. He stays at home with my ten-year-old brother and does some computer work from home when the monkey’s at school. My mom’s a surgeon. I think I know where my no-gendered-work outlook comes from.

    Honestly, I feel like a lot less of a tool for enjoying cooking for other people because I learned it from my dad, and with the added benefit that he could also teach me things like how to use a table saw or change a tyre or double-dig a garden bed. Still hate laundry, though.

    Damn, I need to do laundry; I’m out of underwear. Ugh. I blame the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  85. Older

    We wash on “hot,” dry on “hot,” and don’t iron. Stuff that doesn’t survive, doesn’t survive.

    And I love my swiffer. In fact I have a bunch of them (they turn up regularly at yard sales). What a work-saver!

  86. Older

    Oh and labels: I prefer the ones that are sewed on/in, because they can be removed. Not so easy with the printed-on kind. It’s amazing how many things can be worn inside out if you can remove the labels.

  87. Twisty

    Wasn’t somebody asking about American Apparel? Here’s a link to an article describing Dov Charney’s unpleasant attitude toward unions, and here’s an old (2005) Majikthise piece on the sexual misconduct charges.

  88. Poison

    I know this is a little late, as I see the last post on this subject is Feb 24th, but I felt compelled to tell you all that I had a GREAT laugh out of this page!
    I was trying to find something that had “motherly responsibilities” to annoy my husband, who thinks that housework should be completed as soon as I get home and start dinner. (BTW, he stays at home with the kids, ages 5 and 2) When I get home it’s time for him to sit and relax from his exhausting day. And while I sympathize with him for dealing with our children, who can be slightly demanding, I have just come home from a job where I call people to tell them that something is not working in thier house and we would like to intrude to get someone to come look at that and get it fixed for them (not usually very nice people on the other end for the record), and then I sit in traffic for approximately 45 minutes to get home to “MOMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY” and then a tackle that even the very best defensive end from any NFL team would be proud of. My first order of business is probably going to be hit the bathroom! Not get the laundry done, make sure that dinner is completed, and become a human jungle jim!

    Just a little note to anyone who reads this, being a mother is the best job in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but every once in a great while, tell your mother/wife what a great job she does at her 24-hour a day job, especially with Mother’s Day (the best holiday by FAR) coming up, and especially if she works outside the home as well!

    As far as blaming the patriarchy for the bad things in my life and the assumptions that come with it, I believe we have ourselves to blame, because we have coined the phrase “just a mom”. “just a mom” describes about $86,000 worth of work in one year, according to salary.com, so how bout “wow, a mother, what an example” instead of “just a mom”???

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