Episode 15 – Doing the Dishes
Any conversation about doing the dishes is going to be mundane. In many ways this conversation represents the difference between an anarchist approach to politics and the approach of other political tendencies. Dishes are about the politics of daily life, they are about the essence of DIY politics, and they are about the intersection of a couple of big topics while seeming like something brain-dead simple. I think doing the dishes is exceedingly interesting and I hope we are able to have a great conversation about the topic.
To start with let me say that I am terrible at doing to dishes. I have just squecked over the line of acceptable behavior in every group house situation I’ve been in. I have articulated every gender stereotype that we’ll talk about today. I think that mundanities like dishes ruin perfectly good relationships and I believe that men’s attitude towards doing the dishes exemplifies how men do harm to social relationships. I can say with no irony that I agree with both statements. Dishes are dumb and excessively important at the same time.
Or to put this topic a totally different way. Life in housing that can best be described as single family dwellings is terrible. It is so terrible that they make us conform to the standards of the nuclear family without consenting to it in any way. The problem of doing dishes could be restated as the problem of 7 people living in a house designed for 3. It could be restated as the problem of gender conforming roles in architecture and most of us not having the personal, financial, or social power to rearrange our houses to reflect or desire for social chaos and instead being perfectly satisfied to let bad infrasctructure guide our everything because we don’t want to be bothered with it.
One of the first essays in the SI Anthology is about an imaginary ludic city that crawls down a set of tracks to the beach every morning. If we lived in that city we would benefit from the Sun every morning and day. Every evening our city would crawl back to the forest, cool and relieved from the same sun we were happy to sprawl into as the sun set. The idea of an imaginary city that satisfied the predilictions of the taste of fog, sun, heat, cool is exactly why I still think of radical politics as the positive politics of the possible.
Why are not dishes considered in this light? Two short proposals I received since announcing this podcast were informative. One a single man said “I just rinse my coffee mug with hot water and eat off paper plates or just use my hands cause I hate housework” and another “new rule: all dishes have a ttl once they enter the sink. any dishes still in the sink after 12 hours will be smashed and not replaced” exemplify how today’s anarchists consider and solve most social problems. They stigmatize it as an individual problem and then solve it, often humorously by the mechanism of individual will and action. No more evidence is necessary to see why most people last about 10 years in this space before they move on.
This week we are going to discuss doing the dishes. The dishes are both code for the kind of responsibility we need to take in 1000 different contexts and the kind of gendered behavior that burns people out, makes our relationships boring, resentful, and disappointing. For some people this is a reason to put a poster on a wall, for others it is the reason they want to live alone, but our conversation is how do we do better, how do we frame the relationshiships we have and want, and how do we, as a category, do the dishes.