Housewife Provocateur


When I was internet dating and potential suitors asked what I did, I would tell them that I wrote about housekeeping. This invariably led to the same old question. Ah! Would you iron my shirts in your underwear? Nothing but an apron and some heels??

And I would say, Ha! Aren’t you a card? And in my head pass a litany of insults on, from aren’t you so darn predictable to oh, lord, here’s another sexist idiot of the kind I really shouldn’t entertain.

Problem is that had I not entertained this deeply unoriginal question I would never have been able to get past hello with any of the men who ever dared to wink at me, simply because EVERY man I have ever encountered, when confronted by the idea of a professional housewife, finds himself unable to escape the saucy cupcake baking, shoe polishing semi-naked fantasy that is the media’s idea of a woman who keeps house. A schoolboy fantasy of some one else’s Mother.

Bless them. It really isn’t their fault.

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Which brings me rather nicely to Miles Aldridge’s campaign for Agent Provocateur’s latest collection. And oh my. I barely know where to start. Let us begin then with Sarah Shotton’s concept for the collection: that a woman must be a lady in the street and a wildcat in bed. Which agreed, is a fine old sentiment and not one I would disagree with, for I do believe we all have our moments: but for me, the problem lies in that to get to the bedroom from the street, one invariably has to exist in the kitchen in-between and when we try to sexualise something that defies sexualisation we patronize the majority of women who couldn’t work themselves into a steamy froth with a wet sponge in even the most delicious of satin suspenders. Servility simply isn’t sexy.

For this is about servility. Make no mistake about it. While Aldridge makes reference to encountering his friend’s Mum hoovering in her underwear, and Shotton to the irony of the “pristine and glossy housewife of the 1950’s – the perfect woman, unfazed by the pressures of everyday life”, they merely perpetuate the myth that all women are throbbing with sexual desire twenty-four hours a day, and despite the fact that the very idea of the perfect housewife has long been dispelled, and feminism should have put paid to to the notion that women traditionally seen as powerless, are nevertheless available twenty four seven, yes despite all that, we are still being served images like these and supposed to look at them and feel inspired to go sex up the daily drudge.

Chore for Damaris by Justin Anderson

Trouble is, it’s boring. It’s been done. Damaris did it in Chore. Madonna did it. Even Victoria Beckham had a go. Indeed women have been writhing with mops since the Edwardians specialised in the kind of soft porn that featured exhausted maids lounging about with feather dusters. And none of this is to say that what is featured does not represent complicity between the sexes: women indulging men’s fantasys. Servility is all too often complicit and therein lies the problem, mais non?

Here’s the thing: I like both sex and keeping house as much as the next women. Under my uniform of black this and black that, nothing delights me more than truly gorgeous underwear. Furthermore I believe in feminism to the same degree that I believe in right and wrong. It is instinctive to me. The stuff I try to teach my son daily. And I do not believe that wearing even the sexiest of underwear is in anyway anti-feminist.

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But when we start disguising sexism as irony my feather duster starts to bristle, mostly because there is something mind-numbing about the relentless sexualisation of our society: something rather ugly about believing that even the dullest parts of our existence need sexualising in order to make them tolerable for the men we are supposed to be seducing.

I don’t need lingerie companies to offer me the stuff I already want to buy by selling me some warped version of the domestic dream. And nor do I want my son to grow up in a world where any women who purports to be interested in keeping house is automatically seen as fodder for sexual fantasy.

I never was any good at internet dating.

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7 comments on “Housewife Provocateur

  1. But seriously…you cook in that…ouch! Little hot grease spatters. You clean… Ewwww.. Filthy dust bunnies in the Lacey bits. Underneath ….. Well, that might cheer up a girl.

  2. Here, here. What in the world are they thinking?

  3. This ad campaign goes even beyond sexualising housework – it strengthens the base theory that it is a woman’s job in the home in the first place! Let’s see some men wielding a hoover in advertising too (in THEIR underpants???!!! Doubt that will ever happen). I am growing increasingly frightened/exasperated/depressed by how misogynistic our world and society still seems to be. As the mother of a near adult daughter about to set out in what I hoped was a more enlightened, hell, more evolved world, I hear too many things, see too many reminders that things may not only have not moved on at all, but in fact digressed! And what am I to do?? I have been thoroughly shocked by the way she reports girls are spoken to by their male peers at school, with utter disrespect and degradation, and that it goes on under the noses of teachers who say nothing and my goodness even sometimes LAUGH!!! And remember if their views are in part shaped by what they see/hear at home – from MY peers if you like, I find it all the more astonishing. We are children of the 70’s women’s lib era and the 80’s ‘power woman’ !!! What is going on???? This has been a subject that has been getting me down for some time, probably as I am now viewing the world anew from my daughters perspective, but I just do not know how to equip her to go out there in what feels like an even more misogynistic world than I grew up in. Keep fighting the good fight Alison – and as the mother of a future man you have the power to help shape the sort of man we would all wish our daughters could find in life! If only all boys had a mother like you! x

  4. I’d not even heard of the lingerie brand until I went looking for it. I see the owner of the label, Damaris Evans, has another brand called Mimi Holliday. Also lingerie. If you go to the Damaris website there’s a tab called On Film. This video and another one called Packing Heat is on there. Packing Heat strikes me as art house type stuff. Apparently there’s a connection between lingerie and guns. Chore strikes me as very soft porn. Or perhaps the point is housework is more fun in £40 a pair pants?

  5. Sloopy Onnaharlee on said:

    I just found this on eatmangoesnekkid.tumblr.com and think it may have some relevance here:
    “Oftentimes
    when I am cleaning floors,
    yes,
    cleaning…..floors…,
    I am doing so
    with full joy
    and sensual delight.
    Grateful to be in
    a healthy red clay body
    with knees that bend
    without fail
    and
    a spine that curls
    when commanded.
    Nude or
    barely covered.
    Juicy and ignited.
    Cleaning
    floors with my bare brown hands
    and freshly-washed white towels.
    No mop, please.
    Only Thelonious Monk
    blasting from speakers
    and homemade
    lemon soap heightening
    my senses.
    I am mopping
    floors with my bare hands.
    Receiving information.
    Interpreting reality.
    Feeling my way into orgasm.
    Creating my own pleasures!
    Remembering and RECONSTRUCTING.
    Needlessly to say, I love clean floors!”……

    (the poem is not mine; the author is India Ame’ye.) I must also add that sexualizing the dull bits of life for the sake of a man is never right, I agree. But the “dull” stuff in my mind needs to be re-sensualized for the sake of a woman’s soul. You have set this entire blog up to help do just that!!! If a man just happens to be around that, he will likely be thrilled that his lover or wife is juicy and happy,- thrilled and grateful that she’s feeling great even though she is not catering to his specific fantasies by request or order. What man would not want a happy woman around? Past that, I don’t see the ad campaign as law or anything any woman must dutifully comply with in order to keep a man’s interest, although some miserable women might just do that in desperation, not realizing that the number one thing a man wants, again, is a happy woman, not one ironing in suspenders and balconet bra. I also doubt that AP’s owners are attempting to denigrate women; I think they feel and hope women can see the humor yes, the irony of the images with the assumption that women have agency and prioritize THEIR OWN sexual desires and fantasies over those of men. Yes, the culture desperately uses soft porn everywhere it can, and yes, we are inundated with such imagery that-yes-is intended primarily for MALE arousal. But…..what about the woman whose fantasies are of washing dishes naked under a vintage 50’s black nylon slip and having her partner um….ravish her on the kitchen counter, or the floor? It reminds me of the violent arguments over porn that feminists wanted to do away with whilst a large group of feminists against censorship spoke the unspeakable, that women existed who were aroused by porn and even wanted to make their own. So what should the woman in the black slip do? Unfortunately, sex is not always politically correct. – Men have lots of sex fantasies. So what. As women, we are under no rule of law to act them out. ps: love your blog, thank you for all the loving effort you put into it for 10+ years!

  6. I think it’s a good idea to do housework dressed like that. You have a good excuse not finishing any chores 😉
    Anyhow, I think that’s a joke.
    My idea of feminism is the right to choose. I want to clean and wash wearing lacy underwear, I would even wear heels, but they are bad for the floor :/ I let my bf make all the important decisions (because he is much more practical). I’m naturally like this, I feel good making others lives better this way and a man with strong will balances my flakyness. He never tells me to do anything (exept to be faithful) and maybe once a year asks me to do something (even then reluctantly). It would be nice to get flowers and chocolate sometimes, but life is not perfect.
    My best friend has worked 25 years at same office, is single, has cats and grannypants. She loves cats and books, sturdy boots and does not want a man to mess with her home and time. That’s right for her, only thing she is missing is somebody to hold her. Somebody who lives elsewhere.

  7. Annmarie on said:

    Who gave you permission to use my pictures?! Boy oh boy! You have a little bit of fun, and before you know it, it’s all over the internet!