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.
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.
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.
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.