Human life and culture are an exquisit balance between the personal and the political. One of the most striking evidences for that in my life as a pro-feminist man with a long track record in the environmental movement is the phenomenon of ironing. Ironing is one of those clear symbols of how women are expected to work for their husbands. It is furthermore a clear example of how Western culture so easily uses energy.
Until not so long ago, i did not iron anything i had. I wore mostly sweaters and T-shirts. Sometimes, and when getting older, increasingly shirts. Most of the time i did not mind the wrinkles and so on. Especially not when traveling much and drawing on my position as foreign guest - people did not mind it so much that i did not look like a well-dressed executive. Things were different for important meetings - in parliament, with certain journalists or on press conferences, or when having to facilitate a meeting or workshop outside of the environmental movement. Then i was very happy to see my shirts looking so good, but i seldomly wondered how they got that way. Only when in the greatest hurry i would iron a shirt myself - and always cursing on it that it was so complicated and time consuming. Ironing was for me a basic waste of energy - one of these things that make North Americans the perfect enemy for using so much more energy than the rest of the world.
But of course, somebody ironed for me now and then. And when we did one of our irregular reschedulings of tasks, i also agreed to look into the task of ironing a bit more often. I did not do that out of good will. I don`t think many men ever do things out of good will to ease the life of women. It complicates their own life, you see... But i had seen this wonderful painting by Liz Phillips in the house of a friend of mine. And i also wanted to look so good... Never did i expect that the job of ironing would take so much time and skill - never did i expect its benefits for me.
So now i also iron every now and then. A wonderful passtime when looking with my daughter to one of her favorite TV programmes - or when your head is full from a recent quarrel. The result is also beautiful, though i still am not able to make the pile of T-shirts look so neat as my partner makes them. And as far as energy consumption is concerned... well, as this is more a question of rescheduling already existing tasks, it will not be so much more. Maybe i should contact one or another eco-feminist on this issue once: Should a man do more ironing to alow his partner more time for other things, or should a man convince his partner of ironing less to reduce energy use and bear the loss of power of not looking dressed so well? Certainly an interesting question for the Czech Republic, where being fashionable has become so "hot" nowadays. Ironing statistics could give a very interesting picture of woman/man relationships. Why wasn`t there any question on that issue in the recent census?
|Jan Haverkamp is of Dutch origin and immigrated into the Czech Republic in 1997. He worked as organizational development specialist for Central and Eastern European environmental organizations and is currently Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner for Central Europe. He lives with his partner and daughter in Cvrcovice near Kladno and has a son in the Netherlands.|
Názory z druhé strany - Thought from the other side
In this weekly column, pro-feminist men - men that are strongly influenced by the feminist movement - write their observations in daily life on the role of men and women in the Czech Republic.