In the course of Kirstie Allsopp’s latest defence of that most oppressed group – wealthy women who can afford home help – she has revealed to the world her guilty pleasure. No, it isn’t mild bondage play or collecting S Club 7 CDs or even eating Cheestrings in the middle of the night; Kirstie Allsopp’s secret passion is ironing. “I’m not doing the ironing because I have to but, if I get a chance, I find it immensely therapeutic,” she told The Western Daily Press. “I’m absolutely convinced that those repetitive tasks that one does every day, organising and regularising one’s home, and keeping it tidy, are enormously therapeutic.”
Why should we care if the co-presenter of Location, Location, Location loves nothing more than ironing? We shouldn’t. For all I care, Kirstie can iron her husband’s underpants all the live-long day, and then when she’s finished with that she can come round to my house and start on the pile by the washing machine. What is irritating, however, is the second part of Kirstie’s statement, in which she goes on to suggest that her domestic perversion is shared by women more generally. “I have many, many working mum friends who feel the same,” she revealed. “[Knowing] that their child is going to school with clean hair, clean teeth, clean uniforms and their house is clean is what keeps her sane.”
Allsopp doesn’t speak for all women, she speaks for that specific sub-section of people of both genders who are a) wealthy enough to afford home help with domestic chores, and b) unimaginative enough to choose ironing as a leisure activity over any of the myriad more exciting things they could be getting up to. I suggest mild bondage play while eating Cheestrings and listening to S Club 7.
It is true that a mindless task, such as ironing, can be “therapeutic”, but it is important also to point out that this is only so if the task offers a contrast to your usual, mindful working activity. What of that nameless person who does Kirstie’s ironing, once she has tired of the novelty? How does he/she feel about domestic chores? Alas, this person isn’t a TV personality fronting a campaign for Proctor & Gamble, so their views on ironing as relaxation haven’t been canvassed by The Western Daily Press. I’d hazard a guess that people who do housework full-time – be they low-waged domestic employees of posh families or an unwaged stay-at-home parent – are unlikely to see it in quite the same light that Kirstie does.
Despite what some defenders of tradition might imply, there is no movement to prevent people who like ironing from doing the ironing, but a glass ceiling does still exist for women who chose a career outside the home. These women are then further thwarted by the social expectation that they take on the majority of responsibility for childcare and housekeeping to boot. Why? Because we secretly love it, of course!
For the sake of those women who’d rather not be housewives, and also for those who might enjoy it but will never be able to afford it, couldn’t the domestic goddesses pipe down for just a little while? Until women have equal pay, for instance.
Banging on about how much you love housework is, to most working women, like extolling the virtues of fresh air to a homeless person or praising the culinary qualities of gruel to a prisoner – a fascinating eccentricity for you and any similarly privileged friends perhaps, but a crass insult for anyone who lives your hobby as a daily reality.
Whether they’re aware of it or not, people who espouse the joys of housework, without properly acknowledging the context of their privilege, aren’t promoting a woman’s right to choose her lifestyle. They’re promoting a sexist stereotype, which reduces choice for any woman who doesn’t lead a life as charmed.
And doesn’t Kirstie lead a charmed life? You don’t need to read the full interview to appreciate how lovely it is. If you’ve seen any of her recent TV programmes, such as Kirstie’s Crafty Christmas, you’ll know, her career is increasingly synonymous with the escapist domestic fantasy she sells to people who don’t have it so good. Whether heroically making time for the school run, or baking bread from scratch, or just enjoying her greatest passion, ironing, the irony of Allsopp is that she is simultaneously always at work, furthering her own professional image. That’s Kirstie’s real dirty secret; she is as much a careerist as any of us.
Polite is the new put-down
Peace and love to you all, the internet has entered it’s Age of Aquarius and as usual with all things neo-hippie, Russell Brand (below) led the way. Last week, a video of him successfully silencing a heckler with an offer of ad-hoc therapy went viral. “Why are you here in this space, fellow human being?” was his soothing opening.
Then, on Friday, Danny Dyer tweeted an equally uncharacteristically amiable response to critics of his on-screen son’s coming-out storyline in EastEnders: “Here’s a little message for some of the homophobic pricks who are tweeting me ... happy new year.”
Perhaps the most dedicated adherent to the New Nice, however, is pop singer and eternal punchline James Blunt, who has been crowned winner of Twitter for his lighthearted responses to abusive tweets. When @lizziea1 tweeted “I want to kick James Blunt... repeatedly... I don’t know why,” @JamesBlunt replied “Easy spelling mistake as K and L are right beside each other.”
The choices for victims of online abuse are usually to ignore it – which can feel like self-censorship – or to engage with it – which is akin to debating with a toddler, and as effective.
The polite put-down is superior to all the above because it acknowledges the existence of the troll (which is all usually all these poor lost souls want anyway) while maintaining an inner tranquility. It’s like turning the other cheek – if the other cheek had “#SozLol” written on it in felt-tip pen.
At Cambridge, it’s Wills who’s ordinary
The Cambridge classicist Mary Beard has suggested that Prince William make the most of his controversial admission to her university by taking “the opportunity to meet some of our more ‘ordinary’ students”.
Professor Beard thoughtfully provided her own quotation marks around “ordinary”, but you still have to wonder at her meaning. Pupils from independent schools are over-represented at Oxbridge and even those from humbler backgrounds are likely to be clever, hard-working and not at all “ordinary”.
That’s not to say there won’t still be some opportunity for cultural exchange. The other students can now mix with someone who didn’t scrape three As at A-level, despite all the privileges this country can offer. A spectacle, indeed.