You show up in the morning, very
early; you open all the doors to let some fresh air in, you make coffee, play music (preferably something calm, though it doesn’t really matter, it will soon be eclipsed by the sound of vacuum cleaner anyway) and start.
Firstly, collect the trash left on the counter and the tables, wipe all the sticky flat surfaces using a wet cloth, vacuum the floor and mop it with a rotary mop. I once saw a meme implying that it is a fidget spinner for women. Indeed, there is a grain of truth in it—the stick is designed especially for them: it’s short and in a smaller scale, so, apparently, it is easier to use.
Everything is as it should be: after all, the title of your job position is not a cleaner, but a cleaning lady and you are a woman.
You will probably meet a waiter or a chef, but sometimes you’ll leave so early that no one is there yet, you are invisible. You found this place dirty and leave it clean, so everything can start again, as it does everyday.
In essence, it is taking care of things, looking after, maintaining. It is a gentle, quiet and beneficial action; it requires patience and time. It is about collecting dirt that has settled on one surface by means of another surface,
the dirt does not disappear,
it just changes its place from one object to another, from a floor to a rag. Dirt is rinsed immediately in order to hide it: it is washed out in a washing machine, vanishes in the abyss of pipes so we can happily meet a fresh, clean rag, seemingly all new, ready to use again. Purity is temporary, indeed.
This disgrace of dirt might be the reason why there is something uncomfortable about cleaning in a public space. Not even for a cleaner, who, focused on her work, doesn’t notice it anymore and simply does her job, but for the observers.
They either try not to step on the wet floor, excessively apologizing should this happen, or ignore it altogether and simply walk through, making the cleaner invisible: the cleaner appears unnoticed and leaves the place clean, what matters here is the end-result.
Once my male friend saw me mopping the floor in our shared kitchen and remarked:
Finally, a woman in her rightful place.
Since 2016, marches have been taking place in Poland, called Black Protests: protests against the violations of women’s rights and against the patriarchy still dominant in the society. During these marches objects related to the so-called traditional housewifes, such as kitchen equipment or cleaning tools, were employed by the protesters as tools of resistance. A clenched fist wearing a yellow rubber glove or a frying pan with words enough is enough engraved on it could be seen on the streets, along with banners and slogans. The simple change of context these objects appeared in—their transition from the domestic into the public—turned them into weapons, powerful tools of protest and political manifesto.
Well, woman is in her right place, if she decides so.