Capitalism Related to Domesticity

By Mohammad Iqbal

Consumption is necessary for domestic survival; consumption of some product supplied by some company. In  early years, when humans built products such as wooden beds or used kitchenware made from nature, their purpose was to meet the kind of domestic needs that made tough life simpler. Through nature, goods were widely available, and people began to see a change that seemed to benefit them in everyday life – a change promising long-term survival and shelter. Similarly, homes in the modern world have been affected, but in different ways since we are not still as close to nature. Domesticity also became a factor in regards to spending money wisely and maintaining status for a family. As technology advanced, homes became harder to manage as there were several components that needed refilling and maintenance. Consumption of capitalist goods became necessary. Some used the goods for recreation and some used them for necessity. By consumption of capitalist goods, changes were enacted on one’s comfort and status in the house.

lawn-king-ad

“Lawn King” 4/18/14. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

From the 1960s on, lawns became a US home’s main attraction. It came to the point where immaculate lawns indicated the entrance to new free-from-poverty zones, the suburbs. Residents of these suburbs maintained their lawns to display their own home and economic status along with pride that the homeowner’s family were good company, generous benefactors, and welcoming of everyone. When demand for maintaining grass and lawns arose, many companies became mainstream. One such example of those companies is ChemLawn, which provided its customers home services such as cutting/mowing the grass, spraying chemicals, blowing, etc., and thus easing customers’ lives. Lawn specialists in clean uniforms pulled up to a house in tankers carrying chemicals (Steinberg 73). Availability of these services meant more time spent with family and more sophisticated lifestyles for families. In the advertisement selected and published by Lawn King, the company aimed to provide services for the homes because domesticity – or, running the house – was an important factor to the homeowner. Saving time, energy, and money on the house through selecting a lawn service provided a family their comfort and status. Even if the service wasn’t up to par, at least family members were not having to mow their grass by themselves, which was something that only working-class people did, in their opinion. This changed the concept of home because people began to care for their lawn as part of their home and neighborhood and see it as an extension of domesticity.

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“Improvement! Improvement!” 4/18/14. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

Although people did not use commercial laundries as much, their influence on domesticity should not be ignored. Laundries, no singular company noted, proliferated in years of World War I and pre-Depression, and customers using this service were mostly women. “The items most commonly sent to commercial laundries were men’s shirts and collars and ‘flatwork’ – handkerchiefs, sheets, tablecloths, and napkins” (Cowan 106). Instead of washing clothes manually, usage of this capitalist service was important to women as it simplified the troubles of washing, ironing, clothes every day. By sending the clothes to mass laundries, women’s work load was reduced. In the advertisement by Bowen promoting his laundry company, he calls for people to bring their orders and leave it to workers who will provide the best service they can, which will also encourage customers to return to the company again. This is relevant to domesticity and social improvement because this chore has greatly reduced the burden of home labor and increased family time/care with children. During these years of laundry proliferation, women were mostly found in factories and stores after men were drafted to fight in wars. Spending most of the day washing laundry would be tiresome and exploiting this service would simply be an asset and a good cool down after a hard day’s work.

car

“Leave your family car home and use that special Hertz Rent-A-Car service!” 4/18/14. Courtesy of Duke University Libraries

Paying for gas costs too much when you own a car. With insurance, gas, and maintenance costs, it is not smart to own a car in tough economic times or struggling financial stages of life. What is better, renting to save money or use money every day that exceeds the price of renting? This is what the advertisement by Hertz Rent-A-Car System is aiming to convey. It is best to benefit from renting a car as it saves daily high purchases and then you can save money to devote to needs in the house rather than waste it on the expenses of owning a car. This affects domesticity by enabling a family to carry out more diverse homely activities and give a sense of comfort, or rather, a comfortable life for each family member. While owning a car emanates a high status, it also brings the person’s life down due to money burdens. The advertisement also shows the organized lifestyle and life of a businessman, assuming he is one by his attire. As a businessman who is knowledgeable of where money travels, he knows what choice he needs to make to prevent his home life and finances from being unstable. By choosing this car service, he has protected his family from being poor and shown he cares for domesticity.

This post was completed as an assignment for the American Studies course, “The Concept of Home.”  A list of the readings that informed this assignment can be found here: https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/assignments-the-concept-of-home-spring-2013/  

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