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The unbearable lightness of cleaning : representations of domestic practice and products in Good Housekeeping Magazine (UK): 1951-2001.

Martens, L. and Scott, S. (2005) 'The unbearable lightness of cleaning : representations of domestic practice and products in Good Housekeeping Magazine (UK): 1951-2001.', Consumption, markets & culture., 8 (4). pp. 379-401.


In this paper we begin to open the black box that constitutes the organisation of domestic cleaning and consumption in the latter half of the twentieth century. We focus specifically on change and continuity in the manner in which cleaning practices and cleaning products are represented in the UK woman's magazine Good Housekeeping, in the late modern period. After a discussion of the modern history of cleanliness, we proceed with a rationale for why this magazine was chosen for our analysis, followed by a summary of our methodology. We then argue that three phases of representation may be delineated in the time period we investigated. The first phase, which is apparent in the 1951 and 1961 issues, we have named "pride in domestic practice" and it covers a period when, what we call "the women's lobby", speaks in a uniform voice about the tasks of the housewife and the purpose of domestic cleaning. The second phase, manifest in the 1971 and 1981 issues, is termed "domestic dreaming", and it heralds a period when Good Housekeeping calls its readership to dream about the potentials of a transformed consumer culture. The third phase, which is evident in some respects in 1981, but which is more clearly present in 1991 and 2001, we have called "modern advising in a late modern world". During this period, Good Housekeeping settles into a new role as a modern advisor of cleaning products and practices within the context of a world that poses significant complexities. Our discussion also focuses on how three values of cleanliness; that associated with germs, aesthetics and efficiency/ease are present in the magazine. Our analysis is contextualised in relation to the cultural silencing of cleanliness in this period and related to social and cultural changes associated with feminism and consumer culture.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:
Keywords:Cleaning, Germs, Ease, Domestic identities, Feminism,; Consumer culture.
Full text:Full text not available from this repository.
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Record Created:08 Aug 2008
Last Modified:08 Apr 2009 16:28

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