The irony is not lost on me: I do stereotypical women’s work as I struggle to bring a feminist interpretation to a traditionally male hobby: 18th century living history or reenacting.* Even as it irks me, I enjoy being busy and believe in the importance of the everyday, the mundane, the lulls. Life moves pretty fast, as the saying goes, and the moments when you think nothing’s happening are often the most important.
Everyday work is what most of us do, and most of us will be remembered not at large, like Abigail Adams, but writ small, like Bridget Connor. But we matter, and the roles we play and the work we do matters, too, to the people close to us, and the details of our lives– not just the mugs, chairs, and shoes, but the vacuum cleaners and the way we live our lives– would matter to us in two hundred years if we were recreating 2016. So why do we skip over the domestic details?
Look: if mopping barracks is good enough for Kubrick, it’s good enough for me, especially when you consider that the military understood the importance of hygiene in the 18th century, and that there are multiple treatises to be found on the subject, freely available online. Keep them barracks clean.
So I clean barracks, as a means of bringing the everyday back to life, because daily life, even in the military, is in fact remarkably mundane and domestic, centered not around the glory of battles but around the minutia of cleaning barracks, washing clothes, and preparing food.
Is this also the feminization of masculine space? Perhaps it is, in the way that our culture associates indoor domestic tasks with women. Either way, maintaining hygiene and cleanliness within a military environment is documentable in detail and a critical, if sometimes overlooked, area of interpretation.
* I use living history to describe the re-creation of daily life. Re-enacting or enacting [the past] is, I think, better used for events of either military or date-place-and-time specific historical commemorations.