On International Women's Day, the Vatican's newspaper observed: "Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine."
Oh yes, they did. They have considered, they have weighed, and they have spoken. l'Osservatore Romano's article, "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax" runs through the history of washing - from washboard to laundromat - to show how far we've coming in breaking the laundry glass ceiling. We're not quite sure why the Vatican felt compelled to weigh in on the issue, and we're not exactly shocked that they don't feel like applauding birth control, but really? Not even the tampon?
Now, don't get us wrong: the washing machine was indeed a huge breakthrough for humankind. In the old days, laundry and housework did indeed make a woman a slave to the house, and mod cons like the washing machine revolutionized a housewife's work day. Take this vintage Whirlpool ad which Hortense mentioned this weekend: we may laugh, but to prior generations, liberation from the wash kettle was a real blessing. Of course, plenty of the women who could afford these early appliances were probably the same ones who a generation earlier would have had hired help, so the gains are not so straightforward as Whirlpool and the Vatican may imply; but yeah, it was A Good Thing. The Best Thing? Well...
We're sure l'Osservatore Romano considered the question of women's lib seriously, but we can't bow to a single authority: we never make any determination about feminism without consulting that authority on enlightened womanhood, the Daily Mail. That paper's contributors dispute that the washing machine was the most freeing thing to women in the history of the world. Rather, it's disposable diapers, wet wipes, freezers, and Chardonnay. (Hey! They forgot Manolos!_
We hate to flout a higher power, but we must: the washing machine, the most liberating invention in the history of the world? Please. The Vatican has made a serious error, and we can't let that stand. Whatever the washing machine's benefits to womankind, we think other factors have been more crucial in advancing us as a sex, bringing us liberation and equality, sexual freedom and physical health. In the last century, we've advanced in innumerable ways and fought against incredible obstacles. What has allowed that to happen? There is an answer. And the answer is obviously... the dishwasher.
Vatican Paper: Washing Machine Liberated Women Most [Reuters]
The Washing Machine 'Liberated Women' [Independent]
Revealed: The Six Inventions That Freed Women, From Disposable Nappies To Wet Wipes And Wine [Daily Mail]