Was anyone listening to the first item in Women’s Hour this morning (Tuesday July 9)? I happened to catch while making soup. It was a discussion about ‘angry women’ based around a novel called ‘The Woman Upstairs’ in which the protagonist declares that she has always been a ‘good’ girl – obedient, good student, good mother, good daughter – but she is seething inside because this has been at the expense of developing her own creativity. This brought to my mind a dilemma I frequently face myself. I once shocked Louis de Bernière by remarking that I couldn’t settling to writing until I had hoovered the bedroom carpet (this being shorthand for all the various domestic chores that require time). From his reaction, and that of other women in the group, you would think I had said I could not settle to write until I had drunk the fresh blood of an innocent child!
I once read an interview with a well-known comedienne and writer who maintained that she would never stoop to cleaning a floor or ironing a shirt, the implication being that such activities would demean her creative genius. I have read of women writers who shut themselves in their office, or the garden shed, at 9 a.m. with a notice on the door warning that anyone who disturbs them does so at their peril. How do they do this?
The question that comes to my mind is, if not me, then who? Do these other women simply allow the chaos to build up until they and all around them are wading through the detritus up to their knees? Or do they assume that someone else, someone less ‘creative’, will clear up after them? Of course, there is always the option of paying someone to do the work, and there are plenty of people out there who will be glad of the job. It is an option I have considered, but then I think of all the other things the money could pay for – my weekly riding lesson, visits to the theatre, the occasional meal out – and I decide to carry one doing it myself. That is my choice, and others will choose differently. What I object to is the hubris that implies that if you are ‘creative’ that places you in a category above domestic chores, and that those who undertake them belong to a lower order of being.