Swiffer Theory

A guest entry by Carrie.

I feel I need to take the opportunity to share with you all a strange realization I had just this morning while assembling my new Swiffer Wet Jet, a “power mop” I asked my mate to purchase for me to ease the terrible burden of mopping 1500 sq. ft. of bare floor. I am fully willing to admit that this division of labor (me mopping the floor and Jon purchasing the mop for me) is gendered in the utmost of traditional ways. For some reason, which I prefer not to examine too closely, it feels better to me that I received this mop as a “gift” rather than purchasing it for myself. I think Jon’s purchase of the mop makes it seem to me that my mopping labour [editor’s note: she is already internalizing Canadian spellings!] is getting more recognition than I might otherwise perceive if I bought the damn thing. There’s a definite psychology to the gendered reality of domestic home engineering. Just to be clear: Jon vacuums all of the floors before I mop — the gendered division is a really a sub-division of various kinds of cleaning tasks. They still suck, though.

In any event, the gendered conditions of the mop’s purchase and use are not nearly as interesting as the creepy design of the device. After a mere ten minutes assembling the mop and gazing at it rather quizzically, I’ve decided that this device has distilled the fundamental technological tools of women’s reproductive systems and cycles into a plastic and aluminum “power mop.” Let me explain. The mop’s key feature is that it doesn’t require you to use a pail of soapy water: cleaning solution and everything are contained within the mop unit itself. It’s truly an all-in-one device. As I opened the package of thin, wafer-like papery mop heads that the mop user is supposed to just stick the grippy, rubbery strips on the mop head itself, I realized that these mop heads are simply enlarged sanitary napkins, also known as menstrual pads. For those of you reading this blog entry who are familiar with different brands of sanitary napkins, the material on the mop head that comes into contact with the floor is the same material that covers Always brand “dri-weave” menstrual pads. The back side of the mop pad uses that wispy, slightly adhesive feeling lighter plastic fiber material that often covers the back side, and/or sides, or older or off-brands of maxi-pad: that material that never quite sticks to the filling of the menstrual pad, and ends up being really uncomfortable and kind of shifty in the pants, or gets caught up in the folds of feminine flesh. The mop pad even has something resembling “wings,” but there’s nothing to stick them to. I don’t fully know how to explain my reaction to the realization that I was putting a menstrual pad-like mop head on my new mop, except that I have been marveling in the mop makers’ re-appropriation of the unique textile and fiber construction of menstrual pads and baby diapers.

The mop’s gendered re-construction of the female reproductive system doesn’t stop with its re-appropriation of the menstrual pad. It also re-purposes the design of the baby bottle, and in particular, the rubber nipple, in its design of the made-for-the-Swiffer-Wet-Jet cleaning solution bottles. The bottles attach directly to the mop, and are applied by sliding the bottle, with its flat rubber nipple cap, arrow side down into the sharp looking cleaning-bottle mop seat. The assembly directions detail in clear warning-label language not to put your bare hands into the parts where the bottle goes because of the device’s sharp, yet mostly hidden parts. I really don’t see anything that looks even remotely sharp on this part of the device. But like a young infant with newly emerged sharp little teeth, the Swiffer Wet Jet can bite your unsuspecting soft parts and draw blood. After I slide the bottle in upside down, the mop appears ready to go (I also had to add 4 AA batteries — this is a “power” mop).

What does this mop say about gender and reproduction, and the merging of domestic cleaning technologies and throw-away products like plastic menstrual pads and rubber nipples? What do I make of the fact that my mop sprays its precious cleaning fluid in a half-moon pattern onto the dirty floor? I feel a kind of familiar connection to this mop, because I’ve seen all of its parts before. At the moment, I simply marvel at the ways my Swiffer Wet Jet recycles menstrual pad technology and the old stand by, rubber nipples. We’ll have to see how it works.

Editor’s note: after mopping the dining room and kitchen floors, she said the mop “fucking rocks.”

5 replies on “Swiffer Theory”

  1. Hahahahaha! The best part about this is that I can totally see Carrie saying both, \”The still suck, though\” and \”fucking rocks.\” Wonderful!

  2. \”thin, wafer-like papery mopheads\” is the best phrase I have read all day, definitely. maybe it is the best phrase ever written. I have two swiffers, an extra big swiffer max and a regular one, and use both wet and dry heads, but don\’t have a power deal on it. I don\’t have that much wood floor, though I aspire to. the rest of the house makes do with the dyson vacuum cleaner, an appliance that needs a semiotic reading of its own. if I can get this damn book done it would be a good project. I have a brilliant friend who claims that the biore pore strip is just liike that vacuum in terms of the gratfiications it provides. zor, do you have any interest in writing on the biore pore strip? I think you should.

    LisaN

  3. I love my swiffer, too, although it does not effeciently remove cat barf from hardwood floors.

    Also, sanitary napkins make fantastic field bandages.

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