Delights of the Second Shift
Recently I came across a small booklet in an antique bookshop in Budapest entitled Companions in the Second Shift (Domestic Machines). I was immediately drawn to the telling imagery on the cover of, mostly smiling, women posing with all kinds of domestic devices. With vibrantly coloured, typical sixties graphic design, the A-5 size guide appeared in 1968 in an edition of 100.000 as part of a manual series on domestic activities. Its 32 pages are exclusively addressed to women to promote the newest household technology to make their so-called second shift easier. The first shift was the designation of their everyday full-time job. The second shift started after arriving home when all sorts of new obligations awaited them.
From a contemporary perspective, this little household propaganda can be read as an outright feminist manifesto or rather, as just another example of the unequal social position of women. Although in those days it was common, and necessary, for women to have full-time jobs like men, women drew the short straw. However, in the confined universe of this publication, only autonomous women and their dissolving household machines exist. Not a word is mentioned of other human beings who could be part of it too. Presented as the most obvious thing in the world, women do all the domestic work themselves, even the tough ones, without any helping hand. Considering the time of appearance of this booklet when the concepts of society were principally built on traditional man-female relationships, this approach is rather remarkable.
However, at the end of the manual, it seems like the author comes to the rescue after all. Here one expects the partner in life, obviously the man, to be finally introduced as someone who would likely be around sometimes and who could easily take his part of the duties. But no, the final conclusion, based on scientific research by a certain professor Kaiser of the Berlin Humboldt University, reads as follows: „All the activities you normally do standing can also be done sitting. Try it yourself!”
This text was a contribution to Las Mitocondria-project by visual artist María Ángeles Vila and movement artist Alicia Herrero at the Cervantes Institute Budapest. Their joint project about Culture and the Household is a work in progress between genres, dealing with women’s issues such as the home, family emotions, motherhood and caring for each other across generations. An attempt to make visible the silenced, domestic, intimate spaces, through human and honest symbols, from the artist’s unique perspective, while not ignoring the social aspects of stereotypes of each generation, challenging them through art.
María Ángeles Vila, painter
Alicia Herrero Simón, choreographer
Adriána Lantos, art historian
Gabriella Zombory, translator
Laura Miklós, editor
Judit Szalipszki, curator
Claudia Küssel, curator
Alejandra Szeplaki, film director
Mercédesz Kutasy, philologist