Putting your hand in the garbage disposal

No, it’s not the setup for a horror movie–you do make sure the disposal is OFF before putting your hand in. What I’m referring to is the necessity, for health and smell prevention, to stick one’s hand with a scrubbie and some BonAmi down inside the garbage disposal, to clean its innards, down to the inner drain, of the gunk and muck which accumulates as the machine does its work.

There’s something masculine about thinking about the innards of garbage disposals, culturally, and I just noticed the inverse polarity in commenting on the high tech dusting cloths that a friend just sent my wife, since dusting is not something it’s ever occurred to me to do…once every few years, lately, when cleaning an obscure corner of my room, I must wipe down a window ledge. But “dusting” just to dust, as part of a cleaning routine, is not in my consciousness.

Of course,  this is at least as much a class as a sex role phenomenon. I grew up in a home with a hired, sometimes live-in, housekeeper, so cleaning was not on my radar at all as a child. And there is the issue of health. My wife, as an allergy sufferer, cares about cleanliness on a level that I do not get viscerally, as she experiences it.

Still, I do think it helps us appreciate something about our sex role conditioning to notice these kinds of complementarities and point them out…


Fred is a Teaching Artist, an arts integration advocate & a social justice activist. He is near completing a two-month Residency as String Game Performance Teacher at Calabasas Elementary School in Watsonville, CA, and performed at the 2015 Santa Cruz Storytelling Festival. He also serves as Teacher Consultant for Professional Development with UCSC's Central California Writing Project and as their Technology Liaison to the National Writing Project. He is a Connected Learning Facilitator and coordinates Face To Face Drop Ins on Connected Learning biweekly at Arts Council Santa Cruz County. He teaches self-directed & connected learning via real-world projects & string games through his Original Digital Project, an Associate of the Arts Council.

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