Hung out to dry

It’s too easy to itemize the obstacles to living more sustainably as problems of technology, or of the economy, when often they are problems of culture. There exists a deep seated reservoir of suspicion, fear, distaste, and often outright hostility to habits and ways of life other than “ours”—however we define “ours”—that constitutes a much more formidable barrier to change than we would like to admit.

In what was otherwise a lighthearted look at the close of the Virginia General Assembly’s recent session and its quirky bits of failed legislation, a short piece in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/02/28/AR2009022801802.html included the following exchange:

“This year, there were echoes -- distant perhaps -- of Webster vs. Clay as delegates debated clotheslines. The energy-saving bill, sponsored by Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax), would have prevented rule-happy homeowner associations from banning clotheslines. Taking aim at the bill as if wielding a rug-beater, Del. Robert D. "Bobby" Orrock Sr. (R-Caroline) said Northern Virginians might regret seeing clotheslines strung from ‘tree to tree to tree.’

“‘Go ahead and pass this, and then when your folks come screaming that this looks like a West Virginia subdivision,’ Orrock began, but boos cut him off. Then Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) rose in the bill's defense. ‘This is a bill about freedom!’ Sickles said. ‘The freedom to dry your clothes outside.’”

Alright, giggle if you must but we label an issue silly at our peril. Volcano monitoring, anyone? What strikes me, an admitted and unrepentant line-drying scoff-law, is the raw classist swipe: “a West Virginia subdivision.” I’m as guilty of going for the cheap quip as much as the next guy…alright, more…but this one really strikes at the profound cultural biases that prevent not just living more sustainably, but heck , more frugally and pragmatically.

Think about other examples: “other” people ride the bus, sit outside on their front stoops in the heat, mend their clothes… hang their laundry out to dry. They live across the tracks, across the river, in the next county…in West Virginia.

Since I live in the District my congratulations to State Senator Linda Puller has little meaning to her. I’m not among her constituents, but if I were I would send her a basket of fine wooden clothespins and offer my support. I regularly flout my condo association’s boiler plate prohibition---yes, I do, I admit it! –against line-drying, or as SB 1065 so obliquely puts it employing a “wind energy drying device.” I do think that’s a misnomer. My “device,” and all such lines, is a passive solar/wind hybrid tension-assisted fabric support system. There, now doesn’t that sound sophisticated? So much more palatable than a low-prole “clothesline.”

Yes, it’s my little act of civil disobedience, and it makes doing laundry so much more exciting. So, fight for your own right to dry. Check out the legislation itself on the Virginia Assembly website


Covenants regarding wind energy drying devices. Provides that effective July 1, 2009, no community association shall prohibit an owner from installing or using a wind energy drying device on that owner's property. The bill provides that a community association may establish reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, time and manner of placement of such wind energy drying device."

If that’s not enough for you: http://www.laundrylist.org/index.php/advocacy/76-the-right-to-dry-campaign


anne said...

Remember how great the line-dried clothes would smell. Another reason to be pro-line drying!

Susan said...

Yes! And how lovely they look in the breeze!