Sunday, November 3, 2013

America's Stigmatized Clothesline

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ON THE ROAD IN GDANSK, POLAND -- Drying your clothes outside on a line is stigmatized in America. Why? Because it means you're poor. Well, unless you have the luxury of a sun-light-filled, fenced-in backyard (where no one can see you doing the 'deed'). Apartment complexes, including those that are affordable as well as those that are for a more high-end clientele, routinely have lease rules not allowing clotheslines on balconies. Town home associations frequently have similar ones -- "not in your tiny front yard please". A survey recently conducted by Outlier found that drying your clothes outside is extremely unpopular in America. Outlier is an organization that tracks trends on how people utilize available energy sources at home. Sun light and warm weather are such sources. But when it comes to drying clothes, 85 percent of U.S. households own and prefer their electric dryer. In contrast, Brits and Europeans find clotheslines cost-effective and popular.  According to the Outlier survey, only 57 percent of Brits own electric dryers and the percentage in Europe is even lower at 50. I passed many apartment complexes like the one above around Europe. America, what's your problem with clotheslines? I wish award-winning Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was still around to write an addition to America about this perplexing and embarrassing trend.

Deirdre Oakley is the Editor of Social Shutter and an Associate Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University. She can be contacted at

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