Friday, March 18, 2011

The wig

I love this idea of la perruque, from Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life:
La perruque is the worker’s own work disguised as work for his employer. It differs from pilfering in that nothing of material value is stolen. It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. La perruque may be as simple a matter as a secretary’s writing a love letter on ‘company time’ or as complex as a cabinetmaker’s ‘borrowing’ a lathe to make a piece of furniture for his living room. (25)
The book is wonderful, too, and I’m glad to have read it. I learned a lot. But I copied this passage out over a week ago to share with you and something's been making this post really hard to write. At first, I thought it was so exciting an idea: the notion of this kind of mild pilfering we all do at work. Then, too, since the advent of the internet, how much more must go on. Everyone I know pops onto a blog or facebook for fun at work. And I thought, too, of Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper, whose entire conceit is une perruque: the speaker, Pompey, is writing a novel on yellow paper so as not to confuse it with the white and blue paper she uses, in the same typewriter, for her secretarial work.

But, I must say, that quotation is bugging me. Something as small as a love letter or as big as a manly piece of furniture. Really? De Certeau is actually better on gender issues than most of these high flown theorists, but I get bored of pointing out all the unconscious hierarchies being perpetuated all the time everywhere.

Being a feminist is a full-time contact sport, people.

The need to call out all these theorists, all the time, saying “good idea, but you really haven’t thought through the implications for women…” makes me long to write a book that is, from its conception through its execution, feminist to the core.

No comments: