Ways of Washing

Gender roles

This work by Olga Olivera looks at ways of washing, although they are actually studies on hygiene and the care we give to our own bodies, which in turn involves much more complex actions and procedures on a social level – actions which must be deconstructed. The social hygiene movement of the 19th century, modeled after the paradigms of purported scientific credibility, linked hygiene with morals. This model promoted not only bodily hygiene, but a single model of acceptable behavior as well. A hygienic life emphasized the acceptance of the model of a religious, white, heterosexual and monogamous family, with sexuality existing for reproductive purposes only, and where any deviation from this norm was considered unclean. Under the umbrella of these ideologies, which were socially accepted by a large part of society and which have continued to a certain extent to the present day, a social model was constructed based on social exclusion. The concept of hygiene was used to justify a single family model -the heterosexual family-, social classes and hierarchy. This became a visible and distinguishing characteristic that discriminated working individuals from the unemployed, and natives from foreigners. Under the auspices of hygiene, the movement also justified certain racist behavior by associating brown or black with bodily uncleanliness.