According to the documentary, Drying for Freedom, clothesline bans affect 50 million households, requiring people to buy electric clothes dryers or hang their clothes inside their home. Electric clothes dryers, however, are among the most energy-greedy appliances in the home, accounting for between six and fifteen percent of home energy use. Laundry activists, a group encouraging the use of clotheslines and fighting their prohibition, argue that the bans are killing the environment and interfering with personal freedom. Yet many homeowners associations insist that they are “…an eyesore, not unlike storing junk cars in driveways, and a marker of poverty that lowers property values” (NYTimes).
Homeowners associations require many things intended to increase the “curb appeal” and property value of homes. Many of these things specifically function to make the home and yard appear decorative instead of functional. Rules prohibit visible vegetable gardens, parking cars in the driveway overnight, allowing your cat outside (lest they poop), and failing to clean oil stains left by leaky vehicles. They turn driveways, curbs, front yards, and porches into communal space designed to advertise the luxury of having non-functional spaces. They say “this is a lovely neighborhood where we can afford to curate flowers instead of vegetables and preserve pristine concrete by taking our cars to Jiffy Lube.”
All of this supposedly protects home values by preserving the notion that the neighborhood includes only middle- and upper-class people who can afford to avoid (dirty) work by consuming services. Not being able to afford to dry your clothes electrically apparently appears, well, trashy.
Drying for Freedom is trying to interrupt this narrative. They are suggesting that using clotheslines is good global citizenship and, thus, a sign of responsible living, not poverty. In other words, they are hoping to re-frame the clothesline.
Thanks to my Mom, Kay W., for forwarding a link to this documentary!