Judging Dirt!!! by ‘Toyosi Tokun

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While reading the article “Symbolic Boundaries” by Judith Okely, I imagined walking into a restaurant and sighting a Gypsy family eating with their hands instead of using the cutlery provided. I am certain I will have a look of disgust on my face and wonder why some people have to be so “dirty”! Interestingly, members of the family I just described as dirty are eating with their bare hands because they are desperately trying to avoid the “dirty” cutlery.

I realise that working on Dirtpol would require that I strip myself completely of whatever notions of dirt I have, and that can be quite a task!

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Posted in Health, Opinion, Research Methods
2 comments on “Judging Dirt!!! by ‘Toyosi Tokun
  1. dirtpol says:

    Yes, it’s funny isn’t it – to think that we do something that we are conditioned to think is clean and perfectly acceptable but others will think completely the opposite.

    Slightly silly example — here in the toilets in the UK we just have toilet paper. Whilst at uni I lived with an Indian chap once who thought this was absolutely abhorrent and would only use the toilet when he had time to shower afterwards. Judging by *our* UK standards, we would probably think he had some sort of problem with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but he thought we were vile that we just used paper. I can kinda see his point!

    Also, I have some friends who have just moved over from Egypt. Over there, toilets are rarely stocked with toilet paper but they all have little hoses or water spouts built into the toilet. Our UK toilets don’t have this. I took my friend’s five year old to the toilet and he was horrified that I couldn’t use water to wipe his bum after he’d been… He cried when I just used toilet paper and he said he wasn’t clean and coudn’t get up. We compromised by me getting a bit of toilet paper wet and using that.

    Sorry for the toilet-related examples, but I think it shows how ideas of cleanliness are both figuratively and literally built into our society – right down to the construction of toilets.

    Actually, I have other silly examples of this too! It is just interesting how whenever you use the term “dirt” it’s interesting to take a step back from it and see if it is “really” dirty, or just something you have been culturally conditioned to perceive as dirt. My sister is a psychologist and she does a lot of work with people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and lots of these people really, really worry about dirt. One of the way they treat them is by exposure therapy, so if somebody sees public toilets as being very dirty, the therapy involves going to stand near one, then on the next session stand in one, then in the next session touch the wall in one and so on. As part of my sister’s training to do this kind of work she was involved in lots of workshops and in one, she had to take her shoe off and touch the bottom of it with her tongue. EEEEEUUUUUURGH! She had to do it to show that really we are just quite obsessed with how much dirt there *might* be versus how much dirt there actually is and whether that dirt will have any significant consequence.

    Anyway… Steph had a MUCH more sensible response to this comment by ‘Toyosi concerning colonialism & eating “standards” so I will let her contribute….!

  2. toyositokun says:

    Very interesting examples Claire. It would be nice to read and hear more.

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