Hey Workers! Clean up My Mess!
Cleaning up messes is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? But just who has “gotta do it?” Who are these invisible workers? Have you ever looked at messes from a cleaner’s perspective? Perspective-taking is a critical part of developing a sociological imagination. In this post Sarah Nell argues that by learning to take the perspective of others, you can understand and appreciate them more as workers, citizens, and human beings.
Most likely, someone cleans the spaces you frequent: classrooms, dorm rooms, cafeterias, shopping malls, and so forth. But do you see them? Do you know who empties your trash and who mops the floor? Who replaces the toilet paper roll and who scrubs the toilets? Who changes the light bulbs and cleans up unexpected messes like vomit, broken glass, or spilled liquid? Depending upon where you live, this person is probably a racial minority and is also likely to be a woman. Do you know her name or anything about her? Have you ever thanked her or spoken to her? I ask you this because of something I observed recently while in Las Vegas for an ironically located sociology conference. Before you continue, I want you to take the perspective of others by imagining yourself as the workers in these stories.