I’m heading back to Hong Kong on Monday, and I have a box of Homeward Bound copies that simply won’t fit in the overhead bin. So: I’m going to give away a number of copies to bloggers interested in reviewing or otherwise writing about the book. How to get a copy? Write a comment in the comments section, and I’ll pick some names at random.
Click here to watch. It’s right after the thrilling segment on Moon Shoes (of which I had a pair, circa 1989), at about 41:40. The short segment focuses mostly on stay-at-home-mom-dom (which is only a small portion of my book) and doesn’t get into any of my critiques, but, hey, it’s morning TV.
Also, for friends who fear they’ve been pronouncing my name wrong since you met me, it is indeed Mat-Char, not, as the narrator says “Mock-Tar” Though I’ve decided that MokTar is my new superhero name.
I dedicate a chapter in Homeward Bound to looking at the rise of the indie craft movement, and the new “artisan economy” of people starting micro businesses to sell things they hand-make at home – scarves, cupcakes, jewelry, etc. Part of this includes a hard look at Etsy, the online craft-selling platform. After attending craft conferences, talking with dozens of craft entrepreneurs (both successful and not), and interviewing economists and other experts, I concluded that the “very very small businesses” Etsy promotes are lucrative for a few, fun for many, but aren’t necessarily most viable way to achieve the work-life balance so many of us crave. And that’s fine. But people should be aware that the “quit your day job” dream sold by Etsy is likely to be just that – a dream.
Now, Etsy has written a response (rebuttal?) to Homeward Bound’s assessment. As Etsy’s communications director Juliet Gorman writes:
We think that by participating in this revitalized economy of small business owners, empowered women (and men) are creating a new, strong, and visible alternative. The communications revolution brought to us by blogging and social media has given individuals a bigger megaphone than ever. Luckily, political power today doesn’t only reside inside traditional institutions like corporate workplaces.
The piece is generating a fast and furious response over at Etsy. What are you thoughts?
The always-smart Annie Murphy Paul gives a fairly scathing review to Jennifer Margulis’s new book “The Business of Baby” in the New York Times this week. The book aims to root out what’s wrong with the American way of pregnancy and birth: too many C-sections, too many drugs, condescending OBs, a money-hungry medical system. I haven’t read the book, but its philosophy sounds familiar: an all-consuming love for what’s “natural” and a romanticization of a past that never quite existed. As Paul writes:
Margulis employs a simple heuristic in evaluating the practices and products associated with childbearing: anything used by mainstream doctors and hospitals = bad; anything used by midwives or alternative healers = good. (She also approves of anything used by Scandinavians; she spends many pages praising the health outcomes of women in Norway and Iceland, without delving deeply into the demographic and economic differences between America and such countries.) Her conviction that what is natural must be good leads her to romanticize not only other countries but also other eras: “In colonial times and during most of the 19th century, the majority of births in America took place at home,” she writes approvingly. “Birthing women were usually attended by informally trained midwives who passed on their skills from generation to generation” — while a birth taking place in a hospital today involves “at least half a dozen medical professionals.”
I write a lot in Homeward Bound about the culture of natural parenting (including the anti-vaccination movement), and where it comes from, so I’ll be interested to read the book. Given its Amazon ratings (20 5-star reviews, 2 1-star reviews) it seems quite polarizing, unsurprisingly. Anyone read it already?
image via brooklyn homesteader
In Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg writes about Homeward Bound, lifestyle bloggers and crafty hipsters:
It’s easy to mock the twee, hyperlocal, handmade aesthetic that dominates fashionable enclaves in places like Brooklyn and Portland, Oregon. But in her new book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, Emily Matchar makes a convincing argument that it actually represents a generational change in values born of a deep disaffection with the modern workplace, one with real implications for gender equality. Inasmuch as this new domesticity represents a desire to live more sustainably and authentically, it’s wholly laudable, if also a bit precious. But a return to home and hearth also has a way of reinforcing traditional gender roles, even if everyone involved says she’s only following her heart.
“The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic
“Matchar researches the trend of the “homemade, from scratch, DIY, straight from the backyard, fresh baked, [and] artisan” by visiting practitioners of the New Domesticity across the country—Etsy entrepreneurs, food bloggers, knitting circles—and she provocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker
“I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it.”– The Hairpin
“Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE
“A lively and perceptive reporter… [Matchar] offers a valuable and astute assessment of the factors that led to the current embracing of domesticity and the consequences of this movement.”—Publishers Weekly
“A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews
image via Oxford American
While we’re on the topic of over-romanticizing food and cooking, here’s a brilliant piece from Courtney Balestier in the Oxford American, on the pleasures and perils of our current foodie nostalgia:
Perhaps the appeal, to us twenty- and thirty-somethings going about life like it’s one long home-ec class, is that georgic chores like composting food scraps or butchering pigs are just beyond our memory’s reach, but not so far beyond it that we can’t imagine them. The distance makes them perfect focal points in our digitized pastoral—learning how to distill whiskey or pickle okra in a Mason jar is at once old-fashioned and modern, comforting and adventurous, nostalgic and novel. It feels familiar, even if we’ve never done it. (And it doesn’t hurt that these activities are tactile antidotes to the inevitable emptiness of ordering dinner online and liking status updates.) Besides, making mayonnaise sounds more fun when buying a jar of Hellmann’s remains an option. Culinary nostalgia, like any nostalgia, is borne of romance and distortion.
In Salon today, an excerpt from Homeward Bound, from the chapter titled “Cupcake Feminists, Hipster Jam Canners, and “Femivores”: The New DIY Food Culture.”
In this excerpt, I talk about the sudden rise of interest in stuff like jam-canning and chicken-keeping among young, educated people, look at the perils of foodie nostalgia (was food really better in our great great grandmother’s day?), and examine the sexist and classist assumptions of celebrated food writers like Michael Pollan and Michael Ruhlman:
In progressive, middle-class circles these days, there’s the overwhelming sense that procuring and cooking the freshest, healthiest, most sustainably sourced food should be a top priority for any thinking person.
Food choices have become important political acts, with deep moral and environmental consequences. As self-righteous and irritating as this attitude can sometimes feel, it’s still speaking to a very real and scary truth. With rising obesity rates, a destructive system of factory farming, and terror-inducing 24/7 news stories about antibiotics in chicken and E. coli in spinach, many people have come to feel that their own food choices are among the most meaningful life decisions they can make.
…Our country is clearly in a dire state when it comes to obesity and the environmental impact of factory farming, so the fact that more people care about food is terrific. But the kitchen’s always been a fraught place when it comes to gender and class, and the twenty-first century is shaping up to be no different. For some, the new cooking culture is incredibly empowering. Others are finding themselves tied up in apron strings all over again…
Let me know what you think!
Interesting read of the day: Noah Berlatsky’s defense of quitting your job in The Atlantic. Berlatsky, himself a grad school dropout turned writer, suggests that perhaps we need to stop talking about women leaving the workplace as a “failure,” and instead embrace everyone’s right to put family over work. As he writes:
I wonder whether women’s experiences of quitting—or, for that matter, my experiences of quitting—should be so thoroughly discounted as a retrograde return to “the expectations of the 1950s,” as Hewlett puts it. Lots of women have shown, pretty clearly, that if forced to choose between work and family, they’ll quit work. Rather than seeing that quitting as false consciousness or failure, maybe we could learn from it that work is not always more important than family, and that quitting, for women or for men, is not a sin.
I agree with a number of Berlatsky’s point, but I think this is a straw man argument: few people actually think quitting work is a “sin,” or that work should be more important than family. I think most people are just worried that women are quitting at higher rates than men, often because of sexist or family-unfriendly work policies. Whatever these policies are, we should root them out and fix them. Which is completely consistent with Berlatsky’s view that nobody should be called a failure for leaving their job.
What do you think? Has anyone left their job and felt like a failure, or been accused of being one?