Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “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                                                       "[P]rovocatively 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                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—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

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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My Washington Post piece on new domesticity

Julia Rothman for the Washington Post

I wrote a piece for the Washington Post’s Sunday Outlook section, on the pleasures and potential perils of new domesticity and DIY. It’s illustrated with the most beautiful picture by artist Julia Rothman (isn’t that gorgeous?!). You can read it online here.

15 comments to My Washington Post piece on new domesticity

  • HI there, I just found your blog while exploring the universe. First, let me say this: I’m sixty and do everything you describe. Not all of the “mothers” or baby boomers follow your mother’s example. I can, I knit, I sew, I quilt, I cook from scratch, I considered homeschooling my kid and wish I had. I also am college educated. While it may be true that some people are exploring this phase as a new thing (the same with frugal skills in general), many of is never left that place.

    I should also add as a feminist that the point of feminism is that we can do what we choose to do. I certainly donnt consider domesticity anti feminist, even for someone with a Master’s degree.

    • admin

      Agreed! I think these are skills useful for anyone to have (if they’re interested), and I hope we’re heading towards divorcing them from gender expectations entirely. And thanks for the generational perspective.

  • Heidi Bone

    Hi Emily. Loved your article on the WP! You are dead on when you say we choose this lifestyle because it is Our Choice. Or at least for me a choice that my husband (often gone for his job) and I can afford. A major facet, perhaps missing (?), from your study is how large portion of this group are homemaker moms who choose to Attachement Parent or are Cruchy Moms or Natural Moms. I’m getting at that “natural” or “what humans evolved to be” notion in your article… or getting back to our maternal/ primordial roots and breastfeeding, baby carrying and cosleeping. (Think Dr. Martha Sears or Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept) And again, it is a choice…one not conteplated or afforded by many people. But with these choices of “staying at home” many of us educated women (college degrees…careers left behind or persued from home) are enjoying this revival of “new domesticity” ESPECIALLY in conjunction with a village of other women locally or online. I look forward to keeping up with your blog and book. I did fb friend you…sorry…at first I thought it was a public page (just ignore if you wish) I am in NOVA.

  • Heidi Bone

    You may enjoy my friend’s blog…She is an example of someone enjoying the revival of domesticity here in NOVA

  • Your blog name, ‘new domesticity’, are you referring to being new to it yourself? Or in general that it is new to the world (you live in)? From my point of view, this reinvigoration of DIY when it comes to all things ‘essential to living’ (ie. domestic), has been happening for a few years now, at least! More so, as some readers have pointed out (here and the various spin-off in-response articles I’ve read), many didn’t ever stop doing it! Maybe because they are mostly not at a workplace blabbing about how cool they are for learning to knit, or blogging about the awesome jam they made on the weekend, you didn’t realise this isn’t ‘new’ for many, many people!

    “If history is any lesson, my just-for-fun jar of jam could turn into my daughter’s chore” OR maybe it could be your daughter, or son’s, preparation for life, for an uncertain global future… maybe they will be bloody lucky that you decided to release your own expectations of what ‘women’ do, and start making jam! It’s great that you are considering how what you do may affect your kids future, but of course, how you model your new behaviours & skills to them is what matters most. Why not just make it about what is important to you & stop worrying about why other people are doing it… oh, bum, then you wouldn’t have a topic for your book!

    Anyways, as they say, “You catch more flies with honey, than vinegar” so I hope you enjoy your new domesticity and encourage others to reskill, and value the simple pleasures in life!

    • admin

      I think you’re right, Dixiebelle, that the domestic DIY movement has been happening in earnest for a few years (and some people have never stopped doing this stuff, of course). That’s why it’s really important and interesting to consider why people are doing it and what are some of its possible implications (for women, for families, for everyone).

      Saying that people are “blabbing about how cool they are for learning to knit” strikes me as a nasty way to describe people who are embracing this stuff, and suggesting that I should just mind my own business and not think/write about why this whole phenomenon might be happening seems unfair too. It’s a topic so many people are interested in, I think it deserves plenty of thoughtful analysis (not just by me, but by all the other people that are writing about this stuff too, yourself included).


  • Oh, by the way, here is a great blog & forum for you to read: http://down—to— Down to Earth, who also has a regular column in a major ‘women’s’ magazine here in Australia now. She is encouraging women to embrace their ‘housewifeness’ and there are plenty happily doing so… without dramas or concerns for feminism!

  • I wasn’t being nasty, I know the people who are at workplaces ‘blabbing’ about their jam and knitting, who are only doing it because they think it is trendy, or they saw it some glossy cookbook magazine! The real people who are doing this & have been doing it, well, they are at home working their butts off, and though some might work as well (and many do blog about it!) in my experience, they don’t make a lot of noise about it… so maybe that is why you are labelling this a ‘new domesticity’, when it’s not new at all. Maybe you can explain the difference to me, please, between what many people have been doing all these years (domestic needs didn’t stop because of industrial revolution/ technological progess/ feminist movements etc. Changed, yes, but didn’t stop… someone’s been doing it all this time!) and how now that a different group/ generation of people have started doing it too, that what the second group are doing is somehow ‘new’? I wonder that by creating/ using such labels, that is what might lead to division, and the issues your WP article was about? Maybe it is just my (mis)interpretation, and no one else cares that much about it! Maybe you have a ‘What is the ‘new’ domesticity?’ section on this blog somewhere that I missed?

  • Mimi

    You touch on some good points but, if you spent more time checking out blogs, you would see that there is a real mix of ages here. And that, I love. Yes, my now 92 year old mother didn’t like cooking (at all) but she started painting in her 60s and won several awards. I learned how to sew, knit, cook from her mother (my grandmother) But, after having 4 kids in less than 6 years my creative life dried up. So, now in my 50s, I am back at it. I like your writing style but, it is a little narrow. Please take the time (I know it is hard to find time) to see the bigger picture. You are headed in the right direction.

    • admin

      Hi Mimi – Thanks for the comment. You’re totally right, there are people of all ages doing this stuff. What interests me particularly is how much this stuff has increased among a younger demographic who have not been traditionally as interested in crafts/gardening/canning, etc, but seem to now be driving the so-called “re-skilling” movement to learn stuff that their grandmothers or great-grandmothers knew.

  • I’m unsure why you think that this is actually “new” to this so called younger demographic. I think one of the posters above made an excellent point. Yes, some people are embracing this stuff with a “look at what I did last weekend philosophy”. in fact however, many young people have always done this stuff. first, because they were taught by parens like me (of whom, I expect were in the majority-as opposed to your experience with your mom). I have thirty year old professional children. Everyone of them, and of the people they know, are involved with domestic and diy taks all the time. They may not talk about it, they may not blog about it. But I dont see it as reskilling. I made cookies, my kids make cookies, their kids will probably make cookies.

    While I am enjoying this blog now that I have found it, I would suggest that you need to widen your perspective, and frankly, get rid of some preconceptions about who does what and why-and where they learned it from.

    • admin

      Hi Barb – you’re right, some people (of all ages) have always done this stuff, which I’m totally not trying to diminish. But there’s been a major, well-documented resurgence of interest in DIY home skills, from crafting to home-cooking (just look at the ever-growing food movement) to canning to raising urban chickens over the past decade, and it’s that resurgence that interests me. Why has the popularity of this stuff grown so much, even among people who did not learn it from their moms and grandmas? That’s the question I’m hoping to answer – am trying my best not to have preconceptions but to ask people themselves :)

  • I really like that you are bringing up these issues as a crafter/food-DIYer with a critical bent I’ve thought of what my interest in so-called retro homemaking might mean/represent. One thing I think is missing from the debate though is pretty big: what about the fact that men enjoy these things? You can’t ignore the plethora of men DIYers both in and outside of the blogosphere, where they are often setting trends (serious eats being a massive blog and DIY food empire run by a male editor)

    • Emily

      Totally. That’s definitely a huge question of mine – to what extent are traditional domestic activities still gendered? I think they still are, but it’s changing quickly – though not always in the expected ways. Someone recently told me she thinks that men are more likely to do crafty/DIY stuff on more of a hobby level, whereas those who are taking it on as a lifestyle choice (ie, “simple living,” “radical homemaking,” etc.) are more likely to be women. I don’t have any statistics on that, but it seems plausible. If it is true, I suspect it has to do with the fact that men are still more likely to work full-time than women.