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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“Her life is so much prettier than mine:” The pleasures and pitfalls of lifestyle blogs

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Lifestyle blogs – personal blogs showcasing the home, fashion and personal style of the blogger – are a big part of what’s spread the aesthetic of New Domesticity. Sure, even without the internet, some people would be interested in stuff like jam canning, knitting and chicken-keeping, but blogs have helped turn these things from fringe movements into major social trends.

I’m fascinated by these kinds of lifestyle blogs, since they really blur the line between the obviously professional (like Martha Stewart Living) and the clearly amateur and personal (like hanging out in your best friend’s living room). This is both appealing and confusing, as I told Bitch Magazine writer Holly Hilgenberg, who has just come out with a thoughtful piece on the pleasures and pitfalls of lifestyle blogs.

She writes:

“This tension between authenticity and aspiration may be at the heart of why lifestyle blogs don’t just inspire readers, they also tend to bum them out. Matchar, for instance, says she has talked to many women who, upon becoming immersed in the world of lifestyle blogging, have had negative reactions. “[Reading these blogs] creates a constant comparison…it’s easy to get caught up in ‘their life is so much better than mine,’” she says.”

Hilgenberg wonders if lifestyle blogs are helping promote a new, possibly unreasonable standard of domesticity for women:

“One may get the impression that the Stepford Wives have swapped their pastel sun hats and starched blouses for sewing-machine tattoos and Rachel Comey shoes. The pastels; soft-focus and color-saturated photo filters; optimistic, sunny tone; and tendency to address readers as “sweeties,” “darlings,” and other diminutives characterize many of the most visible lifestyle blogs. Coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife.”

Hilgenberg also has some interesting thoughts on race and social class in lifestyle blogs. The piece definitely skews negative – fans of lifestyle blogs may want to jump to their defense. If you get a chance, check it out, and let me know what you think!

4 comments to “Her life is so much prettier than mine:” The pleasures and pitfalls of lifestyle blogs

  • I have a love hate relationship with lifestyle blogs. I love reading them, and I am constantly amazed by how happy go lucky they all seem, how perfect their apartments are, how adorable their children seem to be, and how they can spend hours on a craft project. However, as soon I find myself getting jealous and starting to compare, I try to stop myself because 1) while I would love to have a super fashionable wardrobe and great apartment, I don’t really want to spend hours on a craft project, nor do I want to take the time to learn how to use a sewing machine. My interests lie elsewhere, 2) it’s not real life. What we see if just a glimpse of what they want us to see, and people are generally going to try and make themselves seem as awesome as possible. It’s not really real, and 3) I prefer wine to hot chocolate any day. I’d rather go to happy hour than bake a cake.

    That said, I do find that green eyed devil rearing it’s head when I realize that people are making their living playing with yarn in a park. It seems a lot more carefree than how I spend my Monday-Friday.

  • [...] article, (The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Lifestyle Blogs) discusses this very thing. Some blogs are fun to look at, just take the explosion of Pinterest. [...]

  • I think this is why I’m having such a hard time really getting into Pinterest. First, I don’t need another thing to do online. Second, I’d rather spend any extra time I do have actually working on my non-computer life rather than admiring other people’s, one pin at a time.

    Thanks for yet another great post, Emily!

  • I’ve been trying to get into more realistic blogging–something like…I hate doing laundry or I got locked out of the apartment yesterday, so the kids and I took a bike ride in the rain even though I really had to pee. But, its just not all that exciting to read about. If my blog were more like that, it would be like the mom-blog reality show. And I despise reality shows (except The Voice, I like that one…Adam is yummy) in a visceral sort of way. So, my blog often ends up a sort of Pagan Good Housekeeping (with kids), and I don’t really care for that either.

    I call it the Cosby effect. Do you remember The Cosby Show? The awesome family that none of us could ever live up to? I like to think of the Cosby show as that sort of standard you strive for. Sure, it might make you feel bad that you can’t reach it…but its better than Jerry Springer’s daily reminder of “at least I’m not *that* bad,” lowering our expectations of ourselves.

    Or maybe I’m over-thinking this. I think its a tricky balancing act…and I’m on a see-saw!