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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“1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic”

I’ve written before about how the “domestic internet” – lifestyle blogs, Pinterest, parenting sites, Facebook – gives us a historically unprecedented peek into other people’s home lives. And, as we all know, this peek can create all kinds of ugly self-comparison.

Lately, women are beginning to talk about the psychological effects of spending hours a week staring into someone else’s heavily curated Blog Life. For example, I’ve noticed this Power of Moms essay floating around on my Facebook news feed lately, via some of my friends with young kids.

In the essay, the writer decides to go on Pinterest for the first time. Big mistake.

There it was–1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic…I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches look like ice cream. I don’t even have seasonal throw pillows on my couches or live plants anywhere in the house. Is it really so hard? Can’t I pull myself together and wrap some candles in green foliage and bring happiness to our decor with bright fabrics and hand-crafted photo frames?

I’m sure some of you can relate to the feeling. Personally, I don’t give a damn about my lack of throw pillows and hand-crafted photo frames. But I do occasionally go into self-hate spirals looking at food and fashion blogs, especially given the fact that I spend most of my time on my couch, alone with my laptop, wearing cut-off sweatpants and eating Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered almonds. Why aren’t I headed to a themed potluck with a rustic apple tart in hand? Why can’t I make my stupid hair look cute in a “messy ballerina bun”? If I could, would I be happier? These bloggers sure look happy!

We all know, of course, that bloggers are usually only showing the pretty sides of their lives. That’s what lifestyle blogging is about. So why is this self-comparison so irresistible?

Jezebel, in a classic post on the dangerous allure of lifestyle blogs, explains it perfectly:

Because, whereas Martha [Stewart] and her ilk may have preached a gospel of aspiration, this world is all about attainability. All these folks are young, on a budget, and, presumably, have day-jobs — or at least have the motivation to busy themselves with the less-glamorous end of their creative jobs (like uploading stuff, and bookkeeping) some of the time. Theoretically, you could do all this — you, too, could (and should) be living a beautiful life. But most of us are simply not skillful enough, or committed enough to beauty or, as I always end up morosely chastising myself, pure enough of heart to attain it — let alone make it look so good online. Some of us have to watch SVU reruns instead.

Well said! Substitute “SVU reruns”  for “Kitchen Nightmares,” and you’ve basically got my life.

3 comments to “1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic”

  • I think there is a natural inclination to show our best side, and the internet makes it easier since you can’t see the big picture. Its like cleaning for company, but when you only need to clean a 2 foot area of your desk or the countertop, you can make it a whole helluva lot prettier.

    I think in a way, blogging is just as much (or more) escapism for the BLOGGER. Its a way to say “Look! I’ve got it together! See how awesome I am?!? Just do what I do and you can be that way too” (or crafty, or chef-like, or alternative, or thifty or whatever). Its self-validation…like, “look…my hobby *isn’t* a waste of time and money” or “its okay that I ignored the kids for two hours and plunked them in front of Netflix to bust out this recipe and then took 100 pictures of them licking the spoon so it looked like they helped” because “I get xxx hits a day”.

    I’m ok with admitting that I can go weeks without a blog post because I don’t want to put that much into it, or that sometimes a blog post takes me weeks to do because I’d rather take my kids to the beach, or that if my house was actually maintained in spotless efficiency, I’d never write a blog post *or* play with my kids at the beach. I’ve been working on the blog honesty thing–sometimes my life flat out sucks, and I’m not ashamed of it. Most of the time we are broke, sometimes the car gets a flat, occasionally my neighbor is a jerk, and last night no one bothered to put the leftovers in the fridge (again). But…too much of that, and who the heck wants to read it? I mean, if I detailed all the suckitude, I wouldn’t even want to write it!

  • I’d read your suckitude, thalassa, ‘cuz all that Pollyanna crap makes me feel, well, like crap. There’s a really great TED talk by Sherry Turkle where she discusses how the ‘net is causing us to relate differently to ourselves and each other in some not so healthy ways. Me thinks the Pretty Facade Blogging has more to do with self-identity than hits. But I’m also an old, cynical crabass.

    I followed Emily’s various links and found the world of Mormon mommy blogs. Oh my. Um, oh my. I should probably get back to work.

  • [...] topic has come up again at New Domesticity about the “dangerous allure of lifestyle blogs” and how bloggers prettify their life [...]