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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Things I’m Afraid to Tell You: lifestyle blogs and domestic perfection

One of the things that made 1950s womanhood so oppressive was the cultural decree that everything had to look perfect to outsiders. If your house was a mess, you couldn’t have people over. If you got breast cancer, you couldn’t talk about it. If you got pregnant out of wedlock, you had a shotgun wedding or “went to visit Aunt Rita in Des Moines.”

Though feminism and the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s made it more acceptable to talk about your true self, women are still in thrall to the idea that “everything must be perfect.”

Strangely, the internet has had a paradoxical effect on this culture of perfection. On the one hand, it made confession all the rage. Women could talk openly about their infertility, their sex lives, their occasional hatred of their children. One the other hand, it created a massive cult of domestic perfection where lifestyle bloggers carefully posed and edited their “real lives” for public consumption. Their houses are more beautiful than yours, their outfits cuter, their husbands handsomer and more adoring, their children better behaved.

Lately, bloggers have been striking back against this cult of domesticity. Some prominent bloggers have been writing weekly “honesty posts” to show that their lives aren’t all roses (in Mason jars). If a blogger normally writes about her picture-perfect baking projects, she’ll show a fallen cake or a sink full of dirty dishes. If she normally writes about homeschooling her adorable blond children, she’ll post a picture of her toddler having a temper tantrum. These posts are meant to counteract the sense of competition and inadequacy many lifestyle bloggers and blog readers feel. The internet has given us an unprecedented peak into strangers’ carefully edited home lives, and this has raised the stakes on all of us (as I wrote about last week).

Recently, Creature Comforts blogger EZ Pudewa launched a Things I’m Afraid to Tell You blogger challenge, which has been taken up by dozens and dozens of lifestyle bloggers. The results demonstrate how deeply the internet culture of domestic perfection has affected women. Typical topics include jealousy towards bloggers who have prettier houses, self-hate over dirty kitchens, feelings of guilt over being a bad Twitter-er or spending too much money at Anthropologie.

But many respondents have much more profound secrets. Anxiety and depression. Divorce. A heretofore unspoken attraction to women. And this makes me especially glad we’re not living in the 1950s.


1 comment to Things I’m Afraid to Tell You: lifestyle blogs and domestic perfection

  • I recently wrote about this (just this morning in fact) in one of my full of random posts (I usually do one a week or so)–I think perhaps there is something about blogging that automatically sends a sense of “perfection” just in the finished product. I phrased it as “look(ing) like I just whipped it out of my arse with sparkles and roses”, instead of the three to four hours that it takes me just to crank thru a post (between laundry, child herding and wrangling, doing dishes, cooking, doing laundry, homeschooling lessons, etc). And that’s pretty much just for a fluff piece, if I’m doing something that requires research and such, it can take me weeks–I have what is basically a file full of half written posts that I add to gradually and eventually publish.

    I’m not sure, Emily, if you’ve ever looked at the homeschooling blogs…but 95% of the ones I see have the same perfection vibe to them. Seeing as we are currently homeschooling ourselves, I have to wonder how much of that is “real” versus “idealized”. Because a “real” day of homeschooling for us, with the age that my kids are, is mostly playing outside interspersed with 3 or 4 15 minute (math and reading) lessons in the morning and playing inside interspersed with 2 or 3 “storytimes” (history and science) in the afternoon. some of the projects that homeschoolers use *look* cool, but aren’t worth the time it takes to put them together, IMO (like lapbooks), for the amount of attention that actually gets paid to them (to me, lapbooks are one of those things you have older kids do as a project to learn about a topic).