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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What to Say About Wives With Beehives?

Dollie with her hubby

So I’m in the middle of a lovely winter vacation, lying in bed in an Atlanta hotel room eating Oreos, when this comes on TLC:

Wives With Beehives.

And here’s what I have to say: WTF?

While lots of women these days are embracing the aesthetics of 1950s domesticity – retro hairdos, A-line dresses, frilly aprons, homemade cupcakes – the four women on this show are also actually trying to live the values of the 1950s: feminine subservience, focusing 100% on family, letting “men be men.” As Anna Breslaw at Jezebel snarks, “there’s no mention in the clips or interviews as to whether any of these women are on birth control or insist on getting paid 60 cents to every man’s dollar or what.”

Seriously.

Apparently this is some kind of subculture in Southern California, though I’d certainly never heard about it. And, not to brag, but I’m kind of an expert on obscure retro-feminine subcultures. I mean, I read upwards of 100 blogs a week, so… ;)

The women I know who are super into New Domesticity would certainly not be into the idea of reviving 1950s gender values. But the New Domesticity movement and Wives With Beehives do have this in common: a dislike for certain aspects of the modern world, and an interest into bringing back certain aspects of the past. For lots of New Domesticity types, this means eschewing processed foods in favor of cooking from scratch like your grandma used to do, or raising kids with “ancient” techniques like babywearing or co-sleeping rather than fancy cribs and strollers, or turning off the internet and relaxing with some knitting or crafting. For the Wives With Beehives, this means going whole-hog for retro sex roles, old-fashioned outfits right down to the tea gloves and pillbox hats, and authentic vintage kitchens complete with lack of dishwashers.

“The modern world looks confusing, scary, and kind of ugly,” says Dollie, a 24-year-old “wife,” explaining why she wants to be “the perfect 1950s housewife.”

Have you seen this? Thoughts? Has anyone heard of this phenomenon before the TLC show?

5 comments to What to Say About Wives With Beehives?

  • She seems pretty upset about the representation on her blog… (I haven’t seen it, but am kind of dying to now. Sounds spectacularly awful.).

    http://missdolliedeville.blogspot.com/2012/12/follow-up-to-wives-with-beehives.html

    • Emily

      Oh, interesting! Reading this, it seems like she was more upset about the general fakeness of the filming process than being misrepresented as a submissive wife. I wonder if she’s gonna get in trouble for breaking some kind of TLC silence clause?!

      • Yep, she was definitely more upset about being portrayed as “mean.” I don’t think she had any issues with being portrayed as submissive.

  • Oh, girl, I can talk to you about this subject for days! I actually had a discussion with my husband along with a few friends via Facebook about this. Here’s what I have to say:

    While I enjoy the vintage life and style as much as the next gal, these women over-romanticize the 1950s and make themselves seem ignorant to how life truly was at the time.

    It also irritated me when one of the women on the show said that she found the modern world to be “confusing and scary.” What the f*ck? (Is cursing allowed here, by the way? Lol). I mean, she’s an A-D-U-L-T, not a child. Chances are, she was also born in the 1980s, not the 1890s, so what is there about the modern world to be confused about or scared of?

    The show is kind of a rip-off of a UK show from a few years ago, called “The Time Warped Wives.” I found that one to be so much more endearing, and the women featured on that show (along with their husbands) were definitely more endearing and came across as more educated.

    The UK’s version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOC_vsKy9O4

    • Emily

      Ohhh, I’m gonna have to check this out! I am totally a snob about thinking UK versions of things are better than American remakes, even reality shows (see, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding)!