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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Did feminism kill home cooking?

Is Betty Friedan to blame for the downfall of the family dinner and the rise of obesity? Michael Pollan thinks so. But not me. Up at The Atlantic, my essay on why feminism did not kill home cooking.

7 comments to Did feminism kill home cooking?

  • Ruben

    That is a great article Emily. I particularly liked the connections you drew in with obesity research.

    “The Feminine Mystique is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Let’s celebrate it, not as the book that taught women to hate cooking, but as a book that helped give women choices beyond the stove.”

    For many reasons, I think we are a time of contraction, a time of descent. The expansive civilization of agriculture, transportation, architecture and infrastructure we built on seemingly infinite energy is already shrinking. One of my greatest fears is that in that contraction we will lose many patterns that could be very useful during the contraction. Along with feminism; anti-racism and many forms of science, especially around sanitation. So, I am right with your conclusion and am really worried women will be hustled back, not just into the kitchen, but into general disrespect.

    And yet, I think we broke something (by we I do not mean feminists, as I am not a woman, nor as old as the feminists blamed in this discussion). I think we have a serious contraction problem all around us that will require new ways of living. I agree that local food and a robust culture of food can help in lots of ways.

    I once billeted with a family in Quebec, and one of the first things the father told me is that food was very important to Quebecers. He said Quebecers would buy groceries before they would pay the rent. So, a culture of food is not just the fantasy peddled by cookbook authors. It can be a real thing, and it can have real impact on the environment, just as other traditional ways (like grazing commons) can be important cultural tools for managing how we live in this world.

    So, when I read this quote:

    “I am not into canning and I don’t have chickens and most of my food comes from Trader Joe’s already cooked. But I have a vigorous inner life and I’ve maintained my involvement in the culture and in intellectualism . . . But nobody sees that as noble. The noble thing is to cook your food from stuff you’ve grown yourself, not to cook your food from Trader Joe’s so you can work on another article.”

    I have to wonder if another article is good enough.

    I think there is a power and impact in being part of this elemental task we need to do three times a day. I think there is great meaning–a sort of deep unknowable meaning–in identifying and participating in food. Try to imagine what it means to live in Brie or in Champagne, there is an identity, history, connection, meaning–sensations I can never know (I may have a slight echo of it, since, having moved away from the Okanagan, I still have a great affinity for apple orcharding).

    Feminism was one of a whole bunch of cultural changes, some of which are having some pretty serious unintended consequences–see Dr. Bruce Alexander’s research into the Roots of Addiction for a discussion of disconnection and drug abuse. We threw a lot of babies out with the bathwater. It took great courage to fight the culture, to fight tradition and history. But now we need the courage to stand up and fight the current culture and claim back what we lost.

    So, I think in general, identifying with your local and cultural food is a task we should not feel as optional. It is just how it is, part of us. We could as easily cut off our food culture as our own arm. If your chosen profession and personal inclination doesn’t leave you time for canning, well, there are lots of lovely local sausages. Eat a ploughman’s lunch instead of industrial chicken from Trader Joe’s.

    I would also quibble with the possible interpretation of the last quote as suggesting people who are participating in food culture do not have a vigorous inner, cultural and intellectual life, and I offer these videos–On The Anatomy Of Thrift.

  • Joy

    Great article. I’ve definitely heard that argument, but after 7 months of unemployment and as the default housekeeper (since my husband works full time), I definitely see why Friedan & co. felt the need to liberate women from the time-consuming confines of cooking and other household work. You’re right–it’s not very fun when you HAVE to do it, or when you have nothing else to do. I just started working again this week, and suddenly I like cooking dinner again! For the very reasons you stated–I’m in front of a computer all day, under fluourescent lighting…so it’s nice to turn some music on and make something.
    But I’m definitely disturbed by the attitude the woman you quoted alludes to, about what is “noble” these days and what’s not. I am a (slightly guilty) regular visitor to several lifestyle blogs, and am often concerned at the lack of critical thought displayed in the posts–even the more “profound” ones reflecting on life, relationships, or even the creativity that fuels their blog. Even the way the writing is so lackluster, the way typos abound, and yet the pretty pictures and doll-like front women keep attracting droves of visitors…I don’t know what to say, except, I want more for my life, I want to keep cultivating a vigorous inner life, like your interviewee mentioned. It makes me sad to think that a lot of women are wasting their capacity for thought and spending time making pretty things (and babies) instead. Not that it has to be an either/or, but it often feels like it!

  • Michael Pollan has been saying that at least since In Defense of Food. One of several reasons that I’m over Michael Pollan.

  • Great article! Thank you for addressing this issue with the care and depth it deserves.

    Also, I had no idea Pollan, whom I’ve been meaning to read, was a misogynist. Cross him off my list then.

    • Emily

      I don’t actually think Pollan is a misogynist, just that he’s thoughtlessly spreading sexist bullshit. I think foodie correctness is just more important to him than feminism or historical accuracy.

  • Great article! And, that is a really, REALLY loaded statement for Pollan; I actually felt disheartened seeing it.

    Speaking of housewifery and whatnot, I’m not sure if you have seen this piece, written by a mommy blogger. Prepare to feel outraged.

  • I meant “FROM Pollan,” not “for.”