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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Why gender equality has stalled 50 years after Betty Friedan

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Feminine Mystique, historian Stephanie Coontz applies her usual genius to the question of why gender equality has stalled in the New York Times. If you haven’t read any of Coontz’s books – I’m especially indebted to her “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap” and “A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s” – they’re totally fascinating.

As Coontz writes, today’s women and men hold egalitarian values – most of us believe that both men and women should work and should share housekeeping and childcare duties. But few of us can live up to these values, largely because of “structural impediments” – lack of maternity leave, incredibly long work hours, lack of reasonably priced childcare. So women end up dialing back their career ambitions, whether or not they want to. Fewer mothers are working than in the 1990s, women’s labor force participation has stalled across the board, and there’s still a gender wage gap in nearly every field.

“The gender revolution is not in a stall. It has hit a wall,” Coontz writes.

But since no one wants to feel like they’re a pawn in the system, we women tend to justify our decisions in terms of “personal choice:”

Some people began to argue that feminism was not about furthering the equal involvement of men and women at home and work but simply about giving women the right to choose between pursuing a career and devoting themselves to full-time motherhood. A new emphasis on intensive mothering and attachment parenting helped justify the latter choice [we see a lot of this in New Domesticity]Anti-feminists welcomed this shift as a sign that most Americans did not want to push gender equality too far.

But women shouldn’t have to make these choices between work and family. And they shouldn’t have to feel like, when they fail at balancing both, it’s their fault. As Coontz writes:

Our goal should be to develop work-life policies that enable people to put their gender values into practice. So let’s stop arguing about the hard choices women make and help more women and men avoid such hard choices. To do that, we must stop seeing work-family policy as a women’s issue and start seeing it as a human rights issue that affects parents, children, partners, singles and elders. Feminists should certainly support this campaign. But they don’t need to own it.

Amen.

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