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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This is why I find Michael Pollan incredibly annoying

In today’s New York Times, foodie guru Michael Pollan waxes poetic on why we all must cook.  You guys already know this topic annoys me, as I argued last week in The Atlantic that not everyone likes to cook, and that healthy fast food would be a perfectly valid option for them.

As Pollan (quoted by Mark Bittman) says:

“We do find time for activities we value, like surfing the Internet or exercising,” says Pollan. “The problem is we’re not valuing cooking enough. Who do you want cooking your food, a corporation or a human being? Cooking isn’t like fixing your car or other things it makes sense to outsource. Cooking links us to nature, it links us to our bodies. It’s too important to our well-being to outsource.”

“Outsourcing” is such a loaded, nasty word. Why is eating out or buying pre-prepped food “outsourcing”? Is buying my clothes rather than sewing them myself “outsourcing”? Is sending my kid to public school rather than homeschooling “outsourcing”? We live in a society. It seems perfectly reasonable that some people cook, others buy cooked food.

And it’s unbelievably twee and silly to be all “cooking is a must-do because it links us to nature.” Because, come on, you know what else links us to nature? Hiking. Raising pigeons. Giving birth in a field. Some of these things may be fun and good for us (I’ll skip the latter though, thanks), but they’re not mandatory for healthy living.

Home cooking is not some universal “natural” activity either. In some countries, it’s practiced much more than others. I live in Hong Kong, where few people cook much at home because of small kitchens, long work hours, and a cultural tradition of dining out as a social activity. Is that unnatural? Are people here disconnected to their bodies?  (The obesity level is really low here, btw).

Another major point of annoyance is Pollan’s repeated insistence that home cooking died because women were duped into thinking it was cool and feminist to stop cooking:

And yet Big Food has convinced most of us: “No one has to cook! We’ve got it covered.” This began 100 years ago, but it picked up steam in the ’70s, when Big Food made it seem progressive, even “feminist,” not to cook. Pollan reminded me of KFC’s brilliant ad campaign, which sold a bucket of fried chicken with the slogan “Women’s Liberation.”

Bullshit. As I’ve argued before, it wasn’t in the 1970s feminist era that “big food” sold women on the idea of not cooking. That happened several decades before, in the 1940s and 1950s, long before second-wave feminism was a gleam in Betty Friedan’s eye.

I do appreciate this bit:

“But if we’re going to rebuild a culture of cooking, it can’t mean returning women to the kitchen. We all need to go back to the kitchen.”

OK, whatever, Michael Pollan et al. Go back to the kitchen if you want. Let your partner cook if you want (and they want). Eat Whole Foods salads every night if you want (and can afford it). But quit it with the annoying insistence that everyone who hates cooking is just deluded, and that tying on an apron is the only way to avoid obesity.

DON’T FORGET: Pre-order Homeward Bound by May 7, and we donate $1 per copy to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

 

Exciting news! Pre-order “Homeward Bound” by May 7, we donate $1 to help families

Hi guys. I’ve got big news, and a very special request:

If you’re thinking about buying a copy of Homeward Bound, I would love it if you could pre-order it on Amazon or IndieBound by May 7 (the book’s release date).

Why? Because, for every copy sold by May 7, we will donate $1 to the National Partnership for Women and Families. This is an awesome, four-star charity which works to further fairness in the workplace and other policies to “help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family.” They fight for things like equal pay for men and women, paid sick days, and anti-pregnancy discrimination legislation.

Since so much of Homeward Bound is about the continued difficulties of raising a family while balancing work and life in America (the ONLY developed country with no mandatory paid maternity leave!), it seems appropriate that some of the proceeds of the book should go towards fighting for better conditions for all our families. I would love it if you could help make this happen!

How to participate:

- Pre-order your book on Amazon HERE or IndieBound HERE.

- Send me an email (ematchar@gmail.com) or a Tweet (@emilymatchar) with the words “pre-ordered.”

Share via social media to encourage more donations:

Twitter: I pre-ordered Homeward Bound. Join the movement & @emilymatchar will give $1 to @NPWF #homewardbound

Facebook Status: I just pre-ordered Homeward Bound at Amazon/IndieBound. Do the same and author Emily Matchar will donate $1 to the National Partnership for Women and Families! Just email her at ematchar@gmail.com or Tweet her at @emilymatchar to say you’ve pre-ordered.

Here are some kind words from people that have read my book so far:

“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

“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

“A lively and perceptive reporter… [Matchar] offers a valuable and astute assessment of the factors that led to the current embracing of domesticity and the consequences of this movement.”—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

Why healthy fast food would be awesome and I would eat it all the time

At The Atlantic, I’ve written about why healthy fast food should be a goal for food reformers. So much progressive food culture centers around promoting home cooking as a solution to obesity and other social woes – Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move, every other Mark Bittman column in the New York Times.

Great, I say. But why not promote cheap, healthy fast food as an equally good option for improving America’s health? I think part of it is this:

Yet America, even as it reaches for convenience, has the deep seated belief that cooking is a personal obligation, and that shirking this obligation is lazy, harmful, bad.

Thoughts? If you could eat healthy, cheap fast food every night, would you still cook? Do you like to cook? If not, do you feel bad about it?

 

The New Republic review of Homeward Bound

A really smart, really insightful review of Homeward Bound by Ann Friedman (I’m a huge fan of her hilarious pie charts) in The New Republic.

An excerpt:

The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, 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. The woman who leaves the public workplace is “the Brooklyn hipster who quit her PR job to sell hand-knitted scarves at craft fairs,” Matchar writes. “She’s the dreadlocked ‘radical homemaker’ who raises her own chickens to reduce her carbon footprint. She’s the thirty-one-year-old new mom who starts an artisan cupcake company from her home kitchen rather than return to her law firm. He’s the hard-driven Ivy Leaguer fleeing corporate life for a Vermont farm.” Though the vast majority of Machar’s subjects are women, this is not just a story about gender roles. It’s about what happens when the structures we were raised to buy into don’t provide what they were supposed to provide, and the alternative values that have, for a growing subset of Americans, come to replace them.

If this makes you want to read Homeward Bound, there are 26 days until publication! Pre-order now at Amazon or IndieBound.

The Etsy behemoth expands into Nordstrom

Etsy’s “very very small” business model, which we’ve talked about/critiqued before on this blog, is getting a lot bigger. The online craft company is expanding into conventional retail, connecting some of its sellers with brick-and-mortal retailers such as Nordstrom. Etsy is also collaborating with the town of Rockford, Illinois to teach residents entrepreneurship skills, the first of a series of planned collaborations.

As someone who has always seen Etsy’s business model as slightly hypocritical, talking big about changing the world economy while offering little more than a platform for low-wage pink collar labor (largely to women desperate for flexible work arrangements), I think these efforts are great. Few people make a living selling scarves from their living rooms, but everyone can benefit from entrepreneurial skills, and collaborations with brick-and-mortar retailers offer a real (if slim) possibility of capitalizing on economies of scale.

What do you think of all this? Any Etsy success or failure stories out there?

TWENTY-SEVEN DAYS until the book’s out! Pre-order here.

Homeward Bound video

Me, talking about my book, and trying really, really hard not to blink too much. Feel free to share!

Is your marriage like your grandparents’?

At The Atlantic, Connor Friedersdorf asks whether his marriage is really that different than those of his grandparents. After all, he points out, for all our talk about how marriage is changing, the idea of marrying for love and friendship is not exactly new.

This got me to thinking: exactly how is my marriage different than those of MY grandparents?

The answer: in pretty much every way possible. Thank God.

My maternal grandmother had a college degree and worked as a teacher after graduation. But after getting married, my grandfather (by all accounts a sweet and loving guy) told her to stop working, because he wanted to “take care of her.” To keep herself busy, she helped out at his upholstery company, looking at fabric samples and planning dinner parties for employees.

When my grandfather died, suddenly, when my mom was 12, my grandmother had no idea what to do. Ignorant of how the company worked, she managed to run it into the ground within a few years. She was left broke, supported by her children for the rest of her life.

My paternal grandparents bickered their way through nearly 70 years of a marriage with extremely traditional gender roles before my grandmother died two years ago. My grandfather, God love him, never so much as got up to get himself a glass of water in his married life. That was my grandmother’s job. She, in turn, raised the kids and fussed over the food. She was so invested in feeding others she rarely sat down at the dinner table herself. Instead, she buzzed nervously in the doorway, asking again and again if everything was OK, darting back to the kitchen for more ketchup, more bagels, more milk.

So how is my marriage different? I wouldn’t even know where to start.

What about you? What similarities and differences do you see between your own marriage/partnership and that of your grandparents, especially when it comes to work and domestic roles?

Homemaker? Housewife? Stay-at-home parent?

I’ve written before about the comeback of the word ‘homemaker:’

..lately, ‘homemaker’ is having a re-birth, both as a word and a lifestyle. I keep coming across women (and a very small handful of men) who describe themselves as ‘hipster homemakers’ or ‘radical homemakers’ or ‘new homemakers.’ They seem to be interested in claiming social and environmental value for the task of caring for one’s home, enlarging the concept of “homemaker” to mean more than just “chief vacuumer.” …Other people I’ve talked to see claiming the label of ‘homemaker’ as a ‘screw you’ to a world that only values career and financial success. Some of these people do have outside jobs, but choose to identify themselves by their relationship to their home rather than their career. Others simply see the word as having been de-valued as women entered the workforce in large numbers in the 20th century, and are pushing to reclaim it in a positive way. After all, it is (theoretically) a gender-neutral word, which – unlike housewife – doesn’t define the person by their relationship to a spouse.

Now, over in Slate, Jessica Grose bemoans the rise of the term “stay-at-home mom,” which is apparently quite new – the New York Times didn’t even use the phrase until 1992. Grose, who dislikes “stay-at-home mom” because “[i]t connotes “shut in” to me, as if mothers who don’t do paid work are too fragile to handle the outside world,” suggests “primary caretaker” as an alternative, though admits that sounds a bit formal and odd.

Thoughts? For those of you who stay at home with kids, what term do you prefer?

Introducing: Manteresting

It’s Pinterest for the penis-having set! I see no reason at all why men won’t totally go for this.

Gawd, I really hate the way we try to make things gender equal by making ultra, ultra gendered versions for the “left out” sex. Like, if Pinterest is 95 percent female, then “Manteresting” should be all about cool gadgets and Jack Daniels and bikini pin-ups. You know, man stuff!

On feminist housewives

 

My take on New York mag’s cover story on feminist housewives, at The Atlantic.