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.
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?
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?
..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?
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!
An ad with a man doing the laundry. And not in a stupid, hee-larious “Mr. Mom” way either (“I just poured dish detergent in the washing machine. Doh!”). The is a real first. As Hanna Rosin writes in Slate:
I have been waiting all my life for this Tide and Downy ad. That lovely man, down in the basement, waiting for the dryer to stop so he can pull out his daughter’s favorite princess dress…
When I was a kid Carol Channing made me believe on my Free to Be You and Me album that by the time it was my turn to be a grown-up, we would all share the housework. And this is becoming true, to a certain extent, but that’s not what it looks like on the TV commercials. Lifetime breaks still serve up a steady diet of women with neat hair in pastel cardigans scrubbing the tub, mopping the floors, polishing pots till they gleam like new! Or if they update the old formula, they do it by having a woman scold her husband for what an idiot he is because he can’t understand a simple grocery list or eat a pizza in the living room without smearing sauce somewhere, thus reinforcing the concept that wife knows best.
These days, I’m just jealous of anyone who has a washing machine AND a dryer. We’re living in dryer-free place at the moment, and hanging the laundry on the drying rack is the most hated task in the house. Though we do share the job.
Hannah in "Girls" wants experiences, not relationships
Maybe it’s because I did my 20s in North Carolina rather than New York or something, but this doesn’t sound at all familiar to me: young women being ashamed to want a boyfriend, or feeling like a boyfriend will derail their careers. As Leslie Bell writes in The Atlantic:
[Today's 20-something women] face a new taboo and it’s not about sex or money or power. Instead, it’s a taboo about that traditional province of women: relationships. Ambitious young women in their 20s feel they shouldn’t want relationships with men at this phase in their lives.
Really? Most of the women I hung out with in my 20s – AND most of the men – were pretty relationship oriented, and not ashamed of it either. And when I say “I did my 20s in North Carolina,” please don’t think I’m talking about something out of Deliverance. That’s Georgia. JK. But seriously, I spent most of my 20s in the Raleigh-Durham area, and most of my friends were ambitious PhD candidates and journalists and artists and what have you. Nobody worried that a relationship would hurt their careers. Why would it? It’s not like the men we were dating expected us to be home to cook dinner for them. Sure, we didn’t want to be married with two kids in the suburbs at 27. But we did want committed relationships – with the right person.
But maybe I’m missing something. My sense is that young people of late have been rejecting the 1990s “Sex and the City” thing, and are trying to focus more on “what matters” – including relationships. Or maybe, at 30, I’m a microgeneration too old to understand this phenomenon?
Does this sound familiar to you? Are you and your friends embarrassed about desiring a relationship, or worried that a relationship will bring down your career?
Me playing with goat at our "unconventional" farm wedding
Oh, man, does this ever hit home.
Writing in The Atlantic, Phoebe Maltz Bovy dissects the phenomenon of the “ironic, low-key, unconventional wedding” – the non-diamond engagement band, the non-wedding wedding dress, the reception at the local dive bar. Brides planning this type of wedding are displaying what Bovy calls “fauxbivilance” – they want a wedding, but are embarrassed that their dreams are so conventional.
I totally understand this. I – a woman who NEVER had wedding fantasies as a kid – felt really weird and squicked out by diamonds and white dresses and the word “fiance” (uggg! still hate it!) when I was engaged. I wanted to feel like I could do a wedding – and a marriage – without losing my identity.
Ironically, however, planning the ironic, low-key unconventional wedding is just as involved (and probably MORE involved) than planning the “typical wedding.” And when it’s over, you’re just as conventionally married as the girl who had a 12-bridesmaid taffeta-n-pink roses extravaganza at a church.
As I’ve written before, my husband and I had a low-key, rustic, handmade, DIY wedding on a local goat farm, which ended up costing far more money and energy than if we’d simply rented out the local Marriott ballroom, bought a white wedding cake and gotten my dress from David’s Bridal. It also – shocker – turned out to be more similar to the rest of the weddings we attended in the 2009-2013 period than it was different. In all the weddings I’ve attended in the recent years, only two were at houses of worship (one at a synagogue, one at an Episcopal church co-officiated by a priest and a Buddhist monk). Most were at farms or on rooftops or in art galleries or exposed brick “event spaces” in old tobacco warehouses. I’ve only been to a couple weddings where there was an actual white tiered wedding cake – more typical were wedding pies (us), wedding cookies, wedding cupcakes, wedding mini rhubarb tarts. Probably 90% of the couples wrote their own vows.
Unconventional, it turns out, is the new conventional.
I’m not complaining – I loved our wedding, and the planning was extremely fun. But the reality is, getting married is an extremely conventional act (in the best meaning of the word ‘conventional,’ I think), and no amount of DIY or ironic mustache photo booths makes you different than the billions of other people doing the same thing.
What were your weddings like? How did you feel about the planning process? Does the term “fauxbivilance” ring true for you?