The New Domesticity

Lifestyle blogs, eh?  With their carefully crafted photographs of home-grown heirloom tomatoes, rushwoven baskets with wooden toys inside, a knitted hat or some vintage bunting.  Everyone mocks them, everyone aspires to have a life that looks like them, and by everyone I obviously mean women because this is a very female sphere, this New Domesticity, don’t you think?  Rather as the Same Old Domesticity always has been.  As just as always, women’s work is being both fetishised and trivialised.

On the one hand, it’s another layer of pressure put on women.  I’ve spoken to a lot of friends about this, since we’re all smack bang in the middle of the demographic that this is pitched at; thirty-something, professionally educated, financially well off enough to have choices around work/life balance, and raising small children.  Most of us have some paid work as well as raising pre-school-age children and running a house.  We all, pretty much, shop thoughtfully and cook from scratch as often as possible, we all grow a little bit of food (a very little bit, in my case.  Look out for a coming post entitled Possums: Kill Them All) (not really) (at least, probably not).  And yet this topic comes up, and suddenly the conversation is a flurry of apologies; oh, I’d love to sew my own clothes but I just don’t have the time; I haven’t the eye for home decor; I hate buying things from the store but my job doesn’t leave me enough hours to make my own bread.  Excuses, delivered in tones of apology as if someone is going to reply Well!  That’s just not good enough.  A Real Woman would Make Time.  Clearly you do not Cherish your Family enough.  Because it can feel as if it’s framed in moral terms — that they’re not only about enjoyment, they are about you and what sort of person you are; one who cares about her family, her local community, her home.  And by person, I
mean woman.  Because, again.  The men aren’t doing this.

Oh, and there’s a whole bunch of class stuff mixed into this too.  Which I’m not ignoring.  Well, okay, I am ignoring it, but I promise I’ll come back to it in another post.  There’s just a lot of stuff wrapped up in this.  Why, someone should recycle and hand-dye some paper so they can wrap it up for me.  With twine. 

Nobody is going to say that, though.  Because this is the other hand: despite the fact that women feel all this pressure to do absolutely everything perfectly, desite the fact that we expect a 1950s standard of house cleanliness and personal upkeep (to wit:
the return of control undergarments!) whilst growing and cooking from scratch a la the 1900s, while maintaining a 1980s – style high powered career, all in the 1000-watt glare of 2012’s social media technologies (how many Instagram pictures of yarn, home made pickles and playdough dyed with natural plant derivatives are in your feed today?), despite all of that – nobody really rates this work.  It’s just women’s work. Did I say work? Women’s hobbies. Not important. Consider all the useful, productive things she could be doing. And how is she spending all this time blogging about her lovely family and doing all this, she must be faking something.

I’m not the first to write about this, nor the 100th; a trend towards knitting, canning, preserving, sewing and crafting has been growing for a long time. But we lose ourselves in our own egos and we fall into the trap of assuming this is a personal thing.

Everything old is new again. The personal is still political.


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