Feminism And The “New Domesticity”

antique foodstuffsThe Laundry Goddess is so Hot Right Now

The domestic arts are hot right now, or so the trend section of every major media outlet would have you believe. There have been numerous articles in the past year about young women’s newfound desire to take part in traditionally feminine activities like baking, gardening, and sewing. The authors’ discomfort with the idea of rich white women spending time in the kitchen or at home with their children is palpable; each article has a tone of skepticism at best, and clear disgust at worst. Pinterest is always mentioned, as are the subjects’ tattoos. The articles always suggest (either subtly or outright) that these activities and the women who enjoy them are anti-feminist.

Imagine a young mother who stays home with her young daughter, who was breast-fed and cloth-diapered. Her husband is a creative professional and wears glasses and a fedora. When she’s not cooking, taking her daughter out to explore the city, or doing craft projects with her, she’s sewing all her daughter’s clothes and taking tons of photos of her in their pretty Chicago apartment. She used to work in an upscale children’s boutique, but now she has a side business making children’s clothes and accessories and selling them to wealthy moms in the suburbs of Chicago. You’re probably imagining a white woman with great hair taking loads of Instagram photos of her daughter and posting them on her requisite blog. And if you’re like many journalists, bloggers, and consumers of internet culture, you’re likely rolling your eyes at this woman who fills her time with such privileged endeavors.

But the woman I just described is not, in fact, a lifestyle blogger; she is my mother, and what I just described was our life in the late 1980s. To help you really picture her, I’ll add this: she was a lifelong tomboy who begged my grandma for years to let her cut her hair short. When the passage of Title IX allowed girls to play Little League with the boys in her hometown (there was no separate baseball or softball league for girls), she was the only girl in the entire city to play with the boys. Though she stayed home with me while my father worked as an actor in Chicago, she eventually began raising me on her own while attending school to earn her degree in education. She sewed my clothes when it was less expensive than buying them.

In the summer of 2011, she built my brother a rocket ship loft bed (after he outgrew the train bed with a working light she built him when he was a toddler). In the summer of 2012, she built a pirate ship deck off the back of her house all by herself. Well, actually, she did it with the help of my grandmother. My grandmother, who cross-stitches, sews, and cooks. Who did all the house cleaning and earned the nickname “the laundry goddess” when I was younger because she could always get the stains out of our clothes. My grandmother, who was first in her class at nursing school, who raised her three kids alone after her divorce in the early 1970s (and her fourth on her own in the 80s), who, at seventy-one years old, still works sixty hours a week.

I grew up believing that the domestic arts are important, special, and valuable. I’d always been incredibly proud of all of my mom and grandma’s talents, and felt proud of myself whenever I could follow in their footsteps. Until recently, that is, when I learned that taking after the women in my family or emulating the things my mom did during a happy time in our lives (and then having the gall to put photos of these activities on the internet) makes me a hipster. A hipster who also happens to be setting the feminist movement back fifty years.

Women’s Work as Radical Work

Last fall, I read Radical Homemakers, a book by Shannon Hayes that puts forth a feminist philosophy I don’t think most of us learned in our women’s studies classes. At the risk of overly simplifying the message, here’s a brief overview: Hayes argues that instead of relying on a man, modern women now rely on The Man—that is, to be independent from our male partners, we have become dependent on our employers who we know do not always have our best interests at heart. And in our pursuit of financial independence, we must rely on cheap convenience products that are bad for our health and the environment, and that are often made by low-wage workers. According to the book, radical homemakers

“… are not the brand of feminists seeking security through economic independence…. In most cases, they view ‘economic independence’ as an imaginary condition; if a wife, say, is reliant upon her husband’s paycheck, he, in turn, is dependent upon the vicissitudes or even the whims of his employer. They are both vulnerable if their life skills are limited to what they can do for a paycheck. They are more stable if the paycheck is only a small percentage of the livelihood, and life skills, increased self-reliance, community, and family networks supply the rest…. These homemakers have evolved a more sophisticated view of what constitutes an economy and they have surrendered a false sense of independence to embrace genuine interdependence.

“… It is only natural that many feminists, working in the context of a power struggle between the sexes, suggest that the only way to achieve equality is to exit the home. The trouble is, however, that everyone still needs a home… the power struggle that is alleviated when both husband and wife become working professionals is merely transferred to someone lower on the social ladder.

“For there to be true social egalitarianism, then the work of keeping a home must be valued for its contribution of the welfare to all.”

Radical Homemakers really does value the work of creating a home. It argues that we dismiss what has historically been considered “women’s work” as unimportant because of its association with women (and, perhaps more important, its association with poor women and women of color) when in reality, mastering the domestic arts actually has a lot of value on a personal, community, and large social and political level. The book isn’t arguing that women stay home to keep perfectly clean houses, organize playgroups for their kids, and make baby food from scratch while their husbands go off to work; it’s pushing families to become units of production (raising/growing/making their own food, sewing their own clothes, trading skills and homemade goods with other families, etc.) instead of units of consumption.

Consider that most of us buy our bread rather than making it making it ourselves. It would probably be cheaper and healthier to make it ourselves, so why don’t we? Because we don’t have time. Why don’t we have time? Because we have to go to work. Why do we have to go to work? Because we need to pay for our homes and cars. Why do we need two cars per family? So we can go to work. To pay for our bread. And all the other things we need to buy to offset the fact that we’re working so much and don’t have time to produce anything for ourselves. Radical Homemakers argues that we should spend more time making our own bread so we don’t have to work in terrible conditions so that we can pay someone else (who is also working in terrible conditions) to do it for us.

Radical homemakers care deeply about social justice, the environment, their health, and about many of the seriously broken parts of our culture and economy. So why does the dominant portrayal of them tend to make them out to be smug, clueless, and regressive?

Hipster Housewives or Women Getting it Done?

It’s impossible to discuss the neo-homesteading movement without discussing how it has been affected by the internet, and by the lifestyle bloggers who make the domestic arts the main focus of their blogs. As they document their days sewing crafts to sell on Etsy, growing vegetables, and homeschooling their children, they become the most visible proponents of this return to a DIY-heavy, simple life.

In a 2012 article for Bitch Magazine, “Better Homes and Bloggers,” Holly Hilgenberg wrote:

“For many, blogging is a relatively easy, low-cost way to share personal anecdotes and explore interests in an accessible medium… At the same time, there is something a bit uncanny about the genre. Click through enough of them and you’ll start wondering: How is it possible that so many women and their toddlers spent their Saturdays in blanket forts made from vintage quilts found at a swap meet? And does the world really need more Instagram shots of early-morning trips to the flower market? One may get the impression that the Stepford Wives have swapped their pastel sun hats and starched blouses for sewing-machine tattoos and Rachel Comey shoes. The pastels; soft-focus and color-saturated photo filters; optimistic, sunny tone; and tendency to address readers as ‘sweeties,’ ‘darlings,’ and other diminutives characterize many of the most visible lifestyle blogs. Coupled with the focus on domesticity and the home, bloggers start to resemble a contemporary, superwoman version of a stereotypical 1950s housewife. These women don’t just maintain squeaky-clean, camera-ready homes and adorable families, they also run independent businesses, wear perfect outfits, rock exquisitely styled hair—and find the time to blog about it.”

Rather than celebrating the fact that the most visible bloggers who are doing this also happen to be making a living doing so, thus getting paid for “women’s work” (something early feminists fought for), the authors instead dismiss “women’s work” and “women’s interests” as fluffy and unimportant. These articles always use white, middle-class women with children as the example of this new type of homemaker, and the authors (who are typically white, middle-class women with children) subtly hint that what they are doing is silly or just the latest trendy thing to do.  The argument “if taking care of your home is so important, then why aren’t men doing it?” is often used, which simply sends the message that if men aren’t doing something, then it’s not a smart, worthwhile endeavor. When these women are casually dismissed with the pejorative “hipster”—which is really just another word for “poser,” an accusation that makes most people bristle—the clear message is that they don’t really know themselves or care about what they are doing. They couldn’t possibly be growing their own food because they care about their health, or leaving the workforce because it can be exhausting and unfriendly to anyone who wants to have a life outside of  her job. They must be doing it to be the “little wife” for their husbands, to get attention, or to “win” the competition between women.

The Bitch article and others like it makes the argument that these blogs support both a return to traditional femininity for all women and omit the realities of everyday life—dirty dishes, marital spats—in a way that makes the women reading feel insecure. Women reading are inclined to compare their lives to these bloggers’, and then feel inadequate when they don’t measure up. As Katie J.M. Baker wrote on Jezebel:

“I’d love to have home-brined pickles in my fridge, paper-mache globes dangling from my ceiling, and plants everywhere—but instead I have an old jar of martini olives (can olives go bad?), a lamp from Target, and dried-out flowers that have been sitting in a vase on my bookshelf for a month (thanks to a mixture of being lazy and thinking they look kind of cool). When I look at photos of beautifully-designed abodes, I beat myself up for, say, taking a month to order curtains online and another three weeks to actually put them up… as lame as it may sound, I can’t browse through more than a few ‘pins’ without wondering why I suck so much at being a ‘real woman.'”

If these women are skilled at anything, the argument goes, it’s the art of making other women feel bad about themselves. I do wonder if there would be so much pushback against these bloggers if they weren’t so pretty, so happy, so… popular. When a single, non-white, non-straight, or non-conventionally attractive woman cooks a Texas sheet cake for a loved one’s birthday and then blogs about it, we don’t think twice about gender roles. But when she does it for her man with her blond hair tucked out of her way in a top-knot? Well, then, she’s hurting the sisterhood.

So the question then becomes: why are we blaming the women who are doing something they enjoy (and, in many cases, are earning a living from it) instead of questioning why, exactly, one woman’s desire to make her own pickles is immediately taken as some sort of attack against the women who buy their pickles from the grocery store? That we perceive it as an attack on our own life choices is simply us buying into the false idea that anything a woman does is for others’ pleasure and not her own. And even though (unfortunately) mocking the girls we perceive as being too popular is nothing new, it’s possible we’re getting so caught up in our own insecurity that we’re missing a budding feminist movement. Perhaps our learned-in-middle-school instinct for taking down any girl that looks like she’s gotten too popular, is causing us to dismiss a group of successful women entrepreneurs.

I’m not saying I never get a case of the “whomp whomps” when spending too much time on Pinterest, but when that happens, it’s something I need to take up with my therapist, not the women whose homes are so damn photogenic.


Homeward Bound

This isn’t to say that there aren’t parts of this celebration of the domestic arts that aren’t problematic. In her new book Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, writer Emily Matchar explores the neo-homsteading movement in depth. She unpacks everything from the realities of earning money selling your wares on Etsy, to the way the neo-homesteading movement brings together evangelicals and crunchy liberals. While I don’t agree with all of her arguments, she takes a balanced and informed approach to a complex topic.

Matchar argues that, for the most part, women getting more into the domestic arts as part of a focus on social justice or is not a bad thing. “New domesticity is, at its heart, a cry against a society that’s not working,” she writes. “A society that doesn’t offer safe enough food, accessible health care, a reasonable level of environmental protections, any sort of rights for working parents… New Domesticity comes out of a deep desire to change the world.” But, she writes, attempting to change the world through individual solutions rather than collective political effort is a problem.

“Gardening and making your own soap and home-birthing your babies are fine, but these are inherently limited actions. If we want to see genuine food safety, if we want to see sustainable products, if we want to see a better women’s health system, and if we want these things for everyone, not just the privileged few with the time and education to DIY it, then we need large social changes.

“This is not to say that many DIYers aren’t fighting for social change—many are. But the overall attitude of ‘Screw the government, I’m going to grow my own food and shop at the farmers market’ is still dishearteningly common against the kind of educated progressives who might otherwise be the best advocates for large-scale social change.

“…But unless you genuinely believe we’re going to return to the days of yeoman faring, the workplace is here to stay… If women cut back on their ambitions en masses, institutional change will never happen and the glass ceiling will lower. We need to be there to demand equal pay, mandatory maternity leave, more humane hours.”

And while she’s correct, I do wonder why we are so quick to call out women whose choices don’t make the world a better place for all women. (The recent backlash against Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer for her decision to end the company’s telecommuting policy comes to mind.) I think most feminists struggle when they are inclined to make a choice that is one of those constantly derided by Big White Feminism; I know I do. Not every choice is a feminist choice, but when someone takes my pride in my ability to frost a cake like a champ as some sort of evidence that all women just want to stay home and raise babies, it occurs to me that this has more to do with that person’s assumptions than my cake decorating skills.

Still, I agree with Matchar’s call to make the movement toward domesticity inclusive rather than exclusive. We can fight for change by going to the farmers market… and by advocating for changes to food policy that would make healthy, fresh food more widely available. We can sell our crafts on Etsy for extra cash…and not lose sight of the fact that a financial safety net is still crucial to survival in today’s world. We can, and I think many of us already do.

But in the meantime, we have to stop perpetuating the idea that “women’s work” is silly and inherently oppressive, and the idea that anyone who says she enjoys it is just pretending to like it in an effort to put other women down and get herself a husband. When we’re snarking on women for their love of baking, sewing, or gardening, we can apply the same test I apply to chores: Would it bother us so much if she were doing this for her mother? Will this skill help her survive the zombie apocalypse? Well okay then.

Being a housewife actually never crossed my mind when I was younger, because, unlike me, all of the housewives I ever saw were thin, white, well-off, and conventionally attractive. Anyone who thinks that I’m cooking to please Eric is quite mistaken; when I cook, it’s because I am hungry. I love my frilly aprons and KitchenAid stand mixer because they are reminders of the things my kick-ass feminist family members taught me to do for myself. They are not symbols of a secret desire to stay home and raise babies, but reminders of my mom’s and grandma’s lessons to stay strong and raise hell.

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  • honeypie

    Great article. Sometimes you just like to do things because you like them and because they meaning to you- not for some overarching political statement. That should be okay too right? But all that pyrex… Oooh. I like. I hunt for fire king and milk glass personally.

  • I adore this article and can’t fully explain the ins and outs of why but I do. I was speaking earlier with a friend about the fact that we (as in people like me and her with relatively senior stable jobs) often feel jealous of those who find a way to live life more on thier own terms. That is not to say that all of us do, or all the time. I like my job nine days out of ten. What it means I think is some of the hate might come from jealousy. I think it speaks volumes that a lot of the women who do write these blogs feel they have to state so often how lucky they are and how hard they worked to achieve what they have in thier careers as writer/makers, when I don’t feel I need to justify in the same way what I have achieved in my career. It seems odd to be yet again making these distinctions about who is feminist enough. It is like the stay at home vs working mum thing all over again. I feel that it is almost the patriarchy dividing and ruling the sisterhood but we do it to ourselves? This is a bit of a ramble. But to return to my first point, I love this. I love the balance and the thoughtfulness and the writing and that someone has written this and somewhere like APW.

    • Rachel

      “I think it speaks volumes that a lot of the women who do write these blogs feel they have to state so often how lucky they are and how hard they worked to achieve what they have in their careers as writer/makers, when I don’t feel I need to justify in the same way what I have achieved in my career.” That is SUCH a great point.

    • meg

      “I think it speaks volumes that a lot of the women who do write these blogs feel they have to state so often how lucky they are and how hard they worked to achieve what they have in thier careers as writer/makers, when I don’t feel I need to justify in the same way what I have achieved in my career”

      THIS. Whenever I don’t do this, I’m pretty viciously attacked. But it’s interesting, no one else I know with a professional career has to do this. My husband doesn’t apologize for being a litigator over and over, and reiterate how hard he worked for it. I went to school and got my degree at a top school for creative work, JUST like he went to school and got his degree in top schools in his field. We both have serious professional careers that we worked tirelessly towards for a decade. We both like our work, but it’s still hard and stressful. We both work similar hours. I actually have more responsibility, managing a team of people and making sure they can pay their bills as well. YET. I am in a position of constantly apologizing, and he never ever is.

      Food for thought, right there.

      • Stella

        This is really interesting for me and I do wonder if its a US/non-US thing but I would say that among my friends (women) who work in “professional” careers we do often talk about feeling a certain pressure to engage in this same type of justification.

        • Kestrel

          I was going to say this as well. Particularly when you’re not in a traditional ‘female professional’ job.

          As someone who is working on becoming ‘highly educated’ in a well-paying, male-dominated field (engineering) I do feel as if I have to say that I was lucky to receive all the opportunities I have and that I particularly have to say how I’ve worked hard. I think this is slightly due to sexism (there’s a large number of engineers who assume if you’re a woman, you’re just there to fill a quota – and it’s hard to not think that yourself sometimes). I have to prove that I do deserve to have this job, this education opportunity.

          I will say that I am also one of those who gets angry when people who blog/write/can work for themselves don’t really mention that they’re lucky because it totally does come from a place of jealousy. I’m an engineer – I don’t have the ability to work from home and set my own hours, etc. I think I likely glamorize it, but I would love to be able to work for myself without having to start a business with tons of start-up capital. (Just the computer programs I’d need can be $8,000 a pop, easily)

        • Other Katelyn

          Same here– I’m in tech and I absolutely feel pressure to justify my existence as a woman at my pay grade.

        • Meredith

          See this is interesting because I am also an engineer (chemical) but there are ample women where I work, many in management and leadership positions. In my group there are 6 of us who perform my job function and 4 of us are under 28, female and have a degree in engineering. The other 2 are upper 40s, male and either do not have a degree or its not in engineering.

          I absolutely feel no need to justify my luck or my hard work or anything. And I’ve never heard any of my co-female engineers express that sentiment.

          • I’m an eng tech, and of the 25 engineers I work with, 10 of them are female and it’s totally not a thing or quota. It’s just… they were qualified for the job, and done. I work in Oil and Gas, which is still kind of an old boys club, but in the under 35 crowd, it’s almost half and half. I have never had any whiff of justification from anyone.

      • I feel staggering guilt over my desire to make a living from creative work. Like I somehow have trouble valuing it myself.

        I feel like I have no right to a job of creativity and I need to do the soul-crushing office job that I hate because…well…people are meant to suffer!

        • People aren’t meant to suffer. People are meant to thrive within the bounds of nature. Part of thriving is the creation of, and appreciation of, beauty- I mean, just look at the many types of beauty in the natural world. It’s necessary. It’s there for a reason (however difficult that reason is to express).

          All you need is to read some dystopian fiction to ponder how the presence/absence of creativity affects a society (The Giver comes to mind right away). Rock that creative life, grrrlfriend ;-)

          • Thanks! I’m still trying to unpack and understand my resistance to taking my own talents seriously and expecting myself to buckle down and do work that is meaningless and soul crushing to me!

      • Angry Feminist Bitch

        I think this is because our economy doesn’t allow many opportunities (comparatively) for women to be successful doing the kind of work that you do, Meg. And more of us – so, so many more of us – would like to. Creative work, socially conscious work, flexible-hours work, self-employed work. Less wage slavery than most people’s jobs. So it’s jealously, but not necessarily of or at you or it wouldn’t be if the people stopped to think about it); it’s a rage against the system that keeps so many talented, capable, on-fire women chained to mind-numbing, soul-destroying desk jobs or retail jobs, often for access to health insurance.


        • meg

          Agreed, agreed. I still find it interesting the way this whole conversation plays out in women on women violence, basically, in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t sort of way. I know men that work at home, and are taken seriously without a second thought… and that’s rarer for women.

          Or, interestingly, someone (today) expressed surprise that I worked at home AND used daycare, which I find perpetually interesting. There is this idea that women who work from home are not serious, they’re just mommies with computers (which again comes back to devaluing women’s work as mothers).

          Anyway, I agree, and I’m mostly just talking in circles, adding to the conversation that way.

      • Nellie

        D’oh! I tried to exactly this so hard I reported it. Sorry!

  • Amber

    I think that feminism (and sexual equality) is a pretty simple idea: about establishing and defending the equal rights of women. In all domains of life: social, political, economic…

    Being a homemaker is not anti feminism. Being fired from your job when you get married: that’s anti feminist.
    Wanting to bake cakes because you enjoy it is not anti feminist. Being forced to complete all domestic chores by your partner because its “women’s work”? That’s anti-feminist. It’s about choices… That women and men should have those same choices.

    It sounds like your mother taught feminism to you Rachel: she taught you that you have options and to be resourceful. I hope all parents teach this to their daughters… And their sons.

    For the record: I am an oncologist. And I knit.

    • jashshea

      Any other day that last line would seem utterly random, but not today! Love it.

    • This is exactly it. Teaching would be an anti-feminist career if I did it because I felt like as a woman I couldn’t handle anything else or if I were forced into it (my own mom was given two options by her parents – secretarial school or nursing school). I teach because I love it. Given the message that I could do absolutely anything I wanted, I chose teaching.

      I’ve been struggling with having been forced into being a homemaker (we moved to Okinawa, where there aren’t many civilian jobs and there’s a sequestration-related hiring freeze on teaching jobs) but even more with feeling like I really enjoy a lot of parts of it. I shouldn’t have to convince myself that it’s ok to enjoy cooking, baking, and setting up our home. These things give me satisfaction in and of themselves, not because they keep my man satisfied. (Though he does appreciate all of them.) It’s not anti-feminist to want to do my best at whatever it is that I’m doing. In fact, it’s the message that all of us, boys and girls, got from our parents about how to live our lives.

    • meg

      I feel like I need to step in and say that I’m not sure feminism is always quite that simple. That’s probably a good summation of choice feminism, but a lot of feminists (myself included, in fact) are not necessarily choice feminists.

      This is a long conversation, but a quick google search of “choice feminism” turned up this awesome article Moving Beyond Self Defeating “Choose My Choice” Feminism, which is an interesting place to start the thought puzzle.

    • Meg

      While I absolutely agree with you that choices are critical, I think there’s a danger in thinking that by virtue of a woman making a choice, the decision made is inherently a feminist one. Obviously feminism can be far too narrowly defined as well (the exact problem Rachel is addressing). I think some of my underlying concern of feminism being solely about choices comes down to a question of are the decisions people are making actually real choices, or are they presented as such as a way of masking the fact that more “radical” options are still unavailable?

      (And my mother is both a physician and a knitter.)

      • Cait

        Well said! I think a lot of things we think are choices are socially conditioned, so thinking critically about what we see as choices versus what men see as choices, among other things, is really important when we’re looking at choice.

  • M.E.

    First time actually printing out an APW article so I can read it more closely and really think about it. Thanks for this!

  • Wow, so much food for thought. I agree with Amber, feminism should be about choices. I never understood how any woman’s choices represent all the rest of women… when every situation is particular.
    I also believe that change can start with the little things we do, like buying locally produced food, raising your own chicken (if you can), etc. Yes, we should as well fight for major changes in the system, but starting with ourselves , taking those little steps is key.
    My mom, like Rachel’s made us dresses, quilted, raised bunnies, set up a fantasy-makeup business… she was always active and always learning all kinds of things. She was a great example even if she never worked outside the home since we were born, she showed us how to get things done, how to reach for what you want and do it. What’s more feminist than that? And I am sure that like her, there have always been many strong women keeping things running smoothly from “behind the scenes” .

  • carrie

    This was really spectacular. I don’t have much more cogent to say, but the spectacular part needed to be said.

  • Great article, and a lot to unpack. I think I feel a bit uneasy about the message being sent by all these homemaker lifestyle blogs only because the kinds of social justice reasons you’re talking about aren’t ever discussed on them, and although the reasons behind these women’s choices are rarely directly addressed, a lot of them seem to be coming from a religious/cultural background that supports complementarianism rather than egalitarianism in family roles and expects that what these women are doing IS “women’s work.” And some (not all!) of them are peppered with statements like “oh, my husband is at his Big Important Man Job but I’m just staying home being silly and a girl,” which is frustrating because I want to be like, hi, you have an amazing platform from which to totally OWN the importance of what you’re doing for your family kthanks! I wonder if, because of your family experiences, you might be interpreting a lot of these blogs through a much more subversive lens than the average bear? Whereas I’m not convinced that the intent to overthrow the patriarchy by staying home is present in some of these blogs.

    (I say this as a frequent reader of those blogs because they’re generally good writers with engaging voices, and also I love baking).

    But so I still don’t think that it’s appropriate to attack these particular women, or blame them for pushing feminism back (because that’s totally ludicrous), but we can still read them with a critical eye and discuss how this trend could be problematic, at least until I start seeing articles in men’s magazines pressuring them to make cute banners out of burlap for their next night in with the guys (my husband’s banner would read “<3BIOSHOCK<3").

    Slash, on a related note, does anyone have any suggestions of domestic-y blogs that do have a bit more of a(n explicit) social justice/environmental bent to them? The only one I can think of off the top of my head is girl gone child…

    • rys

      I agree — I read many of these blogs and enjoy them BUT I’m not seeing the social justice message, and I think the social justice causes that could be connected to them is often invisible because it’s not visible or important to the bloggers — often due to the religio-cultural-gendered world that supports these blogs. Percentage-wise, I don’t think that many “lifestyle bloggers” earn a living off their blogs but, rather, can do it because they have the financial (and as Amy March notes below, health insurance) support of a husband.

      I do know several garment sewer/quilters who earn a living from blogging/making patterns/selling items, but tellingly, 1) they all had other careers first, sewed on the side, and turned their hobby into careers and 2) they don’t talk social justice for fear of alienating their readership who, on the whole, they’ve found, don’t support the same progressive values they do. So then it becomes a values-money tension, and in fact, earning money off their blogs requires remaining mum about politics. To me, that might be the biggest problem and source of discomfort with the lifestyle/homemaker/crafty-blogging world. If they can’t actively and vocally support gay marriage or food stamps or gun laws or environmental protection or equal pay or whatever they themselves believe in for fear of losing a fairly conservative readership, there’s a long way to go before I can read domesticity as progressive and inclusive.

      Also, I think Matchar’s Homeward Bound ought to be read alongside Elaine Tyler May’s Homeward Bound, the latter of which historicizes the connection between Cold War ideology and family/domestic life. It shows how families, sex, and gender roles are both bound to and bound by ideologies and institutions, and how an orientation toward national security created a domestic revival — she’s talking about the 1950s, but it has clear reverberations for the present. And random factoid from the book that also poses questions about the links between structures of poverty, scarcity of goods, and domestic time: bikinis as fashionable swimwear arose out of the need to conserve fabric during war.

      • Wow, that bikini fact is really interesting. I’ve always wondered why it’s the NORM for woman to bare so much more of their bodies, in particular more sensitive areas, than men. I get it as being an option, but I hate that it’s *expected.* (I’ve been wearing bikinis for years, but I think I’m ready to transition to something different. Like shorts.)

        • That said, I always think it’s nice that as women we have the option of a one-piece wideley available. I see a lot of men in shorts who I think would be more comfortable covering more of their top halves (and maybe I’m projecting), but they don’t really have that option widely available. I suppose they could wear a t-shirt, but as least here in Europe, that’s not really the ‘done thing’. Which is stupid in itself, but still.

          • You’re probably right. Everyone has different comfort levels with which skin in bare and how much. Personally, I don’t care so much about my midsection, but my (very) upper thighs? For me, that’s an intimate area (still part of the intimate metropolis down there), which is why I don’t want it on display. I’m glad one-pieces and some vintage styles with more coverage (and more flattering cuts) are making a comeback!

    • Kristen

      I find it interesting (and true for myself as well) that we all believe these blogs have some likely sort of religious undertone/overtone/vibe/etc. I also find it interesting that somehow that seems to “prove” something to a lot of folks who feel this way and that something is negative.

      I’m no longer religious. Grew up Catholic, wanted to be a nun as a kid then gave up on god at 16. But I sure do appreciate religion and how it helps so many more people than it harms. I recognize the psychological benefits of belief, the actual science of the benefits of giving, generosity and helping our fellow man – all tenets of many religions, especially Christian based ones.

      I’m just super interested in starting a conversation with my fellow science/intellectual thought based co-humans about how we can look more optimistically upon those who have different beliefs and how they’re actually getting just as many good benefits from it as we might from our beliefs in science. But I’m also interested in learning and understanding more about why people might have these biases and whether there isn’t some validity to them as well.

      • rys

        I think it’s possible to appreciate and respect religion while still recognizing that certain religious and theological ideas promote or contribute to particular forms of domesticity, gender roles, and family ideologies. People (including religious insiders) can–and do–agree or disagree with those ideas and behavioral repercussions, but I don’t think recognizing they exist constitutes either an affirmation or critique.

        • Kristen

          Word. It’s like you need two convos: 1. the ways some religions are currently encouraging congregants to believe in things that doesn’t promote a healthy modern society (my pick would be certain religion’s ideals that seem to go against Jesus’s teachings, like loving one another no matter our differences, putting others before ourselves, etc.) 2. How there are millions of people who are religious and its a good thing. We should always focus on both the group at large, but also the individual as lumping people under umbrellas or shoving them in boxes does little for intelligent discourse.

          • Meaghan

            Totally – I always struggle with the delicate balance of critiquing some of the ideas that come out of religion (or at least are couched in religious terms to give them more standing) and respecting the tons of wonderful individuals who are religious, especially as an atheist (and don’t even get me started on the religion-hating “new atheism” that’s all over reddit these days).

      • Just throwing out there: http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/veteran-jesuit-explains-choice-return-lay-life

        An article from a (soon-to-be-former) Jesuit priest about the difference between following God’s teaching– i.e. we’re all equal– and the Church’s teaching as an institution– there is a hierarchy of people who get different privileges. I think looking at the benefits of religion also come back to how much is spiritual guidance, and how much is human (specifically, man)- made policies and institutions.

    • Rachel

      I completely agree that my background has me considering a domestic lifestyle through a different lens…and I guess that’s sort of my point. I’m frustrated with the current coverage of this because it’s all coming through the same lens. I agree that we can and should examine these choices and behaviors…but when they are all being examined through a lens of middle-class, working white women (because that is who is writing all of these articles), I think the potential to overlook how these behaviors can be subversive is high. I constantly hear that choices are fine, but we have to put them in context…but WHOSE context? Middle-class white women’s context? That’s how it always seems to be and that is what I have an issue with.

      As for the gender essentialism and religion, Homeward Bound gets into that, and I found it really interesting how basically, people at both the far right and the far left who are into this movement can often slide into that territory. BUT at the same time, many of them (even the very conservative/religious) are coming from a place that is more subversive than one might think. Not in the area of gender roles, but in terms of environmentalism, the government, and the food industry. So I don’t think it’s necessarily either-or…while I certainly don’t agree with the idea that women are just naturally domestic and that’s why they should do these things, I do think that many religious women have nuanced, thoughtful, and even subversive reasons for living their lives these way.

      • Breck

        “… but WHOSE context?”

        So important. Reading Jalondra’s APW piece really reframed a lot of my views on feminism just by pointing this out.

      • meg

        I love this comment, and mostly agree.

        I love Rachel’s comment and mostly agree.

        I think there is a shit ton to unpack here, but to even start unpacking it, we have to move beyond judging other women, or painting everyone with one brush (lifestyle bloggers=anti-feminist) and really do some rigorous thinking and discussion.

        Which is of course TOTALLY what I’m trying to provoke here.

      • SarahT

        A great conversation. I’m religious and I homeschooled my kids until they reached high school. The “religious+homeschool” combo cues up banjo music for a lot of people, a stereotype that doesn’t really fit me or my then-husband, or many of the friends I met who also made that choice. I was going to say I didn’t homeschool for “religious” reasons (as if that makes the whole thing more acceptable), but that’s not really true. There isn’t a box of choices inside me that is “religious”-my beliefs infuse who I am, and therefore my decisions. In my case, the decision to homeschool came from a passionate desire to both learn and teach, and to travel as much as possible. We believed that our children (and other people’s children) should not be subject to a failing school because their parents didn’t make a lot of money. A subversive choice for sure, as it assumes the supremacy of parental rights over governmental rights. We thought we could do a better job, and considered it our right (and responsibility) to try, so try we did.

      • Nc

        My one issue that I have with your viewpoint is constantly making a middle class white upbringing seem less valid or true for the movement.
        It reminds me of people who need to justify their wedding colors, flowers, etc with meaning, instead of just doing so because it is what they want to do.
        Yes, you were raised with these values of self sufficiency, but does that make it ok to monopolize them? To act as if the person who chooses baking as a hobby and maybe not a radical lifestyle choice is lesser because they don’t carry the lineage of self-reliance that you have?
        I love so much of what you said here, but I am finding that reliance on your ‘right’ to do this is because of how you were raised off-putting for those whose choice was made by themselves or later in life or whatever.

        • Rachel

          I totally see what you are saying and that’s completely fair. I didn’t mean to say that I “can” do these things because of my upbringing, but more that everyone has context surrounding their hobbies/lifestyle/choices that the outsider looking in is unaware of and I hate all the trend pieces on this mainly because they make so many assumptions about people and their motivation. So I guess I was thinking more that before we criticize anyone’s lifestyle, we consider that we may not know their history or why they do the things they do. I apologize if I came off as dismissive of the white middle-class experience…that isn’t my attitude at all.

    • Lija

      Meaghan, I like Northwest Edible Life (http://www.nwedible.com/). There is a fair focus on kids, but I haven’t seen any mention of religion, except in a recent editorial that does talk about the same polarity in the modern homesteading community.

    • Mikala

      I would check out Rage Against the Minivan, I love her writing style and the topics she tackles.

    • theemilyann

      I think if you haven’t found it, you have possibly found your niche market. I’d read that! =)

  • Amy March

    How many people writing blogs for profit are also relying on someone else for health insurance?

    How quickly do we want to forget the legacy of women who added a great deal of value to their families for 25 or 30 years, only to have their husbands leave them when they were 60- no kids to take care of, no income, and skills that important or not aren’t paying the rent? Who ran out of time to develop an independent passion and were left with nothing to sustain them when their homes fell apart?

    • Kelsey

      Good point. I think this absolutely goes back to the end of the article above. These traditionally ‘women’s work’ skills are great in their own right. And some neo-homesteaders are using these skills to provide a additional financial safety net for themselves and their families. I think it is less the fault of individual women (and maybe not even the fault of individual men) depending on someone else to provide health insurance and additional financial stability but our general failure as a society so far to take care of our collective needs- like health care and how best to care for an aging population. Those systems are so broken, we need to find a way that no individual is dependent on only themselves or any other one individual for really basic stuff like medical and mental health care. Which perhaps is a good argument for women who are able to devote their time, skill, and energy to domestic arts as a profession to use whatever platforms they have at their disposal to do a little unapologetic unpacking of whatever privileges enable them to do so, and to advocate for social change in that way.

      • rys

        On the need for “unapologetic unpacking of privilege” — yes. The frequent proclamations of “being lucky” actually miss the point. There are structures of politics, economics, gender, race, class, culture, and religion that enable the domestic as art rather than mere necessity. To say one is lucky is to ignore, if not intentionally (mentally) erase, the very social arrangements that allow some to choose to engage in the domestic arts while foreclosing the opportunities for others. It’s not random.

        • meg

          Well, I’d actually like Rachel to respond to this, in that she does not come from racial and economic privilege. Likewise, I learned domestic arts on the knee of someone making our clothes because buying them was too expensive.

          • rys

            To clarify — I fully recognize that life/poverty forces some people to excel in the domestic arts, but my comment was in reference to Kelsey’s point about those who get to choose to domesticity their profession and use blogging as their platform to extol it.

          • meg

            Totally get your point, but I also want to question the assumption that women who are running their own businesses (blogging, for example) no matter what they focus on (domestic arts or not), are necessarily doing it because they are rich.

            I started a business with no startup capital, and I helped put my husband through law school, and I paid all our benefits for his first three years as a lawyer, and I supported us when the terrible legal job market lead to gaps in employment, and yet somehow I’m the one “privileged” to work for myself because I have an attorney husband to support me. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth. So we have to question our assumptions here.

            Not that I don’t think that there are problematic things to discuss about the glamorizing of domestic arts, and how it’s sometimes done. But I think we need to separate that from attacking the women themselves, or assuming that people running these sorts of businesses are doing so because they are supported by their husbands. Because I think those are sexist assumptions.

        • Cleo

          “To say one is lucky is to ignore, if not intentionally (mentally) erase, the very social arrangements that allow some to choose to engage in the domestic arts while foreclosing the opportunities for others. It’s not random.”

          so much this. Rys, you said what I wanted to say much more eloquently.

          I love to cook. I’m not so good at the sewing and I hate cleaning, but, in general, I enjoy keeping house. I also work a 9-5 and love my job.

          I admire the abilities the lifestyle bloggers have. However, there’s so much class privilege (at the very least) inherent in their blogs that they don’t acknowledge.

          It’s not what they’re doing that rubs me the wrong way, but how they’re doing it. While social justice might be a part of the domestic arts, for these bloggers, it doesn’t appear to be.

      • Breck

        Absolutely. I read a handful of lifestyle blogs, and it has always bothered me that virtually none of them are willing to be even the least bit political. I do understand that they have their readership and brand to worry about, but I wish some of them would sacrifice a bit of that to do the “unapologetic unpacking” of privilege that you bring up (excellent line, BTW).

      • Maddie

        I think part of what complicates this conversation is the old saying, “The medium is the message.” I can only lend my personal experience, but for me, choosing this path was about bootstrapping more than anything else. I graduated into the recession. I’ve ALWAYS had to rely on someone else for health insurance, because the major media conglomerate that eventually hired me out of college had such backwards (read: illegal) hiring principles, that I had to be hired as a temp (without benefits) to do something that was a full-time job. It was the ONLY job I could find, after months of searching (including searching for more stable fields), and it offered zero security and no promise of ever fixing itself.

        Starting my business and working for APW might not offer me health insurance, but my chances for upward mobility are much better, and I have a real opportunity to choose where I end up here. Do I still need someone else’s health insurance? Yup. But I think when we add the layer of domesticity to the conversation, the historical implications complicate the conversation. Many women who make money blogging are bootstrapping just as hard as the rest of us, but through a medium that is associated with privilege.

        • meg

          Also, I do want to add to this conversation by saying: being able to pay for my employees health insurance is a huge goal for me. I’m bringing this up because pften, the people who publicly push me me to pay employees and contributors more (though trust me, no one can possibly want that more than I do) are also the same people who publicly disparage business choices APW makes to make the money to pay for things like benefits.

          So, I think this is a great place to just take an informative time out, and say that the reason APW does things like work on thoughtful brand partnerships is because that’s what allows us to earn the money to (in no particular order) A) build the infrastructure of the site, B) pay employees more, C) give employees health insurance. I’m passionate about working with independent businesses, but there is no way that they can allow us to provide those types of benefits. Like us, they’re small businesses without deep pockets, and part of our mission is to support them… not fleece them.

          The reason we take on the partnerships we take on is so we can build a more sustainable business.

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            <3 <3 <3 your transparency here. It's making me miss the business update posts when you were quitting your job and writing the book. I'm looking forward to an entrepreneurship post announcing that the partnerships (and the US government) are at a point of being able to sustain health insurance.

        • Brittany

          Also- why doesn’t this discussion get played out for male creatives? My husband is a writer of a blog that makes some money, and has a day job writing ad copy. He would love to eventually quit that day job. He has also always relied on my health insurance. Always. Except when he relied on his parents’. I bristle at the idea that if the roles were reversed no one is discussing privilege. My husband doesn’t apologize for the creative career he is hauling ass to build, and I have never heard someone accuse him of being spoiled or privileged.

      • Rachel

        While I think that asking others to examine their own privilege when touting a lifestyle or bragging about their success is fine (like, I don’t want to get lectured from some white dude on why he bootstrapped it so everyone else should too), I’ve watched this term over the past few months basically become the new white guilt. It is typically applied not just to those who brag or tout a lifestyle, but to anyone we deem successful. (And, of course, when you are a woman, living your life or sharing your life = bragging.) Those who do acknowledge their privilege do it with a clear sense of apology regarding their success, and those who do not (particularly women who do not) are torn apart for that. “Lean In” contained so many apologies and acknowledgements of privilege, I found it distracting (and thought that it sort of took away from the message of the book)…and yet Sheryl Sandberg was STILL ripped apart for not acknowledging her privilege. And given that most of this comes from other privileged people (just maybe not AS privileged), I find it really…well, sort of privileged in itself.

        Where I really struggle with the current way the term privilege is thrown around these days is figuring out where we draw the line…as in, exactly how underprivileged does one have to be to be “okay” with everyone? Yes, I’m a woman of color…BUT I’m half-white and have light skin. Yes, I grew up poor…BUT I lived in a nice enough suburb that I was able to get a really good education and build a network of privileged white people. I guess my point is that we can find privilege in the lives of MOST successful people, even people of color and people who came from humble beginnings, and one shouldn’t have to have the biggest sob story out there before we can say, “Hey, she worked hard and I’m happy for her.” So I would challenge us all to not only examine and acknowledge our privilege, but to examine how we apply this term to other women and to think about the reasons we demand other women acknowledge their privilege along with their success. Is it coming from a place of caring about social justice? Or is it stemming from a mixture of insecurity, guilt, and our frustration with the limited ability for success as a woman that is a direct result of the patriarchy more than any individual women’s choices?

        • Thank you for writing the only sane comment in this entire thread. The assumptions about privilege that get made based on a woman choosing not to use her lifestyle blog as a platform for social change is mind-boggling to me.

        • meg

          This is one of my favorite comments ever written.

        • Love this part: “So I would challenge us all to not only examine and acknowledge our privilege, but to examine how we apply this term to other women and to think about the reasons we demand other women acknowledge their privilege along with their success. Is it coming from a place of caring about social justice? Or is it stemming from a mixture of insecurity, guilt, and our frustration with the limited ability for success as a woman that is a direct result of the patriarchy more than any individual women’s choices?” Thank you, Rachel, for writing something sensible and eloquent and cutting right through the BS!

        • rys

          I’ve been thinking through and puzzling over Rachel’s comment all afternoon. And I keep coming back to the fact that when I think about my life and career, privilege is center — it both allowed me to get where I am and I feel privileged to be in a position to do the thing I love. Now I don’t make much money, though it is livable and I have more time flexibility than other jobs would give me, and I will never be rich, but I’m totally fine with that. But there is no doubt that as hard as I have worked and as many obstacles as I’ve faced, I’ve still benefitted from race (white) privilege, (middle-) class privilege, and education privilege. I’ve had choices that not everyone gets and I’ve been able to make decisions that not everyone else has.

          I live and work in an educationally privileged setting that nonetheless has people who have overcome far greater obstacles — especially in terms of poverty and race — than I’ve ever faced. So in this sense, I feel that acknowledging my privilege is not about undermining or sidelining my success, but recognizing that my path has, in fact, been easier than many of my colleagues and it would be a disservice to them not to recognize that. So I don’t see admitting privilege as white guilt but as awareness, and I don’t think expecting or holding others to a standard of awareness is a bad thing.

          • k

            I so agree with this point of view. I grew up on a farm where my parents talked regularly about whether or not they would have to declare bankruptcy and we never took a family vacation that wasn’t visiting relatives a couple of hours away, but I had a stable home and they managed to send us to private school because our school district was terrible, and pay for music lessons, and it was assumed we would go to college…..

            And honestly, after spending time in rural India and Africa, it’s hard not to see every single thing about my life as extremely privileged.

          • There’s a difference between asking people to be aware of their privilege and criticising them for it. Again, just because someone blogs about being inspired by Martha Stewart or wearing a frilly apron or even being a housewife and doesn’t discuss politics doesn’t mean they don’t think about it. Or that they have to preface their entire blog with ‘I know I am privileged, I am aware’. Then they get accused of humblebragging, or being disingenuous, or whatever.

            I lead an extremely privileged life. I am aware of it. I know what it is like to have been poor and even in the depths of our poverty growing up I still knew I had more than many, many other people. I give my time and voice my opinion in what I feel are the appropriate forums (i.e. not my food blog or my photography blog or my now-defunct style blog) to argue for social change. I physically argue and contribute to conversations about the need for change. Yet if you read my blog, which makes no mention of this, i’d probably be accused of being a spoiled, white, upper middle class housewife who has no idea what ‘real’ work is. I think this is where some of us get frustrated – just because we don’t blog about it doesn’t mean we aren’t aware or engaged in other areas of our lives. Or that we haven’t experienced the flipside of privilege.

      • “….but our general failure as a society so far to take care of our collective needs…”

        YES. It blows my mind how disconnected our communities have come. There are so many systems/ideologies that contribute to that phenomenon (capitalism and individualism being significant parts), but I still just wonder and marvel at how humans seemingly forgot their connection to the world around them and to each other.

    • meg

      Just for the record: lots of us.

      Until recently my business paid health insurance (out of pocket) for my whole family. Now it pays it for me and my kid, because my husband’s damn good job only covers him. (Funnily, my company is way more supportive of our family….)

      I know a lot of pro-bloggers, and a ton of us are insuring our families, and are in fact the primary earners. I’m the primary earner in this family, and the one that’s supported us through a super bumpy legal job market. Just checking us on the assumption that lady work is always the less primary, lower paying work. It’s not. At all.

      Also, if you ask me, I have WAY more marketable skills than my attorney husband. If I stop APW, I’m going to be able to out earn him, don’t you worry. My skills are damn important, AND I have an independent passion.

      SO. I just want us to check some assumptions here. I don’t like the idea that my job happens to be a job of privilege, while my husband’s work somehow isn’t. My job is what provides us a financial safety net, and it ALWAYS has. I didn’t have a safety net till I earned it, so it’s not like I started a business because I had one.

      • Rachel

        When I went full-time freelance two months ago, I became a part-time consultant for my previous full-time job. One of the things that I had made part of my contract? That I would get to keep my health insurance. In fact, that’s the main form of payment I get from that job now. I could have gotten domestic partnered with Eric to get on his insurance (and I still could, and I still might have to if something were to happen with that gig). Part of the reason I negotiated to keep my insurance is because it’s better than his, but you know what the other reason was? The fact that I knew that if I did got on Eric’s insurance, it would undermine my career success for years to come. I also stated pretty openly on my blog that Eric wasn’t supporting me financially through this transition because I knew that would be the immediate assumption. And, again, I knew that if I relied on him financially, I’d have to defend that arrangement for the next decade as my success was derided as being less the result of my own hard work, and more the result of my relationship and privilege.

        I’m genuinely curious whether any men who rely on their wives for health insurance or financial support as they pursue their dreams worry about this like I did.

        • meg


          Since my husband has relied on my for health insurance for the last five years, I can just say flat out: no, they don’t. No one will ever question that possibly he has his legal career because my job or business was able to give him health insurance for five years, and I was able to help put him through the end of law school.

          But, from now till we retire, people will assume that I have this job because he supports me.

          • Pamela

            I don’t think they worry about it the same way women do.

            In my family, I do out-earn my husband, and he’s also on my health insurance. My insurance cheaper and better than what is offered by his company, so it was a purely economic decision. However, he did struggle (a bit) with feeling “dependent” on me, and he was a bit…surprised that I was the “primary” person on our insurance.

            On the other hand, he is also working on a career transition, which I am “supporting” him through. Right now that support is emotional, although at some point it could become financial as well. He doesn’t worry about that piece of it and no one will give him crap about it either. He doesn’t lay awake nights worring that he’s going to have to turn in his “man card” because I’m helping him figure out his next step.

            I do think it helps that we both work somewhat traditional jobs. There is some negativity about men in creative fields too- so, if my husband quit his day job to be a novelist or musician, there are probably some who would say that he was a slacker (I’m sure everyone’s heard the joke – “what do you call a musician without a girlfriend? Homeless.” Har har.). So there is definately some pressure there. However, were he to become a *successful* novelist or musician, everyone would assume that I was just riding his financial coattails.

            Anyway, point being, there’s definately a gender divide at work, but I think there’s also a divide between the corporate world and the creative world too – where the corporate thing is seen as stable and productive and “normal” and safe and the creative world is “risky” and somehow less worhty of respect. However, as we all know, the corporate world can drop you in a second, so it’s not nearly as “stable” as it appears.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I honestly don’t understand Rachel’s question. Maybe it has to do with different industries.

          Our household is arranged like Meg and David’s about 4 years back. My husband has no income and has insurance through my work. I don’t see our arrangement as having any bearing on his career. It has some bearing on mine, insofar as I will keep and take jobs I don’t like because I have to support us (like Meg did). But we expect my husband to be in my position some day, also.

          But there are two big differences between us and Meg and David: First, both my profession and my husband’s are primarily about skills, rather than personality. Second, on paper, my husband owns a business, so there’s no gaps in his resume. If there were gaps, I would understand my husband might be probed about how he gets by these days, but I don’t see how our household finances have anything to do with our professional lives.

          • meg

            Whoa. Time out. I’m not sure what it looks like from there, but I can 100% guarantee you that my job is dependent on skills, not personality. The skills are too many to list: accounting, writing, social media marketing, staff management, content management, strategic partnerships, online analytics, public speaking, strategic planning, etc, etc. I have the skills because A) I got my degree in creative composition, B) I worked in creative management and worked my way from internships to operational management, C) This is my second time founding and managing a creative company, D) I took a job in investment banking to train in business skills, C) I took accounting classes and various MBA prep courses at UC Berkeley’s night school to add to my creative education and train for running my own business, E) 10+ years of being in the workforce.

            My “personality” so to speak, is occasionally on display in my writing (a skill), and my public speaking (another skill), but it’s not what I run my business on.

            Unless you’re arguing that my husband’s personality is the foundation of his litigation career…

            The fact that as a woman in a creative profession I even have to make this argument (over and over and over) speaks to something. Sexism, perhaps? Undervaluing of creative work, perhaps? But the assumptions are fundamentally flawed.

        • Rachel

          @ElisabethJoanne — My question is: Do successful men worry that relying on their wives for health insurance at some point as they pursue a career goal is going to be used against them if they are successful? Because I have good reason to be concerned that if I relied on Eric for insurance or financial support as I pursued a career goal, this would be an issue if/when I am more successful. I actually think it would be an issue even before that point. “Oh well, she CAN pursue freelance writing [start a business, etc.] because she is privileged thanks to her husband’s job.” That’s a real thing that gets said about women who choose to purse goals and I don’t think the same thing is very often said about men.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            But used against them how? I get that Meg can be dismissed because “She doesn’t have to be a successful businesswoman because her husband supports her,” but for people with regular (traditional? corporate?) jobs, whether we’re even married isn’t part of the professional picture, let alone the details of our household finances. My husband does worry about his financial dependence on me in his personal life – what friends and family think of him. But, no, he doesn’t worry about it professionally. And, if the roles were reversed, and I had been dependent on him, I wouldn’t worry about it professionally, either.

          • meg

            But Rachel also has a creative job, so she worries about it. Outside the corporate world, this is a question we have to think about, at least as women. The question is if men have to think about it too.

          • Brittany

            I can’t speak for men in general, but I just asked my husband if he worries that relying on my health insurance will ever damage him professionally, and he gave me a confused face and then laughed before asking why that would ever be an issue. His serious answer after thinking about it was that if anyone ever brought it up he would just ask them if they’ve ever seen the benefits packages city teachers get, because he has never seen a private company that matches it, and close with the fact that we know a good deal when we see it.

        • SamanthaNichole

          That’s kind of ridiculous. (Not what you said but that it is true). You don’t HAVE to have health insurance. Ergo you could make the same career choices with the knowledge that you would not have health insurance. There is a particular 20’s demographic that has been dealing with this no health insurance, bounced from parents health insurance, allowed to go back on it if X,Y, and Z are true, etc. But a lot of people get left in the gap and either choose to purchase their own insurance (i.e. a Cobra program) or just choose not to have it. That said I understand how people would assume you were making your choices out of the freedom of knowing you were on your husbands plan. I don’t know how I feel about it all. It shouldn’t matter at all though! What if both couples have health insurance options for the whole family – why wouldn’t you just have the family on one person’s insurance, whoever’s is better and call it. If it happens to be the husband who’s insurance is better why should a woman feel bad about that. I don’t know . . .

          Is this how you feel ” it would undermine my career success for years to come” ?

          • KC

            I think, for creative professionals, if it looks like any part of their success is “faked”, their careers are enormously damaged. So if it’s presented as if they’ve normally-published three books, but actually they’re all self-published and no one has bought a copy besides their mom; or if it looked like they were living off their earnings as a blogger (which implies a certain number of readers and a large amount of savviness) but it turns out that the blog wasn’t even paying for hosting costs, let alone all the rest of it; or if it looked like they were self-sustaining as a musician (but actually they paid the venues to allow them to play), then people, including people-who-might-pay-you and people-who-might-make-connections-for-you and people-who-might-advertise-with-you assess your talent/marketability/skills based on the perceived level of success and cut you out of the camp of “legitimate” creative professionals if it looks like you were using any crutches at any point.

            Obviously, I’m someone different, so her answers might be different, but if I get a job because I’d worked for companies X, Y, and Z, or had gotten a degree from a particular school, and then it came out that I hadn’t – that would be career damaging.

            Creative professionals often have a hard time being taken seriously as it is – is someone a “real artist” or is it a “hobby” or are they a “trust fund baby” or…? So being able to say, “yes, my creative work earns and has earned enough cold, hard cash to support me without supplement, and my apparent success level has never been inflated to try to net a better position” is a way of measuring that.

            (note: it’s a bit ironic [or something] that creative professionals are supposed to magically turn a profit as soon as they start doing their thing full time, or they’re not legitimate, but that more “normal” businesses can take on massive debt and have years or decades of loss before they turn a profit and no one considers that a failure. But that does seem to be more or less the way it’s judged.)

          • Rachel

            It would undermine my career in that, when my current or future success is being picked apart (as women’s success so often is), whether or not my marriage and my husband’s finances played a role in my success will absolutely come up. I have read far too many profiles of successful women (creative and corporate types…hello, Sheryl Sandberg) and seen people claim these women aren’t worthy of success or didn’t work hard or were just lucky or aren’t talented simply because they have a partner whose health insurance or income they relied upon at some point. Creatives are expected to be starving artists bootstrapping it all the way to the top on talent and guts alone, and any help they receive along the way is seen as evidence that they don’t really deserve it.

          • I just wanted to mention that there are some people who can’t go without insurance due to serious and ongoing health issues. Not even for a month.

            Maintenance medication that without insurance would cost more than the mortgage and that absolutely can’t be skipped, not ever.

            We have a health issue in our family like that, and the thought of spending even one day without coverage is terrifying. The medical costs without insurance make me feel ill. It would bankrupt us for sure.

            So one or the other of us will always have to dance the corporate dance, which is sad because neither one of us really wants to.

            And this is why I support single payer.

        • I think the other part that’s never acknowledged is “Of COURSE he/she is supporting her/him, they’re MARRIED.”

          It goes back to the discussion of egalitarian marriages/partnerships- sometimes one person picks up the slack, sometimes the other. OF COURSE one’s partner might support one financially, emotionally, however- when one needs it. I’d also expect one would support her partner when the alternative scenario occurred. Why are we worried about who’s paying the bills in household at all? To me, it’s not so much “a woman’s success should stand on its own” (which I agree with) but more “an individual’s success is a credit to herself as well as to her partnership/family/community.” Isn’t that why we cultivate our partnerships and communities in the first place? For mutual support in time of need?

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Conclusion: I can’t answer Rachel’s question, because even though our finances fit the question, my husband’s and my professions don’t.

          And of course I didn’t mean Meg doesn’t rely on skills, but that she talks about her personal life professionally in a way that lawyers (me and David) and bankers (my husband) don’t.

          I also think it’s possible that one could be a creative professional and not explicitly involve one’s personal life. Such people would face concerns in their private lives, as my husband does, but I don’t think either gender loses professional credibility because of their household finances.

          • Rachel

            This is a whole other topic, but I honestly think it can be quite difficult to be a female creative professional and not involve your personal life, at least in some career paths. Women are just expected to be nice and friendly and OPEN. The Times recent profile on January Jones, who is pretty private, was pretty snotty, and a reminder of what happens to women who aren’t bubbly and willing to talk about their personal lives.


          • As a creative professional I have to disagree with this. When freelancing, plenty of clients don’t give two licks about my personal life – they hired me to design something, simple. The same can be true of paintings I’ve sold. People might want to know your artist statement, but it’s very atypical that they ask

            In fact, it is only on the internet, where there are basically no etiquette rules of what is actually okay to ask a person and what is too personal (and I think questions of how you make your money, who pays your bills, or where you get your healthcare to be too personal for me to want to answer without knowing who a person even is on the other side of that screen) that I’ve seen people continuously rip creative professionals apart out of some ridiculous notion that unless they are entirely self-made, they don’t deserve their success.

            However, because the internet is largely where people are going to go to learn more about me (should I become the type of artist that gets more of a following) then I have to worry about how much of my personal life is going to show up there, and how that could affect future sales. Which is why I police my social media very heavily. I am an artist who creates digital media, and I disagree with the notion that being that artist grants people instant access into certain aspects of my life.

        • p.

          My husband has been on my insurance for years and I have been our primary breadwinner for years as he went through a career change. He did not struggle at all with being dependent on me. In fact, I struggled with the fact that he was so comfortable with it.

      • Amy March

        I think my comment got a bit convoluted here. I don’t doubt at all that running a large successful blog is a real transferable business skill. I was really raising 2 issues: the economics of blogging and the economics of homemaking. I’m sold on professional blogging being a viable economic proposition. I’m not sold on the concept of the new domesticity generally being anything other than a return to the major risks my Mother’s generation faced.


        As a Canadian, I honestly can’t even understand what you guys are really talking about here. Insurance through work is for the frills, like massage coverage. It’s nice if you have it, it’s fine if you don’t. My c-section cost us zero cash dollars, because it’s paid through taxes. Going to the doctor or hearing specialist or allergist costs us nothing, because it’s paid through taxes. Our goverment IS the safety net, and I wish your country could see what a goddamn blessing for all of us, and your system looks so, so broken. To the point I can’t even imagine that there’s a freaking judgmental hierarchy for coverage. Just… does not compute.

    • LikelyLaura

      And now I find it so interesting that no one worries about my husband who gets his insurance from my job…

    • Cait

      Absolutely. My grandma was left for a 15-years-younger woman (now my beloved step-grandma) after 25 years of marriage and five kids, after never having worked. It was before women could usually get their own credit cards, but she’d been friendly with the people at the bank, and when the bankers heard my grandfather had left her, they set her up with her own account and card. She was lucky, and has remained lucky. But she struggled. She had two minor kids still at home, limited money, and, as a devout Catholic, considered herself unmarriageable.

      Her career at home was important to her family, but it left her pretty screwed in 1970.

  • Kait

    This “So the question then becomes: why are we blaming the women who are doing something they enjoy (and, in many cases, are earning a living from it) instead of questioning why, exactly, one woman’s desire to make her own pickles is immediately taken as some sort of attack against the women who buy their pickles from the grocery store?”

    And this “They are not symbols of a secret desire to stay home and raise babies, but reminders of my mom’s and grandma’s lessons to stay strong and raise hell.”

    This article is exactly what I needed to read today. I’m a baker and a crafter and have so often felt the need to justify these skills and traditions that were placed in me growing up from my mother, aunts and grandmother.

    Great article, thanks for sharing a perspective I can relate to on this subject.

  • Erin

    This was a wonderful read.

    You know, I’ve observed this trend among the women I know – and in my own household. Some of it is likely the rise of Pinterest, sure. Women are sharing great ideas on these topics in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

    And there’s an edge of being healthier and more environmentally conscious. We make our own spaghetti sauce and bread in part to escape the high quantities of sugar and the number of preservatives shoved in there.

    But if I’m honest? The biggest driver for me – and for many of our friends – has been cost. We’re poor. I make a decent salary, but my husband cannot find a job, and freelancing doesn’t pull in a lot. So that amazing garden full of tomatoes isn’t /hipster/. It’s letting us spend our money on something other than tomatoes (doesn’t hurt that they’re more delicious and also organic to boot!). Our breadmaker gets weekly use because it’s less than half the price of a loaf of inferior bread at the store.

    I know a lot of women like this. They clean with vinegar and make their own laundry detergent and sew reusable swiffer pads, and part of the motivation is feeling good about what we’re doing for the environment and the things we bring into our lives.

    But part of the motivation is that being a homemaker is in many ways about making a comfortable, happy life for /less/. And we don’t all have the luxury of choice when it comes to that right now.

    • Rachel

      I would love to read a post about this! I actually reached out to Matchar to ask her about this very thing…how many people doing this are actually poor? (I was also curious about whether or not there was any type of cultural appropriation going on here…as in, is this just an instance of the media calling something a trend because the middle class is now doing it?) She wrote back and said that it was mostly a middle class phenomenon because poor people are just going to go buy their jam at Wal-mart, not make it themselves, that it was more a response to not being able to afford Whole Foods, not a response to not being able to afford food at all. While I think that’s likely quite true, I did still wonder if there were poor or lower-middle class people who do all the things you mentioned for that exact reason. My thought was perhaps they just aren’t blogging about it? Because all the things I mentioned about my life growing up…the cloth diapering, the sewing my clothes…those things were NOT about being cool or trendy. They were simply more affordable and they made more sense. So I think that’s why I take issue with the idea that it’s only rich people doing it, and therefore it’s associated with privilege and therefore we must criticize it.

      • Meaghan

        When I was researching gardening for my thesis, there were a lot of community gardens run by new immigrants in my community – partially because of cost, but partially to grow foods that were part of their cultures that weren’t available here.

        But I also came across a lot of research that pointed out that we often forget the opportunity cost of your time, especially at low wage levels – a jar of homemade jam may be cheaper than a jar of Walmart jam, but only if you don’t count the loss of wages that you could earn if you weren’t making jam at home. The higher your income, the more valuable your leisure time is to you – so you’re okay with forgoing an extra shift to stay home and make jam. People living at or below the poverty line often don’t have the luxury of not working (to say nothing of the liquidity required to say, buy $300 worth of berries in one shot to make jam for the year – if you’re living paycheque to paycheque that’s a big investment).

        • Some of my friends who heavily DIY are doing it as a response to the massive layoffs of the recession — there are still no good jobs to be *had* for some of them, so when the best job you can get is still only part-time (and under the table, which makes qualifying for food stamps quite difficult), you fill up that remaining time with things like DIYing your budget down (and having lots of roommates, etc.)

        • KC

          There’s time and liquidity [especially since a lot of these require at least some “gear”], but I’d also throw in the fact that right now, a lot of things are actually a whole lot cheaper to buy cheap than to make at home (see: fabric costs vs. Walmart clothes costs [or thrift store costs]).

          Jam’s also a really good example of this, since unless you get the berries for free (blackberries or huckleberries, for instance) and already have the jars and buy the sugar and pectin in bulk, it’s actually a lot lower of a cost to buy the cheapest store-bought jam/jelly (which has very little actual fruit in it and is mass-produced and is in giant plastic bottles; therefore: cheaper).

          Now, what homemade jams [and other more-expensive-than-cheapest-store-option items] are great for is that area just above absolutely poor but with some available time – where you need gifts/treats/things-to-bring-to-a-potluck, but have very little money. Many people like homemade jam or homemade fudge or similar things, and they appreciate the time and effort and skill involved (and, in some cases, the novelty of the new flavors), but if you brought them the equivalent-cost option from the grocery store, they would be… not terribly impressed. So in the gifts/contributions category, homemade wins the cost issue by a major margin, as it does in the specialty categories (organic or wheat free or vegan or whatever specific constraints are necessary in a particular situation but are not normally observed by the lowest-shelf option at Walmart).

          Rice with beans, though? From-scratch is basically always gonna be cheaper. :-) (although, not necessarily feasible for someone trying to hold down a full-time job and take care of kids, etc. – sometimes you really need the five-minute food option, not the soak-overnight-then-cook-for-hours option)

          But for people who have extra time and who would like to bump up their standard of living (or minimize debt while still hanging out with friends at a different standard of living), jam is good. :-)

      • I think that part of the doing it/blogging about it thing in regards to socioeconomic status has to do with time and cost, along with location. Rural poor vs. urban poor, for one thing. If you live in a food dessert and don’t have ready access to fruits and vegetables, it’s unlikely that you are going to find canning your own jams and pickles cheaper.

        If you grew up in an area that didn’t teach home ec in any real way in school and your family didn’t teach you those skills already, teaching yourself to cook from scratch and to sew while also trying to hold down a minimum wage job with lots and lots of hours is impractical. (Not to mention that doing stuff from scratch can be rather expensive, materials-wise.) Even Wal-Mart clothes might be too expensive, and it’s off to the second hand store, maybe with a voucher from some social service agency.

        I have a friend who is poor but grew up middle class and went to art school. Her family doesn’t have a lot of money, but she grew up with a skillset for DIY and is a bit of a punk-rock mama. She’s also living in an area that gives her access to resources like good food stores and farmers markets and decent public transportation. She talks about the challenges of making ends meet and waiting tables while raising two kids, but she also knows that she’s got a decent amount of privilege when it comes to it. It’s interesting to hear her talk about it.

        I have another friend who grew up super poor. Like, not even access to dental care poor. She’s also trying to raise two kids while making ends meet. She left her abusive husband, and can’t count on him to help her…in fact he is more likely to complicate her financial situation. She’s trying to homeschool her kids and work to support them at the same time and the amount of ass-busting she does is amazing. She is also generally just about at the end of her rope on a regular basis, both financially and in terms of “spoons”. She likes the idea of DIY and is a bit of a punk-rock mama, but in the end, it’s going to be whatever she can afford and has the energy for at that time.

        • Anony-Moose

          As someone with an invisible illness, can I ask that you please refrain from using the term ‘spoons’ unless your friend is actually ill?

          • And you are assuming that she isn’t.

          • As someone with an invisible illness, I would think that you of all people would not make assumptions about the health of others when operating on limited information.

            I realize that this may be a sensitive point for you, but given that you know nothing about the health of my friend or the health of most/all of the other people on this thread, I would kindly ask you not to police language in this way.

      • Kate

        Of all the things that used to be made at home, there are some that are still cheaper to make yourself and some that can cost ten times more to make at home than to buy at the store. I think making your own jam is a luxury. All the pectin and sugar involved can be expensive, not to mention the bucketloads of fruit. Even having the equipment to make jam is a sign of economic status- canning pot, jars and lids, even access to a functioning kitchen.
        If we look at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, it is unlikely that “reclaiming” certain homemaking tasks will be a high priority for those who have just worked an exhausting 12 hour day and come home to take care of their kids and do all the household tasks not already outsourced in modern homes.
        Furthermore, I’ve seen in immigrant communities that not having to do some of these household tasks can be a point of pride. In their countries of origin, such services and products were not readily available. In certain communities fast food is very popular for parents to feed their children because even though it is fast and cheap, it was not readily available in their communities of origin and is therefore a luxury and a sign they are giving their child the best.

      • MDBethann

        I’m the daughter of a pastor and when I was little in the 1980s, we lived in a house that came with my dad’s job & Dad had a small salary as well as insurance. My mom decided to take a 10-year break from teaching to have us and get us to kindergarten. Once my sister was in school, she started working again. Before that, we didn’t have lots of money (something I only found out when I was older). My parents had a HUGE garden, went to orchards & berry farms for fruit, and Mom made jam & applesauce which she canned alongside tomatoes & peaches. She froze many of her other veggies. She tried making clothes for me but I was a brat who didn’t appreciate the outfits so she stopped (sorry Mom!). My sister and I also wore cloth diapers when we were babies (unless we were going some place). All of it was because of my parents’ tight budget.

        Once we were older and Mom was working full time outside of the home, the garden got smaller & she didn’t can as much because (1) she didn’t have the time and (2) the “necessity” was gone since we were now a dual-income family.

        My husband and I recognize the value in knowing how to grow, preserve (I’m going to have my mom and MIL teach me canning next month), and prepare your own food, both for health benefits for ourselves and in case the zombie apocalypse occurs. We both have good jobs with insurance, but would rather spend our money on quality products made in the U.S. (preferably from Mom & Pop places), making our home the way we want it, and seeing the world on our vacations. Having a garden & making our own food just makes sense to us and we both engage in those activities because we recognize the power of the knowledge (I’ll just ask my BFF to make us clothing, because my machine-sewing skills are lacking).

        When I’m told how “lucky” I am that my husband does his own laundry, cooks, and cleans the house, I try to respond that we’ve each lived on our own so we both HAD to learn to do these things. These are LIFE skills that we both have and both use to make our household and our marriage run smoothly.

      • Erin

        You know, there may be something about ‘not being able to afford Whole Foods’, but even that seems so dismissive. Why should anyone give up things they feel are healthier or better for the environment because only the rich and comfortable can afford it?

        To be fair, most of the people who I know are what we’d probably call lower middle class. They’re not scraping by. But they can’t afford a lot of nice things, either. They may make salaries that place them into that category, but they also have crippling student loan debt. There are lots of ways for people to look at feel middle class while still being very conscious of where their money is going.

        • Rachel

          Yes, this! That response rubbed me the wrong way too, and you’ve perfectly articulated why.

      • Tammy

        Thank you Erin!!!! I love cooking and baking. Pinterest introduced me to cleaning with vinegar. I make my own body butters and hair creme’s. I also have very little disposable income because I pay our mortgage. So my body butter only has 100% pure items because it is cheaper to buy pure Shea butter than it is to buy Shea butter infused items. My mirrors are squeaky clean. And I am a black woman with natural hair. I thank women who are engineers and who grow tomato because let’s face it: during the zombie apocalypse they will keep the lights on and feed the masses.

    • meg


      And look, again, a lot to unpack. If we’re talking about “how to make a beachy polka dot tote from scratch” we’re talking about a hobby. Not one I think we should judge as privileged and frivolous (because why the hell are men’s hobby’s getting the day off, like whatever the hell they do is so noble, while women are being brought to task for sewing tote bags), but it’s still a hobby. And it’s one that you need some time to pursue.

      However. I grew up learning any number of domestic arts (from my mom and grandmother, but also my dad, who was the cook, and showed me how to make a mean pie crust), because it’s how we could afford to keep our household afloat.

      I think the response Rachel speaks to below, “poor people are just going to go buy their jam at Wal-mart, not make it themselves,” is a oversimplification and stereotype of what it’s like to not have a lot of money. It removes the agency from people that are strapped for cash, and reduces them to our image of them. There is no way in hell we could have afforded even looking in the door of Whole Foods when I was growing up, but we also couldn’t afford all kinds of other things. My dad made stock from scratch out of chicken bones so he could cook nicer food, because… pre bought stock was expensive, and unhealthy. We couldn’t afford clothes at Kmart sometimes, so my mom made them.

      It’s painful to me that we are in a culture that writes off anyone who does domestic arts as privileged, even when they’re working hard at (stock making, clothes sewing, what have you), to make ends meet in a way that backs up their politics.

      That in no way excuses us from getting off our asses to work politically for social justice, but my parents did that too. So let’s not write off them, and those like them, sewing clothes, cooking, volunteering, forming committees for social justice work, trying to figure out how to pay the bills, and raising kids, as just privileged. In doing so, we miss some rich and wonderful realities.

      My parents didn’t have a blog though, in the 80s. So there is that.

      • Hell yes to men’s hobbies not being questioned, while women’s are.

        Imagine a traditionally male hobby — playing cards or dominoes, fishing, collecting stamps, light carpentry. Now imagine a guy being judged for participating in that hobby: “Oh, but you don’t really need to fish/restore furniture, you already make enough money to buy those things.”

        Guys get to DO things, without their entire identity being judged. Women have to BE. Our hobbies must MEAN something about us — what kind of person we are, how we live our lives.

        It’s a problem of women being criticized and judged much more harshly than man. Both by society, and amongst each other.

        • Sam A

          “Guys get to DO things, without their entire identity being judged. Women have to BE. Our hobbies must MEAN something about us — what kind of person we are, how we live our lives.”

          This. I work full-time, in a pressured creative industry, and my Diy / crafting is the way i find release, a personal expression of my own creativity, nothing more, nothing less. I have blogged about some of my creations, but again – as a fun thing to do, for myself, not anyone (male/female) else.

          • It’s really funny, because this morning, a male colleague (an accountant) talked to me for about 10 minutes about a beautiful sweater he’s knitting. I was amazed by his talent (he brought the sweater in and I could see the detailing), but I didn’t think, “He is a Crafter. He is a Neo-Homesteader. He is obviously an egalitarian feminist who values women’s crafts” or whatever. Knitting is simply an activity he enjoys, a skill he has developed and perhaps something he is innately good at in some way.

            He also rides motorcycles. He doesn’t apologize for any of his hobbies. He just does them ’cause they’re fun for him.

      • Hell yes to men’s hobbies not being questioned, while women’s are.

        Imagine a traditionally male hobby — playing cards or dominoes, fishing, collecting stamps, light carpentry. Now imagine a guy being judged for participating in that hobby: “Oh, but you don’t really need to fish/restore furniture, you already make enough money to buy those things.”

        Guys get to DO things, without their entire identity being judged. Women have to BE. Our hobbies must MEAN something about us — what kind of person we are, how we live our lives.

        It’s a problem of women being criticized and judged much more harshly than men. Both by society, and amongst each other.

        • Audrey

          Wow, I don’t know if it’s true for anyone else, but this line really hit home for me: “Guys get to DO things, without their entire identity being judged. Women have to BE.”

          While this is likely partially a personal problem (although my observations suggest it is a very common one) – I struggle constantly not to measure everything I do against what I should be. I *should* be cooking my own food, I *should* be making my own jam instead of buying Smuckers… indeed this is more my own problem than anyone else’s….

          At the same time, I simply don’t see the same underlying struggle in most of my male friends, while I often see it in my women friends – whatever they are doing. Honestly I don’t know how to turn that little voice off. (Okay, it doesn’t help that my mom constantly bothers me about how I should be cooking more and how unhealthy it is for us to eat out as much as we do.)

          • I’m glad this comment spoke to you, Audrey :)

            I do the “should” thing too, and am really sick of it. I want to own my choices more and not second-guess myself, or let others judge me.

            I admire the confidence that many guys seem to have, and the way they don’t always doubt themselves. I am trying to imagine a guy second-guessing himself the way we often do:

            “Ohmygod I just played video games for two hours instead of washing the cat, doing laundry, or spending meaningful time with my partner. I am SUCH a bad person and really need to change!”

            No. The internal monologue is probably more like: “That was fun.”

            Sometimes I’m too lazy to cook and sometimes I get on a roll and love to clean the house. That doesn’t make me a good or bad person. It’s simply what I’m interested in at a particular moment, and how I thus choose to spend my time.

          • This is me too! But I also feel like I should be less “domestic” so there are a lot of conflicting feelings going on.

            On one hand, I love to cook, bake, sew, and scrapbook in my free time. I am currently knitting a baby blanket for my soon coming nephew, and happily making plans for preparing scone dough so I can throw it in the oven and have fresh scones for breakfast in the morning. But I feel bad for doing all these things. Like I should be apologizing for enjoying baking, and sewing, and knitting and domesticity. And I do.

            On the other hand, I can’t stand sitting still. While eating dinner, or playing video games, or reading a book, I often look around and think about how I should finally clean my desk out, or finish the project that is taking up a large portion of the floor, or planning meals for the week. I feel so lazy, and awful for taking a break.

            Is there a way to win?

          • Sonrisa,

            We win by accepting that what we are doing at that moment is exactly what we need to be doing.

            I can also get fidgety. But that hour or so of TV is a great way to relax, so I consciously choose to watch my favorite show for an hour, and then get up and do something else. And whatever my hobby is, I will take that time to enjoy it, without apology.

            That is my goal. (It’s also a time management skill I learned in the book “Getting Things Done”. And Leo Babauta talks about it too in his blog Zen Habits.)

      • Erin

        And you know what? One woman deciding to start canning her own vegetables may not have any impact on the world.

        But thousands of them, doing it and talking about it and vocalizing their choice to avoid processed foods and preservatives and food dyes and excess sugar and fat and salt /can/. Thousands of them teaching their friends how to do the same can. Thousands of them being actively, quietly concerned about the consequences of their consumer choices to their friends can.

        Not all social movements have to be spoken big and loud.

        Makes me wonder if maybe there isn’t a tiny bit of worry underlying all this talk. You know. If women stop buying bread and diapers and start making their own in any number, that’s a real issue for certain people.

        • meg

          THIS COMMENT.

        • Erin E

          Yes, yes, yes! I buy organic/chemical-free products whenever possible not just because of the health concerns, but because I feel I’m “voting with my dollar”… sending a message to the powers that be regarding the things I care about. Change happens in many ways. Don’t underestimate the power of women communicating and working together – even if it’s quietly at first.

        • Christina McPants

          As a rather passionate jammer / pickler, THANK YOU.

    • Marcela

      I know how to cook, how to clean, how to decorate my house on a penny because we NEVER had money. My skills and my blogging do not stem from privilege, in fact it’s quite the opposite. I go to pinterest to find ideas to play with my kids and to support their therapies (speech, occupational), and I share what I learn in case it may help others. I am and was never envious of other lifestyle bloggers, heck if anything I am THANKFUL to them for sharing so many things that have helped me and my family so much.
      When the legal market decided I was not good enough for it because I had left for 3 years, I turned (heartbroken at first) to the activities where I had found joy in the past (baking, crafting, home-making in general), and I was made feel like cr@p by former colleagues because of that. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. I am not going to spend the rest of my life crying over what wasn’t or about how others feel or don’t feel about me. This is my life and I will live it the way I want, and the rest may as well get a life of their own instead of going around criticizing mine. I enjoy the home arts, I am making a business out of it (not a side job, a real business big enough to support the whole family) and I am not apologizing for it.

  • Laura C

    All that, and the last long quote said so much of what I was thinking:

    “Gardening and making your own soap and home-birthing your babies are fine, but these are inherently limited actions. If we want to see genuine food safety, if we want to see sustainable products, if we want to see a better women’s health system, and if we want these things for everyone, not just the privileged few with the time and education to DIY it, then we need large social changes. […]

    “…But unless you genuinely believe we’re going to return to the days of yeoman faring, the workplace is here to stay… If women cut back on their ambitions en masses, institutional change will never happen and the glass ceiling will lower. We need to be there to demand equal pay, mandatory maternity leave, more humane hours.”

    I’d also point to this article: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/113632/oregon-fluoridation-proof-liberals-are-new-puritans

    Look, I love to cook and bake. My mom mostly taught me to cook, my dad mostly taught me to bake. And that’s part of why it’s not a loaded activity for me — because I grew up in a house where that stuff was genuinely shared. But until men in general do something approaching, oh, let’s say 40% of that stuff, then I’m going to persist in seeing all the efforts to glamorize domesticity *for women specifically* as part of keeping women not just economically powerless but held to a higher standard, supposed to be able to not only get everything done, but get it done beautifully and cheerily and effortlessly and naturally.

    Now, if we had a universal minimum income and universal health care and a woman whose husband walked out and took his income with him could keep living her beautiful homecooked, handcrafted life, then great. But under current circumstances, we can’t. And no, employers are not reliable, but if we turn our energy to baking rather than improving the laws that protect us from abusive employers or just plain building power in the workplace, they have no incentive not to get worse.

    Let’s be clear, I’m not judging women who like to bake or craft. I’m not judging women who make a living from those things. But those things are not making our society easier for other women to get by, and if those are the things we elevate in our culture in ways that push more women out of the workplace because they can’t work *and* make the amazing homemade bread they think they should be making, then they are diminishing women’s economic power and that hurts us all. Again, as individual choices, fine, go for it, whatever makes you happy. As a giant new trend, at least in newspaper and magazine trend pieces and in bookstores, it’s a problem. It’s basically the whole-life equivalent of the professionally done “DIY” weddings that you can’t help but beat yourself up for not living up to, not realizing that they’re often way more expensive than your crappy pre-fab wedding — available to rich people and a few very, very talented crafters, making the rest of us feel bad about ourselves.

    • J

      “Look, I love to cook and bake. My mom mostly taught me to cook, my dad mostly taught me to bake. And that’s part of why it’s not a loaded activity for me — because I grew up in a house where that stuff was genuinely shared. But until men in general do something approaching, oh, let’s say 40% of that stuff, then I’m going to persist in seeing all the efforts to glamorize domesticity *for women specifically* as part of keeping women not just economically powerless but held to a higher standard, supposed to be able to not only get everything done, but get it done beautifully and cheerily and effortlessly and naturally.”

      Exactly. My concern is not individual women are choosing to do things that they enjoy. My concern is that it’s still primarily women doing these things. Even more problematically, to Amy March’s point above, it’s primarily women doing these things instead of entering into the workforce, after decades of fighting for workforce equality.

      • meg

        I love love that quote. ” But until men in general do something approaching, oh, let’s say 40% of that stuff, then I’m going to persist in seeing all the efforts to glamorize domesticity *for women specifically* as part of keeping women not just economically powerless but held to a higher standard, supposed to be able to not only get everything done, but get it done beautifully and cheerily and effortlessly and naturally.” SO SMART.

        However, per Amy March’s quote above, if we’re talking about women bloggers, I have to point out AGAIN, they are in the workforce, and in many cases they are supporting their whole families. So why are we trashing them for it? The politics are complicated. My support of women small business owners who support their families is not.

        • Meaghan

          I feel like for me, an important distinction is that so few of them acknowledge the fact that they’re making money off their blogs, and Meg, you’re he only one I’ve ever seen actually call it a business. And of course there’s the flip side of that, where I think part of the reason they don’t is because then people say they’ve “sold out,” but ultimately many of these blogs are self-presenting as hobbies.

          • meg

            That’s not true, though. I’m friends with some *lifestyle* bloggers, all caps. I’ve seen them call their businesses a business online a lot of times. But we see what we want to see, I think.

            I have made the choice to say that I run a business, over and over and over and over again, in all caps, everywhere, because it’s the only way I can get it through people’s heads as a truth. That’s the difference between how I talk about it, and how most people talk about it. And it is a truth. I’m the president of an S-Corp, with a lawyer and an accountant and a staff an a payroll system. I collect a payroll check twice a month, as do all of my employees. I think there is this idea that it’s about how we treat it, or talk about it, but that’s not the case.

            I can call it a business, or a hobby, or a monkey farm. It’s still a business, just like all the other pro-bloggers businesses are businesses. I’m just making the feminist choice to jump up and down and scream that it’s a business, because it’s the only way I know how to get through to people. I tried the more nuanced approach. It failed.

          • Meaghan

            Well obviously we could be reading completely different blogs, but the closest I’ve ever seen is sponsored posts.

          • meg

            I also think that it’s interesting that women have to say, “This is my job.” I quite honestly think that professional bloggers don’t think they have to say over and over that this is a job, because… it so obviously is. (And you may be saying that assumption is incorrect).

            I’ve never had another job where I had to keep reminding people it was a job, not some sort of weird elaborate hobby, so I haven’t really wrapped my head around that yet.

          • “That’s not true, though. I’m friends with some *lifestyle* bloggers, all caps. I’ve seen them call their businesses a business online a lot of times. But we see what we want to see, I think.”

            Ummm, just because the blogs *you* read call it a business, doesn’t mean all bloggers do. Most of the blogs I read are in a slightly different genre than being discussed in this article (mostly in the fitness/healthy living arena), but sponsored content is quite common on those blogs, many of them don’t have a full-time job outside of their blog, yet self-identify it a “hobby” or a “personal blog”.

            Part of that is a branding choice, I think – if the main topic of a blog of your life, then it does make some sense to try not to call it a business. But it also seems to be common that when bloggers (again, the blogs I read, which are probably different blogs than you read) are called out for sloppiness or not fully disclosing sponsor relationships, they fall back on “it’s just a hobby, don’t take it so seriously”.

          • The thing is, I think with blogs you really can have trouble telling whether it is or isn’t a job, because there are a lot of blogs that look professional, have a reasonably large readership, and are a hobby. I mean, Deb from Smitten Kitchen had a day job for years, and I think about a gazillion people a minute read that blog. And probably 98% of blogs out there are just a hobby.

            So yes, even if there’s an occasional sponsored post or google ad or whatever, I don’t automatically assume that a blog is someone’s job, and I don’t think that this particular decision has anything to do with their gender (as in, there are male bloggers I read without assuming they blog as a fulltime job).

        • never.the.same

          “However, per Amy March’s quote above, if we’re talking about women bloggers, I have to point out AGAIN, they are in the workforce, and in many cases they are supporting their whole families. So why are we trashing them for it? The politics are complicated. My support of women small business owners who support their families is not.”

          I don’t agree with “trashing” of women (lifestyle/homemaking) bloggers, but I do have to point out that these women aren’t just deciding to live their lives another way. When they are making money off of their blogs, they are selling the idea of their lifestyle. They are selling themselves as a product and their lifestyle choices as the answer to your problems. (They do this the same way that advertisers sell you chocolate, by selling you smiling faces of chocolate eaters. Or the way advertisers sell you beer/cleaning products/cereal: with beautiful images and the message that your life will be better! With this product!). We’re totally ok criticizing advertisers. So why do bloggers get a pass? Because we don’t want to call out an individual woman for the same behavior as anonymous scummy advertisers?

          • meg

            I don’t disagree about needing to unpack what the trends mean (though I’m dubious about leveling it as an attack on particular women, mostly because I’ve read a lot of these attacks, and I’ve never seen one that gets the facts correct, ever.)

            I think Rachel makes the point that unpacking these trends needs to be intellectually critical, and not based on unsubstantiated assumptions, and not only from a white, upper middle class point of view.

          • Bloggers are not advertisers. Not inherently so. They are tied to advertising, yes, but they are not advertisers.

            Think of it this way. You have cable television, and there are certain shows you love to watch. Do you criticize the quality/integrity of your favorite television show because that’s when you saw a terrible advertisement? Not likely. The show and the ad depend on each other for capital, but that does not make them the same thing. Likewise with bloggers.

            To rip on “bloggers” for being as scummy as advertisers is frankly unfair. Bloggers may sell ads on their site, they may even promote/advertise products or create partnerships because that’s how they’re going to get paid. Because they aren’t selling you their lifestyle. If they were, you’d be paying for it.

          • Secondary point: it’s very unfortunate that one of the few viable options for making capital via a completely internet based business is to use advertisements, but that’s currently the model. Advertising is what feeds the internet, and allows free access to things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

            Yes, it’s an extremely flawed system. However, I think the conversation should center around what can be done to change/fix/add to that system. Instead of saying that advertising is bad and anyone who needs to use it to make money is also bad.

          • KC

            Actually, I think many (but definitely not all) bloggers are “selling” themselves/their lifestyles (or a selected view thereof) as a primary or precursor product, to acquire viewers, who then theoretically become profitable via ads (or by buying the blogger’s e-book, or whatever).

            TV shows and magazines do the same thing; they’re tuned to get the largest audience possible, so that those viewers can be ad-watchers. (and, of course, some TV shows or networks have been boycotted or lost viewership over particularly badly chosen ad affiliations)

            I think the ad standard is different for bloggers and the sometimes-unclear relationship with readers makes it easier for people to feel “cheated” or like the blogger “sold out” or whatever – people assume TV shows are there to make money, but people usually don’t think “oh, my favorite blogger needs to buy a new lens for their camera to take the pictures I like, and supplies for demonstrating craft projects, and blog hosting, plus rent and food and health care would be nice”)

        • Laura C

          When I think about these debates I’m thinking less about the people making a living at it as bloggers and more about the trend pieces I’m always reading in the Times style section that focus on the hordes of women supposedly trying to emulate the bloggers, minus the making a living at it. It’s like there’s this ecosystem — bloggers etc, who may or may not be open about the degree to which this is a business that they’re making a living on, get popular with readers who may be actually trying to live like this or may be reading it as a fantasy escape from their corporate jobs, and then the style section repackages it as a thing sweeping the nation that people are doing purely out of love. And that’s where a lot of us engage with the debate. I mean, APW is the only thing I regularly read along these lines, so those trend pieces loom large in my mind.

          There’s also another issue, which is that while clearly people like you get an extra ton of crap dumped on you because you’re writing about weddings and such and that’s seen as girly and unserious and hobbyist so surely you’re not actually running a business, it’s also about it being a website. A blog. I’m a full-time blogger myself, and since I blog about politics, I’m pretty much exempt from the negative stuff that comes with the wedding/lifestyle territory. But I’ve learned through hard experience that in certain crowds (people my parents’ age, for instance), I do NOT say I’m a blogger. I say I’m a political writer. Unless, of course, for some reason I feel like spending the rest of the conversation saying “yes, really, it’s a full-time job, I make a good living, I have health insurance, I work regular hours not just when I feel like it.” And I’ve heard similar stories from entertainment and media bloggers. So I’m sure you get much more of it, and in much more personal and negative ways, but the basic skepticism that this is a real job? That happens if what you’re writing about is unemployment and elections, or TV and movies, too.

          • meg

            Agree with this, want it fleshed out in a post! But yes, I think this is exactly the problem, the emulation. And it’s unfair to pin it all on bloggers, since Martha Steward, etc etc, is equally responsable. But yes, that’s the issue, and one I loved Rachel’s exploration of, but would love to see other explorations of.

            (What is your blog, and why isn’t it linked?) Also, for the record, I say I’m a “writer and a small business owner.” Which is 100% true.

          • Audrey

            I was thinking about something similar about making things on the web…

            See: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/making_things

      • Anon

        I don’t think we can ignore that growing up in a society with certain expectations/norms leads to perpetuation of those norms. I cook from scratch, sew, knit, etc. but it is because I learned to do those things from my mother and grandmother. I also learned how to change a tire, install windows and doors, and fix a roof, and do other basic home construction because I was taught, from a very feminist mother, that I had better learn life skills so that I would never have to rely on any man.

        My husband was not taught that he would never have to rely on any woman. He didn’t even do his own laundry until college. He does do most of the cleaning around the house, but needed to learn how to clean. He will now cook, and enjoys it, but after years together he still asks about terms and techniques when cooking. This gender breakdown is partially because I, as a girl, was taught to take care of myself and he, as a man, was not.

        Another point to this is that as a man, he has a whole set of expectations put on him that do not fit him at all. We live in DC, and he works in politics, which is he very passionate about. Going out with friends, they ask him all the time “where do you see yourself in 5 years”. His answer always is, living back close to our families (mine and his) and hopefully with 1-2 kids by then. That is not the culturally appropriate answer. But that is how he feels. He likes his work, but hopes that it will mostly provide us a means to support our family. He easily could work to climb the political ladder, but doesn’t want a life that will lead to little family involvement, and he gets no understanding or support for that.

        I guess my overall point is that there have been a lot of comments about choice feminism and how making some choices, while okay for individuals, hurt THE CAUSE of feminism, and I think we have to stop looking at them solely as female choices, because we aren’t going to change anything until we look at the choices men, and families (which may involve men) are given.

        • “I, as a girl, was taught to take care of myself and he, as a man, was not.”

          That right there hit me like a ton of bricks. I need to go think on that for awhile.

    • rys

      Yes. Yes. Yes.

      I cook, I bake, I quilt. But I don’t think any of these activities–as much as I enjoy them and could easily spend many more hours doing all of them–are the path to structural change. Artisanal home breadmaking undoubtedly produces excellent bread, but a successful campaign for a livable minimum wage is what will allow those who currently can’t afford bread at the end of the month to eat it.

      • “Artisanal home breadmaking undoubtedly produces excellent bread, but a successful campaign for a livable minimum wage is what will allow those who currently can’t afford bread at the end of the month to eat it.”

        Quoted for truth. At a time when many service industry workers are still making only $7.25 an hour, receiving no benefits, and being stuck with things like having to buy their own uniforms getting paid by debit card (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/business/as-pay-cards-replace-paychecks-bank-fees-hurt-workers.html). *And* at a time when food stamps and other benefit are being cut and otherwise restricted (http://www.prwatch.org/news/2013/05/12095/wisconsin-bill-would-treat-organic-milk-sharp-cheddar-brown-eggs-junk-food) it is important to remember the vast portions of the country for whom the idea of making their own bread is an exhausted fantasy. (I’m thinking about the summer food bus article from a week or so ago…)

        I’m definitely not saying this to knock domestic crafts (I was just making a batch of CSA refrigerator pickles the other day) but because the feminism of the New Domesticity is one of privilege. If we don’t combine our own “choice feminism” with strong social justice action, then our feminism is worthless. And I’m hearing that here, which is good. Our ability to make choices can’t be made on the backs of those less able to make choices.

        • MDBethann

          YUM! CSA refrigerator pickles. I made them last week too (sorry for the divergence – I wholeheartedly agree with your comment btw)

      • Mira

        You’re right, such activities will not incite structural change. However, many people engage in them merely to be less reliant on an inadequate socio-economic system that will not be changing significantly anytime soon. Distancing yourself from a system that doesn’t have your best interests at heart is far more achievable at an individual level than revolutionising the entire Western economic system.

      • Mira

        Additionally, having such skills reduces our dependence on employers/governments etc as far as sustaining ourselves is concerned. What makes more financial sense if you’re genuinely lacking money for necessities – buying a loaf of bread or paying the same amount for ingredients that will make you 2 loaves? The cost of the time to make it is of course another factor but surely having the ability to provide for yourself to a certain extent is more valuable (i’m assuming the flour is bought and not hand-harvested!)

    • Kristen

      “But until men in general do something approaching, oh, let’s say 40% of that stuff, then I’m going to persist in seeing all the efforts to glamorize domesticity *for women specifically* as part of keeping women not just economically powerless but held to a higher standard, supposed to be able to not only get everything done, but get it done beautifully and cheerily and effortlessly and naturally.”

      This struck me too about your thoughts and it made me think about this stuff differently. I thought about it further and was like, “but my husband is sh*t at domestic stuff!”

      I think part of the thing I struggle with in these types of feminist themed conversations is why think of it in those terms – what do we gain by focusing on the negative side of things? I’ve been asking around my small social group a little for someone to have a conversation about feminism with me, because this is where I get stuck.

      I have never nor will I ever think about what I can do and what my husband can do in terms of our sex. (Well except like childbirth and stuff obvs) If I had a lifestyle blog like the ones in question, and someone pointed out how its a shame I’m not a man being good at domestic things and that lessens its worth because we’re supposed to be equalizing how society sees gender roles, I’d be pissed at having my contribution diminished. I see it as reverse sexism and that’s why I struggle so with feminism discussions like this. I guess in part because I truly view myself as a human – not a woman. It would never occur to me that someone viewed me as anything but a human and whenever confronted with it I chalk it up to their ignorance and move on with things.

      So it isn’t that I don’t understand the point behind your statement – I just can’t connect with it fundamentally because it’s just not the way my brain works. But man do I find it fascinating to read and think about your thoughts so thanks!

      • Amy March

        And you don’t see that it doesn’t just “happen” that you, as a woman, are skilled at domestic arts, and your husband, a man, isn’t? That it isn’t just the two of you where this plays out, but in a substantial number of couples? And that these interests don’t just happen naturally but are the result of powerful societal influences? I think it’s naive to be surprised that we aren’t all just humans with the same potential and freedom to develop our own interests.

        Would you be comfortable with this line of reasoning being applied to race? Because, yes, every person who has ever painted my toes has been Asian (northern NJ), and yes, they have mostly been great at it, and hells yes there are reasons for this beyond them all as humans happening to have a skill/passion for doing nails. There are reasons why I would be astonished if a white man turned up at the other side of the pedi chair.

        • Kristen

          Hell, I think you’re on to something when you accuse me of being naive. I am – and proud of it! I want to live in a world where you wouldn’t even pay attention to the fact that the person doing your nails is asian. I want to live in a world where I’m good at cooking because I’ve spent years working hard on developing a skill that p.s. is life saving.

          So yes, I get the world you’re living in and I get why my comment might have annoyed you. I’m just saying I’m glad I don’t live in your world. Because there’s an awful lot of finger pointing and negativity and anger in your world. I’ll be over here with the other naive people, accepting and loving each other for who we are, and trying real hard not to judge them for being different than we want them to be.

          • Meaghan

            Living in a world where we all get treated as people instead of by our sex is exactly the point of feminism, but we won’t get there by ignoring gendered treatment. We get there by calling it out as total bullshit and making people think critically about why they assume women are inherently better at domestic tasks.

          • Laura C

            And in your world there’s a lot of discrimination and inequality that we’re not allowed to talk about because to do so would be negative and angry. Personally, I’d rather try to change things that are wrong than pretend they don’t exist and call that being loving and accepting.

          • Kristen

            I don’t think turning the other cheek or accepting people’s differences of opinions means you have to ignore inequality or discrimination. Personally, you know? I don’t.

            But a lot of feminism seems to look for things to be pissed off about. By being on the lookout for “gendered treatment” I feel like one is way more likely to find it. Just like I’m way more likely to get pissed off by my mil if I walk into a conversation with her, just ready for her to say something I won’t like. That’s just how some of these complaints about sexist view points seem to me – like being annoyed that there aren’t enough male lifestyle blogs about knitting and baking.

            And I’m not saying I’m right and you smart ladies are wrong. I’m not trying to say you don’t have valid points – you do! But I put a lot of time and thought into how I try to view the world and the benefit of that view on me an an ultra sensitive person with a lot of baggage. This world view works for me, you know?

            And I promise, when my home state recently passed its terrifically bad birth control law (Ohio) my (male) feminist friend and I agreed we would volunteer for the next election and also be very vocal with everyone we know about how we don’t’ think most Ohioans want to live in a state that tells a woman what she can do with her body. Or at least I don’t’ think most Ohio women want their state regulating their lady biz.

        • meg

          Look, I love this statement, “If I had a lifestyle blog like the ones in question, and someone pointed out how its a shame I’m not a man being good at domestic things and that lessens its worth because we’re supposed to be equalizing how society sees gender roles, I’d be pissed at having my contribution diminished.”

          And I have a blog, and it’s a business. And my husband happens to be the one who can cook and clean and consults cooking blogs for information, not me ever. And yet! Interestingly! I am the one running a feminist blog and supporting our family doing it, yet I’m routinely accused of letting down our side, and sacrificing feminism… by what? Not working for corporate America? This is an argument that makes no sense.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Amy March, between my husband and me, I really do think the imbalance of our domestic skills “just happened.” My parents (Mom and Dad) taught me to cook and do laundry, but I taught myself to clean. (We had a cleaning lady growing up.) My husband’s parents were abusive and didn’t teach him anything. He learned how to do laundry in college and taught himself to cook meat in grad school, a skill I never really picked up. I’m still teaching him how to clean. He has an executive function disorder that further complicates his domestic learning.

          I don’t have any brothers, but I don’t think my parents would have taught them fewer or different domestic skills. After all, I learned from both my parents. My sisters picked up different skills than I did, because of different interests. Maybe if my in-laws had a girl, they would have made her a Cinderella, as they apparently made my husband a handyman/gardener (though not in a way that gave him useful skills).


        In addition to everything Amy March said, because I think she’s spot on here, it surprises me that you consider it ignorant that someone would recognize your woman-ness. It’s a major part of us. I’m one of six kids. Four girls and two boys. It is in NO way a coincidence that my sisters and I are fantastic at keeping a clean house and always write thoughtful thank you notes. My mother drilled it into us. My brothers, however, learned very little of that. She still tells me it’s my sister-in-law’s fault if I don’t get a thank you note from my brother for his birthday gift. I was taught to be nice and creative and neat and not too loud. My brothers did not get the same education.
        It might not even have mattered what my parents taught us- the gifts I received growing up were pink and domestic. The cartoons I watched showed mostly male characters being awesome. Female characters were always secondary and less active. The other girls I knew, as well as my teachers, always showed in their actions that my behavior was to be domestic. We played house. The world interacted with me differently because I am a woman, and so I was more likely to develop “womanly” qualities.

        We all have a history. We as women have a shared history. It should be recognized or we’ll never move past it.

        • Kristen

          I promise, I don’t think it’s ignorant of anyone to see me as a woman – it’s just not the way I try to view the world. That’s all.

          I think you and Amy make some great points here, another reason why I would never view either of you as ignorant just for viewing things differently than me. I don’t mean to come off as too sensitive about it, its simply something I try never to think of someone.

          Part of the problem may be that not knowing each other and why we turned out the way we did, means not being able to fully understand how we formed our ideals and personal stances. I’m good at domestic things (as are ALL my siblings, make and female) for our reasons, most bad actually. I think my brother and I are equally awesome at cooking and cleaning, etc., in fact he can at least bake bread from scratch, something I’ve never been able to do.

          So I was raised in a different way than perhaps you were and it wasn’t about who was a boy or girl, it was about survival. I know how to do not only domestic things, I also know how to be the sole bread winner, how to manage the finances, how to mow the lawn, fix a cabinet door – lots of male centered skills as well. I don’t see it as me being an awesome feminist that I’m so good at all the boy stuff though. I see it as I’m awesome at surviving in a world where we should all know a bit more about how to take care of ourselves. Or at least, that’s how I choose to view it.

          • Lib

            Saying you are color-blind does not make the world less racist. It is important to recognize our own biases and preconceived ideas so that we can shut them down and move past them. You have them, whether you admit it or not. If you grew up around other people and not in isolation, you have biases.

            It is also important to recognize legal and societal conditions and cycles that continue to empower and privilege certain groups over others. Ignoring them will not help.

          • Kristen

            I agree with you. I don’t think anything I’ve said implies I would ignore such things or that I’m claiming to be without bias. Which is part of the problem. I can see where other people are coming from, but mostly no one seems willing to see where I’m coming from. S’okay. I just thought I’d point it out. Personally I think it’d be a pretty boring world if we all thought just the same about everything.

    • This comment upsets me, because while you state you’re not judging women who like crafting, etc, you then seem to say that by choosing them, by being a part of what is now a trend, I am essentially “part of the problem.” So it feels, to me, that you believe the domesticity trend is something that genuinely hurts feminism overall, rather than a lifestyle choice that could be made thoughtfully and used as a point of activism.

      However, what I really enjoy about your comment is that it makes me ponder: how do we hold society accountable for its unequal treatment of women without imposing a higher standard for women based on their everyday choices?

      So basically, you made my brain do some flips this morning. :)

      • Amy March

        I’m not sure if you’re replying to me, or another comment above the chain, but in the interest of not being coy: Yes. I think domesticity as a trend genuinely hurts feminism. I don’t believe the point of feminism is to value any choice a woman makes. I think the trends towards shopping thoughtfully at the farmers market, making everything from scratch, cloth diapering, breast feeding, composting, attachment parenting, and homeschooling are all powerfully conservative movements deliberately or not driving women out of the working world and into their homes. Individually, I like a lot of those choices and have made/will make some of them myself. But collectively I find them a chilling reincarnation of 1950s stepfird housewifing, but now with the added pressure to embrace what used to be boring chores (cooking, cleaning) and making them a life’s mission.

        • My comment was in response to Laura C. With respect, I will say that you and I fundamentally disagree on the point of feminism, but it is not a comment-thread conversation I’m willing to open, share, or have at this time.

          As for the domestic trend, I think that accepting choices on an individual level while damning them on a trend/society level is extremely damaging. It perpetuates an us vs. them mentality in feminism and paints many issues as black and white when they are so, so much more nuanced and interesting than that. There is so much missed opportunity in journalism and media due to stories sticking to x vs. y viewpoints. And while this new trend in domesticity has plenty of similarities to 1950’s housewifery, I think labeling it as a backslide is disingenuous and hurtful to those who identify with it.

          • This is, I think, what I was trying to say below, but you articulated it far better than I did.

          • Thanks for this. I have tried to articulate my feelings on this whole thread and haven’t been able to see clearly because I am so upset by the assumptions and the hurtful blame that I feel is being laid at my feet because I currently happen to be a housewife who cooks, cleans and irons…and who happens to enjoy it. A lot.

            I was raised to be the opposite. I was raised by parents who made me fear being dependent. Made me fear being a housewife because it might be my financial undoing. I fought against enjoying housewifery because I felt like I was letting down the sisterhood. I have for my whole life felt ashamed of my natural leaning towards the ‘domestic arts’ and I am kind of over it, honestly.

            Do I think that major changes need to happen in the US economic system? Definitely, but I suppose I am unusual in that I want it to happen in a way that choosing domesticity means that a woman is not forever at risk of being destitute and without medical cover. I don’t think the one and only answer is for us to ‘Lean In’ or whatever.

        • I guess what I struggle with is what you express in your final sentences. The individual vs the collective.

          Individually, I make a lot of these choices. We shop at the farmer’s market. We make most of our food (bread, pasta, sauces, soups, I’ve even made cheese a few times) from scratch. We are seriously looking into cloth diapering. We usually clean with vinegar and baking soda.

          My husband and I are both white, and are currently middle class. We both work full-time. He participates in some of the above, but yeah, I probably do more of it. I enjoy it. So does he. But when I choose to do these things, it is political. And it makes me uncomfortable to think that my choices are somehow stalling feminism, particularly because I don’t intend to choose differently. I don’t know that I have a question for you, exactly, but it makes me think. Am I obligated to sacrifice my personal happiness to advance the cause for women? Is sacrificing my personal happiness the ONLY want for me to advance the cause for women? Because I am not career-driven, and never will be.

          • Amy March

            I’m not trying to argue that individuals shouldn’t make these choices certainly. But I don’t think they’re feminist or helpful to women as a whole. For example: this weekend I am going to spend a small fortune coloring my hair. I am a feminist. In no way do I believe my hair coloring is a feminist choice. But I’m doing it anyway. I’d rather own that as a choice that doesn’t support my core values and work through that than twist myself in knots justifying it as feminist because I want it.

          • Mira

            To Amy, Lucy, and Kelly, I just want to say thank you for the way you’re talking to one another. This post has given me a lot to think about, and I’m especially loving this particular bit of the exchange for its civility despite some clear disagreements.

          • Amy, the difference I see there is that colouring your hair is one choice that you make, and it’s something that doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Enjoying cooking, on the other hand, and being the default cook in the household or writing a cooking blog is something that someone choses every day.

            It doesn’t feel like a fair comparison at all. Hair has a lot less feminist impact than what domestic tasks we engage in. It’s easy to accept a one-off decision that’s not feminist, but it’s a whole lot harder to accept that living life in a way that makes someone happy somehow makes that woman a bad feminist.

        • SamanthaNichole

          I feel like we are always talking about the extreme. What about the women who happen to do some of those things while still working full time. I work full time in an art museum and also happen to buy all natural soap (I will make my own one day), make my own shampoo substitute, make my own laundry detergent, I will be adding making my own cleaning solution to my list this weekend. I try to buy at farmers markets when I can, I would love to join a farm share next summer. I don’t have a child but cloth diapers and breast feeding are two things on my list. But I’m also a full time working woman. I try to do the best I can in using natural products, cutting my chemical intake and being economical and environmentally friendly, but I am by no means a 1950s stepford wife – you can ask my fiance and that is not even including the working full time.

          My point is – there is SO much gray zone. It’s dangerous to think on these extremes and make huge generalizations.

          This comment is not pointed only at you but yours happened to be a good one on which to voice this thought. So with respect.

      • Laura C

        So, to take it from the new domesticity to the older one, my best friend is a stay at home mom. She is one of my four favorite people on earth (the others being my parents and my fiance). I think she is wonderful. Her home is one of my favorite places to just go and relax for a few days because it is beautiful and comfortable and relaxing. I respect her more than I can tell you, for so many reasons. And I absolutely don’t think she, as an individual, is undermining feminism.

        BUT, and I think she would tell you this herself, one of the reasons she’s a stay at home mom is that society structures some choices to be easier or more likely for certain people. Early in her marriage, they moved twice for her career. Then her husband’s career kind of took off and they’ve moved twice for him, and had kids, and because, in addition to some specific personal reasons she has including that she’s enjoying parenting, having the kind of high-powered career he has means a lot of travel and long hours — things related to America’s particular workplace culture and weak labor laws — means his company is effectively reliant either on stay at home wives or low-wage child care workers, and because even if she really wanted to be working outside the home, it would be hard when they’re moving for her husband’s job every so often, this choice is the obvious one. But the fact that it’s the obvious choice is not just some natural thing. It didn’t just happen. Similarly, it doesn’t just happen that in the new domesticity it’s women doing all this gardening and bread baking and crafting. So, yeah, once you found yourself with the set of skills you have, the set of opportunities you have, the organization of the American economy and society we all have, your choice was your choice and I don’t fault you for making it. And I don’t know your particular arrangements, but it’s quite possible I’d think they were pretty nifty. But anyone who wants to represent the trend as a simple aggregation of purely individual choices? Them, I have a problem with.

        We don’t all have to pick every battle and push back against society on every single front. In fact, we can’t fight every battle. But we have to recognize the ways that our choices our structured for us and the ways that our privilege offers some of us choices that others don’t have. And if we think this kind of domesticity is so great, then we have a responsibility to think both about how to make it more available for more people (and that means broad-based economic change) and why it is that like 98% of the people doing this awesome yet not socially valued in the being able to support yourself sense thing are women.

        • THIS. This is the part of your comment I think I was looking for, and it’s brilliant. Thank you, I 100% agree.

        • and in addition to what i wrote below – yes to all of this. my wife and i are working really hard right now to lay the groundwork for me to be a housewife, because the way our society is arranged so devalues that sort of work that it is going to take us six years (and a lot of structural advantages such as an education) of actively pursuing a single-earner household to be able to pull it off (i hope).

        • Sam A

          “We don’t all have to pick every battle and push back against society on every single front. In fact, we can’t fight every battle. But we have to recognize the ways that our choices our structured for us and the ways that our privilege offers some of us choices that others don’t have. ”

          This (for me) is the thing – like an earlier comment noted, one woman (or man for that matter) canning preserves does not a revolution make… but questioning, talking, debating, recognising where the choices we have (and why they are different) come from… now *thats* a good place to work from. So, perhaps, not blog-bashing, but a little more transparency from the blogs seen to be leading the new domesticity ‘trend’ would be useful?

      • yes. the major problem with the domesticity “trend” is the way people are talking about it, which rachel covered really well. the whole narrative could be different if we were talking about how awesome it is that so many women are opting to do something more important than the job they quit, rather than how it’s sad or at best “interesting” that women are embracing “traditional women’s work” at the expense of something more important: a career. no wonder it sounds like a step back for feminism.

        to me, the idea of what i can do as a housewife is overwhelmingly *important* – it is not the “women’s work” left over when the men have taken all the real work; it is fundamentally at least equally important, perhaps more so, to the work done in jobs (that depends a great deal on the particular job). moreover, (excepting the small percentage of folks making a living blogging about it, etc) it inherently necessitates community, which is also a huge step forward. housewifery is derided for requiring you to rely on someone else (and as you mentioned, that can have major negative consequences in some cases), but i think people being forced to rely on one another is one of the great positives of it. i realized only recently that, looking back on my aspirations as a kid and teen, they line up almost exactly with my current aspiration to be a housewife…only i always saw my adult self alone, so i was going to have to get a job instead (plus, we make it real clear to kids that jobs=worth…it’s possible that mindset is the bigger setback for feminism).

        • meg

          I love this comment.

    • Senorita

      My fiance has been a homesteader since the ripe old age of 10. No joke, he got up early on Saturdays to watch fishing and cooking shows while the rest of us were enjoying some Thunder Cats goodness. Through our relationship I’ve grown an appreciation of harvesting our own honey, veggies, herbs, and even venison. He also happens to kick my butt in the kitchen and hems my pants for me. Oh and he was “conservative” (read: republican who doesn’t want to get yelled at) until we started dating.

      While I am all for effecting big change and social justice on a large scale (may have started doodling Madam Attorney General on my notebooks from time to time), I don’t think we should underestimate what we can accomplish on an individual basis. After years of my fiance sticking with the closet-ant-feminist “I don’t care what you do with your name, but I’m keeping mine” a lot of long discussions have resulted in both of us hyphenating our last names. This has generated uncountable important (if sometimes depressing) conversations with the country folk back home.

      I think the important part that commenters discussed above is that we have to conscientiously be engaging in the conversation, like APW does so well.

    • Carvaka

      This a million times. It is great that some women enjoy these activities but they are still very gendered activities. Analysing why and how to fix the bias is different to just hating on the women who do like domesticity.

    • Kate

      See, that’s my main issue with this article. I appreciate the point of view, and while it is extremely thought-provoking, it would be infinitely more convincing if we were saying, look, these attitudes about homemaking and self-reliance are not just addressed to women, but to men, too. That we are encouraging production and enjoyment from men equally as we are from women, that it would be perfectly acceptable for a family’s minimal reliance on The Man to come from a woman’s salary.

  • Grif

    Thank you, Rachel, for this article. I’ve been dealing with this issue a lot in my own mind and didn’t have the words to fully express what I was struggling with. I still don’t have the right way to express it, lots more unpacking to do, and re reading of this article, before that happens. But thank you for writing this and thanks APW for posting an article like this one!

  • Kristen

    I feel like Rachel’s articles always make me use my brain which I at first resent (because I’m lazy brained) and then end up appreciating because its so well done. Thanks for helping make me smarter, Rachel.

    In another vein, does anyone else feel its kind of ironic that folks waste time being annoyed/judging/being angered by/hating on someone else’s lifestyle blog? You’ll have even less time to live your own life if you’re wasting it worrying about how someone else is living. Recommended therapy: the next time you find yourself feeling any of these things, immediately go look out a window and take a look at the big beautiful world we have out there. So much to appreciate, think about, enjoy. Plus it’s more fun than being pissed someone else has the time to quilt.

    • meg


    • Marcela


  • Jenna M

    Well written article, Rachel! I must say, I have been amassing homestead-type skill for years now purely because if there were a zombie or other apocalypse, I would want or need that ability. I really enjoy that you cited that as a reason for becoming skilled.

  • I love my frilly aprons and KitchenAid stand mixer because they are reminders of the things my kick-ass feminist family members taught me to do for myself. They are not symbols of a secret desire to stay home and raise babies, but reminders of my mom’s and grandma’s lessons to stay strong and raise hell.

    The best line! I love to do “domestic things” because I like them. I like making something out of nothing. I don’t do it because I’m a woman. And I don’t do it to regress our status as women. I do it because I have the choice to do it, not because I have to.

  • Rachel this may be my favourite feminist piece that has run on APW, ever. This is a type of feminism that speaks to me, and I’ve always taken issue with the idea that it’s anti-feminist to put value on what has traditionally been women’s work.

    “They couldn’t possibly be growing their own food because they care about their health, or leaving the workforce because it can be exhausting and unfriendly to anyone who wants to have a life outside of her job. They must be doing it to be the “little wife” for their husbands, to get attention, or to “win” the competition between women.”

    There are about a million bits that I could highlight here, but this gets right to the heart of it. While yes, the choices we make as women have a farther reaching impact than, say, the choices a man makes – because our choices have this nasty habit of reflecting on all women – that doesn’t mean our reasons for making those choices are any less valid. Finding working outside the home to be awful doesn’t make me a bad person, it just means that my values about how I want to live my life are different.

    If we, as a society, can’t begin to recognize that work inside the home carries its own inherent value so many people who don’t want to participate are going to be trapped in the endless rat race. Feminism as a movement shouldn’t have the adverse affect of limiting women to only certain, feminist-approved choices. It should open doors to new paths and respect, but it doesn’t need to shut out our past options.

    Just because something has traditionally been done by women doesn’t mean it has no value. That idea, to me, is degrading of the work that centuries of women have done and that some women still want to do.

    • 39bride

      *standing and cheering*

    • Cheering, cheering and cheering some more for this comment. It articulates my feelings perfectly. Seriously, are you in my brain, sorting out my scattered thoughts on this subject?

    • “it just means that my values about how I want to live my life are different.”

      THANK YOU. I think calling all of this stuff “work” and modifying it with “in the home,” “outside the home,” “corporate” or anything belies the larger picture of just living life. The way we choose to spend our time and how we choose to make our money (or are forced to choose) are all part of living life in a big-picture, fabric-of-society way. I think the devaluing of certain work– whether that be cooking, cleaning, garbage hauling, teaching, or whatever else– happens when we lose sight of what it takes for our family, our community, and our society to function and to thrive.

      I’d rather not work in an office environment all day, therefore I need to find another way to make a living and contribute to the community rather than having a 9-to-5. That doesn’t make me lazy or less valuable, it just means that my strengths need to be put to use elsewhere, where they can fulfill a different role/need in the community, or in a business.

      Likewise, our home needs food acquired and prepared, laundry done, and the general filth kept to a minimum just so that my baby family can function properly- function for hobbies, for socializing, for paid work, for anything. Taking care of these tasks that require effort is just living life- it’s “work” that must be done by the household members. To me, the important part is making sure we select the household members based on their strengths and availability, not based on gender.

      . . .I think I trailed off somewhere else in this comment, but in essence, I totally smell what you’re steppin’ in :-)

    • Sarah

      YES! “…and I’ve always taken issue with the idea that it’s anti-feminist to put value on what has traditionally been women’s work.”

      Why are we not working on elevating the status of valuable things that contribute to families doing well (being done by women or men), rather than focusing on tearing down those who enjoy those things or do them for one reason or another?

      Super late to this thread, but oh well…

  • 39bride

    Loved, loved, loved this article! (I grew up with similar role models as the author–industrious grandmother was a product of the Great Depression with 8 siblings who she raised, mother followed dad’s frequent career moves while staying at home and making our clothes, gardening, etc.

    I’ve been unemployed for almost 4 months now, so my contribution to the household has been in doing things as cheaply as possible while maintaining a pleasant home. This means a lot of domestic activities ranging from bargain-shopping for food and cooking from scratch, to keeping things clean, comfortable and attractive (to give my husband a happy and calm place to come home to after a 10-hour day with the stress/fear of being the sole breadwinner), finding creative ways to have fun without spending a cent, and employing every cost-cutting measure out there (home repairs, etc).

    I fortunately chose my partner well, as he is constantly grateful for what he comes home to. We’re hanging on by our fingernails, but I feel incredibly powerful for my ability to shape our world so significantly, and there’s nothing anti-feminism about that.

    I’m in the middle of an interview process that is exceptionally promising, so these days will hopefully/probably come to an end soon. I will revel in the freedom of a combined solid-middle-class-income (for our region), and so will probably hand some of the housekeeping duties off to an employee, donate more to various causes, not spend so much time poring over adverts for the best grocery sales, eating out more, etc. I will be exchanging my current activities for (hopefully) a nonprofit position that empowers the most vulnerable/injured in our communities to eventually care for themselves, but in some ways I think I will miss the hands-on power I now have in my own micro-corner of the world…

    • Gina

      “I fortunately chose my partner well, as he is constantly grateful for what he comes home to.”

      YES. I think some of the critical commentators on this subject fail to acknowledge that this often makes the difference between an oppressed housewife and someone who does these things (1) because she likes them and (2) because she loves making her family happy! My fiance works 12-15 hour days frequently, while I work about 8 hour days. So of course I’m the one walking the dog and making dinner. And sometimes he comes home and I’m like “warm up a hot dog for dinner, sorry I had to watch the bachelorette.” But his joy and gratitude to me for picking up the slack at home when he’s working late makes me feel like I WANT to do these things, not like I have to! Having a wonderful, grateful partner is SO important.

      • 39bride

        So true! I honestly believe that the choice of partner (or not choosing one at all) is the single biggest choice that impacts on future happiness and life stability. So many things can go wrong (as we already learned, 11 months into marriage), but your partner can either make those bad things more of a burden… or less.

        And yes, getting up at 5:30 a.m. to make a fresh, homemade sack lunch for my husband is not my favorite task. But I do it out of love, and out of the satisfaction of knowing that I am contributing what I can at this time.

      • Marta

        THIS. My husband and I both work – Usually I’m the one working really long hours and so he takes care of most of the cleaning while I cook. When he does that, I am appreciative. When he is the one with long hours, I pick up the slack and clean and cook and he is appreciative.

        I think this is the important thing. Balance, appreciation, choices.

        Because in contrast, I also think it’s oppressive to men to be with a woman who EXPECTS them to be the breadwinner. It’s obviously oppressive to women to be EXPECTED to keep the house.

        I feel like harmony is achieved when people are able to do what they want to do, without gendered/cultural expectations.

        • Gina

          That’s a really good point. There are two sides to the “oppressive” coin.

  • Katelyn

    Rachel, you are an amazing and smart woman and I just want to read whatever you write over and over and over again :)

  • I absolutely adored this article. It reminds me, one again, why APW is my brand of feminism: fierce, kind, honest, and inclusive. Thank you, Rachel, for an excellent read!

    • meg

      Like! <3

  • “This is not to say that many DIYers aren’t fighting for social change—many are. But the overall attitude of ‘Screw the government, I’m going to grow my own food and shop at the farmers market’ is still dishearteningly common against the kind of educated progressives who might otherwise be the best advocates for large-scale social change.”

    But this is a government that is utterly disinterested in listening to our voices and advocating for our changes. People have been advocating for reducing corn subsidies or integrated pest management or better labor practices, and instead the farm bill guts foods stamps because in our current government, corporations matter more than individuals. Yes, there has been some progress and yes, health care reforms have made it illegal for providers to charge women more, but giving birth at a hospital is insanely expensive (we are the costliest in the world! – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/01/health/american-way-of-birth-costliest-in-the-world.html).

    Opting out isn’t cheap, either. Shopping at the farmer’s market means paying $15 per pound of bison shortribs or $5 per pound of tomatoes, with no sales or frequent buyer benefits. Making your own quilt will cost you way more than buying one at Target. Good doctors and midwives often don’t take any health insurance… because they don’t have to and they don’t want to spend the staff time on it. The woman staying at home with the kids, cooking bread and blogging about it? Is it because day care for the kids would cost more than her salary?

    American society is increasingly putting pressure on those with the fewest means and then calling us entitled whiners and lazy freeloaders when we protest. How do you advocate for paid maternity leave at your employer when you’re worried they’ll find a reason to fire you when they realize you’re pregnant? How do you advocate for humane hours when your boss works 60 hours a week and expects everyone else to?

    I don’t have answers, but I thought the point should be made. Yes, we all should be advocating for more, but when Congress poses a hissy fit over raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour (which is not enough for one person to live on, let alone the 3 people the minimum wage was originally designed to support) or paid sick leave, it’s easy to get fatigued.

    • Also, this article is amazing and I want to squish its face.

    • Slightly off-topic, but since you bring up the minimum wage issue, have you seen this?


      McDonald’s teamed up with Visa to show employees how to budget on their minimum wages. Essentially what it reveals is that living on minimum wage is impossible.

      • I did! I’m in DC and there’s a bill right now requiring large retailers to pay their employees a living wage. Walmart threw a shit fit over it and has threatened to pull out of 3 of 6 planned retail locations (the only ones in poor neighborhoods, natch). It will probably get vetoed by the mayor, but it’s such a great step forward to compensating people fairly.

        • That’s amazing! I become financially independent at 17 years old, and spent a decade living below the poverty line, working multiple minimum wages jobs to try to stay afloat. I’ve been financially stable for about five years now, but the terror and struggles of being poor still wake me up in the middle of the night sometimes. I get pretty passionate about stuff like this.

        • MDBethann

          I was glad the DC Council passed that bill. Large companies that are unionized and/or provide benefits are exempt, which indicates to me that it really is all about a living wage – Walmart, Macy’s, and Target (the later two are already in DC and given a few years to comply) don’t have to provide their employees with benefits if they aren’t full time, and it is really easy for retail employees to be anything but full time. Given the cost of living in this region, I think the bill just points out how ridiculously low the minimum wage is.

          Small businesses are often exempt from these sorts of policies so that part didn’t surprise/bother me at all.

          And fewer Walmarts are better for those small businesses anyway.

        • Kate

          I was so excited when DC passed that bill despite Walmart’s temper tantrum.

    • “American society is increasingly putting pressure on those with the fewest means and then calling us entitled whiners and lazy freeloaders when we protest. How do you advocate for paid maternity leave at your employer when you’re worried they’ll find a reason to fire you when they realize you’re pregnant? How do you advocate for humane hours when your boss works 60 hours a week and expects everyone else to?”

      [Standing on a chair and clapping and whistling at this]

      Another friend of mine got a job working in a medical office. Shortly after that she got pregnant. Then she discovered that she can take FMLA leave for the baby, but she only has a little bit of paid leave time. Like, a few days. She can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Then, guess what! Ordered to bedrest. So she’s been trying to get assigned the after-hours phone duty to have *some* income during this time (one of the doctors said she could) but the office manager is giving her trouble about it. Which leads her to consider quitting. Technically, she isn’t being punished for being pregnant, but she can’t afford to live on unpaid leave. With a situation like that, what do you do?

      • Some of the ways that employers get around the FMLA act (part time employees or small companies) are horrifying to me, as is the lack of compensation for time off due to pregnancy. When did our society shift from valuing families to valuing employment? Why is that OK?

        • MDBethann

          Not trying to start an abortion-related debate here, but I think that it is related to the whole “we value life in the womb but after birth it is everyone for him/herself” thing. Our society says it WANTS children and families and that it values those things, but our work culture, our medical care/insurance system, and our education system, not to mention our food supply, don’t support families at all. And as soon as you point out how much better many European countries are at balancing those things and supporting families, you hear the cries of “socialism” and “their economies are horrible,” which shut down the debate. Which is a shame, because from my seat in Maryland, people look to have a better quality of life in Europe.

          • Agreed! I wish we could talk about providing for collective needs without it devolving into cries of “socialism!” Why can’t we view it from a more natural, pack-animal kind of mentality? If some portion of our human pack is in trouble, it hurts the whole pack.

    • meg

      This COMMENT is amazing and I want to squish its face!

    • I agree whole-heartedly! Some days I feel too young to be so jaded about our government, but I really have a hard time believing change can happen. I feel pretty powerless politically, and even huge collective efforts that I support only get incremental change to happen, if that. So I put my voice behind them as I can, but it doesn’t give me much hope when I see their efforts ignored by policy-makers anyway.

      The only way I comfort myself is going back to individual choices. I can still control how I spend my money and I can still control how I treat other people. So sometimes it seems like the biggest action I can take is to shop local, eat local as best I can, and treat everyone I meet with kindness and respect.

      • mmouse

        This is *exactly* how I feel. It’s so disheartening to put effort into political change and have the government show that, even if they cared at all, they’ll never agree enough to DO anything positive. It’s a very helpless feeling.

        So I too focus on what I can control. I can resist the pressure to be a work-martyr (a common occurrence in teaching) by setting curfews for myself. I can refuse to spend my money at places that treat employees badly. And, in the context of gender issues, I can raise my son the way my husband and I were raised – to cook & clean & know how to fix things & think critically and not allow him to be defined by others’ narrow views.

  • fuck yes.

  • Laura

    I get a little wary about the implication that there is some monolithic group of “feminists” out there judging women who participate in these activities as anti-feminist. The internet can be a place for people to make broad generalizations, but I think using “feminists” as a stand in for “people who express any criticisms (whether thoughtful or troll-like) about lifestyle blogs” can seem like the stereotypical critiques of feminists (judgmental, humorless, unsupportive of women who don’t think the same way).

    I also think there is a difference between enjoying domestic arts and making a living promoting a certain idea of domesticity. I am a feminist who enjoys many ‘domestic’ things and reads a lot of food blogs and some lifestyle blogs, but I also question some aspects of “lifestyle blogs”, including the emphasis of the visual as a sign of something’s worth, and that the women whose blogs tend to get more publicity are often conventionally attractive white women, even if there is a more diversity out there.

  • Very good, very stimulating article. I don’t read many of these lifestyle blogs so can’t comment much on what I think of this trend, though wedding planning has introduced me to to the Etsy, Pinterest world. I am currently out of school for the summer and still cant seem to keep laundry done or meals on the table, so I definitely understand the kind of feelings of inadequacy that homemaking culture can foster, and see the problematics of individualized responses to social problems. However, there is something to be said for the need to value the labor associated with women, and to not automatically deride women who invest in and enjoy that labor. In my own research I have frequently come across the ways that activities focused around the home, family, and female industries (midwifery movements, Black women’s activism in beauty salons, mothers organizing on behalf of their children’s education and safety, work done in ladies’ auxillaries of traditionally male organizations) are often overlooked in the study of social movements, particularly feminist movements. I am all for withdrawing from overdependence on consumerist, disposable, microwave culture, but the choice to make such withdrawal is something that women in my family, low wage workers struggling to make ends meet, getting home with their kids after 8pm, not knowing where the rent is coming from, let alone how to make it to the farmers markets usually held on the west side of town on weekday mornings don’t often have. It does seem that, if this radical homemaking culture, the politics of which as Rachel describes above I find valuable and intriguing, has any protection against slipping in to a defense of privilege and antifeminism, that protection would lie in its imagery and media being more diverse: more men, more kinds of family arrangements and households and neighborhoods, more people of color, more attention to how to practice these kinds of arts for the betterment of your family in conditions of socioeconomic deprivation.

    We also shouldn’t assume that radical homemaking is such a new, middle class, white thing. It doesn’t go by that name in communities that I engage with, but I know a lot of African American men, women, and families who were making their own food and body oils and hair products and jewelry and clothes and selling it for extra income, who were rejecting a lot of consumer products and wage employment, who were doing home remedies and homebirth, long before I started noticing this as an internet trend. Go to the drum circle in Leimert Park in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon and see what I’m talking about. A lot of these folks would just call it a holistic, or African-centered lifestyle, and for many, particularly those who hustle hairbraiding and crafts for needed cash, its just survival.

    The appearance of trends has a lot to do with what people themselves think about what it is that they are doing, what names they give it, and what forms of communication and media they gravitate towards, have access to and are likely to use.

    • Rachel

      YES TO ALL OF THIS. My main frustration is that the journalists writing about this as a white middle class trend do not seem to do much digging to find out if there are people of other races or other classes doing this. And this? “that protection would lie in its imagery and media being more diverse: more men, more kinds of family arrangements and households and neighborhoods, more people of color, more attention to how to practice these kinds of arts for the betterment of your family in conditions of socioeconomic deprivation.” ALL OF THAT.

      • meg

        ALL OF THIS.

    • E

      Amen to this. I think the thing I’d most like to see on the domestic arts blogs is conscious teaching, and the subsequent pride to targeted non-included audiences. You know when you see someone being like, “we’re going to host a braiding class!” or “My daughter helped with this pillow!” I want to see that but its, “beginning sewing for men”, or “volunteering after school to teach kids home ec”.

      Lets critique domestic arts not from a point of “is pickling distracting you ladies from picketing?”. Its not either or, and it’s not a special responsibility- I can’t be convinced that someone who sews has some obligation to be more or less politically active than someone who is an accountant. But, I would buy into the argument that transmission of the skill you have should be open and broad and you can examine yourself there. Something on a blog is kind of located in a neighborhood and the people who come to it are from that neighborhood- all the links and their primary audience of an associated class, race, gender, that lead you there. Certain hobbies are taught to men primarily, or women. So I think there’s some obligation on any group to ask of themselves- do we welcome people from other neighborhoods?

      Bloggers should ask: Am I seeking out male sewers to feature? Do I go look for traditional Korean pickling techniques and invite the 1st generation 60 year old woman I find over on that less prettily formatted, grammatically incorrect, not stellar photographs site to come be a feature on mine? Do I link back to her? Do I give her due credit? Did I just use her recipe and then present the work on my own sans context? Did I ask my son or husband to participate in the photo shoot and work? When I love a quilt from Gee’s Bend, am I taking an opportunity to really engage with the subject or do I say “I love this minimalist quilt” that I got over on so and so’s blog?

      Same thing applies to journalist trend pieces. I’d be deeply fascinated to read about a hetero couple who knits hats together. I’d be into an exploration of whether today’s parent makes their children of both genders learn a broad spectrum of home skills.

  • Lib

    There is a difference between “urban homesteading” and the “new domesticity.” To me, the former is about intention behind your consumption and removing yourself from the consumer trap and, most importantly, gender neutral. The latter invokes images of women (not men) going overboard to prove their domestic prowess and boast about their mastery of traditionally feminine skills, and is consumerist in its own way. To me consuming more consciously is very different from the Martha Stewart-like perfectionism touted by the new domestic goddesses. The difference is focus on saving money and resources vs. focus on aesthetics.

    I believe in living with intention in my consumption and in my relationship. I am one of those women who gardens, composts, makes my own cleaning products, pickles. But I learned those skills and values from a former male roommate. I see those choices as bucking our consumerist culture and, quite frankly, cheaper and easier than the alternative. I would turn into a rage face if anyone suggested to me I had to do those things because I am the woman in my relationship.

    Sexism and assumptions based on gender hurt every one involved. My fiance cooks dinner for us almost every night. Still, I am the one to whom all of the cooking and baking engagement gifts have been directed.

    I do bristle up at the images of women in 1950s dresses baking souffles and crafting like champions. Yes, domestic work is important, but its important for everyone, not just women. Every house hold need to be managed. The reality is that many house holds are being supported and run totally by women, even when there is a man present.

    Feminism to me is about equality and agency. House hold management is necessary and the choices we make about how we run our houses, like what food to serve, can impact policy, like the farm bill. At the same time, the first female president is not going to be elected base on her ability to sew or bake. Deciding which partner will take on which house hold and childcare tasks needs to be based on the individual situation and not the anatomy of the partners, until society can accept this model, we need to keep fighting.

    To this skeptic, the new embrace of domesticity by young women feels too much like ammunition for people to try to convince each other (and young girls) that women really prefer to be in the home anyway: Look at all these blogs that prove it! Feminism made women unhappy! Feminism led to the collapse of the American family! Feminism increased the divorce rate! Feminism emasculates men! Get back into the kitchen to find your true happiness.

    • Yes to all of this. And related:

      I like cooking and sewing (hate cleaning), but yes I am so over the ‘you don’t *really* want to be a university professor in a male dominated field, one day you’ll *discover* that you want to do solely domestic tasks’ thing.

  • Okay, first of all, can I just say it bugs me when people (not you, Rachel – the articles) use terms like “neo-homesteading” and “new domesticity”? There’s nothing new about it. Growing your own tomatoes and darning socks doesn’t make you a new domestic, it’s How Everybody Did Everything For All of History Up Until the Industrial Revolution and How Many People Are Still Doing Things Today. Jeez.

    Second, my mom always taught me never to depend on a man for my money, or my living. I don’t believe in depending on a boss or a corporation either. I feel like most people, if they suddenly lost their jobs, wouldn’t know how to feed their families without spending money at the store. I don’t HAVE to grow my own tomatoes, but I like that I can, and that, if we didn’t have any money, we’d still be able to figure out a way to eat that didn’t depend on paying somebody else for something.

    Also, lay off the bloggers. Of course their kitchens are spotless. Who wants to see pictures of somebody else’s dirty dishes and unclean underwear? I know lots of bloggers who are very honest about what life really looks like day-to-day (including their finances), but I don’t blame them for not talking about their daily struggles and their neverending battles with laundry.

    There has to be an option to live outside of the workplace without being shamed for being antifeminist. Then we’re just exchanging one kind of prison (you have to stay at home and be a wife and mother) for another (you have to be a supercharged corporate women who’s never heard of anything so silly as crochet). Ugh.

    • YES!

    • k

      Hooray! Yes. I grew up learning all the cooking/sewing/oil changing/tractor maintenance/house painting things, because I grew up on a farm and in our world that was what you *needed to know to be a competent human being who could take care of yourself.* It astounds me that all the homesteading stuff my pioneer grandparents with an eighth grade education did to survive are now somehow seen as the province of “the privileged.” What?

      I think part of it is that pretty much *all* the commentary is coming from an urban perspective. My parents are still pretty rural, and when I go home and go to church with them, you better believe all those ladies cook and can and sew and know how to hammer a nail, too, and not a one of them probably even *knows* there are blogs about it.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’m going to say something about growing your own food and fixing your own tractor: In whole states, the cheapest housing comes with 0 soil – and no porch, patio, or window boxes, either. Personally, I know how to garden (my parents taught me, and we had a garden at school), and I know what local wild plants are edible (but picking them is illegal), but if I’m going to live in this region on my income (where all my family and friends live), it means no soil of my own.

      • Absolutely. My mom always called us “country girls who happened to grow up in the city.” Because of that mindset, I pursued education from the College of Ag in my university, and I’ve developed more and more respect and advocacy for rural folks.

        In discussion of lifestyle, social justice, connectivity, and the choices that are/n’t available, it seems the rural/urban divide is often unmentioned. There is such a huge difference between resources and lifestyles in rural and urban environments, and those differences can favor either place (ex: it’s generally easier to get to a public library for free wi-fi in an urban setting, but it’s generally easier to grow your own food in a rural setting)

        This is why I won’t stand for comments about “fat kids” on welfare- because hey, lovely, well-stocked grocery stores moved out to the suburbs, and nutrition is costly. I also won’t stand for my friends and family saying “the middle of nowhere” when they’re surrounded by production agriculture- you’re in the middle of someone’s livelihood, and your own broken food system is where you are.


      The Jeffersonian democracy! Independent, self-sustaining landowners are the truest republicans (note the lowercase R). Love it.

    • Class of 1980

      “There’s nothing new about it. Growing your own tomatoes and darning socks doesn’t make you a new domestic, it’s How Everybody Did Everything For All of History Up Until the Industrial Revolution and How Many People Are Still Doing Things Today. Jeez.”

      EXACTLY. What is with the constant need nowadays to feel like one is reinventing the wheel?

      And why do these ancient activities need to be re-branded as “feminist” to avoid ridicule?

      I just can’t.

  • Pamela

    I love the idea of families being units of production!

    In my own family, I do most of the day-to-day cooking and cleaning, as well as knitting and sewing and that kind of thing. My husband brews beer and gardens as much as he can (we live in an apartment so space is limited, but I’m *amazed* by what he can grow in pots!). I guess I don’t consider us “hipsters” or “revolutionary” – we’re just doing what needs to be done (cooking, laundry) or what we enjoy (like the beer brewing or knitting). However, my life is far from picture-perfect, my hair won’t do a topknot, and 99% of pinterest bugs the crap out of me! A lot of the “practical” type skills (like gardening) turn out to be messy and ugly – for example, to water his plants my husband has to fill a 5 gallon bucket in our bathtub and carry it out to the patio. Photos of that will never be in Instagram, let me tell you!

    As much as I love working and having a career, and have no desire to scrap it all to be a homesteader, I do think it’s sad that we seem to have lost a lot of survival-type skills…humans used to build their own houses and know about all kinds of plants and crops and stuff about animals (both wild and domestic) and we’ve outsourced most/all of that now. To me, doing things with my hands is part of what makes me human and keeps me centered, and I like feeling a teeny bit self-reliant.

    • Your last sentence there reminds me of a book I just came across at a friend’s place: Shop Class as Soulcraft. I’ve bumped it up on my reading list, because it sounds really interesting- the back cover blurb talks about what you just said about making things with your hands connecting you to your own humanity, etc.

      • j

        Unfortunately that book is terrible. I was really excited about it, but it’s totally sexist and mansplain-y. He really downplays how important traditional “women’s work” things are (all this stuff we’re discussing) and only cares about motorcycle repair and carpentry. Sorry.

        I love this discusion!

        • Ugh. That’s sad to hear. Will someone please write about the same topic in a better way? I really think the mind-body-soul connection can be drawn in many ways, not just in hippie-yoga language (which is a language I relate to, but not everyone does).

    • k

      “humans used to build their own houses and know about all kinds of plants and crops”

      yep. Foxfire books, anyone?

      Some people in my office were *aghast* when I told them that my husband picked glacier lilies and wild onions for us to snack on while we were rock climbing. I was thinking, “Do you understand where food comes from?”

  • sara p

    I love this – Rachel, thank you. I spent some time last year un- and under-employed, and did a lot of baking, diy-ing, and started gardening. I’m trying to keep up with it, mostly because I enjoy cooking and I’m in the habit of making most of our meals mostly from scratch. It really does enable us to eat really well for less.

    If people are looking for blogs that are DIY-ey (for lack of a better catch-all term), but have a different feel that some of these lifestyle blogs that have been in the news so much lately, I really love:

    http://apronstringz.wordpress.com/ (not active, but the archives are amazing)
    http://www.nwedible.com/ (mostly gardening, but a fair bit of feminism)

    So happy to see this on APW! I love you guys.

  • Alison

    Not the most consequential point to make, but something on my mind… I think a lot more men would enjoy crafting, baking, etc. if they were ever taught how to do it (and society didn’t imply that it were unmanly). They are missing out on some fun stuff!

    Also interesting to imagine how different the response would be if there were a large trend of men doing these domestic blogs…

    • Laura Lee

      I agree!! And I mean, if you think about it, how different really is say building a dog house from sewing a quilt? You’re taking raw materials and putting them together to create something. Both require very similar skills, but somehow because one is made of wood it’s manly, and fabric is feminine. It’s all just so silly. Great point you made!

    • meg

      Oh, lordy, yes.

      If men were running blogs, lifestyle or otherwise, it would be covered as the saving grace of our economy.

      • Marcela


    • ElisabethJoanne

      My favorite photos of my husband, as well as some of my favorite memories of our time together, are when I taught him how to bake a cake. He was so excited to learn you could get such tastey goodness without leaving home, and for just a couple bucks.

    • Laura K

      Yes! I’ve had some great conversations with a male coworker about how much fun we both had learning cross-stitch from our moms when we were kids. Dudes can enjoy this stuff too, and more should.

    • mmouse

      My husband was taught to cook, clean, sew, etc. But, to him, those are life-survival skills. The same way he learned how to use tools and fix machines. Being able to make food, fix or create clothing, or live in a clean space aren’t seen as “frivolous” or “women’s work” to him. It’s just basic adult knowledge.

    • MDBethann

      Agreed. What my patent examiner husband finds particularly funny about the whole “your husband cooks?!” comments that I get is that most famous chefs are MEN (just watch Iron Chef America – there are 2 female Iron Chefs, though a bunch of other female chefs competed for the title last year). So men cook in restaurants and no one thinks it is weird or unmasculine. He likes cooking meat, he bakes a mean cake or chocolate peanut butter cookie and he, not me, is the one who wants to try baking bread (I prefer making soups, stews, sides, salads, etc – my best Christmas present this year was my Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook).

      • LikelyLaura

        FYI this is actually another feminist hot topic. That men make careers out of cooking while women “just” cook at home.

        Also, (and I swear I’m not saying this to rag on you or your husband because I do ALL the cooking/sewing/crafting in my home) the type of cooking your husband enjoys conforms to long-standing masculine stereotypes. Basically, showy, impressive, social foods. Even in really early cultures men would cook the meat to show off his VERY-MANLY (though often very rare) kill to be enjoyed the whole community, while women provided almost all of day-to-day food. And while baking does have the more “women’s work” stigma, it’s definitely showy, impressive and social!

        All that said, I totally get what you’re saying with your original point. Growing up my step-father was always heralded as the great chef! And that my mom was SOOO lucky to have him. She was/is lucky, but because he’s a good person. She’s a great cook, too!

        • MDBethann

          He’ll make a side dish from a packet too, but he’s not going to create a side from scratch – it’s not his thing. Though he’s made some yummy stir frys with produce from our CSA bag this summer – one-dish meals definitely seem to be more up his ally, as pasta is also something he enjoys making. He also makes mean pancakes – blueberry, chocolate chip, or strawberry. And he never bakes for public show – if we’re taking a dish somewhere, I’m making that, not him because he’d rather not have eyes on him or be the center of attention.

          So yes, while cooking meat tends to be a male stereotype, he really does cook proteins better than me (I tend to over cook meat). Once we have a grill, it will be interesting to see who cooks the meat more often, since I do okay on the grill when it comes to meat – I just don’t broil or bake it well.

          And I have the same feelings about my husband – I’m lucky because he’s an awesome guy and good person. The cooking is just decorations on the icing on the cake.

    • My little brother cooks from scratch, grows herbs and vegetables, refinishes furniture, and can fix a hem or sew on a button if needed. He’s way more into that stuff than either of my parents. I chalk it up to that he’s an Eagle scout.

      He earned plenty of badges for macho stuff like marksmanship and starting a fire, but he also learned to clean whatever animal he shot and cook it on that fire. And I remember him baking cakes on his own as part of a cooking/chemistry project (with butter he churned himself? what?). Because these were presented as life skills they are, he never acted self conscious about them being “girl stuff.”

      Let’s not forget, Boy Scouts of America has LOTS of issues. Gay inclusion, etc. You know the story. But I do give them credit for teaching my Very Masculine brother how to take care of himself and not assume someone else would do the “girly” stuff for him.

    • Sam A


      Weird aside – I can sew. I can cut patterns, and cross-stitch and make my own cushions. My mom sort-of taught me, but we always had a machine in the house, and its a damn handy thing to be able to do… but, my husband, who was taught to sew as part of his Scouts training, and can (gasp) also make lace, because it’s something his mom taught him – is a neater and more fastidious stitcher than I will ever be – and refuses to let me mend any of clothes, because “he sews better”. (totally true)

  • Pdizzle

    I really enjoy reading about and working on DIY projects. My husband bakes bread for our family every Sunday, we keep a garden, and I cook every night. We do these things to save money, to eat locally and to keep unwanted chemicals out of our food. I love reading Mother Earth News and blogs like http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com/ (today’s post is actually called homemaking, the radical choice) But what I like about these resources is that they’re practical and fundamentally about self-reliance. They are function over form.

    I am not interested in blogs about decorating cakes or throwing perfectly coordinated children’s birthday parties. If someone has the time, financial security and inclination to do those things, that’s fine, but those are fun hobbies. Bake elaborate cakes, play the violin, ride a bike, whatever, hobbies are great, but unless you’re selling cakes on the side, playing gigs, or coaching, they’re an amusement rather than a value-added. Call a spade a spade.

    If you want to make your children’s (or your own!) clothes because you do not want to buy into the system, that’s grand. Personally, I have other skills and priorities, and that’s fine too.

    • Lib

      I echo your point about function over form. To me baking your family’s bread to save money and know what’s in it is far different from baking a four layer cake, with sugar flowers, and then blogging about it. This gets to my point above about why although I believe and engage in many new homesteading-type pursuits (side-by-side with my fiance), I do believe that the trend back towards women in the kitchen, in pearls and pastels, is damaging to the feminist movement.

    • Rachel

      I think this is a great point, and I think my frustration comes from seeing all DIY painted with the same broad brush in trend pieces and in conversations with smart, progressive people.

      • meg

        Exactly. Reading this comment, I was thinking, “Well, there is a difference between making your own bread, and a styled toddler birthday party with two ponies.” I think the issue is the way we conflate them, AND the way we dismiss women making a living if we think they are doing it in a way that’s too.. feminine.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          Ew! Feminine! Anything but that. How many ladies are proud they drink scotch while their male counterparts are ridiculed for drinking cosmos? But who cares? Everything a woman does is up for discussion, dissection, and judgement by strangers and the world at large.

          *Steps off tiny rant-sized soapbox.*.

          It’s been a rough week, world. I’m all riled up.

          • meg

            Exactly. EXACTLY. Exactly.

          • YES. I definitely have felt that I need to drink straight liquor and hoppy beers to be more “badass” or whatever. Probably a point to discuss with a therapist how I’m constantly trying to prove that.

            In the end, my liquor of choice is gin, which I drink proudly, but I’ve eschewed developing a taste for fruity or tropical alcoholic drinks so I wouldn’t be so “girly.” (The hot pink glitter shoes are both badass AND girly, so there you go.) Part of it is pure taste- I don’t like rum or coconut. But a lot of it is not *wanting* to like daquiris, or to drink lots of wine. So I didn’t, and now I prefer other things.

          • SamiSidewinder

            And then there is the fact that daiquiris and cosmos give you a horrible hangover. ;)

        • KEA1

          Gender-as-insult is, to my mind, the single biggest impediment to progress toward equal valuation of the genders.

        • Lib

          There is a difference between femininity and frivolity. What is “feminine” is also different depending on culture. True, much of our culture is structured to reward masculine values (competition, physical strength) I can celebrate what is feminine (collaboration, emotional strength, patience) without wanting to relegate woman-kind to the home. Every sector of the the economy and government can use more traditionally feminine skills.

  • Kristin

    Thank you! Great article.

  • Blizalef

    Thank you for sharing this article! It is this sort of reading material — thought-provoking, culturally relevant, and not necessarily exclusively revolving around fluffy white dresses — which brings me back to APW as my daily quick-read, time and time again.
    I especially love the emphasis on the fact that feminism is *not* about having a tax-paying job — unless you want it to be — feminism is about having choice. It is our right to CHOOSE to work 50 hours a week or spend time in the home, without being scorned for being “anti-feminist”, which ought to be celebrated. Personally, I would love to learn some of those at-home life-skills; I’m not much of a cook, I would like to be growing my own food — but I have this uncanny ability to accidentally kill growing things — however, I spend my time in a factory, building hydraulic hoses for a living, wearing steel-toed boots and safety goggles, and driving forklifts. I do these things to pay my bills, not because I have an issue with the homemaker lifestyle.

  • Laura Lee

    This is a great post! I was literally just thinking about this topic driving home from the grocery store yesterday (where I stopped on my way home from my full-time job.) I had just finished the grocery shopping for the week and was mentally preparing for my plan of attack when I got home (put away clean dishes, start dessert because that takes longer, get dinner going, make those DIY frozen breakfast sandwiches I saw on Pinterest while dinner is cooking…) and I just realized how much more I like the “housewife” duties in my life than my actual job.

    And then that made me think about how making a choice to stay at home and run a household instead of continuing down my career path would be mocked and derided. And heaven forbid when we start adding kids to the mix in a couple years that I still want to stay home. It just seems to sad and unfair to me that no matter what choices we make as women, it’s the wrong choice, and we will be ridiculed for it by someone.

    I love cooking and baking and crafting and decorating, and dammit, I’m really good at it! So why is it such a problem for some people that I would genuinely enjoy staying at home and doing those things instead of punching the clock at a 9 to 5?

    I think I’ve started to ramble, but it was really interesting to read this today after pondering the same topic yesterday.

  • Don’t Hassle the Haf

    Struggling on how to phrase this but I wonder if/how your family’s origins tie into this. My parents immigrated to America in the early 80s from Ghana where I would argue that gender roles play a larger impact than say the US. My mother made our clothes, cooked all of our meals which I think she did because culturally, it was expected. But she also got her degree and worked 60 hours a week because she enjoyed her work (and is actually going to school again to become a midwife because she doesn’t believe that women should have to pay an arm and a leg to bring a child into the world). We ate farmers market vegetables and all of our meals were created from scratch because that is all she knew. I know this is just word vomit, but when I think about how I’d like to build my household with my fiancé, I want to do all the things my mom because it worked well for her

  • I think one thing that gets lost in discussions like this is that many things are true at the same time, and that the true things can be conflicting.

    • meg

      Indeed. That’s sort of my life/professional goal though. Give me a few weeks, I’m sure we’ll run an article from the opposite perspective, and I’ll think they are both just as true.

      • And this is what makes this one of my favorite blogs. :)

  • Rachel, this article was fantastic, it made my whole morning. Thank you so much for writing this.

  • Blair

    “Not every choice is a feminist choice, but when someone takes my pride in my ability to frost a cake like a champ as some sort of evidence that all women just want to stay home and raise babies, it occurs to me that this has more to do with that person’s assumptions than my cake decorating skills.”


  • Gina

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this.

    I love gardening, I love cooking, and damn it, we are even raising chickens now. Although these things sometimes give me flashbacks to the conservative, home-schooling, small town community I was raised in, I can’t shake them! I am sometimes envious of those who still live in that community and are blissfully unaware of the feminist disdain for their actions.

    I think for those of us who strive to be equal in the workplace but also pursue some of these back-to-the-earth/kitchen hobbies, there is a tendency to make apologies or feel a bit guilty. That’s BS! Feminism isn’t doing things that fit the script of the 70s feminists or any other feminists who rebelled against the 50s’ housewife stereotype. Feminism is being who we want, doing what we want, pursuing work and hobbies that are fulfilling, and (yes, sometimes!) making the ones we love a nice dinner. And whether we choose to be a SAHM or a working woman (or some combination of the two), the fact that we have a choice is feminist, too.

  • Breck

    A looooooot to think about. Thanks, guys.

  • Wait. I’m hip? (I’m old, what’s a hipster?) I never thought I was doing anything special, I just like sewing, quilting, and knitting. As well as computer programming and truth be told enjoyed my higher degrees. We joke about how “domesticated” I am though. But I’m just doing what I enjoy, no higher motive or purpose than that.

    • meg

      Oh, Lisa, you hipster. ;)

  • Carvaka

    “But in the meantime, we have to stop perpetuating the idea that “women’s work” is silly and inherently oppressive, and the idea that anyone who says she enjoys it is just pretending to like it in an effort to put other women down and get herself a husband. ”

    I agree but this shift would be incomplete if we didn’t also stop associating domestic work with women only. I am wary of the idea that it’s a problem that “feminists” are driving women out of homes and into work. Sure, domestic work still needs to be done but it doesn’t have to be done by a woman. It can well be done by the man or be shared amongst everyone in the house. I don’t frown upon women who choose to be domestic (exclusively or while working outside the home too) and really no one has the right to frown upon another person’s choice. I just wish there wasn’t so much pressure on me to be domestic just because I am a woman. I feel like a lot of these lifestyle blogs promote a sort of domesticity that is targeted mostly at women and that’s my problem. If this is about survival skills or self dependance, then I’m not sure why it’s so much about women and so little about men.

    • “I just wish there wasn’t so much pressure on me to be domestic just because I am a woman”

      Where this gets so tricky is that coming from any angle, there is pressure because we are women. I feel pressure to have a career, because I am a woman and I’d be failing feminism if I didn’t. Our decisions carry more weight because each decision somehow reflects on all women. That’s the problem, right there.

      • Carvaka

        I think the two things aren’t gendered in quite the same way. We live in a society that values and pays for certain types of work and devalues others. If a man hated his job and wanted to stay at home as a dad, he would face the same pressure to keep on working that a woman faces. That pressure is not solely because of feminism, it is because of how our society defines ‘work’. That should change for both men and women and we should stop stigmatising people’s choices.

        However, the pressure to ‘take care of my home’ and bake and cook since I am a woman is mostly a gendered idea of roles. I would not face this pressure if I had a penis. The lifestyle baking/ cooking/ domesticity type blogs would not be targeted at me. Politicians like Mitt Romney wouldn’t be saying that I should ‘get to’ work part time so I can go home and make dinner. This pressure exists purely because of my gender and it is sexist. A lot of the ‘neo-domesticity’ blogs sell it in a glossy cover, even with a religious flavour.. but they sell it to women because it is considered, still today, ‘women’s work’. That is my issue.

        • I actually do think that pressure to have a career has become gendered, in the same way that there’s pressure to stay home. As a modern women who believes in feminist values and who runs in circles that encourage empowerment and are bothered by the fact that women do not receive equal treatment to men not participating in the workforce is a big deal. Staying home is letting the movement down in a lot of people’s minds, and there’s a lot of pressure if it’s a choice a woman wants to pursue.

          Lean in. That’s a huge movement for women to work and embrace their corporate careers, and it’s entirely directed to women.

          That’s a gendered pressure. Men aren’t letting their entire gender down by choosing to stay home, and though they might face pressure to go back and further their career, it wouldn’t be quite the same. It’s a newer pressure, for sure, but it’s definitely one that exists. Staying home has become a choice that needs to be justified – and what’s awful about this is that no matter what we do someone is going to take issue with the choices we make.

  • Lena

    I’m a little too late to participate in the conversation, but I just wanted to say Rachel, I think you’re my favorite person on the internet.

    There’s a lot behind the homemaking-blogging-crafting-etc world to unpack about religion, feminism, choices (or forced choices), and the way our society values contributions to the home. How many women are staying home because childcare is more expensive than their salary? But how many women are providing that childcare and are barely paid minimum wage (and then, don’t have the resources to sew, bake, and garden themselves)? How many women stay at home because their religion forces or strongly encourages it? And what kind of pressure does that put on men to always be providing financial security and all that entails – healthcare, a 401(k) that can provide for two people, etc?

    Like you said, Rachel, many of the choices people make are the result of the way our value system has been codified by the federal government, and instead of attacking one another about who’s blog is feminist and who’s isn’t, I wish we started having the larger conversation pushing for sweeping changes to food safety, healthcare costs, wage/labor laws, etc. There’s clearly a huge mismatch between what actually supports families and their values and what our current laws and safety net programs provide.

    I really believe that there is more that unites us than divides us, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the style sections like to pit us against each other.

    • MDBethann

      You’re never too late to participate in the conversation – besides, the post just went up earlier today!

      • Lena

        By the time I commented there were 125 comments already, and the post went up at 4:30am my time, if the time stamp is correct, so… It’s a fact of internet commenting life, get there too late and no one keeps the conversation going (or everyone’s said whatever you’re thinking and in the interest of not being redundant, you hit “exactly” instead of commenting). I thought I had something to add regardless, so I did, but I don’t expect anyone to respond to the substance of it.

        But how long it is before a post on the internet gets “stale” and what that means for true cross-cultural input and learning is a conversation for another day (can you tell I am a sometimes bitter west coaster?).

        • MDBethann

          I get where you’re coming from, but on APW, people read and respond to comments even when the article is an older one (I’m a bit behind on my reading because of vacation and am just getting to some of the June posts – and I still comment on them!)

          So don’t sell yourself short – when you have something important to say, someone WILL hear/read it, even if you think it is “late.”

  • Daniel

    The great danger with the type of feminism described here—sort of alluded to by Matchar—is that the domestic sphere has long been a space in which anti-feminist hegemonies have succeeded in mediating women’s bodies and agency—economic and social forces “outside” the home act in various ways upon (and through) the domestic space to limit, condition, and interfere. It’s possible the domestic sphere acts as a segregating force to contain the choices, however autonomous and radical, that feminist women make, while also segregating their activities from those of other women (at least in the Euro-centric developed sprawl since the late 19th century). Thus by owning this role, even in the most self-affirming sense (and of course there are questions raised here about manufactured desire, etc.) feminist women actually place themselves in the least-strong relation to the larger community or society, most vulnerable to the forces they most wish to undermine. I’m not sure this is quite right, exactly, but I think it is a plausible and serious concern.

    The historical success of the anti-feminist hegemony in controlling the individuated post-industrial domestic sphere has always made me uncomfortable with so-called “choose your choice” feminism. That type individuality seems to me to be another expression of the neoliberal ascendancy, part and parcel of the politically regressive anti-feminist resurgence (which is, terrible to admit, succeeding).

  • never.the.same

    @Lucy! I hope you don’t mind I’m replying to you out of thread. It was getting too crowded up there to hit reply! :)

    “To rip on “bloggers” for being as scummy as advertisers is frankly unfair. Bloggers may sell ads on their site, they may even promote/advertise products or create partnerships because that’s how they’re going to get paid. Because they aren’t selling you their lifestyle. If they were, you’d be paying for it.”

    I wasn’t talking specifically about blogs selling ads. I was talking about blogs being LIKE ADS for the thing they sell. Lifestyle blogs sell beautiful homes, arts, crafts, domestic ideals. So they are like advertisers in the sense that they are portraying a world that owes it’s beauty/ease/happiness to XYZ. That’s advertising. You’re being sold the idea that making homemade jam is a way to live better. (You pay with your time and attention and possibility that you’ll see/click on an ad. What is being sold and how money is made aren’t the same, and I was addressing the former.)

    I agree that it’s not fair to make blogs out to be scummy advertisers, and I hope I didn’t inadvertently try to do so. I was trying to point out that pro-bloggers make money off convincing readers to emotionally invest in their lifestyle. They aren’t just making individual choices. They are financially invested in you buying the idea that your life is a) wrong and b) they have a solution. Like Febreeze is financially invested in you buying the idea that your house smells a) wrong and b) they have a solution.

    And again, this isn’t inherently bad. But it’s not neutral, either, especially in a society that is deeply invested in both selling you something at all times (hello, capitalism!) and telling women how to live their lives, especially in the home (hello, patriarchy!).

    I was responding to Meg’s comment. I don’t think it’s ok to criticize the fact that someone is making money off a lifestyle blog, in general. But I don’t think that just because we can often identify the single woman profiting from the blog means that the blog content gets a pass, especially as a part of a larger trend. If more and more women are making money off selling other women the idea that they need to make bread and sew baby clothes, I have a problem with that, no matter how many families it supports.

    I agree, ultimately, with the Bitch article and with Rachel when she says we shouldn’t treat an individual woman’s interest in baking as evidence of a secret desire to be a housewife. Which is why I think some criticism or skepticism is the blogs that sell “new domesticity” is warranted (and why I enjoyed the post and comments so much!).

    • meg

      I largely agree with this comment. Full disclosure, I love and agree with Rachel’s post. I’m also troubled by the trend of “new domesticity” on some deep political levels, though I think the media coverage of it has been terrible, snarky, poorly researched, and assumptive. But if we could clear all that away, there is a very real conversation that I want to have there.

  • Anonyma

    OK, so, I’m saying this as a middle aged woman who has been active for women’s rights and social justice since I was a teenager, and also as someone who chose to leave a corporate career that was slowly killing me to become a homemaker and make soap and grow our own food and run two home based businesses. I AM SO SO SO SICK OF ENDLESS DISCUSSION ABOUT WHAT IS AND IS NOT FEMINIST ENOUGH. Seriously, the entire internet is clogged with articles and blogs that consist pretty much of women pointing at other women about something that they choose to do with their personal lives and judging them because they aren’t feminist enough. And it’s bullshit, pure and simple. Feminism is not about that. It’s not just another thing for women to judge each other over and carry guilt around about and argue about on the internet. But that seems to be what it is becoming, and so when I hear other feminists wringing their hands because teenage girls refuse to self-identify as feminists, I can’t help but think that what passes for feminist discourse these days is responsible for that attitude. I fail to see how another woman or group of them dictating to me how I am allowed to live my life is any more liberated or positive than a group of men deciding for me. Women, especially young women, are judged about every single choice they make by just about everyone they deal with from peers to strangers on the computer; why voluntarily participate in something else that is just going to lead to you being told that you are somehow not good enough?

    I am not affluent. Some months, we barely scrape by. But we made the decision that we were going to cut back, spend less, live sustainably, and work for ourselves. Yes, that means I make bread and cook at home and hang out clothes and god forbid scrub the floor. It also means that I am not depressed, physically and mentally exhausted, or killing myself to maintain some kind of lifestyle that we don’t need just because we’ve been told that we have to. At some point you have to figure out what you’re willing to give up to get what you really want, and while I understand some frustration of people who feel like staying home is the rich white girl’s privilege, I’m here to tell you that it’s not.

    I, like most women of my generation and later, was told that I must have a CAREER, that that was how I was to define myself, that if I did not devote myself to my vocation I was letting down all those generations of women who had fought for my right to become educated and work outside the home. So I did what I was supposed to do as a good feminist; I got my degree, and I plunged head first into my CAREER. And I was systematically exploited and abused by every wonderful corporation that I chose to ally myself with, to the point that getting up and going in to work every day was physically painful. And yet, I must do it, right? Because I’m a feminist. Because if I do what I want to do, I’m wrong. It’s wrong to want to make art and sew curtains and grow tomatoes, right? I should not be spending my energy working for the things I find important, like making sure my family isn’t eating poison; I should be spending my energy making money for someone else. Because otherwise I’m somehow betraying the other women? It took many long miserable years for me to decide that that was complete and utter bullshit, a bill of goods sold to my generation that has been responsible for endless misery and the breakdown of the environment and society on many levels. Don’t take care of your own home, your own family, your own business; work for someone else and help them get rich with your sweat and tears. Work so you have money to buy the things you don’t need. It took a long time for me to realize that nobody gets to define who I am and what I do but me.

    That is pure and simple what feminism is about; it is about having the power to define what makes you happy, be it being a lawyer or being a homemaker. I wish that us “feminists” could stop giving in to how good it feels to act like we have moral superiority over other women because we don’t approve of their choices. Because that, that climate of judgement and concern trolling and superiority….THAT is what is setting the movement back. Not my herb garden or some woman’s desire to Instagram her home baked pies.

    I’m really happy to see this on APW. Rachael, define yourself however you choose to, and ignore the haters because deep down inside they are terrified to just be who they are too.

    • Beautifully written. I could not agree with you more.

    • KEA1

      AMEN, Hallelujah!

    • Melia

      Erm, well, I agree that people should do what they love, and that working for a corporation when one hates such work is oppressive. But I don’t think that a distaste for the corporate for-profit world means that one has to opt out of paying/traditional work altogether. I mean, there are other types of work–nonprofit, education, etc. You don’t have to be abused by a corporation, even if you’re not traditionally privileged.

      • Anonyma

        It’s wonderful that you think that. Obviously, I did what works for me, as have many other women in my position. You certainly should do whatever works for you, however you choose to do it. I run two businesses, so I certainly have not opted out of paid work, simply out of the paradigm that I must work for someone other than myself in order to be a fully functioning person. Others might in fact choose to opt out of paid work all together, since the idea that one’s self worth is directly tied to one’s earning power is not something that everyone finds valid. The point is that the individual defines herself, including what she does for work or lack thereof.

      • 39bride

        “I mean, there are other types of work–nonprofit, education, etc.”

        And “making a home” fulltime is a HUGE amount of work, too, especially if it includes raising children. With the flexible schedule that usually entails, it also allows you to donate time to a nonprofit of community effort of your choice. It’s amazing to see someone who calls herself a feminist appear to degrade the work a woman chooses to do in her own home.

        • Melia

          No one here ever said it wasn’t a lot of work, or that it’s not a valid choice. But let’s not automatically decry all work as working for THE MAN, i.e. for some soulless corporation. There are other options. I don’t think it’s right to characterize working women as automatically fueling an exploitative, proto-capitalist system. There aren’t two choices here: work for a corporation and destroy the environment in the process, or opt out of formal work altogether.

        • Anonyma

          Also, yes, I do realize that there are other types of work out there than the career that I picked right out of high school to go to college for (and the one I went into further student loan debt to go back to college for, once the first one had sucked for 12 years of my life and I decided to redefine myself but still thought I had to do it in terms of what I did for work because defining oneself by ones career is what I was taught that a good feminist does). Me picking an option that you wouldn’t pick does not imply that I am ignorant of other options. I do lots of work for causes that I believe in, they just don’t pay me for it.

          • Anonyma

            And it tickles me that you and the other commenter are taking my words about all of us making our own choices as some kind of attack on your lifestyle. It’s a real role reversal that I’m kind of enjoying. I have never said that anyone shouldn’t work if they want to work, just that myself and many women ARE in fact stuck in careers that they hate and feel exploited by because they fear being stigmatized if they choose to opt out of a capitalist/consumerist life.

          • Melia

            No one here said that your choice was the wrong one. You seem to be reading into my comment a lot of things that aren’t there. I was merely pointing out that working is not always destructive, demoralizing, or in service of a capitalistic system. It doesn’t always “suck” your life away–it doesn’t have to.

        • Anonyma

          @Melia, you’re confusing me with the other commenter. Though I did get a little annoyed by the implication that I hadn’t somehow considered other options before making sweeping life changes. Of course there are jobs out there that are important, helpful, and deeply fulfilling. My point is, SOME WOMEN find that job to be outside of conventional work. Having choices is a good thing…and advocating for someone’s choice to not be vilified (not by you, but by some of those who claim to speak for the feminist ideology) is not a condemnation of anything. And yeah, it’s great if you can be fulfilled by your job, if you can be a teacher or a lawyer or an advocate or work for a non-profit or whatever suits your fancy. However, how many of those jobs are out there, and how many people are actually doing them and loving them, VS how many people (of both sexes, honestly) get up every day and drag themselves in to a job that they hate because they feel like they have to have THINGS in order to be successful, or that they are somehow a failure if they choose to live another way? Most of it is proto-capitalism, and I fear that a lot of the “must have career!” focus that we are fed is designed and perpetuated by people who want us to spend money on things. Depending on where you live, what you do, and who you do it for, it can be a system that is overwhelmingly exploitive and unhealthy for everyone involved on multiple levels.

    • Look I agree with a lot of what you say, but… I’m looking to have a high powered career because I *genuinely want it*, not because ‘secretly’ want to be a homemaker, but I’m just ‘afraid’/taken in by a BS 1970’s plot, so I feel a bit judged by the suggestion I might be ‘letting down my family’ by putting in lots of effort towards my career or that I’m not being true to who I am (and while we’re talking about not being taken in by political lines, why can’t it be my *husband* making sure the kids aren’t ‘eating poison’?)

      • Anonyma

        I’m sorry that you feel judged. I feel judged by most of the things that my fellow feminists have been writing on the internet lately. It’s a crappy feeling, isn’t it? Obviously if a career is what you want, you should have it, and nobody has implied otherwise. But if you find yourself in your late 30s, hating your job and dragging yourself to it every day because someone tells you you’d be setting the feminist movement back 50 years otherwise, that’s a problem. I’m talking about allowing my own life and wants to be defined by someone else’s label and ideology because I’ll be judged if I don’t. And about being told that not wanting a high powered career makes me somehow not a good enough feminist. I’ve never met you, so obviously I can’t speak for your life or your choices.

        As far as why can’t it be the husband? Well, of course it can…and that’s another thing that really is frustrating when it pops up over and over again in these sorts of discussions. Me saying that I choose (I, ME, ONE PERSON) to take personal responsibility for our food has absolutely nothing to do with “Oh, yeah, well why can’t the MAN be responsible for the food?” If he wants to do so, by all means he should. That does not imply that it’s somehow bad or wrong for the woman to WANT to do those things, or that if she wants to prioritize that over her career she’s somehow wrong or bad. Also, you can take “letting down my family” out of quotations, because nobody is implying that. If you inferred that from what I’ve said somehow, that’s your interpretation. And it sucks, doesn’t it, when strangers on the internet imply that you’ve let someone down? Like, how someone chooses to live their personal life is letting down the entire feminist movement? That’s my point. How I choose to live has no bearing on how you choose to live, and so on.

        • I have never judged a woman for wanting to stay home or taking sole responsibility for cooking. I never will, so it hurts if you somehow got that from my comment, and it is, again, solely your interpretation. Telling me ‘hurts, doesn’t it’ like I go round saying the stuff Rachel is talking about is unfair. Frankly, I hear that I’m a sellout to the feminist movement for taking on ‘male’ work, which is a problem too.

          But I do think it is a very serious issue that women feel the responsibility to think about these things and, for the most part, men don’t. And while that happens it won’t be equal, so yes it needs to be brought up every time.

          “been responsible for endless misery and the breakdown of the environment and society on many levels. Don’t take care of your own home, your own family”. That felt pretty much like saying I wasn’t taking care of my family to me. And even if you didn’t imply it or mean it, there are plenty of people, politicians etc who very much do.

          • Anonyma

            My comment was about what I, as a young feminist going to college 20 years ago, felt I was being told by my society and my peers about what I should and should not want. If you have interpreted it personally, then maybe you should look a little deeper at why you say you want what you want. You said you felt judged by my comment, which is absurd; I can’t judge you, I have no idea who you even are. You are projecting your personal feelings onto my opinion. I and many other women have felt that desiring to do something other than have a conventional job making money for someone else is somehow a betrayal of feminism; this has resulted in feelings of guilt for prioritizing home over career, which is unnecessary, and the climate of cliquish superiority and judgement that seems to have sprung up in the last 10 years or so around modern “feminism” is hurtful and damaging to people who want things that they are told that they are no longer allowed to want. I don’t care what you do for work, or what you do period, as long as it is serving you well and not making you miserable, and you are doing it because you want to not because someone tells you you have to.

        • Thank you. Took the words tight out of my mouth.

    • Marcela

      (standing ovation)

  • Erin E

    Wow. What a fantastic article and discussion. I just have to say that I was pretty depressed about most of the blogs I visited when I started wedding planning (Should I hire a tobacco roller for my reception? Is Blush the new Black? BUNTING!). And then I found APW. Thank you all for the reminder that smart, amazing women plan weddings too – in addition to leading their smart, amazing lives.

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  • Allie

    LOVE this article in it’s entirety. Full stop. Not to mention all my so called “homemaker skills” or “woman’s work” will definitely help me survive the zombie apocalypse. I’m not a mom or “homemaker” (not sure I like that word so much) but I love cooking, baking, sewing, crafting & gardening.

    Side note: If seeing other women do this on their blogs upsets you or makes you feel inadequate, remember, we are all in this together! And not just women. Everyone who “care(s) deeply about social justice, the environment, their health, and about many of the seriously broken parts of our culture and economy.” No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.

  • Loved this piece. I read Radical Homemakers two years ago when I was going through a major life transition (my husband and I just moved to a new city for his job) and it helped me put what I wanted ahead of what other people thought I should want. I stay home right now with my son, and for the most part, I have no desire to reenter the workforce. There are many times I feel like I’m “failing” feminism, but then I remember that I am doing what I love for me, even if from the outside it looks like I am stuck in traditional gender roles. Thank you for writing this–it was just what I needed to read this morning.

    • mira

      look, I am all too familiar with that feeling of “failing” feminism — really, I’ve been there. But guys, I think we have to recognize how absurd it is to talk about “feminism” as some kind of prickly older sister whose primary goal is to sit in the bleachers, sniping at our lives, our families, and our choice of hobbies or hair color. Feminism is a lens we use to understand the injustices we see in the world. Feminism is a habit of mind that helps us to recognize harmful assumptions about women and men in our society — particularly the assumptions that we ourselves have internalized. Feminism is the tool we use to organize.

      I think this post has led to a really interesting (and necessary!) conversation about choice feminism, and I think it’s perfectly fair to say that “choosing your choice” does not *make* you a feminist. But it must also be recognized that choosing what’s right for you and for the other human beings you care about does not, in itself, make you a bad feminist.

      I think all anyone can ask of a “good” feminist is that she or he does the hard work of considering the problematic larger context of these decisions. That context must be one of the variables — but it shouldn’t have to be the only variable.

  • SamiSidewinder

    This may have already been mentioned, but I feel like the one point in this that was missing (though it was sort of alluded to) is the growing number of MEN that are taking an interest in ‘domestic arts’. It may not be even, but there are quite a few men who, for the exact same reasons as women, are re-learning all the skills our grandparents had. Gardening, baking, cooking, natural medicines, self sufficiency. The idea that these are womanly pursuits instead of community pursuits or family pursuits is maddening to me.

  • I am probably very late to the discussion – we had a death in the family and I now have a wonderful cold that’s making cohesive thought really hard, however, I have to say this is a great response to many trend pieces lately that don’t seem to look at the larger picture.

    I will be the first to admit, I really (really) enjoy doing housework. In addition to running and writing it’s how I decompress at the end of the day. I often find myself resentful of the brush I get painted with for enjoying housework, baking, cooking, nd the like so much. It’s a struggle to explain that I enjoy knitting socks and gloves because I like to knit and because what I can knit in that realm is often warmer and more comfortable than what I can buy at the store (handmade wool/acrylic socks are seriously the awesome). I can sew my own clothes but choose not to (the time commitment and expense at this time is a bit much).

    I think this is a conversation we need to keep having, especially as far as unpacking the privilege aspect of it and the expectation that the domestic arts are being completed solely by women. My husband is far better at the laundry than I am, and is really good at recipe modification when we need it. There is a lot to this conversation and I think Rachel does a really good job at expanding on why these articles are so frustrating.

  • Anjali

    I think a big part of why the “return to domesticity” is pooh-pooh’ed and looked down upon as a white hipster endeavor is BECAUSE of something you touched upon briefly – because poor women and women of color have been doing these things for ages. There’s a very real difference in how a woman of color who stays at home with her kids is viewed as opposed to a white woman, regardless of class. In my upper-middle class neighborhood full of stay-at-home moms, when my mom chose to quit her job and stay at home with us kids, the neighborhood moms were full of talk about “repression” and “oppression” and how my dad (a very stern-looking Indian teddy bear) must have “forced” her into it. So I think my mom is fairly justified when she is disdainful of the new-domestic movement, because it’s one she could never be a part of. Viewed from the outside, from the average person who *isn’t* an APW reader, I don’t think women of color or poor women get the privilege of being viewed as doing something they enjoy or something that beings goodness to their families when they engage in domestic activities – they’re seen as going through the motions, while upper middle-class white women are always “re-discovering” things that people have been doing forever.

    But that said, I totally agree with you that it’s lame that women even feel the need to justify their enjoyment of domestic activities, as if they’re betraying years of feminist theory just because they find baking fun. And that is one of those things where we all have to work to recognize that feminism doesn’t mean women have to be a certain way, it means we all get to be how we want to be and whatever choices we make are equally valid.

    • Ms.Jordan

      Great writing and thinking from Rachel. Yes, Anjali, love the line “because poor women and women of color have been doing these things for ages”. What bothers me is that it seems to have needed upper and middle class white women to bring value to taking care of your home through cooking from scratch, sewing, crocheting, etc. This article also bring up economics for me. I grew up poor/working class and the culture in my community was very DIY and thrifty. Now since these “domestic arts” have become trendy, it has made diy more expensive. I don’t like paying a price for coolness.

  • Britt

    This article was wonderful. It was incredibly insightful and well written. I made just about everyone I know read it. Most of them felt the same.
    I do think that you should be more selective about the kinds of advertisements you allow on your page. I was surprised to see the two girls kissing.

    • Amy March

      I agree. Be more selective. More “girls” kissing so people aren’t surprised to see it!

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  • Haley

    For so long my partner and I struggled with me transitioning from working to being a homemaker. We both really liked it, but it felt like we were doing something bad. He was so concerned that I be doing something fulfilling and I was so concerned that I not disappoint everyone single person I know. It took a long time for us to both feel totally ok with it, and it’s still a dance we’re learning. We don’t have children yet, and yes, I feel compelled even now to throw that ‘yet’ in there, and it adds a whole new layer of guilt and condescension to the mix, both internally and externally. But we wanted to fine tune this whole thing before there was a little human demanding all of our spare brain cells and time and money and everything else.

    And I’m tired of feeling bad about that. Of feeling like I have to apologize and explain and mention all the years of hard work I did before this, like I’ve somehow earned the ability to do what makes sense for us and our life right now. At a recent doctor’s appointment I had to fill in my job on a standard form – I put home maker but when the doctor talked to me about the form I mentioned, sort of as apology, that I ran an etsy store as well. And he quickly changed my occupation to internet entrepreneur. Like home making was my hobby and this was my job, clearly, when in fact it is the other way around entirely. He felt like he was doing me some favor, getting that dirty home maker word off the form. Part of me did, too, and it killed me a little.

    I’m working on really owning what I do and why I do it lately. It’s the thing I think about when I have my quiet cup of coffee in the morning. I’m so comfortable doing it, why can’t I be comfortable admitting it’s what I do to strangers?

  • An impressive share! I have just forwarded
    this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I found it
    for him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this issue here on your web site.

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  • Rebecca

    OK, I have a bee in my bonnet. There’s nothing wrong with passionately pursuing activities relating to food or fibers, whether vocationally or avocationally. However, I resent that they continue to be seen as inherently feminine. This is a disservice to men and women: It discourages men from picking up perfectly fine crafts and it pigeonholes women who practice them. Why must we put activities into gendered boxes, when both sexes can and have mastered them equally well?

    “Women’s work” is such a terrible, throwback construct, and while I am occasionally into reclaiming the negative, this is a romanticized notion of the past. Because, you know, if you were a woman, these things were often all you *could* do. “Women’s work” was about the appropriate sphere for women. And while I do enjoy Godey’s Lady’s Book, I also enjoy having career options. So I think it’s important here to separate the term/construct from the activities and having respect for the people who do them.

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  • K

    I’m quite late to this post, but just in case you are still checking the comments, Rachel: thank you for making me laugh while putting this more succinctly than I could.


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  • Dami

    I am super duper late to this but No! No! No! I do not agree with this article. Cleaning, cooking etc is not and should not be seen as just “women’s work”. Calling it that continues to perpetuate the stereotype that ONLY women are capable of those domestic activities. And yes I would say it, if these jobs were so amazing, why don’t men do it? If feminism, which I believe it is, is truly about the equality of sexes, then we ought to realize that both men and women should have the capacity to engage fully in all types of domestic work.

    In addition, it is so unfair to perpetuate the stereotype that men are to “provide” for their families by making the money. Why is it ok for a woman to make the decision to drop out of the soulless, corporate work force, yet the man has to endure same for their kids to go to school? Why can’t these men uproot their families and live on a proper organic farm and participate constructively in homeschooling the kids as we’ll? This is minus the connection to the religious reasons many women stay home.

    You do a huge disservice to women by glamourising the stay at home life. Career mothers have double the work stay at home mums face and with less time to get all the jobs done. From your post, all your domestic skills were taught to you by women. At what point to we teach men too? What woul young boys see (and expect from their future partners, if they are in heterosexual relationships) when they are used to seeing their mums at home, “sacrificing” their careers.

    This idea of “women’s work” continue to perpetuate the gender stereotypes feminism is trying so hard to banish. Unlike APW, many of these blogs, do not admit to getting paid for advertising. Yes, adverts from these soulless, corporate forces. It is also laughable to say that they do not participate in the capitalist, consumerism fueled society that we live in. They earn revenues from blog posts because of capitalism, people who buy their books spend their capitalist mone, they probably drive cars, the computers used for updating their blogposts were designed and sold by capitalists, heck even the cameras used to take those perfect pictures are purchased from capitalists. Eating organic food does not make you less capitalist.

    Many women suffer from this and fail to see that only by joining the work force in droves and not running away from it can we make huge changes in our lifestyles through policy development. In fact, I dare say, thank goodness for the many female doctors, teachers, lawyers, chefs, cleaners, nannies etc who make up our support system. Imagine if half the workforce wasn’t in place because being domestic was the valid option and the “new feminism”

    Apologies if my thoughts are disjointed. It’s midnight in Nigeria. Finally, domesticity is to be embraced by both sexes and all those in between. Both partners make the home.

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