Friday, December 2, 2011

The New Domesticity?! A step back for women?

This article was in the Washington Post last week, and the subtitle is Fun, Empowering, or a Step Back for American Women?

First, I'm not sure why it's a step back only for American women; are the women in other countries so backwards they can't step back?  But whatever, it's interesting that any traditional work calls to mind the good old days, when women were downtrodden & men were men.  But I tend to think that any knowledge that makes us self sufficient is only that--knowledge.  Knowledge you can gain from your grandmother, or a book, but it's useful stuff to have in your head.  And if you enjoy doing it, why not?  Why analyze?  I say just enjoy & be glad you get something useful at the end of it.

I tend to think I have a little different perspective on women's rights as I lived in Japan, Oman & the UAE for 11 all three countries, women are well-educated, but have varying degrees of freedom & choices.  And I live in the US, where there's a scary drive to put women back into the 19th century by taking away abortion rights and even birth control choices.  I'm not complaining about the opportunities and choices & the fact that I'm paid a fair wage similar to my male counterparts, but I also know that whenever men (or women) start telling other women what they can do with their bodies, choices start disappearing quickly.

I knit, sew, make kim-chee by hand and do lots of cooking.  However, I do not do the laundry by hand, or clean my carpets by taking them outside and beating them--I've got a vacuum.  I don't walk the 7 miles to work; I use the metro.  I'll do whatever I can to make chores easier & faster; but for the "chores" I enjoy (is knitting & sewing a chore?), I don't mind doing them the old-fashioned way.

We do make our own yogurt--mostly because I want to know what's in it. However, I don't do it the way I did in Taiwan--over a gas pilot light on the stove--instead we have a little plug-in device.  Same for the kim-chee: I want to put my cool stuff in it (chiles, caraway seeds, lemon slices), and would never buy any in the store.  I never dream of pumping my own water (like my grandmother did) and the few times I've had to heat water to wash in (while camping or if the power is out), I think of my grandma to gain strength, but am glad it's a one-off.

What do you think? Are we moving backwards?  What chores are hobbies?  What chores are chores?  I'd love to read your comments!


  1. I took offense to her article because she'd like to label women who choose this type of lifestyle "domesticity" rather than allowing a woman to make intelligent choices for their lives and family. Why do we need such a title? What good does it do other than bring back the old notions of mindless housework and abusive husbands who don't care to help out because they "work all day." I think the very fact that she raises the question of whether all these things are becoming an "obligation" leads me to believe that she's got a screw loose when it comes to the intelligence of women. You stated it very well when you talked about how you use modern conveniences to your advantage. I do take certain rugs out to beat, but only because they are flokati rugs that you should never use a vacuum on. :) Other than that, I too use a vacuum, but I would never fault a woman who choose to forgo a vacuum altogether as somehow behind the times or backwards...its just the way she wants to do it or enjoys doing it. I know plenty of people who do things manually, and it isn't an obligation nor is it ever a chore, its something they feel passionate about and do with complete pride. If only more of us could take on that kind of gusto in all that we do, not manually, but in the way the feels right to us. If we did so, we'd be far less inclined to labeling people we don't understand.
    I too wrote a response to her article if you'd like to read it:

  2. I finally got to read your blog post (apologies for my tardiness!) as well as the article.
    I reckon that the autor gets two concepts mixed up with each other: hobbies and activities that might feel like domestic or crafts activities (if she doesn't feel like doing them like those eager young things who seem all caught up in this 'new domesticity', then don't do it. Simple) - and patriarchy.
    My guide to fair share of household chores between a husband and myself is pretty simple too: half each. Unfortunately this never works out as fairly as that because men are very good at never noticing when something needs doing. I have promised myself to never pick up another discarded towel from the floor to avoid empowering this sort of big baby behaviour, but I can't guarantee that I'll be able to stick with that.
    The ongoing development of particularly Republican lawmakers and opinion makers (in the US. In the UK some Tories and others are at it as well) that is aimed at reducing women's rights and protections as well as not supporting pay equity and other extremely important issues, - that to my way of thinking is really dangerous. What kind of world do we live in? Do these people really get to turn back time? No, it's the 21st century, get with it! I do however have a feeling that us women are too content feeling that our rights no longer need protecting. I reckon we need to kick up a big stink.
    And perhaps the author of this article can feel the subtle signs of this throw-back mentality by the guys who want a world that holds them up as the crowning glory of creation - but she applies it to the wrong thing.
    We are not going to be pushed into servitude by liking knitting and canning. The danger lies in the situation when we don't look out for reproductive rights being upheld, or pay inequality going unchecked. That's what we need to focus on.
    Thanks so much for pointing me towards this article and giving me the opportunity to get my two cents' worth in!

  3. Totally on board with you Gisella! There is no way knowing how to knit or spin or can veggies is going to head us back to the dark ages (or, Saudi Arabia!). But what can hurt women's freedom is getting lazy about protecting reproductive rights, access to child care & making sure we get paid the same as the guys for the same work. Thanks for your comment, much appreciated!


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