What's wrong with the new domesticity? - Macleans.ca

What’s wrong with the new domesticity?

Points for discussion in knitting circles and boardrooms alike


Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing The New Domesticity
By Emily Matchar

Nary a brunch or glass of wine can pass amongst women without debate on whether we can, in fact, have it all. Successful career-and-family balance seems increasingly improbable, resulting in a turn toward a more meaningful life experience—the New Domesticity, where the heroism of Working Girl is replaced by Pioneer Woman. In her fascinating book, Matchar explores the reasons why women, and men, are leaving the rat race to stay at home, attachment-parent, sell crafts on Etsy, grow organic vegetables and homestead—all the while sharing on blogs. She wonders about the future results of these lifestyle choices.

The author proclaims the positive aspects of the New Domesticity: self-sustainability, concern for the environment, need for flexible work, the reclaiming of crafting and domestic arts to empower women in the global economy and a revaluing of the parent-child bond. But she also points to some of its more insidious repercussions.

Images of cherubic babies and homemade jam on lifestyle blogs are illusionary standards of living. The mainstream workplace is so demonized that it may discourage women from achieving financial equality, which is essential to independence. The focus on all things “natural,” from breastfeeding to co-sleeping, reinforces gender essentialism (Mom knows best, leaving men, and medicine, behind), while hyperindividualism—anti-vaccination and home-schooling, for instance—can be detrimental to communal well-being. Matchar argues that if people, particularly women, “opt out” of the workplace, those often soul-crushing environments—the government, the public school, the city—stay that way.

She builds her argument that the New Domesticity may undermine advances of feminism by culling from well-documented research and a range of personal stories. While the movement unites the far right and far left of the political spectrum, it doesn’t unite race, age, sex and class—New Domesticity is a distinctly middle-class, white experience. In any case, it’s very thought-provoking and should be discussed in knitting circles and boardrooms alike.

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