I knit. I can food. I garden. I cook, and when I’m not actively cooking, I’m thinking about what I’m going to cook next... I didn’t grow up doing these things.... So you can see why Emily Matchar’s new book, “Homeward Bound,” sounded as if it could be a mirror into my soul.This is the pithiest part of the review (at WaPo, by Becky Krystal):
Some of the new domestics think feminism isn’t just about being in the workplace; it’s also being able to choose to not be in it.Feminists have been saying that all along, but kind of only because they have to, and there always seems to be this qualification that if you choose the home life option, you've got to do it the right way, which is not because of tradition and not in subordination to a husband. By contrast, if you choose the moneymaker option, the conventional and/or servile aspects of what you're doing are more likely to go unnoticed (or so it may seem to the go-along-to-get-along subordinates to feminism in its most banal form).
Back to Krystal:
Or, Matchar says, it’s about reclaiming for the hipster set what used to be symbols of drudgery, such as the apron.Circa 1970, hippies did this. I remember seeing the women's movement of that time as a dreary and very square challenge to the hippie philosophy, which aimed at transcending commerce. But the women's movement soundly trounced hippies. Can hipsters succeed where hippies failed?
Others rebuff [feminism] entirely, blaming feminism for eating away at family life and demeaning the home arts and those who stay home to practice them....It's appealing to stay home, but women do feel guilty and in need of justifications when they do it. (And how about men? It's even more challenging, even as one might imagine feminists smiling upon the male homemaker.)
Matchar’s dissection of new domesticity raises other, larger issues of race, class and gender. White women who stay home are praised more often than their black counterparts, who risk being called “welfare queens.”Doesn't that more depend on whether you're collecting welfare? Who can expect praise for that? And I see no trend in America to praise white women but not black women who are doing the same thing. (The racial problem I see in the Disparate Praise category is patronizing black people with praise when they do things that are otherwise viewed as ordinary.)
Impoverished women with less disposable income and time can’t cook every meal from scratch or stay home with their children....I'll resist saying things I've said before about the economics of the single-earner family, but obviously if you have a single-parent household, you'll need some kind of income stream to opt to say at home.
Also jarring is the notion, articulated by some of Matchar’s subjects, that it’s only “natural” for women to be in the home, that they are biologically suited for nurturing. That belief is unsettlingly close to the perverse use of “nature” that justifies discrimination, and not just against women.I love the way the "nature" theme comes and goes in the discourse of discrimination. Nature makes a great argument — e.g., homosexuality is inborn — until it doesn't. But Krystal doesn't really try to figure out what's happening with the nature "notion." She merely calls it "jarring" and "unsettling."
Hell, yeah, nature is jarring. It will jar you one way or the other in the end.