Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity Hardcover – May 7 2013
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“Matchar maintains a chatty tone that makes for easy reading. … She’s funny and self-deprecating… [Her] work left me with a better understanding of other women’s motivations.” (Washington Post)
“The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories… into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing” (The New Republic)
“Matchar captures the appeal of the new domesticity — from its ‘cozy vintage aesthetic’ to its embrace of healthier foods and recycling. At the same time, she raises sharp and timely questions about whether the army of new-style happy homemakers aren’t ‘glossing over some of the harder realities of women, work, and equality.’” (Boston Globe)
"Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle family farming, canning, crafting-can, without sacrificing feminism's hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when 'people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.'" (Elle)
"Very informative and eye opening…. The book is a must for mothers, old, young, and in between. …well worth reading and discussing.” (The Orange Leader)
"An entertaining and well-structured book." (New York Journal of Books)
“The book is an insightful, fascinating read. While Matchar is nonjudgmental, she also provides a refreshing dose of analysis and skepticism.” (The Independent Weekly (Triangle Area, NC))
“[Matchar] places women at the center of the budding movement to challenge industrial food. . . . A nuanced, sympathetic critique. . . she defends feminism against the charge that it drove women out of the kitchen and led to the decline in cooking.” (MotherJones.com)
“A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“A lively and perceptive reporter… [Matchar] offers a valuable and astute assessment of the factors that led to the current embracing of domesticity and the consequences of this movement.” (Publishers Weekly)
“This book heralds a revolution in the attitudes and values of our society and will certainly divide public opinion in general and women in particular.” (Elisabeth Badinter bestselling author of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women)
About the Author
Emily Matchar writes about culture, women's issues, work, food and more for places such as The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Salon, The Hairpin, Gourmet, Men's Journal, Outside, and many others. She lives in Hong Kong and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The author also uses oversimplified analogies, comparing the women to either Betty Freidan or Michelle Duggar. It bugs me that with trend pieces like this, there are only extremes, which I think she does here so she can have her conclusion at the end, where she ultimately decides she may some days have a hot pocket for dinner.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What?? There are many women (of all ages and philosophical bents) who engage in such heritage pursuits (and have never lost interest in them) simply because we enjoy them, because they make economic sense, the process of making brings delight and shows love, they connect us to past generations, they speak sanity and simplicity in an age of rapid electronic group-think, and they forge beautiful connections with seasonal cycles. It's just a lovely way to live.
Again, the book was interesting and insightful in places, but should perhaps be more honestly titled to reflect the predominant perspective addressed. This isn't about why "women" are embracing the "new domesticity" but why young, left-leaning women are becoming interested. While the political motivation of some people is worth exploring and is certainly part of the conversation, I had hoped for a fuller look into the satisfactions of living a homemade life.
Curiously, I was reading the autobiography of a famous French chef at the same time as I read this book and had to smile at his reaction to the "modern" interest in local, organic, seasonal, "whole foods" cooking, the gist of which was something like this: "It's not some sort of religious mantra, it's just a given... that's how you cook." My reaction to Homeward Bound was much the same: "A life full of 'making' is not some sort of political manifesto... it's just how you live."
Hooray for more people of all stripes being interested in making bread, jam, gardens, sweaters, etc. But we don't really need to feel defensive or offensive about it... instead we can focus on the process, the joy, the sharing.
It would be possible to dismiss Matchar's condescending tone and spotty citation, to assume she in fact, intended to write only about the facebook generation finding a new hobby, were it not for the maddeningly closed-minded message of the last chapter, meant as "lessons of new domesticity." Here the author plainly states what she's clearly been thinking all along: choosing to care for your home and family instead of working is a foolish choice, and only even possible for those lucky few who make a comfortable living blogging about it. She uses, without question, quotes expressing the concerns and dogma of an archaic, misogynist feminism, "What if women wind up unfulfilled? Won't they be bored when their children leave home? Won't those children resent them, pity them even, for living these lives so devoid of fulfillment? Don't they realize their teenagers won't care how from scratch their baby food was? What if their husbands die or leave them- what would they do then?????" (Never mind that personal fulfillment is just that, personal. No mention made of the fact that children leaving home is by no means an end to the tasks of homemaking or the parent-child relationship. What of the fact that few teenagers immediately appreciate ANY of what either of their parents have given them? We should base our life choices on the possible opinions of hypothetical teenagers? This last one really got me, though- regardless of career choice, all parents should plan for this unpleasant possibility, but losing a spouse would be devastating whether your home had one or two incomes. No one would ever ask a man if he had evaluated whether or not his income would cover the cost of paying professionals to do his homemaker wife's tasks after her untimely demise.) Matchar treats these ill-informed generalizations and flimsy double standards as a fitting conclusion to her book, offering little elaboration and no contradiction. Cashing in on the image of modern women joining hands to embrace a return to home and hearth for 200+ pages, then denigrating those same women in your last few pages is reprehensible. It's lazy writing, lazy feminism, and it serves only to nudge the reader toward the conclusion that reading this book was a massive waste of time. All of this, on top of the noticeably small quantities of page space used to explore the domestic traditions of other cultures (in history or modernity, i would have taken either), left me frustrated, embarrassed for my gender and my generation, and, most of all, glad i got this from the library rather than buying it.
Also, towards the end she has interviews with a few queer women who are into New Domesticity. I have to say, it majorly steams my clams that she thinks their involvement with this movement is less problematic than that of heterosexually partnered women because there aren't any traditional division of labor/patriarchy issues involved. That is about the least nuanced analysis ever- seems like it would read as shallow to the point of offensive for most people.
Matchar admits she finds many aspects of the movement enticing, such as the creative side, in which many of the participants are selling their crafts on Etsy. Other elements she finds problematic, such as the increase of parents who homeschool.
Throughout the book, the question is why are these women, most of whom are university educated, rejecting professional careers to stay at home? Of course, there are many reasons, and the discussions bring up topics such as the sputtering economy, the cracked but not broken glass ceiling, whether women can have it all, and are there biological reasons some women like to make a nest rather than compete in the workplace? One theme that comes up often is how homeschooling in particular is a rejection of the community in favor of individual solutions. Naturally,a big question is whether this movement is feminist or the opposite.
Matchar guides the conversation in a skillful manner, without stooping to easy answers. She adds the voices of writers who've covered this territory in the past. This book had me thinking and discussing with others and re-evaluating. I loved it!
(Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy.)
"Homeward Bound" is all about these activities, skills, and lifestyle choices. In the book, Emily Matchar is attempting to explain why all these traditional kinds of "women's work" are making a resurgence, and how a variety of economic, environmental, and political factors have come together to create the "New Domesticity".
Matchar covers a lot of the major fronts of the New Domesticity movement: Etsy, attachment parenting circles, the lifestyle blogosphere, urban homesteading. In addition to interviewing dozens of people who belong (to some degree or other) to the movement, Matchar provides a lot of context--both statistical and historical--that's helpful for understanding the movement. For example, there's a really interesting (and surprising) chapter on the history of women's work, and how we got to our attitudes about domestic work today.
Matchar is ultimately seeking a balanced appraisal of the movement, and largely succeeds. She is neither an apologist for the movement, nor a polemicist solely interested in disparaging it. I thought she did a good job in not too rigidly overgeneralizing the members of the movement. For example, she shows how there is a wide continuum in the movement, ranging from those who might do a little jam canning as a hobby on the weekend, to those who aim to live "off the grid" by full-scale homesteading. She shows how different people are motivated by different factors (some are more interested in environmental concerns, others are less trusting of social and governmental institutions). Matchar is sensitive both to the positive values and outcomes of the movement (valuing family over work, concern for the safety of our food), and the potential dangers (placing new burdens on women, weakening current social institutions).
Everyone I know seems either to be involved at least a little bit in the New Domesticity, or knows someone who is. (I myself like to dabble in some amateur pickling!) Matchar's book is a great resource for seeing how the various strands of New Domesticity fit together, what their origins are, and what it means for men and women, feminism, and society in general.