Domestic Goddess

So, I’ve been ruminating on the domestic sphere ever since I read my Fem2.0 colleague Maggie Arden’s piece about the intersection of the domesticity craze — think Etsy, Stitch-n-Bitch circles, and subversive cupcakes — and feminism. In truth, I didn’t really want to write about this stuff, because it feels like deja vu all over again. And while I don’t disagree with Arden, I am not necessarily on board either.

Maybe it’s because I’m now one of those work-at-home/stay-at-home-mom hybrids who have to balance a laptop while timing loads of laundry and dishes wedged into the in-between spaces of chasing after a toddler. Color me uninspired by the “glamor” of the domestic sphere these days, ironic or otherwise. I spent more than a decade busting my ass in the “legit” career world before I chose to jump down the often magical but sometimes very uncomfortable rabbit hole of motherhood.

Look, I don’t have a problem with crafts, knitting, cooking, or any other form of post-irony, “ironic” domestic goddessry. (And hey, if you figure out how to make a delicious vegan cupcake without any nuts or soy in it, let me know!) I like Etsy! Before I had to cave to some wicked tendonitis in my hands, I used to spend many hours making jewelry (and yes, I gave it as gifts).

But let’s not kid ourselves, being a domestic diva isn’t subversive. … And at the same time, it’s not killing feminism softly, either.

My heartburn is not about embracing the domestic sphere. If there is something about or in the domestic sphere that winds your yarn, then have at it! And it’s not about whether or not embracing domestic talents — whether ironically or not — is feminist. It’s this constant hand-wringing about whether or not doing domestic shit is feminist or a rejection of feminism. As soon as there’s a 20-something wave of nostalgia for pin-up couture or subversive quilting, then there’s always someone in the older-than-20-something feminist camp lamenting, “What would Betty Friedan say?” Notice something about that sentence? Yeah, it’s an age thing. (And curiously, we’re never that into dissecting why it’s not gender issue, in terms of why more men aren’t involved in crafting, et al.)

Guess what? We in the [Numbered] Waves need to take a chill pill! We are not talking about conservative dogma disguised as pseudo-liberation. We are not talking about another article about opting out or opting in, or whatever it is that women are doing to throw away their public-sector worth. (And why is it that when we talk about opting out of working outside the home, it’s never a discussion about pay equity or a truly equitable division of labor in the domestic sphere? It’s just the same, tired debate about biological destiny versus intellectual liberation.)

No. I’m sorry. Cupcakes and crafting do not subvert the paradigm. But, neither do they destroy the very fabric of feminism!

And the truth is, this has been cycling around for ages. When I was in my 20s I got really into mid-century modern decorating and clothing. Was my feminist card revoked because I took up watching Doris Day movies and wearing peddle-pushers for a spell? Not even a little. Maybe it’s part of a cycle of women in their 20s exploring the past to better put pressure on out-dated paradigms when it’s prescient. Maybe it’s a sign of the downward-spiraling economy that people are looking to simpler, DIY hobbies. Maybe it’s an eco-trend. Maybe it’s just part of the post-hipster, uber-retro wave that the Millenials are dragging us through (Leg warmers? Hammer pants? Really? Do I really have to re-live that?). Whatever it is, it is not going to destroy us any more than the evil Trapper Keeper was going to destroy the world on that one South Park episode.

Sometimes a cupcake is just a cupcake!

In fact, I’m much more irritated by the constant media prattle about celebrity (and royal) weddings and baby bumps. Who really gives a crap if there is ever a Brangelina wedding? What does it say that there is a backlash against Kim Kardashian after her failed 72-day marriage and that simultaneously the media hype machine is popping pistons projecting the new Kardashian narrative? Doesn’t all this clamoring for the love+marriage+baby=good narrative far more damaging to our work as feminists? After all, those are the stories that edge out real news on 24-hour cable networks. And the relentless chanting of this narrative does far more to reinforce rigid gender roles in modern times than any handmade craft has ever done.

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3 comments

  1. Hello there! Stumbled across your blog while searching for a baby onesie with the text “subvert the patriarchal paradigm” for my new daughter πŸ™‚

    Very interesting post and something I have been thinking alot about lately as I consider returning to work or staying home. I think my husband will end up being a SAHD but I came across this site when thinking about becoming a “homemaker” and what that words means to me: http://radicalhomemakers.com/

    It got me thinking that a “domestic diva” can be subversive if it means becoming more self-reliant through gardening/cooking/baking/sewing, consuming less, focusing on shopping and eating locally, etc.

    Happy to find this site!

  2. […] For ages we have been talking about inequality in the domestic sphere. This is usually framed around the second-shift, the unequal divide in household duties. Taking care of the domestic sphere is considered beneath a man because it is “woman’s work.” This lays some of the groundwork for the mythology of motherhood. Raising children is women’s work, after all. And the only way to regain any power in this structure is for women to then become the supreme parent. Women become elevated by their achievement of supreme parenting and virtue by being a domestic goddess. […]

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