I recently read an interview of Emily Matchar who wrote a book on how more and more middle class and upper middle class women and families are taking up old fashioned domesticity. That is, they are participating in hobbies and activities that normally would be done by someone with very low income to stretch that income- growing their own food, making soaps from scratch, canning, sewing their own clothes, knitting,etc. There is a large market now for mass produced things that look homemade and Etsy’s popularity has been on the rise for a few years now. People will now drop a ton of money on things that are handmade and look homemade.
She argues that this is actually a somewhat dangerous trend, at least for the women in these demographics. She believes that when women are pushed out the workforce, either because of the economy or our notoriously horrible policies for child rearing, they now tend to stay out of the workforce and start participating in this fad by opening an Etsy shop or spending a ton of money making homemade things for their kids. The danger,she says, is that people may start taking up the attitudes that used to go along with this domesticity and stay at home moms- “women should stay at home, it’s their natural place” and “it’s ‘easy’ to keep them out of the workforce if they’re given enough crafts to do.”
I am inclined to agree with her. Hell, I’ve even participated in some of the new domesticity myself (although I am not a stay at home mom) by making pins and magnets as a craft, and contemplating selling them online. At some point I thought to myself “hey maybe if this gets popular and everyone likes my shit, I won’t actually have to go through with all this grad school and career bullshit” and then reality hit me- that was never going to happen. Inspirational stories of DIY mavens who have started their own business doing something that is not often done by college educated upper middle class women do not help either. Megan has done amazingly for herself, but she is the exception, not the rule.
I think this Portlandia clip describes the situation best. In it, Carrie’s sister has decided to make jewelry on Etsy that she sells for quite a bit of money, and does pretty well at it. But it’s seen as funny because it’s such a stereotypical thing to do, and “everyone” is making something to sell on Etsy now. And then Fred tries to make jewelry cause he thinks it’s an easy way out, fails miserably, and decides making jewelry is a waste of time for all of the hassle it is. Granted at the end of the video it concedes that having a successful business on the internet is much harder than it looks, but it still doesn’t make online craft selling very prestigious. Also Fred decides to head back to grad school at the end, the implication being that it will lead to a more prestigious career with less of a headache. Perhaps this is not what the Portlandia writers intended, but it does serve as a (funny) conversation starter.
At the end of the day, if you love what you’re doing and it’s making you a lot of money, then awesome. Craft the shit out of stuff, and make people happy. Make your own baby food, plant a garden and love your baby- A+. But I am saddened by the idea that perhaps some women are pushed out of the labor force to do things they didn’t necessarily intend on doing. That they lost a job or took a baby break, and couldn’t get back what they had, and they see this as their only option. I think that some real economic and legislative change needs to happen so that those who want to be happy 9-5 slaves can do so.
I want to live in a world where we (college educated women) do not have to compromise and end up selling crafts on Etsy if we originally wanted to be selling our Fortune 500 company’s stocks.
tl;dr Economically advantaged women shouldn’t start perpetuating 1950s susie homemaker ideals and morals (that women’s place is at home and they naturally gravitate to it) because they chose to stay home and spend a shitton of money on canning peaches and making their own comforters. it puts the feminist movement back exactly 70 years. Also making this into a problem that everyone faces is ridiculous because the other 90% of minorities that could benefit from feminism do not share your woes.
- D.I.-Why?: Emily Matchar on the Allure of the “New Domesticity” (thehairpin.com)