So there’s this thing: the “New Domesticity”.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s all those dozens and dozens of 20-something and 30-something Hipsters sitting in fair-trade-organic coffee shops, nibbling made-on-site baked goods featuring locally-farmed berries or locally-produced artisan cheeses and working on their knitting projects. All those Mommy Blogs and craft sales and DIY cupcake dresses.
It’s the DIY aesthetic of Riot Girl taken a dozen steps beyond sprouting your own mung beans or re-purposing a t-shirt. It’s evidence of The Failure of Feminism. It’s cherishing the skills of your ancestors. It’s daycare costing more per child than having one parent at home loses in net annual income. It’s functional, portable, creativity. It’s economic necessity. It’s refusing to take the femme out of fem(me)inism.

It’s a lot of things.

I know a lot of people who are under-employed and/or alternatively employed – meaning that they tend to do freelance work from home rather than the more “traditional” (since, what, 1870?) western work of going to an external location and working (and/or looking busy) for eight hours+ per day. Author Cathrynne M. Valente has a post that talks a little about this (and Dorothy Sayers) and how DIY (“domesticity”) can be a Huge Big Thing for the (mostly) women who are in these fields whose day-to-day career accomplishments aren’t always that visible (or whose day-to-day career accomplishments include the latest piece they’ve made for their Etsy store).

I also know a lot of people who want to eat and dress “ethically” – for various definitions of ethically – but who can’t afford (by even the broadest stretch of the imagination) to just EcoChic it all and, thus, are turning to making their own clothes and/or growing their own food because they have the opportunity to do so, and it helps.

I know there are people who are going the “new domesticity” route because they live in terror of lead and BPA getting into their kids toys – and blood streams – and so are going to craft fairs and supporting wood-and-cloth independent toy-makers for the same reasons as people order up ¼ of a cow every year or getting involved with CSA initiatives… and because they’ve got the money for that to actually be an option.

I do this stuff – this knitting, this recycling clothes into different clothes, this pickling and preserving, this candle-making, this soap-making, this jewelry-making, this baking, this roasting, all this stuff – because, yes, I’m a creative person with a love for her hearth; and because, yes, I run a (very small, super-low-output… presently) crafting business, but also because of economic pressure. Locally-grown, in-season produce is $1.38/Kg rather than $3.50 for 300 grams (to site, say, tomatoes from mexico versus butternut squash from here[1]). When I was un(der)employed and on my own, most of my food was based on flour and eggs because (a) eggs are pretty cheap, (b) most Baking Stuff lasts for ever, and (c) it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands. That crafting business? It came into because I needed a way to make rent and was looking at everything I could do (and/or sell) in order to make ends meet.

I don’t think that “domesticity” is any indication that feminism “failed”. I mean – ignoring for the moment, the fact that mainstream journalism loves to talk about the “death” of “feminism”[2] just for the sake of trying to maintain the status quo – feminism is a living, evolving set of movements and, as such, doesn’t stop existing – or fail in its mission – just because the latest generation(s) of feminists can recognize “traditionally feminine skills” (like cooking, fibre arts, or canning) as hella valuable and/or agree that sex is not the enemy and/or believe that separatism is a silly thing to try when gender is an often-fluid spectrum rather than a couple of easily spotted fixed points. Etc.

But I do think that the “new domesticity” thing is related to the whole “superwoman”/“have it all” thing that (some of) our mothers were doing in the 80s and 90s and how – through a variety of circumstances – a lot of us are working non-typical hours or non-full-time hours and/or trying to find a way to make that reality so that we can have our own version of “it all”.

Anyway. There’s a good chance I’ll be revisiting this topic in future, but I wanted to put that out there as a preliminary bit of thought.

Ms Syren.

[1] Ontario red cabbage is $0.20-$1.00 less expensive than product-of-Texas collards, if that’s a better comparison. Baking potatoes from the states are $0.20-$0.60 more expensive per pound than russet or white-flesh or Yukon Gold potatoes from Ontario. Apples from New Zealand are $0.40/lb more expensive than apples from Eastern Ontario or Western Quebec. I could go on.

[2] Instead of recognizing that feminism is a living, evolving collection of movements.