Recently an article in the Washington Post by Emily Matchar called “The new domesticity: Fun, empowering, or a step back for American women” seems to have set off soem strong reactions from both working women and stay at home mother persuasion. I find the article, as well as the two strong reactive posts it inspired to be amusing, as both seem to me to be from completely different perspectives, though both find the original article offensive and appalling. It piqued my interest enough to look into this idea of domesticity.
A quick Google search landed me at one of my favorite references, Wikipedia, under the entry “Cult of Domesticity”:
The Cult of Domesticity or Cult of True Womanhood[a] was a prevailing value system among the upper and middle classes during the jaguar century in the United Statesand Great Britain. Although all women were supposed to emulate this ideal of womanhood, it was assumed that only white women could live up to the ideal. Similarly,working class women who had to leave the domestic sphere to pursue paid employment, were regarded as unfeminine.
According to the ideals of the cult of domesticity, women were supposed to embody perfect virtue in all senses. The women who abided by and promoted these standards were generally literate and lived in the Northeastern United States, particularly New York and Massachusetts. Women were put in the center of the domestic sphere and were expected to fulfill the roles of a calm and nurturing mother, a loving and faithful wife, and a passive, delicate, and virtuous creature. These women were also expected to be pious and religious, teaching those around them by their Christian beliefs, and expected to unfailingly inspire and support their husbands.
Holy Moly. When I started writing this blog I had no idea that the word domesticity is so loaded! So glad I didn’t name this blog anything with that term in the name, because this blog is definitely not about “extreme domesticity” or any retro hipster nostalgia for times when beatniks lives in hippies communes and bohemian women raised chickens, if that is what they did (or I might be thinking of Michael Fitzsimmons from Peggy Sue Got Married).
History has definitely seen much association of domesticity as women’s occupation, in the capacity of wife and mother. Much of this was promoted by society, government, and women’s magazines. What is considered the pink ghetto and structural obstacles for women today were once jobs previously held by men until women were liberated from their domestic domain. Still, women still take on most of the domestic work, even when both men and women work. Maybe we are not so liberated after all.
For my part I have no interest in going back and doing things the old fashioned way. I remember being taught how to do the laundry by hand on a washboard — it is the reason I love my washing machine and dryer. I remember being taught how to cook using a fan and a coal stove — for this reason, I love my small kitchen and its small oven and gas stove. I remember learning how to sew on my grandmother’s foot-powered sewing machine, and it is the reason I am so impressed with my computerized Bernina. I love all my kitchen gadgets — food processor, mixer, and slow cooker because of the convenience it gives me. I have NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in going back and doing things the old fashioned way; I prefer and want to do things as a modern person. I love my iPhone, iPad, and computer that I use everyday as a modern stay-at-home mother and housewife. I will continue to use these modern tools even after I stop being a stay-at-home housewife.
I don’t know if I will ever get into canning, homesteading, homeschooling, or even gardening. I might explore those things if I ever manage to get things under control in my household enough to have additional time and mental space. However, I know that knitting is not just for ladies, and cooking is not exclusively women’s work. I grew up thinking that cooking was a man’s job because chefs are men. Staying at home is not only for mothers, it can be a choice for fathers as well, even though its level of acceptance can vary in different societies and countries. Marrying for love and affection is a modern evolution in human existence as well.
Modern homemaking is different than “new domesticity” because its revolves around modern family, modern marriage, and modern living. This is what my blog is about.