Home » Thoughts About » Re-Domestication: Are We Re-Claiming the Feminine or Being Herded Back into the House?

Re-Domestication: Are We Re-Claiming the Feminine or Being Herded Back into the House?

I read an article in Forbes this morning entitled, The Redomestication Of The American Woman. It really struck a chord and I have so many things spinning through my head as a result. I will try to organize those thoughts as best as possible.

DIY Marketing: Targeting the wants/needs of the current generation

For those of you who aren’t already familiar, the last decade has seen a bit of an explosion with DIY (Do-It-Yourself)/ crafting. There are numerous concepts and ideas tied into this explosion – wanting to go green, wanting to be less dependent on/ fighting against mass consumerism, wanting to save money, hoping to make money, wanting to create something – the list is rather long, and different people come to DIY/ crafting for different reasons. I’ve seen a lot of books and sites that market themselves on taking traditional activities (sewing, crocheting, etc) and bringing them up-to-date/ de-grannifying them. (My favorite line from The AntiCraft’s AntiFesto: Never again would we be forced to gleefully execute a sweater of intarsia puppies.) I actually got a book from the library yesterday titled, The New Granny Square, which boasts that the patterns in the book “are not your granny’s granny squares!”
Of course we don’t want to do the same things our mothers and grandmothers did! But… why? Why does this marketing work and what is it saying? Is it as simple as new generation, new wrapping paper? Is it really even new wrapping paper? There is an excellent article in the Fall 2007 Interweave Crochet magazine, “Crochet Heydays”, that discusses the cultural role of crochet in the 1960’s and 70’s. From the IC article:

Crochet was play, but in the late sixties it was also political as a highly visible communication of a generation’s radically different values. Crochet was one way to express the young generation’s need to craft its own image and identity and to move beyond conformity and the status quo.

So much for being different from our parents and grandparents, huh?

Who’s Space is it Anyway?

Handicrafts such as knitting, sewing, etc. have traditionally been considered to be feminine. Because women were homemakers for so many years (and in many parts of the world, still are), there is a kind of social tendency to associate these activities with femaleness. Do we still feel this way as a society? I’ve seen a handful of knitting books and blogs geared toward men (See: Knitting with Balls and a similarly titled blog Knits with Balls that I follow), 6bdf47c13bd10525354272ea646edfccbut these still seem to be novelties to me. By and large, most books and patterns are still written with women in mind. But at least we’re starting to acknowledge the fact that men like to pick up hooks and needles too.
I can remember going through a phase during high school/ my first couple years of college where I was steadfastly tomboy and wouldn’t give the time of day to anything traditionally deemed “feminine” or “girly”. I considered myself to be a feminist and, at the time, I was convinced that somehow wearing men’s cargo jeans and working on cars with my Dad was somehow superior to wearing a dress, carrying a purse and cooking or fashion. Of course, I eventually realized that what I was doing was still giving power to men/ maleness/ masculinity and denying myself things I would come to love. (I am reminded here, of the song “What it feels like for a Girl” by Madonna, where she intros, “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, cause its ok to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, cause you think that being a girl is degrading.”)
So, as I read the Forbes article, I can certainly understand her concern that, “scratching at the organically-sanitized surface … is the haunting notion that the pro-creativity movement is in bed with strong societal forces to bring women closer to procreativity (and ideally “full-time” motherhood) …” However, I think, so long as we are aware of what is going on, aware of our own interests in these activities, and we’re not choosing to engage or not engage in them based on what society’s ideals for us are according to what we have between our legs, I think we’re safe. The important thing is having options, knowing what they are, and making our own choices. (I suddenly want to watch Mona Lisa Smile for the millionth time. Re: The part where Julia Stile’s character tells Julia Roberts’ character, “This *is* what I want.”)

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10 thoughts on “Re-Domestication: Are We Re-Claiming the Feminine or Being Herded Back into the House?

  1. I was very surprised to see the quote regarding how crochet was used in the late 60s to make a clear definition between the younger and older generations. And no, expressing the need to craft out our own identities and images doesn’t seem so different from the current generation of 20-somethings.

    • Indeed. You should also see some of the crocheted hot pants!
      I have another book on my shelf from 1969 in which the author is stated as believing “that crochet is a contemporary craft, far removed from the ‘granny-by-the-fireside’ image…”

      • Amazing! To think that in 1969 crocheting was thought of in that way. Contrast with the stereotype of crocheting of today, which, by the way, is our responsibility to blow out of the water.

  2. For the record, I think your post sums up the situation WAY better than the Forbes article. That author spent half the article yammering about her newly married life and the clever things her husband says. I read it, and felt like she was talking all, “me, me, me” and didn’t give nearly as much page time to the effects this DIY movement has or will have on women and society in general. Your article, Lisa, says it a lot better and even has smart quotes from other articles, along with a Superman graphic. I think you should write for Forbes magazine.

    • And another thing about that article! Learning to sew a goddam button onto a goddam shirt is everyone’s responsibility, I don’t care how old you are or what gender you are. It ain’t that hard. And that goes for learning to boil a goddam pot of water and changing a goddam I’m going to stop now before this turns into a rant.

      Long story short- your blog is sweet and your posts are the best.

      • Haha! Thanks. Very true, there are some things that it would behoove everyone to know: basic cooking skills, basic sewing skills for mending, basic vehicle maintenance, etc.

  3. *Warning: This is a long rant, so I apologize ahead of time for taking up so much space 😦 But you’ve tackled a very important subject, I think. *

    Hey-o!

    Thanks for sharing this. Really, it is interesting to think about the conundrum of wishing to complete and make something oneself, while trying to retain the rights fought so hard by numerous women.

    One thing about our current generations that really bugs me, is the negative response a women who wishes to be a stay-at home mom/homemaker receives from the general public–or even they stereotype surrounding women who like to do crafts. It’s like, women act as though a person choosing to care for business at home are undoing all the work of our fore-mothers, and are generally just conservative un-educated bumpkins wanting to birth babies and feed their husbands dinner while massaging their aching back. Its rather insulting, as my mother, an extremely intelligent, liberal, independent woman, chose to stay home and sacrifice a career so that my sister and I could receive her full attention, rather than having to split it between family and work. In doing so, we have been pitted against one another, when we should be a united force, supporting a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do in life.

    This is not to say working mom’s don’t devote an equal amount of love and care towards their families (they do! I know they do! In fact, they end up having to do an unfair amount of work–which I’ll get to later.) However, I was always irritated with my friends who perceived stay-at home moms as lazy bon-bon eating women sitting on the couch in moo-moos, and acted as though they’re mother, the “super mom” could do everything and was thus superior. And that’s where the problem begins, I feel. One thing my mother always pointed out, is that although women have now entered the work force, we still aren’t completely free and equal (which we all know, hopefully.) 1) Women still don’t have equal pay and rights of men (this is true, women in general STILL make less than men, yet since we’ve got the right work, and have made it closer to decent wages, we’ve halted work on equalizing things. Like we’re just happy we got what we wanted-when it shouldn’t stop there.) 2) Men aren’t changing their work load (overall.) Just because their wife works, in most cases I’ve seen-like the commercial of the stupid man who can’t use a blender-they aren’t picking up any of the household responsibilities previously held by women. So now, rather than just being shackled to work of the home, women are also responsible for a full time job where they’re held accountable for the quality of their work, and have to come home after a full day’s work and cook/order out, clean, pick up the kids, take care of any extra curricular for them, grocery shop, shop in general, care for the kids, and hell, even do yard work (dude, I’ve seen households like this! What the hell!?) I’m just irritated, because now more than ever, if you decide you don’t want to juggle doing EVERYTHING, hell, I don’t think I’m talented enough to do all that and still properly care for a family/household. I don’t even work full time, but I’m beat until the weekends. I can’t clean or even feel like cooking until I’ve had a full day’s rest. I feel bad, because in my view, a woman having to all these things is has enslaved herself, feeling she’s achieved domestic freedom, when in actually, she is more a slave than ever. (I can speak from experience a little here, as I live with my ex-boyfriend who STILL does nothing to care for the apartment, just because he has a part-time job and is a full time student. Okay, I was there once, only I had a FULL time job and was going to school full time. I still had to take care of business and keep things cleaned. Just because I have boobs, doesn’t mean I’m the only one who should clean, cook, etc.)

    But there lies another problem. Advertising and society’s view on men and women’s role is the reason why women feel they have to be “super-mom’s.” I am not adverse to women, or mother’s working. Uh…I work right now, and hope to eventually find a decent job where I can put my education to use. My point with this rant is to direct our attention to a new inequity: the fallacy that a women can do everything. I mean, yeah, we do a pretty good job, but we shouldn’t have to. The crux of the matter, is that if a women does have a full time career, and a family (and not even if she has a family,) the man of the household should contribute just as much as the woman. No more of these ignorant cleaning/cooking/recreating (car commercials, soccer moms) commercials targeted at women, with the big dumb male just standing around too clueless to even wash a dish. We need to begin pushing for equality of the household, is what I’m basically saying. If both people are working, then the labor of the household should be shared, not simply placed on the shoulders of the woman. And domestic-items advertising needs to start targeting males, as well. In fact, we need to start teaching our male children, that their job is not just working for a living–they, too, can pick up a needle and thread, and sew a button on a damn shit (seriously, I’ve known men, like the women in the article, who can’t do even this simple task. Talk about helpless: this issue needs to be amended.)

    To bring it back to the topic of your entry, I don’t think a women wanting to do crafts, creating homemade items, and learn the trade of homemaking is taking us back to the stone age (which I know is not what you were saying at all.) Men and Women need to re-evaluate the worth of said crafts: they do save you money and help you dis-engage from an over commercialized, over materialized world. Plus, part-taking in these arts helps boost our self esteem (man, when I made my first full crocheted blanket, I felt so good,) and gives us a sense of accomplishment, as any art would. That’s how I feel on the matter. And I really hope I didn’t offend anyone, because I’m not trying to. I’m just trying to bring awareness to the other end of the spectrum: women who stay out of the work force aren’t dirty betrayers, and they aren’t lazy b*tches. They do a lot of work, also. If caring for a household isn’t a full time job, then why do we pay people to clean, cook, make clothes, and watch our kids? And men need to get on the ball and start doing domestic chores/crafts work, too. Kudos to you for bringing up the male side of crafts, and bringing up that Madonna song-gah, it’s so true! (it just goes to show men are often more insecure with their image than woman are, hence why they often go overboard trying to prove their manliness. Dude, you don’t need to do that, you got the man parts, you are a man. Crafts don’t make you any less of a man.)

    Okay I’m done. Please forgive the length.

  4. When I think about crafting, like my crochet, for example, I think less of it being a stereotypical “mom” thing to do. Instead, I view it as an art form rather than housework. Why is it that if a painter or sculptor create an item, it’s a work of art, but if someone creates the same thing but out of fabric or yarn, it’s considered to be an anti-feminist action??

    • I agree, being able to create anything, so long as you have the vision, is art. It takes a lot of creative thought process to actually crochet something, because you have to tackle it in a completely different way than someone would a painting. But at the same time, it’s a form of self-expression, and should be looked at as an art form (in my humble opinion,)

  5. Pingback: Presto Change-o! Pants Become a Purse: Part 2 « A'Cloth the World

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