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  1. #11
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    Wow, I have alot of thoughts on this, excuse me while I rant.

    I was brought up in a household where the women played very "traditional" roles, although they held their own when push came to shove. My grandmother was working full-time outside the home in the 50's (with a young daughter), and just cause she wanted to. I was raised to believe I could be anything I wanted, y'know, unless I had kids and then I'd get stuck raising them (their words not mine!)

    Well lo and behold I had kids, and they changed my views alot. I used to think of myself as being a total feminist. I still am a feminist, just not the same kind. At least by my definition.

    I believe that keeping a home is valuable. I believe that raising children is the most important job in the world, and that it should be done by a parent and not somebody you paid to love them. I believe it's more important to have mommy home after school than to have designer clothes and an X-Box. I also know my lifestyle is not an option for everyone, that sometimes both parents have to work. But I think it has also gotten out of control, that as a society our priorities have gotten screwed up.

    As a child of the 60's, I think that the feminism that started there was wrong in some ways. I think in alot of ways, it was the women themselves who insulted their own importance. The *working mom* vs *stay-at-home mom* wars that still happen today, which do nothing but divide women, are totally extremists views which for some unknown reason have been picked up by a huge chunk of society and have done nothing but divide women and make us resentful.

    I consider myself sort of a pioneer of a new kind of feminism, one that sure isn't popular yet. I could be making alot of money right now. But I have made the CHOICE (and isn't that what we were all fighting for?) to have a different priority right now.

    Society isn't ever gonna pay us or respect us as much as it should, at least not in my lifetime. But we each have to do our part to change the next generation, I guess. Making a home is valuable. What I teach my children each day, and show them in my actions, that is my legacy, that is what will live on long after I'm gone.

    Now, as far as Martha and craftiness goes, I want my kids to know a home-cooked meal, and to make stupid stuff out of construction paper and glue sticks with me. My oldest, his best subject in school is art, that boy knew the color wheel in preschool. He would rather have craft supplies than toys. Good for him. I intend to have him on a sewing machine by the time he's 9. Feminism should mean that boys can be domestic, too.

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  3. #12
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    Feminism doesn't mean you can't stay at home, it means you *choose* to stay at home. So if you're are more fulfilled by staying home, more power to you. It also means that if your husband's better with kids, he can *choose* to stay home too.

    Feminism says that just because you birthed the kids doesn't mean you're automatically the better cook, maid, or teacher - and a stay at home parent is just that, a teacher. And judging by my kindergarten class, there are definitely some parents who *aren't* good teachers. But don't believe I only love my students for the money - I called the program asking to be a volunteer. The pay for daycare/preschool is such that those caretakers are definitely doing it out of a bit of love too.

    But feminism is all about opportunities and choice. The difference between real feminism and the pseudo-feminism espoused by the groups I linked above is that a real feminist will say "I'm a feminist, and I choose to stay home with my children," whereas the pseudo-feminists will say, "I'm a feminist *because* I stay home with my children and embrace my feminine duties."

  4. #13
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    I feel like quoting Debbie Stoller because once again, she's said it best.

    In Stitch 'N Bitch, she writes about some of her friends responding with disbelief and disdain when she told them she'd taken up knitting. She knew that if she'd gotten into soccer or carpentry they'd have approved - because it's "feminist" for a woman to do a traditionally male activity. But because knitting was a traditionally female hobby, it was still looked down upon.

    It made her realize that the people who reacted that way were actually being anti-feminist by believing the only worthwhile activities were ones usually done by men.

    It's still considered appropriate to encourage girls to pursue things like sports and science, but it's somehow not OK to teach boys needlework. That sends the message - to everyone - that "traditionally female" activities are inferior and less important, and so are the people who do them.

    Do you eat food and wear clothes? Then you should know how to cook a meal and make at least basic clothing repairs. Do you drive a car and spend money? Then you should be able to do basic auto maintenance and manage your personal finances. Live somewhere? Know how to keep your place clean and have stuff in working order. No one's insisting you be a gourmet cook, fashion designer, expert mechanic, financial wizard or home renovator. There's no gender division involved; these are just simple living skills every self-sufficient adult is capable of learning.

  5. #14
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    I've always thought that Martha has a very important place in making private domesticity publicly valuable. It's true that the majority of her "good things" are both fantasy and representative of upper-middle and upper class lifestyles.

    But I remember the day my mom fell out of her chair laughing because Martha had a segment on loading a dishwasher. She couldn't believe "how to load a dishwasher" merited a 5 minute spot. I think that's what's great about Martha - she has repeatedly taken things that were not, and in many cases still are not valued by society overall, and built a billion dollar industry out of them. While most of us aren't going to get paid for doing our family's dishes, Martha assigned value to that task by spending the time and money to present it as part of her show. And it worked! We watch!

    I think that Martha, the knitting revolution, and sites like getcrafty (to name just a few examples) are a healthy start to beginning to value what has traditionally been known as "women's work." I still hope that eventually occupations can be valued regardless of whether they are considered masculine or feminine!

  6. #15
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    kindarana said:
    Feminism doesn't mean you can't stay at home, it means you *choose* to stay at home.
    ExACTly

  7. #16
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    Can I recommend the book "The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine," by Roszika Parker. It goes into how needlework was originally very valued, and the workers were women and men. Then it traces the history of the devaluation of embroidery relative to painting and scuplture, because embroidery was the work of women and the other was the work of men. It also goes into a fine defence of embrodery as it's own art form, and how it was pushed onto women as the long hours at the loom was a great means of social control. All the same, women who had beautuully embroidered clothes were condemmened as being vain or trying to live above thier station. Really interesting. I LOVE to embroder, but the contradiciton of the history was FASCIANTING. A great read and smack-on for your thesis topic.

  8. #17
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    oh, how i love this topic! it's the reason i started get crafty in the first place and it's the heart and soul behind most of my writing.

    i posted my intro to the get crafty book on my blog. http://getcrafty.com/blogs.php?user=jean&entry=598

    i think it summarizes my feelings and gives a little bit of historical background.

    good luck on your academic work and thanks for starting this kick-ass thread!

    jean

  9. #18
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    also, here is a letter i received from an 81 year old feminist home ec professor. receiving this email made my month!

    ----------------------------------------------------------
    Jean:

    This is an attagirl from another Jean, only I'm an 81-year-old retired college
    prof in, you guessed it, Home Ec.

    I found your Getcrafty book on our library's new books list and was curious. I
    was a crafty housewife, with 2 years at Wellesley before I married, and with two
    little girls who grew up during the 60's. It was then that I decided that there
    was something in this feminism movement so went back to college (Ohio State) as
    one of the first adult students. I chose Home Ec because I thought I could do a
    better job than some of the teachers who my girls had had in high school. Well!
    My whole life changed. I found myself in the middle of the campus riots, arguing
    with young men who thought that a woman's place was barefoot, pregnant and one
    step behind! When I finished my degrees (MS in Textiles) I could no longer
    communicate with my old friends who cried when their children went off to college
    and who spent their days playing bridge or watching soaps. I ended up teaching
    Home Ec. at the college level and passed on my strong message that women counted,
    could still be good parents/wives and also have a career ....but it took planning!!

    I'm retired now, back to those great crafts... you name it I've done it... and am
    delighted that my 2 girls are both homemakers and career women who, although super
    busy are happy with their lives.

    Which brings me back to my attagirl message: I'm delighted that your web page is
    so successful and that your book is so inviting. The artistic side of life is SO
    important and that self satisfaction of doing something creative is what all of us
    need in this world. My special pursuit right now is quilting, but I also was an
    avid knitter (at Wellesley in 1941 we used to knit in class... can you imagine
    Hillary doing that?) and I still love making candles and soap. Thanks for opening
    many doors for your generation.


    PS: Glad to know that The Reader's Digest sewing book is still a good one... I
    used it as a text in all of my clothing construction courses.

  10. #19
    Senior Member
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    Oct 2004
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    WOW! that's an amazing letter~she sounds wonderful. thanks so much for sharing.

  11. #20
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    Nov 2004
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    CT
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    Thank you so much for all your input. I'm psyched that this is a topic that generates so much quality thought from genuinely smart and talented multi-tasking women. I cannot even tell you how helpful this is in setting off fireworks (sparklers, the little non-harming ones) in my brain.

    It was (gratefully) brought to my attention by one of the postistas that I should be a little more forthcoming about the nature of my thesis - ie. when/where it will be published, how/if i will be using your comments - to comply with certain standards of research ethics. Basically, I'm enrolled in a non-traditional MA program at NYU and will ultimately, waaaaaaaaay ay ay down the road, be producing a documentary video for my thesis project... a la "Searching for Debra Winger" casual interview/anecdotal style... on the topic of feminism and domesticity using The Big M and my own experience as a glue, a matte modge podge if you will. Currently, I'm in the fetus stage... still trying to focus my topic and generate ideas through reading and hashing out with others. Obviously, I would not use any of your comments and/or evoke your online identity in my work without going through the proper personal and legal channels - ie. asking (begging) you first.

    With that said... here's another random concoction I've been poking at... thinking about masculinity and femininity in the traditional sense of the constructs... masculine = public and valued, feminine = private and undervalued... I always wondered if part of Martha's iconography and success, if part of her legitamacy, arises out of the fact that she herself in her personal life (in contrast to the utopian domesticity that she markets) embodies this stereotypically masculine role in a way (powerful, business savvy, unemotional and not particularly nurturing or mothering) which somehow makes her a more credible teacher and expert. I mean, she got where she is by traveling this very "masculine" road up the proverbial ladder, even though what she was selling was domesticity. I'm not even sure if I buy that arguement... I have just always wondered if she would be so idolized and so successful if she were, like... normal. Like any one of us. Just a thought. Thanks again for all the links and book suggestions. Please keep them coming.

    -rikki


 
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