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  1. #1
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    feminism and domesticity

    pardon the heady subject line... but i'm desperate to get some feedback from some smart, craft-savvy domestic radicals on a thesis i'm currently preparing for grad school on... you guessed it... feminism and domesticity. i was recently *a-hem* humbly dismissed from my job at martha stewart television due to circumstances beyond my control and figured it was an ideal time to return back to the land of eternal debt know colloquially as professional student-dom. i had been involved in women's rights activism and causes prior to taking the position and so entered into the job with a hyper-aware feminist consciousness. needless to say, i was continually amazed at the responses i received from women regarding the intersections of feminism and domesticity and, specifically, how martha (as the queen diva of the new commodified domesticity) positions women inside the home and what that signifies, good or bad. personally, i don't buy the whole "bullies women back into the private sphere- throwback to the 50's" arguement because i know first-hand how empowering, liberating, and validating the domestic arts can be for so many women like myself, even us women who identify as feminists. so i'd like to throw that topic out in the hopes that it may generate some general discussion. and i know that a lot of people may be sick of the whole martha martha martha, but any thoughts anyone may have about her particular phenomenon or mode of life-styling and branding in relation to feminism would be fabulous as well. thanks :)

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  3. #2
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    oh i love martha. love, love, love her. i'm from the next town over from her in jersey, and she's really my role model in many ways.

    what i don't like about her is the emphasis on perfection (i ranted about this on the girls gone crafty board a bit). i feel like her message is yes, you can be valued for domesticity, but only if you're perfect at it. i also feel like there's a lot of classism there too. so many of her recipes, craft ideas, etc, call for expensive food processing equipment, ingredients (sp?), pots and pans, tools, materials. it's discouraging. and i think it devalues the work of women (and men) just trying to make things nice with whatever resources they because they're not perfect or the highest quality possible.

    i guess as long as you look to her for inspiration about what's possible, and not a how-to guide, it's fine.

  4. #3
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    I am really interested in this topic- not so much the Martha thing as although we've heard of her in the UK, she's not as all pervasive over here as in the US. One of the ideas behind what I am doing with my website and crafts is to examine ideas surrounding traditional feminine crafts and attire- I am interested in reclaiming 'domesticity' and in celebrating the skills that women on older generations took for granted. It breaks my heart to see old hand embroidered table clothes etc in charity shops, or just thrown out, so I reuse them, turn them into aprons which is I guess my ironic take on housewifelyness. I'm not very coherant right now because a lot of my thoughts on this topic are still forming, but if you are interested in a UK perspective on this please feel free to email me!

  5. #4
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    athos, i completely agree with you on the emphasis on perfection aspect. and there's definitely more of an inspirational than aspirational quality about martha. i've actually been thinking of that recently in terms of fantasy versus reality... like there's this fantastical other-wordly quality about martha and her way of "performing" domesticity that in some ways isn't even meant to be copied because it doesn't even exist in reality. i mean, when you make cookies, there's crumbs. period. that's all there is to it. it's almost like she's making domesticity sexy... seducing women into this domestic fantasy world which makes them feel empowered. i think that's echoed by her magazine... the photographs and imagery are almost ethereal in the way they're shot and lit. it's very meticulous and choreographed in a way. which is so so not the vibe that most women experience in the domestic zone. but i think it has a place.

  6. #5
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    Ugh, your topic reminded me of the women who call themselves feminists because they embrace their feminine roles in the home. They had a website, I'll have to ask my friend if she remembered what it was, they're frightening.

  7. #6
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    none of my self-styled "feminist" friends know a thing about anything domestic. they feel that the domestic arts are somehow "beneath" them and would sooner...i don't know, do ANYTHING that learn to, say, knit...i find this to be so discouraging. the thought of turning one's back on a skill (especially that can potentially bring happiness and comfort to others) is just.so.wrong to me. do others find this to be the case, or am i in a unique position here? i hope the latter.

    great topic. looking forward to hearing what others have to say.

  8. #7
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    i have definately found a scoffing at all things domestic attitude to be the case with many of my female friends, most of whom are in their late-20s, early 30s, and products of third-wave feminist ideologies. and even more intriguing are those who actually do have a fondness for the domestic arts but feel GUILTY and shameful about it and actually keep it "in the closet", if you will. that's part of what prompted me to launch into this thesis. there is some inherent contradiction between feminism and domesticity that i think a lot of "enlightened" women feel that i'd like to get to the bottam of. like it someone means they're "less then." it seems we're still caught in that public versus private sphere value system where private = less than and the domestic arts falls into tha category.

    (kindarana, would LOVE to get my (hand-knitted) mits on that website you referred to!)

  9. #8
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    One thought: no matter how cool and worthy and wonderful and empowering domesticity is, and I do think it is all of those things, it seems to be very very hard to get domestic work valued financially. That may be one reason for an underlying rejection of domesticity by feminism. Even Martha, domestic goddess extraordinaire, has paid employees doing the nitty gritty domestic jobs. That kind of work falls to the women stuck in the lower classes, if I may generalize.
    And with global capitalism, most of the goods we as a culture consume are not made domestically, and who knows how many of those goods are produced in sweatshop conditions. People on the whole just aren't willing to pay the price for items produced by women who are paid a living wage.
    This issue is what excites me the most about the Internet. I see it as opening up this whole new venue for cottage industry, as evidenced by the proliferation of women-powered websites selling their wares! I think it is so very great! DIY is the ultimate feminist statement, if you're looking to make one! This adds a whole new value to consumer goods.

  10. #9
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    my tome!

    I think this is a really interesting topic (when I did women's studies my first time in college I did a thing on feminism and sexual power, not the same, but I have always been interested in alternate forms of feminism).

    I have definitely noticed that many women are far more approving of the fact that I am in a male dominated union, and do carpentry and electronics for my job, than the fact that I love doing cross stitch and crochet. It almost feels like in what we say is the quest for equality, we have turned our backs on anything deemed feminine and embraced what is considered masculine. I think it would be better if we did not categorize any particular task, and could give all work (whether in the home, on the job site or in the office) the respect it deserves and accept that different people have different aptitudes and passions, and anyone really can do any job.

    A major thing for me is stress about knowing I am going to want to spend time at home when I have kids. It is not like my husband will make me stay home because "that is where I belong" or anything, (in fact I think he would rather be the one that gets to stay home, we'll probably share) it is that I believe parenting is also a huge job that needs to be given props. It is a hard job and just because a person decides to do that rather than break the glass ceiling, they should not have to feel like they are rejecting their political values.

    I remember in the letters section of Bust magazine after they did their Independent Women issue someone complained because they included a stay at home wife and mom as an independent woman. I do not think of Independence as a purely financial thing, I think an independent feminist woman can make choices for herself, based on what she wants in her life and loves doing, regardless of how those choices will be construed by people around her.

    It annoys me that we need to play down parts of ourselves considered womanly (and therefore counterproductive to our movement) to be acceptable feminists. I hate feeling guilty if I wear gorgeous low-cut shirts because I have breasts, I can't help it! (besides, men didn't invent breasts, they just changed our perceptions of them).

    I think it is also interesting that Ladyfest hosted a workshop entitled "Femmephobia in Queer Communities workshop" that they said would "examine ways in which femme identity is often delegitimized and viewed as counterproductive, while masculinity has come to be prioritized and often viewed as revolutionary." It was about the queer community, but sounds like what happens across the board among many feminists.

    I do feel like this issue is starting to change as many of us third-wavers get older, and maybe get a little less dogmatic? and stop seeing things as black and white? (are we becoming fourth-wave?)

    Sorry, I guess I went off a little, like I said as a crafty-girly-girl-feminist-electrician-tomboy I have a bit invested in this topic!

  11. #10
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    The Independent Women's Forum is I think what I was searching for. Their idea of women's freedom is basically freedom from taxation... see http://www.iwf.org/specialreports/sp...?ArticleID=687 for more about that. Sites calling them anti-feminist:
    http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.pht...en's_Forum
    http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipients/iwf.htm

    There's also The Surrendered Wife, whose author says the best way for women to take care of themselves is to avoid divorce by letting their husbands walk all over them. But I'm not exactly stating her case the way she'd like...


 
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