Saturday, August 23, 2008

feminism vs domesticity

I read this in the Guardian the other day, and felt the need to write some thoughts.

Baking, sewing, knitting - all of these things are "female", they are done by women, by housewives. Or is that simply a gender role ascribed to women in their idealized role as mother and housewife? I do think these acts can be feminist - but they can also be distinctly unfeminist as well. The key to them being feminist acts is one of choice;

"what makes this modern domesticity very different to the old-fashioned kind is that it is done out of choice"
women do not need to sew, to bake, to make and mend clothes in this day and age. It is much, much easier to go down to the shops and buy your clothes and your cakes and your ready meals. I think because cookery has now been associated with craft, we have the question about the "feminist-friendliness" (for want of a better word) of modern domesticity. When we still have the Daily hateMail spewing its message that women belong in the kitchen and that we are failing if we don't cook all our meals from scratch every day we can see that the housewifely ideal has never gone away.

That said, unlike the image we feminists have of the 1950s housewife - baking and sewing because she is expected to, out of duty, not love - the modern, mildly subversive domesticity of websites The AntiCraft, Craftermath and Cut Out + Keep shows that people (not just women) use their hands and minds to create beauty and usefulness and whimsy out of joy and pleasure - because they enjoy it, because they can, because they have the time to.

Yes, I enjoy my domesticity. I choose my hobbies; I know that nobody requires, nobody expects me to make a fresh cake for tea, to darn socks or make my own curtains. I do it because I want to, and because if I don't feel like it, I can head to the supermarket and buy some cake, or a skirt, or a cardigan. Yes, I enjoy cooking for others; for me it is something I do out of love, the same as when I make Gareth socks, or my grandfather a hat, or my mother a cushion, or myself a jumper. It's something I do out of choice, and that, ultimately, is feminist.

1 comment:

  1. Huh, I read that, and I agree that choice is the important factor- much as I joke otherwise, cooking/sewing/whatever should be an option for a woman, same as a man. The minute it's not, it goes back to being submissive, but when it is, it can be whatever you want it to be.