Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Domestic Goddess or Domestic Demon?

Catching up on Monday's edition of the Canberra Times over lunch I came across this article about the rise of the domestic goddess (syndicated from The Guardian in the UK, hence it being all about this British trend).

I rarely read an article right to the very end, but this one I did because I found the discussion fascinating. The gist is; cupcakes, '50s dresses, knitting and even the WI are back in vogue. There are many possible reasons (personally I wonder whether its simply because cupcakes are nice but other explanations included a return to femininity and a rebellion against punk parents).

What made me think, however, was the sudden emergence half way through the article of a feminist warning us all that this is a Bad Thing.

Her opinion, it seems, hangs on the fact that women have spent a long long time fighting to get out of the apron-clad stereotype and this sort of cake-making, seamed-tights-wearing, jam-stewing behaviour will land us all right back into the kitchen (do not pass the careers office, do not collect two hundred pounds).

I utterly agree with her statements that we still do not have equality and I occasionally meet men who (despite their best attempts at "modern thinking") still think of women as collectively emotional and irrational. However, I think the feminist author quoted is picking the wrong battle ground.

These women like icing cakes, wearing pretty dresses, sewing, maybe even designing paint effects to make their home more homey. They also enjoy their friendship group of people with similar interests. I am not sure that feminism was supposed to be about depriving yourself of enjoyable pastimes.

There are a great many other things going on which I believe undermine the feminist movement much more than a bit of knitting. (For example this morning I received an email from a Women in IT group of which I am a member, launching the Million Dollar Babes Awards 2008 - for women who run successful technology companies turning over more than a million dollars per annum. I was so disgusted by the demeaning name that I have emailed them to ask for it to be changed. A simple dictionary seach shows that a word that is "disparaging and offensive" and implies "inexperience" is inappropriate here).

I think cake baking is harmless in comparison. Personally I like a Cath Kidston pinny as much as the next WI member, and I am all for a bit of burlesque resurgence to coax anyone out of Stringfellows.

As The Beatles once said; "Let it be". We can be awesomely ball-breaking in the boardroom, earning a fortune, playing rugby on the weekends AND knitting in front of Eastenders of an evening. After all - we are women!


mum said...

Sewing! You sew! All your hems are held up with double-sided tape or staples.

Emily Wearmouth said...

Only until I get around to sewing them! I memorably sewed my hem while sitting in the aisle of the train on the way to work once.

And I bake great flapjacks.

Sue M said...

Probably no surprise that I am commenting, albeit (Barney!) a little late.

I've always loved making and eating cakes, I have a lifelong passion for knitwear (making and wearing) and enjoy nothing better than prancing around the house making it pretty with candles and scatter cusions. In pretty skirts. But that's because I am not defined by thos activites, and have the balance of a succesful and challenging career, and the skills to use a range of power tools and build a set of wooden shelves from scratch (no flatpack people!). The whole point of feminism is our refusal to be defined by what we do, and what we wear. That frees us up to do and be whoever we want, without the confines of other people's expectations.

That being said, I am looking forward to a weekend of blackberry picking followed by the baking of many pies! And catching up on 'Lost in Austin'.Marvellous xx

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