The New Domesticity

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, examines why so many women are "going home" to knit, pickle, and blog about it. Why now, and what does it mean for gender equality?




Emily Matchar

Comments [27]

sharon from Ossining, Westchester

I listened two days after...walking to work (in the suburbs) and have to weigh in. I am the CEO and founder of a small business and my husband is a teacher. This "new domesticity" boils down to quality of life, common sense and finances. We (not just I, the wife) have, for 26+ years, cooked from scratch, limited anything packaged, shopped thrift or re-purposed, gardened (our front lawn is gone and is edible now)embraced family meal time for family, neighbors and friends. Sewing and cleaning go to the local economy, that's non-negotiable for me. We're not rich but we live with abundance!

May. 10 2013 08:55 AM

I listened to the program and found it extremely interesting, but I can't get past the "Ya know(s)." I hate to come across like I'm OCD, but did anyone else notice Emily said "ya know" over 68 times, so much so that it became a distraction. For personal growth, Emily please seek some speaking advice from a group like Toastmasters, they can assist you with this. I believe you have a lot to teach us, just a little feedback for future reference.

May. 08 2013 09:47 PM
Nancy Brown from New Canaan, CT

As I listened to your story I was completing a sewing project for my 80 year old mother, a carrier bag for her walker. I have been sewing since I was 11 and ended up with a career in the apparel industry. As it goes, my two 20-something daughters do not want to sew, but love fashion! My love for sewing came from my grandmother and it was a steady process over the years. Which is probably the bigest drawback these days. But if my children have kids, maybe I will be called to duty! Possibly sewing is an alternating generational thing!

May. 08 2013 11:55 AM
Helene from Queens

The caller who made the comment about cloth diapers being some "rich people" thing is simply ignorant. We have 3 children, the last of whom is approaching the end of his days in diapers. We have used the same set of diapers on all three children, saving ourselves approximately $5000 in the process. With kids, you end up doing so much laundry anyway that the extra load or two of diaper laundry each week isn't even noticeable. Furthermore, I've been able to pass along outgrown diapers to friends/relatives for their children as well (the same way we pass along outgrown clothing). Beyond saving money for ourselves, we kept a whole lot of trash out of landfills. You don't have to be "rich" to care about saving money and doing your part for the environment.

May. 08 2013 11:54 AM
The Truth from Becky

Uhmm caller - I grew up in BROOKLYN and I can knit and Crochet...depends on the family inside of the household NOT the location.

May. 08 2013 11:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

How can there be many "stay at home dads" when in divorce, women get custody and more important DOMICILING of the child in over 87% of the cases?? And you can trust me, that if a woman sees her many sitting at home with his kid(s0 too long, the knives come out!

May. 08 2013 11:43 AM
Robert from NYC

Not only is cooking fun because you don't have to do it but because we make many more quick but delicious and healthy meals today and we don't have very large families anymore. Today a large family consists of 4, less often more!

May. 08 2013 11:41 AM
Lulu from montclair

This is a silly story - Domestic Homework what we call it in our house "LIFE" and nothing to do with gender equality.

May. 08 2013 11:41 AM
Alyson from Garment District

I am a professional freelance fashion designer and I am single. I noticed that my older coworkers believe single women should be bad cooks and order takeouts which signifies their freedom. I think that is unfortunate that they don't take that interest in home life. I swoon at the thought of doing things for myself like making my own yogurt and making bread.

May. 08 2013 11:40 AM

Traditional lacto-fermentation uses no vinegar and doesn't boil what's being pickled - instead waht it does is populate the gut with wonderful flora that's not available in stores (Bubbie's or Hawthorne Valley are the real things)

Cloth diapers are good for baby and good for the environment -

You can learn to cook simple, nutrient-dense food every day

May. 08 2013 11:39 AM
Ally from NJ

For me, as a web designer and someone who sometimes feels overwhelmed by technology, returning to these "old-fashioned" and tactile pursuits is a nice break. And like Emily said, being able to sew or knit a toy for my son, rather than purchasing China-made plastic junk is a blessing. I love being about to use the skills my grandmother passed down. But I must add, I'm grateful to the mothers and grandmothers who came before me so I have the option and choice to also be a working mom.

May. 08 2013 11:39 AM
Katherine Jackson from LES

This is all very well, but we just had a story about how the countries with the most women in Parliament have the best infant survival statistics. Retreating into domesticity can be taken too far. Not to take corporate America off the hook, but while this new domesticity is not only understandable but also has positive value,we need MORE,not fewer, women in the public realm.

May. 08 2013 11:39 AM
joan from tarrytown

There is also a sense of ownership that comes with making something from scratch, and with that a greater value and less a tendency to wastefulness. If we know how something is made and the energy and effort and skill that goes into the making, there is a greater value to the using of it. The concept of sustainable motherhood might be something to discuss within this conversation.

May. 08 2013 11:38 AM
Peg from rural NY

Our family has always done the "domestic" thing. Our food is ALWAYS organic and gourmet', our clothes are always well tailored, our kids are happy our pets are happy and we are too. One can do many of these skills while maintaining a job. Sometimes these skills lead to small businesses. For those who chose it, it's an excellent way to live. Men do this too!!! By the way - our family of 3 lives for about $20,000 per year.

May. 08 2013 11:38 AM

Plastic diapers are as wasteful as that last callers life
go cloth PLEASE

May. 08 2013 11:38 AM
Karla Fisk from Inwood, Manhattan

Neighbors of ours in Inwood created an organic soap & personal care business in their apartment kitchen. And it's doing really well!

May. 08 2013 11:38 AM
Jodie from Somerville, NJ

Is it possible that the up-tick in this sort of domestic activity is due to necessity? I raise a garden, knit/crochet, sew, can, and cook, not because I am a stay-at-home mom (I am not), but because it's economical and healthier. Making these small changes allows us to save enough money to do the things we really want to do... vacation.

May. 08 2013 11:36 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Screw work.

May. 08 2013 11:36 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm a man who's been cooking, washing, sewing for myself for decades. What's the big deal? There's nothing a woman can do that I can't do for myself EXCEPT have my own kid by myself.

May. 08 2013 11:36 AM
Judy Young from Union Square

I decided to leave work and stay at home with my kids so I can portray for them a mom who is not constantly stressed out. I scream less, I'm more fun and my kids are far less anxious.

May. 08 2013 11:35 AM

Ah yes -- the classic, sturdy, Brooklyn "Trader Joe's Homesteader."

But won't the pickled head of the snake eat its knitted tail?

May. 08 2013 11:35 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I agree with Nick. Once the glamor of the rat race wears off, many more women are taking the OPTION of retreating back to safety. Women have so many options that men don't. God forbid if a woman catches her man sitting back and taking it easy for a moment. And watch the knives really come out if the kid bonds too closely with daddy.

May. 08 2013 11:32 AM
carolita from nyc

I recently began "pickling" (or lacto-fermenting, as I prefer to call it -- that sounds much less home-makery, doesn't it?). I would never call myself a homemaker, or domesticized. I'm a feminist, childless (but not alone) and I work freelance, and I do a lot of "labor-intensive" things just because I'm too cheap/broke to pay anyone else to do it, and because I want it done right.

I think "domesticity" is a misleading word. A lot of us women are simply doing things like this because we want things done right, and don't want to be suckered into spending a lot of money for things we can do ourselves.

May. 08 2013 11:30 AM
Fishmael from WNYC

Details matter. When we say "so many women" are staying home for this, is it really "so many"? What actual numbers of all women in the U.S. are really doing anything like this?

May. 08 2013 11:28 AM

Maybe it's time to rename (reframe?) this discussion because this intro sounds so polarizing. Clearly we haven't sorted out the divisions of labor - but what bothers me is how much skill is lacking in our world because entire generations have not had the chance to learn things like sewing or cooking - these are not frivolous!!! They both involve problem solving and more. So we need to stop rating necessities like food and clothing as worthy only of outsourcing to corporations.

May. 08 2013 11:19 AM
Nick from UWS

This has nothing to do with "gender equality". This has to do with bald opportunism. Having their foray into the "man's world", many women say "Oh man, screw this....let the man do it." and go back home to watch television, make pickles, eat chocolate, and waste 6 hours a day talking about complete crap on Facebook. But the joke's on them, because far FAR less men are willing to marry (or not) and completely support a woman than ever before in history. Most men I know today approach that idea as if it was a petri dish full of ebola virus.

May. 08 2013 11:12 AM
Betty Holloway from New York

It sounds menacing and unnatural for me to hear the reference to the Affordable Care Act being referred to as "Obamacare" on your station without reference to the official name. Are you changing your political perspective to something more to the right rather than neutral and providing information that allows us (your listening audience) to make our own decisions?

May. 08 2013 10:11 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.