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Re-Domestication: Are We Re-Claiming the Feminine or Being Herded Back into the House? by A’Cloth the World (BLW Contributor)

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I read an article in Forbes this morning entitled, The Redomestication Of The American Woman. It really struck a chord and I have so many things spinning through my head as a result. I will try to organize those thoughts as best as possible.

DIY Marketing: Targeting the wants/needs of the current generation

For those of you who aren’t already familiar, the last decade has seen a bit of an explosion with DIY (Do-It-Yourself)/ crafting. There are numerous concepts and ideas tied into this explosion – wanting to go green, wanting to be less dependent on/ fighting against mass consumerism, wanting to save money, hoping to make money, wanting to create something – the list is rather long, and different people come to DIY/ crafting for different reasons. I’ve seen a lot of books and sites that market themselves on taking traditional activities (sewing, crocheting, etc) and bringing them up-to-date/ de-grannifying them. (My favorite line from The AntiCraft’s AntiFesto: Never again would we be forced to gleefully execute a sweater of intarsia puppies.) I actually got a book from the library yesterday titled, The New Granny Square, which boasts that the patterns in the book “are not your granny’s granny squares!”
Of course we don’t want to do the same things our mothers and grandmothers did! But… why? Why does this marketing work and what is it saying? Is it as simple as new generation, new wrapping paper? Is it really even new wrapping paper? There is an excellent article in the Fall 2007 Interweave Crochet magazine, “Crochet Heydays”, that discusses the cultural role of crochet in the 1960’s and 70’s. From the IC article:

Crochet was play, but in the late sixties it was also political as a highly visible communication of a generation’s radically different values. Crochet was one way to express the young generation’s need to craft its own image and identity and to move beyond conformity and the status quo.

So much for being different from our parents and grandparents, huh?

Who’s Space is it Anyway?

Handicrafts such as knitting, sewing, etc. have traditionally been considered to be feminine. Because women were homemakers for so many years (and in many parts of the world, still are), there is a kind of social tendency to associate these activities with femaleness. Do we still feel this way as a society? I’ve seen a handful of knitting books and blogs geared toward men (See: Knitting with Balls and a similarly titled blog Knits with Balls that I follow), but these still seem to be novelties to me. By and large, most books and patterns are still written with women in mind. But at least we’re starting to acknowledge the fact that men like to pick up hooks and needles too.
I can remember going through a phase during high school/ my first couple years of college where I was steadfastly tomboy and wouldn’t give the time of day to anything traditionally deemed “feminine” or “girly”. I considered myself to be a 
feminist and, at the time, I was convinced that somehow wearing men’s cargo jeans and working on cars with my Dad was somehow superior to wearing a dress, carrying a purse and cooking or fashion. Of course, I eventually realized that what I was doing was still giving power to men/ maleness/ masculinity and denying myself things I would come to love. (I am reminded here, of the song “What it feels like for a Girl” by Madonna, where she intros, “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, cause its ok to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, cause you think that being a girl is degrading.”)

So, as I read the Forbes article, I can certainly understand her concern that, “scratching at the organically-sanitized surface … is the haunting notion that the pro-creativity movement is in bed with strong societal forces to bring women closer to procreativity (and ideally “full-time” motherhood) …” However, I think, so long as we are aware of what is going on, aware of our own interests in these activities, and we’re not choosing to engage or not engage in them based on what society’s ideals for us are according to what we have between our legs, I think we’re safe. The important thing is having options, knowing what they are, and making our own choices. (I suddenly want to watch Mona Lisa Smile for the millionth time. Re: The part where Julia Stile’s character tells Julia Roberts’ character, “This *is* what I want.”)

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10 comments

  1. oh wow, interesting article, I have to shamefully confess , I sometimes lead my boys towards this masculinity, since my husband forbids anything “girly” . I think it was just the way he was raised, unlike me, I was raised to do it all and choose for my self. but after being a mother and wife it is difficult to get out of the mom role. but I decided to go back to school to be a teacher once the boys are all in school, perhaps then I can get out of this stay at home mom role.

  2. I long for the day when we don’t have to have these conversations and everyone can just be who they are and do what they want without fear of being judged or catergorized for their choices … but people suck. For all the good that humanity has to offer, it has “bad” in spades as well. Maybe … one day … compassion will win.

    1. Unfortunately that kind of change does not happen overnight. I still overhear parents in stores directing their children away from one item and to another because “you’re a boy/ you’re a girl and that’s not for you” :/

      1. I remember being on a train in London a few years ago. Son and daughter were playing with the father, but after a few seconds the girl was ordered (by her mother) to stop it and sit down and act “ladylike”!

  3. As a feminist stay at home mom, I often feel like the feminist movement has a few things wrong. While I fully want women to have equally rights, opportunities, and standing, I think the domestic, feminine, and caregiver roles have been greatly devalued at a great expense to the women. If we were truly equal to men our traditional roles would be valued so enough that it was an honorable choice for a man or a women to decide to stay home and raise children, create clothing through sewing, kniting, etc, be the caregiver for older family members, etc.

    Unfortunately, as a stay at home mom that gave up the option for a high powered career I feel that others don’t value what I do, think I am no longer a feminist, and in general have a slightly negative view of my job.

    I don’t think a feminist is only fighting for the right to work at any job a man has, but is also fighting for the jobs a women traditionally had to be seen as valued enough to be respected enough that a man could do them and be respected too, for female traits to be valued as important as well as male traits, and for this reason I am routing for the women and men who have choosen to redomesticate themselves.

    1. I couldn’t agree with you more. It has taken me a long time to reconcile some of these things in my own person after growing up and repeatedly being sent the message that “girly” is somehow less. I think, whether we’re telling boys not to play with certain toys because they’re too feminine or telling girls that empowerment can only come in the form of having space in what we consider “a man’s world”, we’re both still insinuating that femaleness is undesirable and limiting the range of human experience for all genders.

  4. I feel like reliance on yourself, knowing you can do it on your own, without the lure of the *easy*, *get-rich*, *fast-acting* commercialism is what resonates with me and my boys. We learn to knit, laundry, sew, read, think for ourselves. Thank you for sharing this interesting thought.

  5. I do agree that most of the knitting and stitching stuff are catered towards girls. I once went looking for a simple cross-stitch kit for my son and I could not find even one with a design that would catch the interest of boys.

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