So here is an article about hipster domesticity–the rise in canning and knitting and backyard chickenkeeping by young, city-dwelling ladies. It’s not that interesting an article or discussion (asking the question of whether this is empowerment or a rolling back of feminism isn’t a very sophisticated analysis), but it does have a great illustration by Julia Rothman who is one of my favourites.
One thing the article mentions is a bunch of new books, including the new Bust DIY Guide to Life, most of which I find pretty bothersome, in that they are all really entry-level. I don’t need multiple books that are about cooking and crafting and cleaning and fixing stuff; at this point in my “career” I want more substantial books on the parts that I’m actually interested in. The internet is full of lots of intro and beginner stuff, what’s really hard is figuring out how to learn and advance, such as how to go from following canning recipes to understanding the science enough to make your own recipes and can things safely. If the world keeps pumping out these overly generalist books trying to capitalize on a trend, it belies the fact that it is a trend, and that you’re not expected to take it seriously, it’s just for dabbling.
I was, however, pleased that the article mentions the competitive aspect of some of these domesticity project (especially the ones with beautiful blogs). The WaPo says:
You could say these women are simply homemakers searching for a purpose beyond driving carpool. As work-life balance scholar Joan Williams tells me, extreme domesticity can be a refuge for educated women who’ve left the workforce: “You’ve been trained your entire life in a high-pressure, high-achievement atmosphere, and you need somewhere to put that,” she says. “So you turn your household into an arena for dazzling performance.”
I would have taken that sentiment in a different direction though, because I think the over-perfect aspect of some of these blogs (eg. the DIY projects in something like DesignSponge) is gross and annoying. Those of us who love canning and cooking and sewing and knitting and gardening do it because we love it, not because it makes for a perfect blog post to show off on to the internet design and lifestyle hubs. Things are canned to be eaten, not to be beautifully labeled and photographed (though those things are fun); tomatoes are grown and eaten because they are delicious, not because I’m showing off just how committed I am to overthrowing the industrial agro-food system (that change doesn’t come from the garden, I promise you). What I think is needed in this realm is more discussion of failures, mistakes, misconstrued goals and oh-yeah-that-will-make-do solutions. Because that’s how it really works, at least in my kitchen and on my needles.
UPDATE: I want to mention a few sites that really speak to my sensibilities about all this. Food in Jars is my very favourite canning blog, Punk Domestics understands the rough-around-the-edges approach (and has great stuff), You Grow Girl takes on gardening in small and odd spaces and learns from mistakes, and the Smitten Kitchen does magical things in a tiny kitchen. Oh, and of course, my friend Kat has thrifty fun in threadbare times.