Can domesticity and feminism coexist?

Published: Thursday, March 21 2013 10:15 a.m. MDT

There's a take-sides debate raging around domesticity and feminism and where the two do or don't converge. Can housewives be feminists? Does the word even retain its original meaning?

Writes Emily Matchar in The Atlantic, "Across different social and cultural groups, there's been a collective return to domesticity the rise in educated stay-at-home moms, the obsession with traditional crafts, the mania for cooking and growing our own food, the decline in career ambition and the growing importance of family among the young. This phenomenon is about far more than privileged women choosing to stay at home with their children. It's about the laid-off office worker who opens an Etsy boutique selling crocheted baby clothes rather than jumping back into the fray of recession-era job searching. It's about the grown child of harried Baby Boomers who, having seen his parents work 60-hour weeks to climb the corporate ladder, decides to lead a slower, more home-focused life. It's about the young parents who, freaked out about BPA in baby food and pesticides in fruit, decide to take food into their own hands by growing their own veggies and baking their own bread, maybe even raising a chicken or two in the backyard.

"Their mothers and grandmothers may have eagerly shunned domestic work in favor of the office, but they're reclaiming traditional women's work in the name of environmentalism, sustainable living, healthier eating culture, anti-consumerism. Some are quitting their jobs to do domesticity full-time. But most couldn't afford that, even if they wanted to."

Marchar, who has written a book on the complexities of women's work/household choices that will be out soon, thinks the factors that go into deciding to go to work or to stay home are more complex than a recent New York Magazine piece would lead one to believe. Its focus on well-to-do stay-at-home moms launched yet another round of heated discussions, like those that centered around Ann Romney during the presidential campaign.

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