Currently, I am reading Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity. And I have some thoughts. First of all, I’m not done the book, but I’ve read a good chunk of it. I’ll spare you all my thoughts on the parenting bits (because hoo boy, do I have them!) and stick with the chapters on blogging and Etsy.
It’s going to sound like I am not liking this book, but I really am finding a lot of good in it. I’ve dog-eared a lot of pages.
The start of the book was hard for me to get through. There’s a good bit of over-generalizing, and broad strokes about feminism. The meat of the book doesn’t really get going until the second or third chapter.
Focusing in on the lifestyle blogs: home decor, parenting, baking/cooking from scratch… the point Matchar ends up making is that (of course!) bloggers edit themselves, and they do try and cultivate an image, and design and craft blogs in particular (and also parenting blogs and definitely the overlap) tend, in large part, to gloss over the failures, the sweat and in the end, everyone is trying to make a few dollars.
I don’t personally think editing is bad. I myself have split off my “creative” side to here and try and leave the day-to-day living and kid stuff over in my other space (though I haven’t written a lick in ages). I read the blogging chapters nodding my head at sentences like, “So when we see what looks like an organized, stylish picture of domestic bliss portrayed on their blogs, there’s a natural tendency to hold ourselves up against that; if our lives don’t measure up, well, we feel like crap.”
It all leads up to this expectation that everyone can be successful at blogging and at crafting and making a living off of an Etsy store. Matchar points out that Etsy perpetuates this idea all the while creating a sort of bubble where we’re all scrambling on top of each other and actually making it harder for us all to succeed (by driving down prices and flooding the market with product). The idea of artisan-made is one that a lot of us can agree is a good one but sifting through it can be overwhelming.
I really appreciated how Matchar takes us from the early punk roots of reclaiming craft, all the way up until now, where it seems like everyone is selling hair bows and crocheted baby beanies on Etsy. As with the blogging chapter, the book makes the clear argument that becoming successful at selling anything on Etsy (in particular) is difficult and rare.
I am not sure that I buy into all the Baby Boomer versus Gen Y theory that is heavily leaned upon, however. I personally don’t consider myself 100% Gen X or Gen Y. I didn’t have the “Free to be you and me” experience, nor was I a latch key kid whose mother went to work in an office. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t see myself in the descriptions of why a person would be embracing the so-called New Domesticity. These reasons, Matchar claims, are what is driving women back to crafts, to cooking from scratch, to handmade businesses (and to Attachment Parenting). The reasons include that Gen Y is addicted to being reaffirmed; that their Boomer parents have created a generation that needs to be told how great they are all the time and who are too good for boring, entry-level, employment.
The argument I do believe (which is also made in the book, but I wish was emphasized a bit more), is that the recession combined with a bit of distrust in the system and not wanting to give big corporations and rich folks more money has driven folks to want to buy locally, support small businesses and artisans. This idea has become more mainstream, but perhaps the marketplace hasn’t caught up with it yet. The casual artisan is lumped in with the serious one. The person selling in a high cost of living state (who really needs the money let’s say) is competing against a person who just wants to make a little extra cash in a low cost of living state (and so that second person wins the business). Matchar points out, that in a bad economy, self-employment is terribly risky. Microenterprise really isn’t the solution that it appears to be on the surface (because the lifestyle blogger above has made it look so effortless) for a woman with children who can’t afford daycare and keeping standard 9-5 job, or a woman who finds herself unemployed. It’s hard work, and it’s very hard to actually make money.
Of course, I’ve always been a bit of a socialist.
If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know I have more to say, and that perhaps what I have expressed hasn’t been done so in the clearest of manners.