As I sit here on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Sydney, with a cup of herbal tea in one hand and my yarn weaving kit in the other, a younger Trudi may well have laughed and called me old before my time. She may have giggled at my oversized grandad sweater, woolly socks and comfy granny pants, or questioned why I had chosen to listen to chilled Morcheeba over progressive metal band Tool (though they are still my favourite band).
A younger Trudi would certainly have been in shock to hear that I spent my birthday celebrations last night having a low key, albeit delicious, South Indian dinner out with just the one cocktail; before heading back home by 10pm to enjoy a bottle of Pinot Noir and an early night.
I mean, I’m 31 years old; arguably still in my prime. Should I not prefer boozy parties, dancing and late night antics to blankets, tea and crafts? Have I really become old before my time, or am I simply mature and wise enough to recognise when my tastes (and energy levels) have evolved?
This is a topic I discussed earlier this week with one of my best friends in the UK, as I woke up ready for a day at work, and she was enjoying her rare few hours at night when both her children were asleep in bed. “I just want to have a nice relaxing night in knitting, mediating and drinking a nice herbal tea…god, I’m old aren’t I?!” she exclaimed. But we both giggled as we exchanged stories and habits we’d acquired since waving goodbye to our 20’s; reminiscing on the days when life was one big party.
But the thing is, choosing to slow things down – having more sleep, drinking less alcohol (or at least in less condensed timeframes) and reducing stress through meditation or relaxing hobbies – isn’t a sign of ageing. I am beginning to see that our elders, who we often associate with things like knitting, baking, coastal walks and early nights by the fire, have actually just gained the wisdom needed to see that happiness and health is often found when you slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Why should I deny the fact that my new hobby of sustainable weaving brings me a happiness and tranquility that a night in a metal club never did. Sure, it’s fun to go out with friends, get tipsy and head bang until your neck is a stiff as cardboard. But with a subtly ageing body and increasing life obligations, more and more “me time” is just as much intertwined with self-love, looking after my health and finding time to be creative or learn new skills.
Interestingly, earlier last week I read an article asking: Are today’s clean-eating women really so different from 1950s housewives? According to journalist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett the rise in popularity of crafting, baking and DIY green living amongst modern 20 and 30 something women is revealing a trend away from the feminist push of the last couple of decades toward professional equality to be women that “has it all”, to an increasing desire to re-embrace domesticity. As pay equality remains a myth in some professions, and the depressing capitalist world is relentlessly unfair, unfulfilling and generally a toxic environment to be in; is it any wonder we are looking back to traditional feminine roles from our grandparents generation which are wholesome and (dare I say it…) closer aligned to the skills and interests of women?
Now, I appreciate this is a grand assumption of gender stereotypes, and may well rile some feminist feathers of those who feel that reverting back to wearing aprons and knitting blankets over pencil skirts and corporate dinner meetings, is spitting in the face of female equality. However I would disagree that one has to override the other. Surely the purpose of feminism is to give women freedom and empowerment to choose; even if she chooses to be a stay at home mum and make fabulous cupcakes for her WI friends? In fact, you could even argue we are re-adopting archaic female stereotypes and making them empowering and trendy in their own right.
As Cosslett points out: “You don’t need to look at so many Instagram posts of smiling, svelte young women brandishing wholesome trays of homemade baked goods to suspect that the Victorian ideal of “the angel in the house”, as manifested in the archetype of the later 1950s housewife, might be back with a bit of a vengeance. The only difference is that the brownies are now gluten-free.”
However, whilst Cosslett seems weary, even critical, of this new wave of women tweeting gluten free recipes and sharing photos of their latest up-cycled project arguing “…both genders should be disturbed by modern nostalgia for the 1950s housewife. Whether carbs were present or not, it was no picnic.” I’m not so sure. In fact, I think I’m with The Women’s Institute historian Maggie Andrews who suggests “Both feminism and the Women’s Institute have come together a little bit, in that domesticity isn’t such a bad thing as people thought, or possibly that the workplace is not as much fun as we all thought…”
As I reflect on the last 6 months of travelling, away from the daily grind of work and societal pressures, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I creep deeper into my 30’s it’s not a successful career, a thriving party lifestyle or more wealth that is my present life goal. Instead, I see the 9-5 as a restrictive and soul crushing way to spend the life past feminist activists fought hard to give me to freedom to choice how to live. Now, I simply want to master baking good bread, weaving baskets bigger than a thimble, and enjoying a full 8 hours sleep every night of the week.
Is that really old or anti feminist?
8 thoughts on “Is Embracing Domesticity Crushing Feminism and Making us Feel Old?”
Ah, I have this kind of debate with friends and myself all the time too!
I think the problem arises not because mending, cooking etc are anti-feminist, but because the current societal set-up is geared towards devaluing ‘women’s work’ and seeing traditionally masculine jobs and behaviours as what we should all be aiming for.
For me, feminism is about being able to choose what I do, but also to have equal respect for the jobs and actions being done! Raising a child, making or mending clothes, many of the skills needed to run a home, are not ‘easier’ jobs than many paid jobs. Often the opposite, I would think. But they are massively undervalued by society.
A truly feminist society to me would not be based around aspirations of making money for the sake of pointless consumerism to prove to others how well you’re doing or being in competition with others and yourself to be seeing to conform to a set way of being. Rather it may be one based on what are often seen as more traditionally ‘feminine’ (and funnily enough, environmental!) principles – cooperation, inclusivity, mending, providing, sharing. That would benefit all of us!
Loved the article, and still love a bit of Tool as well 🙂
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You have totally hit the nail on the head when you talk about the value we place on certain tasks! But part of my move toward indulging in what I enjoy and want to pursue is about ignoring those societal norms assessing age or gender and simply doing what makes ME happy and fulfilled. As long as I value that time spent, I couldn’t care less if I come across as old and a stereotypical housewife! (for the record I have neither a child or a husband!)
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Dude, so much YES in this. This is very interesting, and seems to be popping up in other blogs I have been reading (I mean the label of “being old” in this “green lifestyle” or “anti-feminism” horseradish).
What it comes down to is what makes YOU happy. If knitting makes you happy, go for it. If wearing wool sweaters and reading a book instead of being at a bar makes you happy, then do it. You have to do you. We are obsessed with labeling and categorizing; it is annnnnnoying.
My sister slams this on me all the time; she calls me “granny” because I use my Opa’s handkerchiefs. She calls me “old housewife” when I bake a loaf of bread. Am I doing it to please my husband? No. I’m doing it because a) bread comes in plastic bags, which is ridiculous, and b) there are so many ingredients in store-bought bread (some I can’t even pronounce), so why wouldn’t I want to bake bread at home that I a) know what’s going into it, and b) TASTES FREAKING AMAZEBALLS.
I don’t understand why we constantly have to justify our actions and interests. I don’t know why anything makes anyone “old” when it’s just something they enjoy doing. I’m not a hippy because I make my own beauty products and get excited over compost; I’m doing it because I enjoy it, and it’s my environmental responsibility.
Girl, I hear you, and this certainly won’t be the end of it!
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I couldn’t agree more that it’s all about what makes you happy! Plus, not only does making your own work out cheaper and more environmentally friendly, it gives a satisfaction that buying something simply doesn’t give you! Though, I’m pretty impressed your homemade bread tastes amazeballs…mine is just a bit of a balls up! haha
I love this, I turn 25 in a couple of days and spend most of my weekends in the kitchen baking, making, fermenting. I consider myself to be a feminist. Lately I have been feeling frustrated as I realized working full time in the corporate world is not what I want my life to be, yet if I was to quit or work part time I would suddenly be relying on my boyfriend to be the bread winner. That’s not how either of us see it though, he is really supportive of me and would have no problem with me working part time to pursue my hobbies. However I would hate to think I have suddenly become a 50’s housewife, something I have always ridiculed.
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Pip said almost everything I would’ve said in response to this! I only want to add that I’d love to see more men getting into knitting, baking, etc. I think everyone would benefit from a slower pace of life that revolves less around work and consumerism, and so it strikes me as just a little bit odd that almost all the zero waste/green lifestyle bloggers I’ve come across are women…
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Ah I just saw this, thank you 🙂 I agree that more men should also get involved in doing things which help sustain ourselves and the planet!
I have always wanted to know why there is such a huge gender imbalance in eco-blogs too. That would be an interesting discussion, especially if we could get some male bloggers’ views on it too…
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Haha now there’s an idea – there’s little point speculating about where all the men are without actually asking some of them!
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