Sunday, October 14, 2007


So by now y'all have heard about this wonderful new book called The Gentle Art of Domesticity, by Jane Brocket. Jane is an Englishwoman, the book looks and sounds beautiful, and it turns out it hasn't had the best reception in the UK because apparently for some women, doing domestic-type things like cooking and baking around the house (or sewing, or knitting) is looked down on as a sign of negative advancement for women.

Which I have been thinking about for a few days, and which totally baffles me. (Disclaimer: I haven't read Jane's book, just her blog - and the general idea is the same whether you've read it or not.)

It seems to me that the whole idea of feminism is freedom, right? So let's take political freedom first of all. Many people think political freedom is the basic freedom to disagree with your government. Well, in a sense - but that is very narrow-minded. Political freedom is also the basic freedom to agree with your government. Because in a totalitarian society, everyone is forced to agree. Nobody has the liberty of agreement by choice, and nobody has the liberty to disagree.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Freedom for women does in fact mean freedom to be out in the workforce, vote, do all the things in the world they want to do - but it's also the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom or wife if that is what they want. Instead of a choice that's made for you, you can make it yourself. There is a reason Martha Stewart is so successful. She's an amazing businesswoman, but she's also tapping into something a lot of women care about. (Whether you or I do, I am not sure - I respect Martha, but I don't think I will be out in the garage re-caning chairs anytime soon. But I also respect the right of Martha to do so if she chooses.)

In other words, it's just as un-freeing to tell a citizen he must always disagree with government, and it's just as un-freeing to tell a woman she must be a working, busy woman with no interest in making a nice home. It's still somebody else making the decision for you.

How to Keep House

Some weeks ago I found a charming little book at a yard sale (my first ever!) and couldn't resist paying the 25 cents for it even though it meant trying to find a place in my suitcase. Even a book written in 1946 puts very little pressure on women to keep a nice home or be disgraced. There is definitely a tone of authority in this book, but it's not condemnatory - and I doubt very many people would sell very many books doing the same thing today. The idea is to find a little bit of pleasure in making things nice. (There is nothing wrong with that.)


(I particularly love the bit about keeping your lamp shades as straight as your stocking seams.)

So today I'm asking you - if you're interested - to go check out Jane's blog, Yarnstorm, and read the spirit with which she writes. Then check out the opinion column about her book and see what you think of it. The author is free to define her life however she chooses, but she is NOT free to define mine - or Jane's. Isn't it true that the whole idea behind freedom is that we choose, and not somebody else?

(Theologically there is a parallel as well. When the Bible talks about freedom, it also says don't use your freedom to cause others to sin. So sometimes freedom in that context is freedom to NOT do something, because it benefits another person.)

Keep on rockin' in the free world, y'all.



Blogger Crazy Colorado Knitter said...

Being a 'liberated woman' doesn't mean you HAVE to be a high-powered executive or march on Washington DC. It means you CAN CHOOSE to do those things, but you can also choose to be a stay at home mom who likes to keep a neat house.

The possibilities are out there, but if you want to take one path over another, your reasons for choosing one way are probably different for my reasons for choosing the same way.

Neither of them should be looked down upon.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I think about this a lot. I'm living by myself now, and I love it, but one of the things I love best about it is, when I don't need it to be tidy, it can be a mess. When i need it to be, I clean it up. Only, sometimes, it's hard to be bothered.

And then I though - what if I had a family. I'd probably do all that stuff for them. I would clean more, cook more, make a nicer home. So why don't I deserve that? I know how much better my home feels when it's put away and clean. It might feel hard to clean when I come home from work, but actually it's harder not to - you sit in your mess and feel grumpy and unproductive. Whereas ten minutes picking up, and your evening is your own again.

I guess I'm going to try working on being a better housewife - for myself.

btw, I am in 100% agreement with your stance on feminism/freedom. Real freedom means choice - real choice. It might be that each choice has its downsides, but it's so much better to be able to choose those downsides than to be pressured into them. I get cross when people (women) feel that they have to defend their own choices by denegrating other's choices as wrong.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

YES! EXACTLY. I totally agree. I've been trying to find nice things to do for myself lately for the same reasons, too. :)

6:30 PM  
Blogger MezzoDiva said...

IMHO: It has always seemed to me that the only people who really need to be told what to do are the ones who are busy telling everyone else what to do.

8:50 PM  
Blogger MezzoDiva said...

BTW - That is a lovely picture of you, Jen! I just saw your new photo for the first time (sorry, I've been under the weather and I haven't blog-stalked you - or anyone - for a while).
I have to say you look GREAT!
Just thought you should know.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

Jen, thanks for the link to Yarnstorm! I have been reading through her archives all morning, and find her blog post very interesting. I am definitely going to check out her book! I agree so much with your post about the freedom to make choices in life, and how one chooses to live that life. I feel a kinship with Crazy Colorado Knitter in the living single, won't clean if I don't wanna situation. There are days that I let everything go to hell...then one day, I wake up, and say what's with this pig sty and go on a Tasmanian Devil whirlwind cleaning spree, and it does feel so much better! I love my domesticity (sp?), I love my knitting, my cooking, my baking, and on occasion my housekeeping skills, but I also love my job and my career...Its the best of both worlds in my opinion!

11:56 AM  
Blogger TheBunny said...

Maybe for some women it isn't the suggestion of domesticity that is what is bothering them. It is the suggestion that the art of domesticity lies solely with women.

We should all be free to choose our paths without judgment.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Deenz said...

"Flowers and plants must be fresh and vigorous..." So, they wouldn't approve of my half-living orchid and semi-sprouting oxalis, lol?

I love the wording in there also...

12:48 PM  
Anonymous Gail said...

I read the column review as a (failed) attempt at wit.

5:27 PM  

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