Cupcake, courtesy of Wikipedia
I was actually surprised that this article even made it by The Guardian editors, given the fact that this “debate” has been going on since at least I was in high school back in the 1990s. In my view, women have been dealing with this tension between their love of old-style domesticity, and their guilt that this makes them “bad feminist,” for at least the past decade. Bust Magazine has been covering the rise of feminist knitting circles and other feminist domestic pursuits since it was started in 1993; the first Stitch ‘n Bitch was published in 2003; and Martha Stewart has been embodying the duel role of 1950’s-style domestic goddess and modern feminist business tycoon since her magazine was first published in 1990. I just assumed that everyone had come to terms with the fact that some women just like to make cupcakes, second-wave feminist critique of homemaking be damned.
The Guardian article lays out all the usual concerns about the domesticity vs. feminism debate: can real feminists embrace the homemaking duties that the second-wave feminists condemned as the shackles of gender roles? Is interest in domesticity just an act of rebellion against old-school feminists who rejected domesticity as “unfeminist? Can domesticity ever be subversive, given that women share a disproportionate amount of housework?
I was relieved that Jezebel pointed out that we’ve heard all these arguments before, and that articles like these pit “frivolous ungrateful 20-something[s]” against “Debbie Downer old-school feminist[s],” which just makes all women look bad. In reality, I doubt that any of these young domestic goddesses would say that women had it made in the 50s, and I doubt that any old-school feminists would deny that making cupcakes can be fun and fulfilling.
Personally, I find it frustrating that articles like these seem to think that domesticity isn’t valuable in and of itself—that women only bake cookies to be ironic or subversive or to make a statement about the state of feminism today. As Jezebel points out, a lot of women, myself included, make cupcakes “unironically.” After all, sometimes a cupcake is just a cupcake.
I understand why second wave feminism rejected domesticity—The Feminine Mystique was written as a response to a culture that trapped women in the home, and it makes sense that the first step in the modern feminist movement would be to reject homemaking.
But how we keep our homes and how we cook our meals is an ancient tradition that is an incredibly important part of every culture. For me, domestic life is a huge part of what makes us human, and has value far above and beyond merely making a statement about feminism.