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the domesticity revolution: the resurgence of the inner domestic goddess


I recently admitted to a friend that I knit scarves and make cross-stitches. She gave me a look that was an unmistakable mixture of pity and incredulousness then reached across the small table, on which rested our coffee cups, and patted my hand comfortingly, reassuring me that I was not alone, as I shared this passion with her 88 year-old grandmother.

I let my friend pay for her own coffee that day.

However, despite her mocking smile, this trend is on the up, propelled along (as is the case with anything worth doing) by Hollywood; everything from knitting, sewing, and crocheting, to flower arranging, plus anything else that jumps to mind to embrace and attempt to pacify our poor, neglected inner domestic goddess.

For neglected she most certainly is. Even something as simple and necessary as cooking dinner is becoming a dying art. A glance at the ratings on TV cooking shows will confirm this. For the only reason we watch these shows is because they remind us of what we wish we were like, and what we wish we could do. The reality of watching “reality TV” is that whilst the contestants run ragged cooking or painting or DIY-ing a house, the rest of us sit plonked on the couch with a glass of wine and a plate of nibbles, watching them do so. Does anyone actually cook the dish whilst watching the cooking show? No. We take note of the recipe, wishing we had the imagination to come up with something so intricate, and then promise ourselves that we will try it later.

But what chance does an inner domestic goddess have at fulfilment when she is in constant competition with the rush and chaos that has become modern life? We need to pause for a second, look around, and ask ourselves where she has gone. Where is she hiding?  Probably lying in a dissatisfied state of boredom-induced paralysis, gathering dust at the back of our cupboard full of great-grandma’s old recipe books.

So why should women in the 21st century care enough to attempt such a reconnection with domestic trends which seem so irrelevant and outdated? Has the time come to stop burning bras and start sewing some new ones? I hear the outcry – after all feminism has done for you, this is how you show your thanks? By regressing into activities typically undertaken by women a century ago, who sewed because they couldn’t vote, knitted because they couldn’t work, and crocheted because they couldn’t choose.

But in fact, even in its rawest form, this domesticity was a rebellion of sorts. Against the accepted social order of the time which dictated that women should do nothing at all, except raise children, such tasks gave women the power of doing something, rather than nothing. And now, once again, embracing the inner domestic goddess can be a form of revolution. This tendency could in fact be considered a result of the neglect, over the past 50 years, of activities society has been telling us are too stereotypically feminine to be acceptable anymore. We are rebelling and have begun to crave domesticity again.

Perhaps these quiet activities remind us of a simpler time, familiar to many of us only through films, books and grandparents’ stories. Life is certainly more complicated for women now, compared to Jane Austen’s heroines. Personally, I have certainly experienced early mornings of smashing the alarm clock into silence and wishing I had nothing more to face that day than some quiet reading, tea-sipping and embroidering of cushions over a conversation about the latest regiment to arrive in the village.

Though admittedly the novelty would wear off after a day or two, there is no denying the therapeutic value of needlecraft and creative handiwork. The activity itself demands such a change of pace that it presents itself as a considerable alternative to chamomile tea when one is looking for an effective calming agent.

However, in the same way that not every woman looks at a baby and starts cooing and clucking, so not all of us necessarily yearn to make our own clothes or knit scarves in outrageous colours. But, if we were to find ourselves in possession of a particularly vocal inner domestic goddess, we need to feel comfortable enough to take up those knitting needles and get to work. There is an illusory sense that it might make someone less of a modern-day gal if she does whip out a needle and thread in the bus. But women can demonstrably still be powerful corporate and societal figures and maintain these skills.

We need to be able to embrace these activities at any age without feeling old or old-fashioned. Aren’t we free to choose to be a homebody one day and a goal-driven career woman the next? We have the choice, thanks to the women of the past who weren’t so lucky.  And so I call upon you modern, chic, multi-tasking women, to take up your needles! Long live domesticity!

By Christina Bulbrook

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2 thoughts on “the domesticity revolution: the resurgence of the inner domestic goddess

  1. Perhaps the enjoyment of knitting and sewing aren’t so much dying out as they are being relegated to only those who honestly enjoy them, as opposed to women being expected to master them in order to be considered “accomplished”.

    I feel that the negative reactions you get to knitting is the fear that what has been won by decades of agitation (the right to work, the right to choose) will be taken away. I feel that fear sometimes, when I hear younger women complaining about having to get off the couch to vote, or the declaration that “good mothers don’t spend entire days away from their children”. Either way, I still enjoy knitting.

  2. Great article!! Thanks for the reminder that I am a woman who comfortingly gleens great satisfaction from making and creating articles at home for family and friends. Each article is lovingly made for that person and it’s the relationship with that person that is interwoven into the article. Long live the “domestic goddess” and long live her desire to create!

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