Homeward Bound by Emily Matchar

Subtitled: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity.

Here’s what really gets me–we finally get to a point in history where most men acknowledge that women can have a voice in both their own lives and in the future of our country. And what happens? Women decide to take over the job of telling each other “yer doin’ it wrong.” Homeward Bound is yet another polemic against women who dare to decide that the corporate world is not for them. Leaving aside everything else in this book, what is the point of continually demonizing breastfeeding? Matchar is so reductionist on the topic that she actually says that since working women are going to quit breastfeeding after three weeks, the huge corporations that own formula manufacturers should get prime product placement in their hospital rooms. It’s like saying that since it’s really hard to cook for yourself when you’re working all the time, that you might as well remove people’s kitchens and replace them with giant freezers to store convenience foods.

What is the point of trying anything you’d like to try when it’s only going to be a giant failure and make other people miserable watching? Or worse–what’s the point of succeeding at something difficult when it’s only going to make people like Emily Matchar argue that success is an even bigger problem than failure because then other people might try it too!!! And that’s basically how the book goes. She presents what seem to me to be inspirational stories of people who are carving out lives outside of the mainstream, focusing on making things by hand and recovering lost domestic arts. And then she says that these are pointless endeavors because nobody succeeds (except the ones who succeed) and if you do it’s at the expense of the poor people who need hipsters to decide what’s best for the whole world.

It reminds me of a homeschooling debate I read on an infamous message board for moms, a spinoff of Mothering.com where members castigate anyone who takes the (s)Mothering woo too seriously. A debate on homeschooling kicked off when a member said that she would only respect a homeschooling family if they were also involved in their local public school system. When a homeschooler said that her family pays their taxes as required by law, the response was they were not doing enough, that they should be voting in school board elections and volunteering at fundraisers for the PTA. And then someone else suggested that her time would be better spent–for the good of the world–if she would put her kids in school and then use her homeschooling time to volunteer 20 hours/week at the school. Best of both worlds, she was told–be involved in your kids’ education while helping the poor wretches whose parents are just using school as daycare while they work. Being a stay-at-home mom, she’s got the time and the energy to be the surrogate mom to a whole classroom. The homeschooling mom shut it down by saying that she doesn’t spend 20 hours/week homeschooling and she isn’t looking for an unpaid internship.

What is the point of calling another woman’s life choices into question? Matchar and Rosin and others like them think they know what’s best for all of the rest of us, and when other women decide to rewrite the rules because we have a vision of a better world, we’re called traitors and stupid and Nazis. Breastfeeding Nazis, of course, because there’s nothing more like genocide than wanting to do things like lower infant mortality rates throughout the world or protect women against breast cancer. Ugh.

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