Some thoughts on Marthettes, blogging about ‘feminine’ stuff, and perfection

by Franca on 9 March 2011

In the discussion in the Feminist Fashion Bloggers google group, one topic that keeps coming up again and again is the perceived tension between an interest in activities traditionally coded female (sewing, knitting, fashion, decorating and the like) and feminism. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting when I say that everyone agrees that the two need not be incopatible, but they are often still perceived to be and we often feel we have to justify ourselves if that’s what we are interested in.

So I thought for today’s post I would talk a bit about Marthette bloggers, who are the epitome of blogging about traditionally feminine things. The term was coined by a Jezebel blogger and refers to bloggers who are all-round domestic goddesses, presenting their perfectly dressed, perfectly happy lives with snapshots of their adorable kids and loving partners, their parties, their home interiors, their food and their general crafty output. The name comes from reference to Martha Stewart I think, who actually means nothing to me as a cultural shorthand (all I know about her is that she had to go to prison for fraud).

Although I’m pretty far removed from a perfectly groomed domestic goddess myself, I actually feel quite a lot of connection with these bloggers. A lot of the things I talk about on the blog – fashion, food, knitting, interiors, photography – are Martha topics. I’m not sure that given the opportunity to spend some proper time on these I wouldn’t also make everything look perfectly arranged and beautiful.

In a post on the topic, Sal at Already Pretty wrote that in her opinion these bloggers who “showcase the shiny and the pretty” were “looking to make themselves interesting to the existing fashion media and clothing manufacturers, to send up a flare that says, “Hey! Over here! I’ve got what it takes!” And on that one particular point, I disagree.

I don’t talk about the difficult and bad things in my life here much. My recent post about feeling unable to properly cope with all the pressures of life are an exception, not the rule. Mainly its a privacy thing, but its also that I use this blog as a way of being more conscious of all the things that are lovely in my life. I spent most of my days wrangling over the precise wording of ministerial submissions, despairing over badly designed survey questions and arguing about whose turn it is to do the dishes. But I don’t feel the need to talk about that, and that’s not because I want to pretend those things don’t exist for the benefit of gaining some sponsor or media job or making anyone think I’m perfect. I use blogging as a way of recognising the beauty in my life, that is all. And I am sure that’s where most Marthette bloggers come from too.

Anyway, to like this all back in with the feminism thing, Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous has written an excellent post on Martha bloggers and femininity. In the interest of (relative) brevity, I will resist the urge to quote extensively, but mainly I think what she is saying is that on the surface, Marthette blogs present an image of feminity that is incredibly similar to the housewife image of decades past, very traditional. But that behind that there is the opportunity for subtle change and subversion of these traditional gender roles. Because these bloggers have actively chosen to involve themselves in the domestic sphere, they’re not there because they have to be.

That second point is really important. What I have taken from the FFB google group discussion and other stuff I have read around Fashionable Academics’ ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ project is that I think where we are at the moment with feminism is that we don’t want to reject traditional feminine roles and things and activities, we want to revalue them. We’d like show that there is satisfaction and intellectual stimulation and possibly even monetary gain (for those who manage to turn their passion into a business) to be had from domestic things, not just tedious drudgery. But crucially, these positive things can be had by everyone, not just women.

And we need to talk about that. We need to say: ‘Yes, I love these things, I do them for myself. And no, they are not all I am about, even if they are all I blog about’. Because I think there’s a danger that if we as female bloggers just go and post pretty pictures of what we have knit or our table settings or whatever that we end up just reinforcing the idea that this is womens’ work. I guess my concern with Martha blogs is that even if such a thought process has occurred (and I’m not sure it always has) its usually pretty opaque.

The final thing I wanted to say about Marthette blogs is just how taken for granted the idea of what perfection looks like is in almost everything I’ve read on the subject. Even if people are talking about how these bloggers are only seemingly perfect, the idea that being model thin and pretty with a talented and rich husband, 2.1 children, a regularly changing wardrobe and a beautiful home equals perfect is hard to shake. And this is where I reckon there’s a way into resolving the issues.

Maybe its not just about pointing out that perfection is not necessarily as perfect as it at first appears, and for people with Martha like tendencies to occasionally show their vulnerable side. Maybe its more important to also about find alternative definitions of what constitutes a perfect life. For more people who don’t conform to these heteronormative, coupley stereotypes being confident and saying ‘There are great things in my life. It may not be in your stereotype ideal scenario, but my life is perfect for me’. And then maybe people would read it and think, ‘well maybe something like this would work for me too’.

The blogosphere is such a diverse place already (though admittedly it does exclude the huge chunk of the population that is not interested in blogging or too busy or too cash strapped to ever even consider it) and there’s lots of bloggers who are really positive about what’s going on with them and find beauty in the most unlikely places and are proud of their lifestyle and the choices they have made. Vix springs to mind, for example. So maybe it’s not even a question of more bloggers being more confident, but just for people to acknowledge the diversity more and avoid uncritically repeating stereotypical definitions of perfection.

Thoughts, anywone? Does that make sense? I’m aware I’m in danger of telling people what to do in that last bit, which is really not my intention! I’m just trying to think it through!

As an aside, most highly edited, shiny and sparkly lifestyle blogs don’t make me feel inadequate. I look at them as fluffy eye candy not as blueprints for life. With the exception of wedding blogs. I don’t know why they get to me, but they do. I’m not one of the people that have always dreamt of their wedding, all I want is a low key party and still I look at these things and think: maybe I should make jam and present it in dainty glasses with handwritten labels as favours? Maybe I should sew napkins from vintage fabrics collected over months and years? I should stop looking at them really.

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Other posts from the FFB lot this week were:

Adventures in Refashioning – Soldering in Heels

Aly en France – My Body Entirely

Alexa Wasielewski – Some Feminists Need to Spartan Up!

EBSnare [The Magic Square Foundation] : Body Policing/Fashion/Feminism

Fishmonkey – The Man Repeller and The Male Gaze

Interrobangs Anonymous- Millie’s Take on Modesty

Jean of all Trades- Qiu Jin: Modern China’s First Feminist

Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care – Knitting a Better World

Mrs Bossa – In Bad Company: Girl Tribes

Northwest is Best – Why 1940s style is not a fashion trend

One Techie’s Search for Something resembling Style – Feminism and the Slave Leia Costume

Sidewalk Chic – Reclaiming leather skirts and other ‘provocative’ clothing

What Are Years? – FFB Post #2: My thoughts on the CBC documentary, The F-Word

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If you would like to find out more about Feminist Fashion Bloggers, click here.

We are also hosting a blog event next Wednesday, inviting people to answer the question ‘How do you express your feminism through the way you dress?’ We’d love as many people as possible to take part, you don’t have to be in FFB! More info here.

All photos from the Life magazine google archive.

{ 56 comments }

Clare B March 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

I really enjoyed reading this post today. As someone who loves knitting and crafty related things I find there is a constant struggle to separate this from "Marthette" analogies but I am also not interested in being labelled a staunch feminist 'subverting' traditional 'womens jobs' for a "feminist cause". I think feminism today is very much about embracing what was traditionally the only role for women (housework) and saying this is a valid choice, but it is just one of many different paths a women can take and one of many interests a women might have. Choice is the key and is ensuring that we don't stereotype people.

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

I see what you mean. For me though, I do think its important to overcome
this women's work/men's work divide. It seems like at the moment its ok for
women to do men's stuff but not acceptable for men to do women's stuff.
There's still this divide and the feminine side is worth less. So I do think
a big part of revaluing traditional feminine activities is to make them for
everyone.

Sorry if not making lots of sense. I'll write some more later, typing this
from phone!

Vix March 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

What a fascinating and well-written piece, Franca, and I'm thrilled at the mention.
These Marthette blogs do worry me, they seem uncomfortably almost Stepford Wives in their tone. I also dislike the way many bloggers refer to their partner as "my other half" or "The Mr" rather than by giving the person who they share their lives with an identity.
I'm all for a bit of sewing whilst watching an England match on the telly with a beer at my side but I worry about the reinforcing of old steotypes, that even my own mother didn't adhere to, such as blogging about having to tidy up after a man and children after a hard day at work and an evening of baking. Shouldering the burden of the housework certainly shouldn't be something to boast about.
I enjoy an upbeat blog with positive thoughts and honesty. You come across an intelligent and creative woman who dresses in a free-spirited,feminine way and I think the reason you had so much support when you mentioned your recent anxieties was because you don't make a habit of being negitive or insecure.
Reading your response to Claire's comment I have to agree about the gender role divide. When I recently blogged that our home was run on equal terms with no specific gender roles no-one questioned my right to wield a drill but several commented on Jon using a sweing machine. xxx

Claire March 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I think these blogs and the discussion surrounding them are a really interesting example of how everyday life doesn't match politics in terms of speeds of progression. Minds can accept the *idea* of 'this feminist chooses activities that the patriarchy would have chosen for her if it had had the chance' faster than the *ideology* of 'we need to raise women up to firm equality with men, in law and in perception, so that they can have genuine choice as to how they make their life decisions'.

I agree that I would like to see more discussion of people's reasoning and motivations for their blogging. It would make everything more interesting, for one thing. And for another, understanding aids progression, and that can only be good for the people saying "PLEASE quit making traditional gender roles look so cosy" as well as the people saying "geez, as a woman, I find the expectations of feminism so constricting".

I do wonder if there ARE tons of blogs which are confident about being outside the box, but no-one is reading them because they aren't relaxing.

Rad March 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Really interesting post, Franca. I don't really pay attention to Marthette blogs (although I do read linked materials, and I sometimes read Apartment Therapy and Kitchn, mostly because they are good eye candy). Maybe being a poorly paid PhD student for most of my 20s made me realize that furnishing my space is not so important. My husband (who is talented but not powerful) cares much more about beautifying our living spaces then I, but he is more artistically inclined in general.
I've been reading some books lately about personal finance (which I can't believe) and I realize that while I appreciate the efforts of others (although I may be too unobservant to even notice), a Marthette lifestyle isn't really in tune with my values and what I find important. But I do still really like cooking, baking, and being crafty. Creative outlets are important, but I don't feel the need to fit an ideal.

La Historiadora de Moda March 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm

This was a fascinating post. I guess I'll say that I do read some blogs by SAHMs and house-wives of both the style and running type, and I truly enjoy the ones that I do read because of the writing voice or the excellent sense of style. I have an appreciation for pretty things and the good things life has to offer – delicious home-cooked food, a beautifully decorated room, a photo shoot in a garden or a wooded area…. However, I gravitate even more toward blogs and bloggers for the most part that I find myself in some sort of on-going dialogue with and that often entails something more substantive than just style or a training regimen for a half-marathon. I tend to identify most with those who are in academia or who have relatively similar viewpoints about feminism or who have to work in an environment with similar constraints.

JoAnn, Sidewalk Chic March 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Such a great thought-provoking post, Franca! I guess I don't necessarily see these "Marthette" blogs as a rejection of feminism but as another spinoff of it, and as you said above, by the revaluing and subversion of traditional feminine roles.

And as a personal aside, I'm not a fan of wedding blogs either. When I was engaged, looking at them and reading so many DIY projects and the constant insistence of a "perfect" day was too overwhelming and I had to stop.

Be Prive March 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm

This is such a sweet blog! and your post is great, loved it! Greetings from germany :) and visit my blog and vote for me please!
http://beprive.blogspot.com/

Rebecca March 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I like things like sewing, cooking and knitting. I don't follow a lot of blogs devoted to those kinds of activities, but I don't think that I need to shun my interests because they could be seen as women's work. I work full time in a business field, so pursuing creative hobbies brings much needed balance to my life.

I would be just as likely to read blogs by men devoted to cooking, crafting, etc., but I am not aware of many.

Laura Connell March 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

I think authenticity is most important so if it's in your heart to pursue those traditionally feminine activities, go for it. Anyone who says you can't be a femininst and sew (!) is truly lost. Feminism is not about denying our womanhood but embracing it and being allowed to be who we are not according to social doctrine but what's in our hearts. This is the trouble with feminism and also its gift: it is indefinable. When people can't put something in a box they are afraid of it. There are so many ways to be a feminist and none of them are wrong.

Anika March 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Hi sweetheart, thank you so much for writing this post! I wholeheartedly agree with you. I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately, and your take on this is very close to my own. My dad is a feminist, my mother doesn`t identify as one at all, but she does advocate equal rights in and outside of the home. She and her husbond (my parents are divorced) have a very traditional, homely way of life that makes them happy, but they divide the house chores that way because it feels right for them, not because it is the lott of women do cook dinner. You know? For me, I am very aware that I stand on the shoulders of so many women before me, and I am grateful to them. Yesterday I attended a womens day conference in the area where I work, an area that is very multicultural. It was amazing to see all of the women of different backgrounds coming toghether, sharing and supporting each other. Integration and feminism are linked in so many ways I feel. My kind of feminism is the inclusive one, where the growth of men and women alike is the focus. But, is that still feminism? I am still pondering and learning about this. Also, I am thinking I might join you next wednesday. Hugs!

xx Anika
http://byanika.com
@AnikaByAnika

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Thanks Vix, I am glad. I do sometimes feel like I moan too much! It is so
true about people having really weird reactions to men doing domestic
things. Obviously my Dave sews and people do think its so strange. Its not
that people are against it necessarily, just that it has never occurred to
them that it might be an option. Often when I watch people's reactions the
first time they hear about it its just so obvious they have no idea how
to process that information. But we'll get there eventually!

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Agreed! If people don't talk about their views and just stay in their own
little group, there can never be understanding. and without understanding
nothing will get better.

You're probably right about lots of blogs that counter all these stereotypes
being out there but not as successful. It's a bit of a catch 22 I guess.
Though if it's true how inadequate the Martha blogs make so many people
feel, they're certainly not relaxing. Wedding blogs are not relaxing for me!

Claire March 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

I guess there's relaxing, and then relaxing. Maybe I meant more "familiar"?

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

That's great that you have worked that out for yourself. Both Dave and I are
'nesters' and homebodies and into prettifying our environment, so I can
totally totally understand the impulse to make everything just so. Though if
that was all I did, I would go mad!

And personal finance – wow! Any recommendations?

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

yeah, I get what you mean. Stuff that doesn't challenge our perceptions is
easier to digest!

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

It's only natural to gravitate towards people that are like you I think!
Though for me, blogging has really put me in touch with some people that are
so not like me as well, its great! That's why i love blogging! I don't know
any stay at home mums in real life (probably because it's so much less
common in the UK for various reasons) and I must admit to having never
considered it as a choice before. I regularly read blogs my homemakers. But
I think it's a difference to the 'everything is sparkly perfect' blogs I'm
thinking of.

p.s. I had to look up SAHM and then found the corresponding abbreviation OH,
but cannot for the life of me work out what that stands for.

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Yes, I agree, I am NOT suggesting in ANY way shape of form that doing
domestic stuff is unfeminist or shouldn't be done. I love these things
too! Also, if you like those things and you don't care about feminism,
that's cool.

What I am saying is more like if you are a feminist, and you like those
things and you don't see a contradiction between your views on gender
equality and your domestic interests, and you have thoughts these things
through, then it would be really really helpful to say that. Because
otherwise, noone will know!

And I think the fact that there are so few male craft blogs is telling in
itself in terms of what I've talked about above – its socially ok for women
to do 'men's' stuff but it really is not yet for men to do 'women's' stuff.

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I absolutely agree. I really hope you haven't taken from this post that I
think feminism and sewing are incompatible. As you said, there are many ways
to be a feminist. As I said above, all I'm saying is that I would love for
people to talk more about how they think the two are compatible and that
they are doing these things for themselves. So that in thei way, we can
broaden people's perceptions of what feminism is.

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Yes, "My kind of feminism is the inclusive one, where the growth of men and
women alike is the focus." Exactly!

And I SO agree on the diversity point. I do research on the topic of
migration and sometimes racism, and one of the biggest stereotypes held even
by the most educated people is that Muslim women are all oppressed. And if
we meet and interact we soon see that this is not at all true!

oranges_and_apples March 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Precisely!

I'm not looking at wedding blogs often but sometimes i have a little binge and then I feel all fuzzy headed.

The Waves March 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I haven't read Marthette blogs and perhaps that is why I have a tough time figuring out what their value might be. The "shinier" the blog, the less likely I am to follow it personally, and I think it comes down to knowing that those types of blogs are not about "real" life, but they are sugar-coated presentations of assumed perfection like you said, and I just don't have any interest in them. That's not to say that they don't have room in the blogosphere. The idea of traditional perfection clearly appeals to a lot of people, and if that's their choice, I don't think I have a problem with that. Yes, those types of ideas reinforce values that I don't agree with, but I do still think that they have the right to exist, regardless of how anti-feminist they might be.

I guess it would be beneficial for Marthette blogs to elaborate their inner motivation a little (and here I assume that they don't, if I understand the issue you have with these blogs correctly). What makes a blog interesting to me is the fact that the person talks about their reasons for having a blog in the first place. It is important for me to know why the person writes. Otherwise blogs only exist in a value-less vacuum and they end up consisting of pretty pictures and very little personal touch. There are thousands of blogs like that out there, and my solution is to not read them. I couldn't care less. But give me a traditional, "women-should-stay-at-home-and-be-perfect-mothers" anti-feminist blog with an author who talks about the values that make her tick openly and honestly, and I'd be interested, even if her values are polar opposites to mine, and I'd rant and rave in return. I guess for me, then, it comes down to assumed perfection vs honesty.

And here's a final random thought: maybe I assume too much, but everyone HAS to know that Marthette people's lives are not exactly what they might look like, right..?

BetweenLaundryDays March 10, 2011 at 1:00 am

This is a fabulous post. You've managed to put into words a lot of the abstracted thoughts and feelings I've had about the whole issue of "Marthette" bloggers, and the issue of feminism in traditionally "feminine" lifestyles. I wrote a bit of a post about my take on it recently (http://betweenlaundrydays.blogspot.com/2011/03/shes-like-all-rest.html), and since I'm unbelievably tired this evening, I'm going to let this comment be rather short. Fabulous discussion and post, though! :)

BetweenLaundryDays March 10, 2011 at 1:01 am

Weird. The link seems to be acting wonky. Here 'tis again: http://betweenlaundrydays.blogspot.com/2011/03/shes-like-all-rest.html

Elly March 10, 2011 at 2:11 am

Really great post, Franca! In a way, the "Marthette" blogs seem like another example of the feminist principle that women can do anything and be anything they want to. I sometimes feel like feminism can put pressure on women to really succeed at whatever they choose to do, and I wonder whether that attitude has extended into the reclamation of traditional "women's work." Perhaps it's fine to enjoy and choose to partake in activities that are traditionally coded as female, but if you choose to do these things you're expected to do well at them?

Also, I think you're really onto something with this: "the idea that being model thin and pretty with a talented and rich husband, 2.1 children, a regularly changing wardrobe and a beautiful home equals perfect is hard to shake." Every discussion I've seen of those "seemingly perfect" bloggers (whether crafters or style bloggers or others) re-enforces our notions that the sides of their lives that they choose to show (even if that's not the whole picture) represents what their lives/our lives would look like if they were "perfect." I'm all for presenting all kinds of different, perfect lives!

Sadie March 10, 2011 at 8:43 am

Hmmm, well, I do refer to my husband as 'my husband' or 'my other half' on my blog, not because I want to deprive him of his identity but because he's entitled to his privacy and I don't think it would be right to expect him to have to share his life with the internet just because I've chosen to share mine!

Sadie March 10, 2011 at 8:46 am

I can think of a few knitting blogs written by men (Jared Flood, Stephen West, Franklin Habit are the first to spring to mind), but what's interesting is that they are all 'knitting professionals' and I'm struggling to think of men who write knitting blogs as hobbyists.

oranges_and_apples March 10, 2011 at 8:53 am

I don't have a problem with their existence at all. I was really
just responding to Millie's observation that within the very traditional
imagery of these blogs there is potential for subversion (if that's not too
strong a word) of traditional ideas, and for a different kind of feminism.
And I agree with that, but I think in so many of these blogs any such
re-definition is so subtle as to be imperceptible. I guess what I'm saying
is that for the blogs to do anything other than reproduce traditional ideas
of the domestic, I think these ideas need to be a bit more explicit.

Sorry if that wasn't clear. This is the kind of post I would usually take
weeks over, but in my new 'spending less time blogging' regime I just wrote
it and posted it without re-reading it.

And I was thinking that too about your final point, surely we all know
that! I think maybe people want to hear that its not to keep reminding
themselves. For me I *know* that behind all these handmade weddings and
months and possibly years of stress, and a huge expense (in what was is
£5000 or even £10000 'budget'?) but they still make me feel inadequate. I'm
really not sure why, but they definitely do.

oranges_and_apples March 10, 2011 at 8:55 am

OH= Other half. Came to me in the shower this morning.

Sadie March 10, 2011 at 9:20 am

Interesting post, Franca. I do think that the unquestioning celebration of what appears to be a very traditional lifestyle in some of these blogs is problematic (I linked to a post on the subject by Kate Davies, who is a feminist academic and knitting blogger, in my own post yesterday), but as I've also discussed in my post I think that there is also scope for reclaiming traditional crafting as a feminist activity. So I think is is complicated.

I also know a lot of women complain about feeling they have to justify choosing traditionally 'feminine' pursuits and say they think that they should just be able to make a free choice. Well, of course they should be able to make a free choice, and mostly these days we can, but I think we still have a long way to go before we can stop explaining about feminism and how our choices reflect that.

Red Boots March 10, 2011 at 10:39 am

This is really interesting Franca. I for one love reading blogs from the Marthettes. While being a housewife doesn't appeal to me, I love reading about their glamourised lives. I love how they all look like wherever they go they are accompanied by a professional photographer, and how every aspect of their life looks so shiny, when it's impossible for it to be so shiny all the time. I guess the appeal is the insight into another world.

Mrs Bossa March 10, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I can understand the escapist, almost voyeuristic appeal of the kind of blogs you mention, but they could quite easily become another hurdle for women (bloggers) to surmount. Personally I find them a bit saccharine and struggle to relate to them.

Terri March 11, 2011 at 3:35 am

I mentioned this on Millie's post, but I don't think we all really want to see other's dirty toilets or piles of undone laundry. I presume that all bloggers, no matter how shiny on the surface, are human, vulnerable and getting better every day.

Bonita Vear March 11, 2011 at 5:22 am

~ * ♥ * ~

I really enjoyed this post Franca because as a stay at home wife {and mother to be} I love crafty things, beautiful interiors and decor and am trying to foster a love of housework {!!}. But the stand out point for me was this: "Because these bloggers have actively chosen to involve themselves in the domestic sphere, they’re not there because they have to be."

I happen to blog, but I think this is a valuable quote for any stay at home wife/mother ~ It is a choice. For some moms it is not; but these cases are increasingly rare in western society. Most satw/m I know of made that choice to stay at home; they WANTED to stay at home. Just like it was a deliberate career choice on my part to study & graduate with a BA in Journalism, it was a deliberate 'career' choice for me to stay at home with my baby {yet to arrive}.

And on that point, you can be a feminist and do 'feminine activities' ~ feminism in my mind is not about getting rid of pretty skirts, knitting, dishes and babies; rather it is the freedom to choose. If you want to be a Martha Stewart, or an 1950s housewife {that's what I am shooting for} you can be. It's a valid choice, a valid career. If you want to be a CEO, or a business owner/manager, you can be. That is also a valid choice, a valid career. And that's the feminism I am fighting for. Choice.

xox,
bonita of Depict This!
~ * ♥ * ~

Bonita Vear March 11, 2011 at 5:25 am

I do the same thing Sadie and it is not that I want him to be nameless. It is just that I want him to be able to have his privacy ~ that's also why I do not name friends and other family members. For me, that's a personal line I do not want to cross on my blog.

oranges_and_apples March 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

It doesn't really bother me either, and I understand the privacy concerns.
Though me Dave gets no privacy! Saying that if the Blogger talks about their
partner a lot I do prefer to have a name and a face, its just more of a
connection. But it doesn't put me off if I don't or anything.

I call Dave Dave because that's what I call him in real life. Boyfriend
seems not serious enough when we are almost 30 and together for 11 years,
and partner is poncy to me. After we get married ill keep calling him Dave
as well. If I started calling him husband it would be like he was a
different person.

emilyknightley March 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

What a wonderfully written post. As always, Franca.

I think you have totally hit the nail on the head, for me feminism isn't about doing something and not doing something else, it is about the CHOICE to do the things that I want to do. Whether that be traditional female roles or something more male-orientated like DIY!!

I also completely agree that it is not necessarily that these girls/women have the perfect life/life-style but that for many their blogs are a place to be positive. For me, my blog is a little like an online scrapbook – I never used to stick things that annoyed me or upset me in my scrapbook! My (paper) scrapbooks were places that I could flick through when I was feeling down and they would be filled with pretty things that would make me smile – that's how I like to think of my blog too.

Sorry, have rambled again!!

Have a great day, xx

Murrieteir March 11, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Gah I made a HUGE post, but decided to post my reply on my blog instead
http://spacetravelingpuppy.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-hate-most-feminists.html

Space Puppy March 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

My boyfriend does all the cooking around here. I keep joking that he could be a house husband. I totally have nothing against being greeted by him in a frilly apron. Actually…I would really liked a house husband, but Im not going to pressure him to stay at home in any means

Sara K.S. Hanks March 12, 2011 at 5:28 am

The blogs I read that I might define as "Marthette" tend to strike me as very real and honest, not artificial; while they post pretty pictures and craft projects, etc., the bloggers will also talk about the woes of potty-training their kid, the freshest round of stomach flu that's made the rounds, sadness over a friend's cancer diagnosis, etc. I think it's a pretty darn honest approach. Of course, maybe this sort of sharing disqualifies such blogs from the "Marthette" label, but my impression is that it applies based on subject matter moreso than bright'n'bubbliness.

Anyway, I guess what I'm getting at is that I take issue with the "those types of blogs are not about 'real' life" bit, because I think they can be. Those types of blogs are not about MY real life, certainly, but some people's real lives are really that sparkly and polished on a regular basis; in those cases, authenticity would have to include demonstrating that they care about the home decor and elaborate toddler playdates, strange as it seems to me as I'm eating Apple Jacks for two out of three meals each day.

Sara K.S. Hanks March 12, 2011 at 5:56 am

Excellent post. I think you're so right … about so many things here – the reinforcement of what "perfection" looks like, the division of household duties (discussed in the comments), the importance of valuing traditionally-feminine hobbies rather than belittling them as outdated, etc. And about wedding blogs. That stuff's addictive.

I wanted to bring up two more related ideas:

1. Something I've noticed about these home/family-focused "Marthette"y blogs is that they often position women, mothers, in the position of leader and spokesperson for her family, which lends to the subversion of traditional roles thing that you mentioned. These women seem to very firmly, confidently, creatively determine the life of their families, whereas that role of leader and spokesperson might belong to the father in a more traditional worldview. I like that sort of self-determination among modern moms, bloggers or not.

2. Have you thought before of blogging-as-homemaking? I was taught as a child and teenager that women gleaned a lot of pride from keeping an attractive, tidy home, and I sort of see that principle transferred into the pride that mommy bloggers feel from building and constantly updating an attractive, trendy blog. Part of the aesthetic for some is to showcase great home decor and crafting prowess, of course, but I'm very interested in the homemaking of blog design in its own right. So many of the free blog backgrounds/headers that are out there are just devastatingly "feminine" in their aesthetics, and I think that says something about the approach that many female blogging hobbyists take. Anyway, just something I'm piecing together right now.

Bonita Vear March 12, 2011 at 9:54 am

Yes, I can understand that. Some of my favourite bloggers name their husbands/partners, and you do feel more of a connection with them when they do.

poet March 12, 2011 at 11:14 am

Interesting thoughts! I don't really know a lot about Marthettes because I just don't find blogs filled with domestic bliss that interesting at this point in my life, but I'm aware of a similar trend with very young, very 'conventionally beautiful' girl bloggers (teens or early twens) who gather an incredible amount of followers just by posting pretty pictures of themselves without much content – and of course these pictures are often simultaneously sexualizing and infantilizing, and their fashion is mostly store-bought and aligned with the current trends… At the same time, I'm aware that I'm in danger of reinforcing these gender stereotypes myself because I happen to be interested in fashion and handcrafts, conventionally pretty, skinny, aspiring to make my pictures as aesthetic as possible, and hetero with a boyfriend who sometimes gets mentioned… But I can't help that, so all I can try to do is speak up about feminist issues from time to time to show people that these two fields perceived as mutually exclusive – aren't.

oranges_and_apples March 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Your second paragraph: yes! that's exactly what I meant!

I do also think there is a lot of truth in the pressure to do really well at whatever you do. This is kind of anecdotal evidence for me, since I don't have kids yet, but a lot of my colleagues talk about women at their kids school who had these really high flying careers and now they are not working any more they are challenging all their energy and organisational skills in managing the minutiae of their kids lives to the point where teachers can't do their job because of interfering mums. Everything has to be the best for their child.

oranges_and_apples March 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

yes, totally. I really really hope that this isn't coming across as if i am either opposed to crafts or non working mothers. Not at all. But I agree with you that we are a long way away from not having to discuss these things and just being able to ignore them.

tiny junco March 12, 2011 at 8:53 pm

"…we don’t want to reject traditional feminine roles and things and activities, we want to revalue them. "

when i was a girl in the late 1960's – early 70's, that was part of the whole idea of feminism – that 'traditional women's work' was important and should be valued and available for everyone to do – but then it turned (in the US) to 'everybody be like men and get involved in money-making activities' – which ended up devaluing 'women's work' even more. just as one example, does anybody think that devaluing of domestic/unpaid work and the overvaluing of traditionally male/paid work has no connection to the obesity epidemic, esp. amongst children? it's very hopeful to see these ideas gaining attention again.

"…heteronormative, coupley stereotypes…" i would include consumerist/materialist in that description.

have a great weekend everyone! and thank you Franca for such interesting thoughts…steph

tiny junco March 12, 2011 at 8:57 pm

that response to men sewing is so strange, because the current stereotype about 'the male brain' is that it's all about three-dimensional, geometric thinking. according to that one would think sewing would be a slam-dunk for guys! and practically impossible for use 'verbally obsessive' women…..which goes to show how ridiculously ill thot out these stereotypes are….s.teph

WendyB March 13, 2011 at 2:07 am

I'm about as much a domestic goddess as Roseanne was…my husband likes to tell people about how I once said to him that if cooking and cleaning were so great, men would line up to do it.

Charlie, Feminine Bravery March 13, 2011 at 9:11 am

I agree with you that being a feminist doesn't need to exclude sewing or fashion or house decorating – it's all a matter of choice really.

Cloud of Secrets March 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Thank you so much for this post. You describe, thoroughly and well, feelings I've been examining during the recent wave of feminism v. fashion bloggings. I feel that I am a feminist, and a strong intelligent woman who won't take lesser treatment because of her gender. I appreciate what feminists have done and continue to do in opening up choices and spheres of success for women.

But I freely choose, I reclaim the traditional old role of homemaker and child-rearer. I prefer, I enjoy, I reclaim shapely, sensuous clothing, perfume, cosmetics, and grooming rituals.

I am willing and ready to work with a chainsaw or jumper cables. But I am happier sewing pretty things, learning about tea, experimenting with French cooking, hunting the perfect lipstick shade, and studying medieval gardens.

I'd been feeling pretty alone in this stance — is it a gentler form of lipstick feminism? I'm a feminist who supports women (men, anyone) who want to dissolve traditional gender barriers; who wants them to be able to pursue whatever choices they find most fulfilling; but who finds the more traditional roles (and plumage) most fulfilling for herself.

Anyway, thank you for the thoughtful empathy, and for the introduction to the Marthettes concept — and the potential for subversive interpretation of it, which I actually find preferable.

These phrases in particular spoke to me:

"I use blogging as a way of recognising the beauty in my life, that is all. And I am sure that's where most Marthette bloggers come from too." …

"Because these bloggers have actively chosen to involve themselves in the domestic sphere, they’re not there because they have to be." …

"we are at the moment with feminism is that we don’t want to reject traditional feminine roles and things and activities, we want to revalue them. We'd like show that there is satisfaction and intellectual stimulation and possibly even monetary gain (for those who manage to turn their passion into a business) to be had from domestic things, not just tedious drudgery. But crucially, these positive things can be had by everyone, not just women." ….

"And we need to talk about that. We need to say: ‘Yes, I love these things, I do them for myself. And no, they are not all I am about, even if they are all I blog about’. "

Exactly. EXACTLY.

Corinne Monique March 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Thanks for exploring this very interesting topic! I've never heard of the term "Marthette" before, but I totally get what it means…on one hand, at one end of the spectrum, I can't stand these people, but on the other hand I actually kind of feel like I might be one?!? I love making everything pretty & just so. My favourite things to do are read fashion mags/blogs, design, sew, craft, & make everything visually appealing…not that that's all I do! I do have several part-time jobs & am by no means wealthy or just lolling about the house all day. I work with what I have & what I'm able to do because I like to do those things. I used to love Martha Stewart when I was younger (LOL), but I realized that I would NEVER have her resources & had to work with my low budget to create things of beauty.
I understand the issues with these "Marthette" blogs, but on the other hand, I sometimes feel guilty for choosing the things that I like to spend time on because they are viewed as traditionally feminine or even silly, especially if I'm not balancing these hobbies with traditionally male ones. It would be nice to be able to choose to do what I want to without being labeled or judged…perhaps one day…

Corinne xo

Emily, Resplendent Tranquility March 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Very well written and thought out, Franca. You put into words a lot of things that I feel, but often don't end up formalizing into spoken or written forms. I found myself nodding in agreement with the majority of your post. Many thanks for writing this and putting it out there.

Fabienne Jach March 18, 2011 at 5:12 am

Firstly, congrats on making the IFB weekly roundup, Franca! Secondly, I agree with you whole-heartily. I was disappointed not to have time to write my post about what a feminist is to me, I still want to do it because I believe that feminism is in fact quite diverse. We express it in our unique ways, we redefine roles, impressions and assumptions. I'm no less a feminist for expressing myself aesthetically in a typical girlie fashion, it's the freedom to chose and my right to exercise that freedom at any given time that me my power, if that makes sense.

A perfect blog is no different than a model in a magazine. It's a partial picture which we try to complete with our imagination. We practically want them to be perfect because it's a reprieve from the day-to-day. The fact remains that there is always so much more behind the surface, and like you said, the mere notion of perfection is an imaginary standard, we each define perfection very, very differently.

Thanks for the food for thought, as always:)
f
The House in the Clouds

Raquelita October 10, 2011 at 7:26 am

This was a fascinating post. I guess I'll say that I do read some blogs by SAHMs and house-wives of both the style and running type, and I truly enjoy the ones that I do read because of the writing voice or the excellent sense of style. I have an appreciation for pretty things and the good things life has to offer – delicious home-cooked food, a beautifully decorated room, a photo shoot in a garden or a wooded area…. However, I gravitate even more toward blogs and bloggers for the most part that I find myself in some sort of on-going dialogue with and that often entails something more substantive than just style or a training regimen for a half-marathon. I tend to identify most with those who are in academia or who have relatively similar viewpoints about feminism or who have to work in an environment with similar constraints.

JoAnn, Sidewalk Chic October 10, 2011 at 7:26 am

Such a great thought-provoking post, Franca! I guess I don't necessarily see these "Marthette" blogs as a rejection of feminism but as another spinoff of it, and as you said above, by the revaluing and subversion of traditional feminine roles.

And as a personal aside, I'm not a fan of wedding blogs either. When I was engaged, looking at them and reading so many DIY projects and the constant insistence of a "perfect" day was too overwhelming and I had to stop.

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