I said so on Instagram when I finished it, and promised more details to those who asked.
I heard about this book when there was a bit of a brouhaha in the comments on Soulemama’s blog (if I recall correctly, it was of the “How do you do everything?” variety.), and someone mentioned this book because the author covered the Soulemama blog.
Because I am a blogger myself, I always find books and articles about blogging/bloggers to be fascinating, so I put it on hold at the library.
When I first started reading the book, I fell mostly into the “This is intriguing!” camp because it’s terribly interesting to read what someone outside the blogosphere thinks of us.
But then I started to become increasingly annoyed with the book and the author.
Basically, she’s talking about a trend she’s observed of women leaving the workplace to start up home businesses or to be super-duper homemakers. Since a lot of these kinds of people blog about it, she ends up talking about bloggers a lot.
In the book, she covers all the problems that she sees with this DIY, homemade, natural-food-eating trend.
(People who opt out are no longer motivated to work for the common good, opting out is privilege-based and selfish, we’re letting down other women, people who opt out are mostly women, etc.)
Here’s my biggest beef, though: the book is tremendously lacking in research-based evidence.
Are there actually a significant number of people ditching their jobs in favor of home-based businesses? Or does it just seem so because people who do this are so visible on the web?
Is it true that the changes privileged people make have no positive effect on the less privileged?
(The fact that Aldi, a food retailer which is quite the opposite of Whole Foods, now carries far more organic and fresh food than they did ten years ago makers me wonder. I’m pretty sure this cultural change in food demand started with some privileged people.)
The problem is that without research, all of this is just one woman’s opinion, based on anecdotal evidence.
(The book is rife with interviews of individuals.)
It reminded me of how some people approach homeschooling: they look at it, see something they think could be a problem, and decide it must be so, regardless of what the evidence says.
For instance: “Wow, homeschoolers take so few tests. They must really do poorly when they take the SATs or transition to a college classroom.”
(I understand that that research may not prove homeschoolers do BETTER on tests, because there need to be adjustments for class and whatnot, but I think it does at least show that homeschoolers do not perform poorly on tests.)
Or they see an example of a problematic homeschooler and assume that all homeschoolers are like that.
“I met a homeschooled kid and he was a dorkopotamus. Homeschooling makes kids into social misfits.”
(Which, I must point out, is as ridiculous as assuming all public school makes kids into weirdos based on observance of the dorky kid in your middle school class.)
Another problem with the book is that the author didn’t seem to be trying terribly hard to be unbiased.
For instance, when profiling a homeschooling family who has a home business she says, “So while the other kids in the county study phonics and long division, these girls process turkeys and help to make soap, lip balm, and jelly.”
Because homeschooling is pretty efficient, it may be factually true that the girls are done with their schoolwork and are helping with lip balm at 2:00pm, while other children are at school.
But by phrasing it as she did, she seems to be deliberately trying to make readers think the girls aren’t getting schooled in phonics at all and are rather enslaved child laborers (the poor dears!) I don’t know the family, but I highly, highly doubt this is the case.
Also, when I got to the end of the book, I was reminded of how feminism sometimes feels as oppressive as what it’s fighting.
If feminism is about giving women the freedom to make choices, then why the pushback over choices that don’t involve an out-of-the-home career? Why can’t we just let each other make varying choices?
Why is it ok for women to choose to hold a full-time job, but not ok for women to start their own businesses?
Why is it ok to be a teacher, but not a homeschooling mom?
Why is it ok to work in a soap-making factory but not ok to have a small soap-making operation at home?
While it’s not practical to expect all of us to go home and have a lip balm business (I want my pediatrician to keep practicing! And we do need teachers and police officer and a myriad of other non-home-based workers.), I’m not convinced there’s a problem with some of us choosing that route.
I realize I’m making the book sound like a total dud, which it wasn’t. It was interestingly-written, some parts of it were good (the chapter about food) and did actually contain some research (the chapter about vaccines), and it did give me lots of food for thought, despite the fact that I disagreed with a lot of what she said.
There you have it: possibly the longest single-book review I’ve ever written.
If you read this book, I am super interested in what you thought! Please do share.