Basically, Kim of Bastante Already! has this piece ruminating about her lack of affinity for the traditional womanly arts.
Amid her notes that she hates gardening and cooking and simply doesn't have the wherewithal for making a beautiful "nest" right now, she asks,
In damn near every feminist periodical (Bitch, Bust) and on many feminist blogs, there's this big, trendy push to get all Knitty and Crafty and Womanly Arts with our bad selves.
What is up with that?
Well, a few different things are up with that.
The most immediate answer to that particular question, at the Bitch, Bust, popcultetc. level, I think it's just the same thing that's been true of any number of other "trends:" stuff like knitting groups and gardening clubs become popular for more or less the same reason that stuff like sex toy parties or pole dancing classes becomes popular. Because, well, they involve activities that a lot of people find--dreaded word--"fun." And yeah, one could file preferences for such things into "patriarchal conditioning" (as opposed to, say, a womens' auto-mechanic club, I guess); truth is, I think it's more, "we maybe eschewed these things because we were concerned about what it all Means, or it wasn't available in our neck of the woods, or it simply never occured to us before; when we let that go some of us realized, hey, I kind of like this, it's not what I thought it would be, and actually there are various benefits to this (mentally and physically engaging, develops various skills, social, relaxing, possibly good ol' fashioned small-business venture capitalism in some cases). Personally, I think: hey, and if men want to enjoy these "traditional womanly arts" too, more power to 'em.
None of this is probably "radical" in any sense of the word (not that there's anything wrong with that); for a start, here we are probably mostly talking about how you say, "hobbies," which in itself comes with a lot of assumptions about the hobbiest's resources, spare time, general position in the grand scheme of things. More to the point, it's probably not going to fundamentally overhaul one's total way of life and being, much less the greater society; it's not meant to do so.
What's more overarching is the vision of, well for one, cultural feminism
Many cultural feminists support their arguments by examining the behavior of women in both the distant past and the present. Bachoffen's groundbreaking work on early matriarchal societies is often used as evidence that women were the earliest and most important members of society.  In societies led by women, or "matriarchies," there are vastly different rules governing sexuality and marriage, property inheritance, and the distribution of power than those rules operative in societies led by men, or "patriarchies." When women have greater social control than men, less stringent social sanctions are imposed on female sexual activities and choice of partners. Illegitimacy is absent, and inheritance and descent are organized through female ancestors. Matriarchal societies are generally nonmilitaristic, with the dramatic exception of Amazons. Religion, arts, and crafts are organized around female symbols of fertility and anatomy. Engels took the archaeological evidence developed by Bachofen and Morgan and extended their analyses to include changing economic conditions as a cause for the transition from matriarchal societies to patriarchal ones.  Succinctly, Engels' argument is that as men accumulated capital, because of technological and social inventions, they altered the norms controlling sexuality, the family, and government. Women became a commodity of exchange who supplied men with both status and heirs. Recent anthropological evidence largely supports the existence of early societies where women had significantly greater power than they do today.
In short, what it boils down to, roughly, is a belief that matriarchy is the once and future Way to Go. It also is the basic premise behind such things as the "back to the land" movement within feminism(s) (there are and have been many "back to the land" movements, of course. We'll get to that).
And you know, in theory, I have to say, I always had a soft spot for this, the basic idea. There's a fair strain of it within neo-paganism, for instance, in which stream I paddle and occasionally do a few laps, although I lean more Phyllis Curott than Z. Budapest. I've been moved byJudy Grahn. I dig Riane Eisler. I dunno how literally to take the herstory/prehistory, but at a certain level, I think, provided one is -not- a fundamentalist, it doesn't much matter: the importance of myth is not that it's literally true, it's. Point being: if one both believes that one is living in an overarching System, i.e. the Patriarchy, and that further this system is inimical and cannot be salvaged, well, what's the alternative? Well--Matriarchy, I suppose, for one. Which could mean any number of things; in my fondly vague imaginings, I had always pictured something more like the bonobos than, say, a beehive.
On the other hand..
Well, to bring us back to the whole, "traditional womanly arts" thing.
See, if you are adamant that these traditional womanly arts are "traditionally womens'" and should STAY such, on account of men and women are different and that's really really important,
to me, it kind of doesn't matter so much that, in this particular framing, those neglected "womanly" values--hearth, home, gentleness, peace was a big one--are in fact superior, which sets this worldview apart from the more right-wing movements that put such emphasis on men and women are really different, 'twas ever thus, shall always be. Because, once you have that essential...essentialism, well...sooner or later, inevitably, it's going to mean that someone ends up in a (yes, this IS was "gender" means) gendered box that sie doesn't feel comfortable in. Also it keeps this sort of endless binary war-of-the-sexes going, which personally I've always found sort of tedious.
But also, all of which, to me, kind of goes against the whole, "liberty, equality...fraternity." Sorority, even. It's one thing to buy (I do) that certain values and behaviors that have been coded as "female" or "feminine" or "yin" or whatever you like are, by and large, looked down upon, in this culture, and that this is a problem. It's another to insist that those values, behaviors, etc. are the -sole property- of female-chromosomed/genital'd/even identified persons.
Curiously enough, fundamentalist Christian women can sound some familiar notes amid the o-my-Lord-what-are-things-coming-to-why-does-no-one-respect-Godly-AUTHORITAH:
According to this plan, who was to teach the womanly arts? Who was to teach the young women how to love and be subject to their husbands, how to love their children, how to be sensible, how to be pure, how to be a worker at home, how to be kind within the home and to extend kindness from the home? It was the older women. The womanly arts were to be transmitted from the older women to the younger women.
Please note that no male was assigned this task...
... Beyond the obvious impropriety of male involvement one must question the value of male instruction in the womanly arts. The simple question is: What do men really know about the womanly arts anyway?
What man has ever birthed a baby? What man has ever nursed a child? What man has ever related as mother to a child for even one day, let alone twenty years? What man has ever or will ever fathom the intricate complexity of God's design in woman, and the urges and emotions, unique to us, which God has built into our very beings that we might naturally and easily and yet with a profound skill which defies textbook description or explanation, nurture the next generation for Him?
Is it not obvious that men do now know, and that they cannot know? Is it not clear that they are not even equipped biologically to know in any experiential way what they would pretend to teach as experts?
Apart from the "teach the young women to love and be subject to their husbands" riff, (and -maybe- the bit about "impropriety," there's nothing here that wouldn't fit comfortably into a cultural feminist narrative. She is, in fact, making a case for a "womens' culture,"* albeit a womens' culture that is framed very specifically within the precepts of her (Father(s)-headed) Church, yes.
What makes all the difference, according to some, is the presence or absence of that Father-headed System. Get rid of the Fathers, the husbands, the priests, the God, and we'll be free.
Which, well, perhaps. But besides the very real "so, what about the Men?" question that arises in that scenario (i mean, if we're peaceful-loving we can't just -kill- them all, fun as it sounds; and, well, they're still there, at best wondering what the hell to do with themselves now that they can't be Patriarchs anymore and all the women are off having Birthing parties and frolicking on the land and such)...well, I'm not so convinced that that WOULD be enough to bring about utopia, as opposed to, well, just another communitarian experiment, subject to human (which women, lest we forget, are) failing as much as any other.
So that's one thing.
The other consideration is, getting back to the more practical side...well, first of all, of course there are other reasons beside grand sweeping Visions of the End Goal to buy into a cultural/separatist/communitarian set-up, feminist or otherwise. There are a -lot- of back-to-the-land movements these days, have been ever since the advent of Industrialization, really; the ideology behind far left to far right, but one of the basic principles is self-sufficiency (as opposed to Owing your Soul to the Company Sto', or Big Brother, neither). An antidote to the alienation of modern life: get your hands dirty, Do It Yourself, and probably bond in loving fellowship with like-minded peoples.
Which all sounds great, you know, and I've been a guest, at least, at a couple of "intentional communities" which I might talk about at some point. I admire it all, again, in theory.
There's just one small problem:
I live in the city.
Well. I live in the city, and my idea of foraging in the wilderness is finding a decent takeout joint, AND, due to a combination of 'burb-based relative privilege, urban/cultural family background (my NYC-derived grandmother, once, sitting on her Sun City astroturf porch, shooing away the quail: "Yeah, cute, but those fucking birds crap all over the place. I don't like nature. I'd rather have an ice cream soda"), and general murky Fears of my own ineptitude/which I'm not going to get into right now, suffice it to say that I am a Compleat Klutz when it comes to -most- of this Traditional Womanly Arts shit.
And no, I am no good at the traditional "masculine" arts either (changing oil, fixing plumbing). I am the first to admit that I am a bougie genX slacker who thinks finally learning to tie her shoes at some advanced age (six? seven? twenty-two?) is "working with her hands."
Essentially, I'm fairly certain that when the Revolution comes, the people who've been canning and preserving and making sweaters out of sheep all this time will be doing great, and i'll be scavenging the subways and fallout-laden streets and eating roaches and grubs out of my fellow useless urbanites' hair, assuming we all just don't kill each other first in a blind panic.
"But I'm good company."
*Margaret Atwood nails this irony pretty astutely in "The Handmaid's Tale," at the end of the scene where Janine, one of the Handmaids, is giving birth in the company of her sisters and the Wives and the Marthas and the Aunts (no men allowed):
The womens' voices rise around me, a soft chant that is still too loud for me, after the days and days of silence. In the corner of the room there's a bloodstained sheet, bundled and tossed there, from where the waters broke...
The room smells too, the air is close, they should open a window. The smell is of our own flesh, an organic smell, sweat and a tinge of iron, from the blood on the sheet, and another smell, more animal, that's coming, it must be, from Janine: a smell of dens, of inhabited caves, the smell of the plaid blanket on the bed when the cat gave birth on it, once, before she was spayed. Smell of matrix.
"Breathe, breathe," we chant, as we have been taught. "Hold, hold. Expel, expel, expel." ...Janine, her eyes closed, tries to slow her breathing. Aunt Elizabeth feels for the contractions...
...She's grunting now, with the effort. "Push, push, push," we whisper....We're with her, we're the same as her, we're drunk. Aunt Elizabeth kneels, with an outspread towel to catch the baby, ...Oh praise.
We hold our breath as Aunt Elizabeth inspects it: a girl, poor thing, but at least there's nothing wrong with it...We are one smile, tears run down our cheeks, we are so happy.
...The Commander's Wife looks down at the baby as if it's a bouquet of flowers: something she won, a tribute.
The Wives are here to bear witness to the naming. It's the Wives who do the naming, around here.
"Angela," says the Commander's Wife.
"Angela, Angela," the Wives repeat, twittering. "What a sweet name! Oh, she's perfect! Oh, she's wonderful!..."
By now I'm wrung out, exhausted. My breasts are painful, they're leaking a little. Fake milk, it happens this way with some of us. We sit on our benches, facing one another...we might be bundles of red cloth. We ache. Each of us holds in her lap a phantom, a ghost baby. What confronts us, now the excitement's over, is our own failure. Mother, I think. Wherever you may be. Can you hear me? You wanted a women's culture. Well, now there is one. It isn't what you meant, but it exists. Be thankful for small mercies.
x-posted at feministe