Martha, Martha, Martha

Martha Stewart blathers perfectionist nonsense about homemade lip balm, ironing, and oak leaf wreaths and we, the American public, eat it up. And you know what? It is NOT "a good thing." She has set women back 30 or 40 years by raising expectations to an unachievable level.

Most of the working and middle-class women who are her primary audience have to work outside the home and then are expected to not only take care of the basics such as laundry and getting some sort of nourishment on the table for dinner, but are now expected to grow their own vegetables (where exactly does one find celeric or yellow beet seeds?), hand sew Halloween costumes, entertain lavishly, print wrapping paper and make marzipan clowns to top the baby's birthday cake. Surely there are few women who are willing, after a tough day at the office and a long night of chores, to blow-dry the cat.

Sure she is an easy target - Karen Finley skewers Martha in her parody, Living it Up: Humorous Adventures in Hyperdomesticity: "Well, wouldn't you know that under my left armpit I started growing marigolds!" And sure, I am not the first to claim her Empire is decidedly un-feminist. Ellen Beattie calls Martha the "backlash's dream come true."

I have a theory that she is a plant put in place by the extreme right wing. The subtitle of Martha Stewart Living could easily be "How to Make Your Man's Life Better" or "The Stepford Wife's Guide."

Nobody wants women back in the kitchen more than the patriarchal right wing. They needed some sort of cultural icon to make it all look attractive to us. In her article "Some Call It Fiction: On the Politics of Domesticity," Nancy Armstrong paraphrases Marx and asserts that all political movements have cultural components associated with them and Martha should be viewed as the right wing's minion.

The appropriate climate for Martha's rise began with the Reagan years, gathered momentum with Newt Gingrich and surely will reach unexpected heights with Dub-ya in the driver's seat. If the goal was to make single-minded "homemaking" and all its attendant evils (loss of power, the glass ceiling) more palatable, it certainly came in one pretty package.

One of the higher-ups, maybe Pat Buchanan, found a middle-aged, has-been "former model," shammed up a marriage to a Yale-educated attorney ("Don't worry, you can get out of it and the money will be good."), set her up with a small staff and put the plan in motion.

They either were not very original with their project name, "Martha," or they intended it as a clue if the plant ever got out of hand. It is too perfect to actually be her name - Martha was the woman in the Bible who would not leave the kitchen to hear Jesus speak. One wonders if these men had any idea what sort of monster they would create. Perhaps they did. Certainly larger conspiracies have been perpetuated.

Evidently Martha Stewart is helping Hillary Clinton with the decorating of her new Washington White House in Exile - could Martha also be a spy? Or is it just a feint by the Right to throw suspicion away from them? Does Hillary suspect? Is she bringing Martha into the fold to keep an eye on her?

Perhaps, she, like the rest of us, just longs for a lovely place to lay her head at the end of a busy day in this chaotic time and believes that Martha can help her achieve this.

Martha may be the puppet-wench of a right-wing conspiracy but I am with her all the way on the comforts of home bit. Home should be soothing, gracious and welcoming to residents and guests alike.

What we need to remember is that this takes many forms that don't always look like a Martha Stewart Living spread. For instance: Homeowners Brenda and Robert Humphries created an outdoor room at the back of their garden with a gravel floor, dozens of candles in Mason jars hung from the tree branches above and multi-colored plastic and iron garden furniture. In the summer they move their Foosball table outside and invite people over to play. A high wooden fence, their garage and their neighbor's garage and two trees form the walls. It is one part contrived and two parts just making the best of what was there. Its very lack of perfectionism is what makes it so perfect.


319 Given Avenue


1848 Square feet

3 bedrooms/plus two other rooms that could be used as bedrooms but have no closets

2 baths

Contact 224-7827

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.