Special section editorial

Hitting home: representations of the domestic milieu in feminist art

Keywords: representations, feminist art


The politics of the home was often a focus in second-wave feminist art in the West. Influenced by Betty Friedan’s The feminist mystique (1963), which challenged the notion that women were content to be wives, mothers, and homemakers, artists often represented the domestic milieu as a space of oppression. Friedan’s ideas would, however, be challenged by bell hooks, who indicated that such perceptions assumed a woman who was middle-class and white. As hooks observed in Feminist theory: from margin to center (1984:2), Friedan ‘did not tell readers whether it was more fulfilling to be a maid, a babysitter, a factory worker, a clerk, or a prostitute, than to be a leisure class housewife’. It should also be noted that Friedan’s views were shaped by a US-specific context and that the politics of home, domesticity, marriage, or parenthood may be perceived very differently in geographies outside the United States or the West, more generally, including South Africa.