Home is where the heart is? Organizing women's work and domesticity at Christmas

Sheena J. Vachhani, Alison Pullen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically discusses domestication and women's work in household organization at Christmas, a case of meta-organizing which fuels commercialization. Located in the growing body of work on contesting femininity that challenges traditional notions of femininity, we problematize the binary divide between women's work at home and commercial organizations. By considering Christmas as a set of ritualistic activities replete with myths of femininity, we explore how the home-a major site of festival activity-constructs gender through the public/private divide. This division has been central to critical interpretations of women's subordination in work and leisure spaces where the concept of home has attracted feminist attention through its association with exile or retreat into domesticity. Home is, however, a culturally and politically contested space, and this article argues that home-work is a productive retreat from commercial-work. Home relates to domesticity and rituals in paradoxical ways and attesting to the ambivalence of Christmas provides opportunities for the subversion of traditional discourses of women in the household, especially those associated with older ideas of femininity understood through ritualistic practice. We demonstrate this by analysing cultural representations of rituals located and practised in and around the home that are central to the enactment of Christmas and discern how these both subjugate and offer subversive possibilities for feminine subjectivity. Using contemporary representations of Christmas and home from media culture, we conclude that home is a feminist space with Christmas acting as a gift for women's return to that space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-821
Number of pages15
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


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