Newspapers are full of editorials urging their female readers to "have a crafty Christmas" by hand-making gifts and decorations. These articles are inevitably accompanied by soft-focus photos of terrifyingly blonde grinning women in shapeless knitwear fashioning entire kitchen sets out of balsa-wood, like a cross between a nuclear strike advice handbook and the Boden catalogue.
This bizarre fashion for retro handicrafts started some years before the credit crunch with the revival of Stitch'n'Bitch knitting circles in New York.
It was initially conceived as a fun, feminist reclamation of traditional skills. The meetings were free, the skill-sharing amiable. But as the recession has taken hold the trend has been co-opted by the dark machinery of the women's lifestyle press, desperate for a new manifesto to replace "shop 'til you drop."
Despite the impact of the recession on women, who are losing their jobs faster than men in the financial, leisure and hospitality information industries and facing redundancy and discrimination at work because of pregnancy or motherhood, there's an atmosphere of celebration.
According to the Evening Standard and many, many others, we're all becoming "domestic goddesses" again. Don't fret about losing your job - for the price of a shedload of specialist ingredients you too can bake sparkly fairy cakes, stave off economic Armageddon and save Christmas.
The most brain-bleedingly pointless domestic tasks are now thoroughly fetishised - as long as it's women acting out that fetish, of course.
Cookery classes and exclusive sewing circles encourage young, trendy women to indulge in a sanctioned fantasy of glamorous drudgery that never really existed. For just £310 a session, "recessionistas" can have a training day with Cookie Girl in Notting Hill. Sales of kitchen equipment are rising faster than an organic souffle.
Now, no-one's implying that a little more domestic dexterity wouldn't do all of us some good. Certainly, decades of aggressive marketing of home improvement products, the revolt against traditional gendered labour divisions and the male backlash against that revolt have led many to abandon the basic tools of self-care.
What is being lost is not a prim model of Beetonesque housewifery but the essential human tricks of keeping ourselves clean, clothed and fed.
The current craze for sexed-up retro-domesticity does nothing to remedy this. Instead of everyone rediscovering truly useful, empowering self-care skills, women alone are being encouraged to spend vast sums on instruction and materials for pastimes that have almost no bearing on real life - pastimes that are performative rather than practical.
Who, when you get down to it, really needs to know how to knit a Christmas fairy or ice a lavender cupcake a la Nigella Lawson?
Of all the fluffily sexist trends to come out of "post-feminism," this one truly unnerves me. I know women my age and younger, educated and emancipated, who have no idea how to make a stock or take in a hem but view the baking of immaculate muffins and the embroidering of intricate scarves and mittens as exciting hobbies, pastimes which should be properly performed in high-waisted '50s skirts and silly little pinafores.
Wouldn't it be great, the subtext runs, if we could just go back to the way things were then - when women were real women, men were real shits and the mince pies were really scrummy?
Of course none of this fantasy performative retro domesticity has any basis in reality.
Such hedonistic time wastage has all the historical accuracy of the sort of sexual roleplay which involves Victorian schoolboy outfits and birch whipping canes. Like all such fetish play it is perfectly jolly fun as long as it isn't taken seriously. But if unexamined, there is always the risk that a fetish will bleed into reality.
I utterly disdain the idea of a Crafty Christmas. I refuse to be a "recessionista." I will not be spending my afternoons this December making elegant hat-pieces out of potato peelings or fashioning festive cake decorations from cat litter, or in any way fantasising about being a suburban housewife in a haze of valium in some ad-man's wet dream of early post-industrial capitalism.
Not now, not ever again.
I will be buying a few presents, taking some days off work, getting merry and singing along to the radio with relatives I haven't seen for too long, and that will do me nicely.
But what do I know? Stockists of craft supplies, baking equipment and ridiculous frilly aprons have all seen a jump in profits and in even jollier festive news Associated British Foods is reporting a 35 per cent increase in sales of bun trays. Let choirs of angels sing.
[published at Morning Star online and titled 'Crafty Christmas? Not on my watch...']
Oh, don't start. I'm only about 50% serious. Really. No, stop it, I know.
Source: Penny Red