So says Peggy Orenstein last week in The New York Times Magazine. Are you a stay-at-home mother who keeps chickens, maybe a small garden, perhaps even a beehive? Do you dabble in preserving your food, making your own bread, and cooking nourishing, wholesome, seasonal food for your family? Then you’re what’s quickly becoming known as a “femivore,” a woman who turns her homemaking into something more earthy and industrious than the consumer-driven model that’s dominated America’s cultural landscape for the last half century.
From last week’s article:
All of these gals — these chicks with chicks — are stay-at-home moms, highly educated women who left the work force to care for kith and kin. I don’t think that’s a coincidence: the omnivore’s dilemma has provided an unexpected out from the feminist predicament, a way for women to embrace homemaking without becoming Betty Draper. “Prior to this, I felt like my choices were either to break the glass ceiling or to accept the gilded cage,” says Shannon Hayes, a grass-fed-livestock farmer in upstate New York and author of “Radical Homemakers,” a manifesto for “tomato-canning feminists,” which was published last month.
Hayes pointed out that the original “problem that had no name” was as much spiritual as economic: a malaise that overtook middle-class housewives trapped in a life of schlepping and shopping. A generation and many lawsuits later, some women found meaning and power through paid employment. Others merely found a new source of alienation. What to do? The wages of housewifery had not changed — an increased risk of depression, a niggling purposelessness, economic dependence on your husband — only now, bearing them was considered a “choice”: if you felt stuck, it was your own fault. What’s more, though today’s soccer moms may argue, quite rightly, that caretaking is undervalued in a society that measures success by a paycheck, their role is made possible by the size of their husband’s. In that way, they’ve been more of a pendulum swing than true game changers.
Enter the chicken coop.
Ms. Orenstein goes on to show how the things that drove women into the workforce in the first place — a desire for self-sufficiency, a sense of autonomy, and a quest for personal fulfillment — are the very things that are driving this new movement towards urban and suburban homesteading.
She then says:
I understand the passion for a life that is made, not bought. And who doesn’t get the appeal of working the land? It’s as integral to this country’s character as, in its own way, Wal-Mart. My femivore friends may never do more than dabble in backyard farming — keeping a couple of chickens, some rabbits, maybe a beehive or two — but they’re still transforming the definition of homemaker to one that’s more about soil than dirt, fresh air than air freshener. Their vehicle for children’s enrichment goes well beyond a ride to the next math tutoring session.
Do you count yourself (or the beloved ladies in your life) in the “femivore” ranks? If so, please share a bit of your story in the comments below!
(photo by land_camera_land_camera)