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NY Times Magazine Meets Radical Homemakers

Posted By dpacheco On March 15, 2010 @ 10:36 am In Transition, Homesteading & Community Resilience | No Comments

What does raising chickens in your backyard have to do with feminism? Everything. say the radical homemakers, a new breed of women (and men) who reject society’s impulse to box them in with binary definitions like breadwinner/housewife. They grow much of their own food, mend their own clothes, and, most importantly, are part of a supportive community of sustainability-minded individuals who refuse to be mindless consumers. They’re back-to-the-landers writ small, and somehow they’re making it work.

From the New York Times magazine:

Four women I know—none of whom know one another—are building chicken coops in their backyards. It goes without saying that they already raise organic produce: my town, Berkeley, Calif., is the Vatican [1] of locavorism, the high church of Alice Waters [2]. Kitchen gardens are as much a given here as indoor plumbing. But chickens? That ups the ante. Apparently it is no longer enough to know the name of the farm your eggs came from; now you need to know the name of the actual bird.

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.

Read the whole article here. [3]

Photo: Katherine Wolkoff/Art + Commerce [4], for the New York Times.

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URL to article: http://chelseagreen.com/blogs/ny-times-meets-radical-homemakers/

URLs in this post:

[1] Vatican: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/r/roman_catholic_church/index.html?inline=nyt-org

[2] Alice Waters: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/alice_waters/index.html?inline=nyt-per

[3] Read the whole article here.: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/magazine/14fob-wwln-t.html?ref=magazine

[4] Katherine Wolkoff/Art + Commerce: http://www.artandcommerce.com/AAC/C.aspx?VP=SlideShow_VPage&IAPA=1&STY=A&L4=2U1XC58OB421&L5=2U1XC58IOSF8&L6=2U1XC58IOT05&XX=Artists

[5] Meet the Radical Homemakers: http://www.chelseagreen.com/blogs/meet-the-radical-homemakers/

[6] The Grassfarmer Meets the Radical Homemaker: http://www.chelseagreen.com/blogs/the-grassfarmer-meets-the-radical-homemaker/