To author Shannon Hayes, “radical homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives.”
Her book Radical Homemakers articulated this concept for the 21st century, and lately the notion has been the ground for some healthy debate. The Boston Review published an issue entitled “Mothers Who Care too Much”, centered around a piece by Nancy Hirschmann who brings up some interesting thoughts about the future of feminism in relation to the renewed popularity of mothering.
A piece by Shannon Hayes in the same issue is a response to Hirschmann:
When my daughters wake up this morning, they will make themselves a fresh breakfast of homemade yogurt, topped with blueberries we froze last summer, and drizzled with honey from their Dad’s bees. My oldest is six, and we will probably spend a few minutes reviewing her math while my three-year-old plays with the dog. If anyone rushes out the door, it will be them, chasing after each other on a quest to find the most interesting bug in the garden.
I might be one of Hirschmann’s worst-case scenarios—women who seemingly have “turned their backs on the social resources invested in them” (I hold a PhD from Cornell). And perhaps even more distressing, I am an uncertified teacher, homeschooling my children. According to Hirschmann’s argument, I am failing in my responsibility to myself and my community in my refusal to join the conventional workforce. I would argue that I am fulfilling it to the greatest extent possible.
I’m part of a growing movement across the United States, Canada, and many other industrialized countries. We are the Radical Homemakers, and we work to promote four ends: ecological sustainability, social justice, and family and community well-being. We see ourselves as building a great bridge away from our existing extractive economy—in which corporate wealth is the foundation of economic health and ravaging our earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors are accepted as simply the costs of doing business—and toward a life-serving economy. In a life-serving economy, the goal, as the activist economist David Korten says, is to generate a living for all, rather than a killing for a few. Our resources are sustained, our waters are kept clean, our air remains pure, and families can lead meaningful and joyful lives.
We build this bridge by resisting—as much as we can—involvement with the extractive economy (including many forms of conventional employment) and by making up for the personal financial shortfall by turning our homes from units of consumption into units of production on a local scale.
Other articles continuing the discussion:
This one is funny: Holler on Salon.com “I am a Radical Homemaking Failure”
This is a response by someone who started off amused, and ended up angry: Astyk response to Holler on ScienceBlogs: Myths of Incompetance or Just Not Made that Way”
The article by Nancy Hirschmann in the Boston Review, to which Shannon’s piece was a response: “Mothers Who Care too Much”
Radical Homemakers is available in our bookstore.