Theory in Action - The Journal of the Transformative Studies Institute
Radical Homemakers, clearly a practical manual aimed at a general audience, is an untraditional choice for an academic book review, but seems nevertheless fitting for a journal such as Theory in Action. It has garnered widespread attention in the mainstream, with multiple articles about the author and her project in publications such as both the daily edition and the Sunday magazine of The New York Times. It has also made a splash in various stripes of the mildly alternative press, with enthusiastic notices in The Huffington Post and periodicals such as Yes!, and sports cover blurbs by Bill McKibben and David Korten. Perhaps more importantly for us, it seems to have generated a fairly broad, more radical, grassroots buzz: anarchist infoshops stock the book, the Utne Reader bookstore as well as the anarchist worker collective AK Press sell it, anti-globalization websites discuss it.
Read the full review here.
Could you be a Radical Homemaker?
Random Recycling - Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I was intrigued when I read the title of Shannon Hayes book, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. In a time of downsizing and working with what you have, I thought I could learn a thing or two from some hard core homemakers.
The book turned out differently than I expected. Instead of gaining insight on how to reuse or repurpose household items, I learned about a new way of thinking about the home. The importance of your home is the backbone for each homemaker's story. There is a collection of twenty stories from both women and men who are trying to live off the land, homeschool their children, and live a simpler lifestyle. Some are doing it on a farm in a quiet New England tow, and others are making do with an urban garden.
The book is divided into two parts. The first explores how we came to be a consumer driven culture. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, written in 1963, first explored the challenges of the housewife. Women were becoming bored with shopping trips and household duties, called the "housewife's syndrome." It sparked an increase of women in the workforce, which in turn led to our reliance on convenient foods and products. The Radical Homemakers profiled strive to live differently, in a life-serving economy.
"Further, in a life serving economy, we individually accept responsibility for creating our own joys and pleasures. We do not rely upon corporate America to sell us these things."
I am guilty of relying on my "toys" for entertainment, but hope I can achieve a healthy balance with non-commercial joys like playing with my kids and cooking a great meal. Less stuff can mean more time for family and friends on our lives. Who wouldn't want to spend less time doing errands and more time playing. As I work to declutter this week during Project Simplicity, I am very aware of the extra stuff in my home. The stories in the book reveal how little in terms of stuff we truly need to sustain ourselves. Everyone seems a lot handier than I ever will be, but I can still work harder to repurpose what I have instead of constantly buying new stuff.
What struck a cord with me in Radical Homemakers is the discussion about the status of eating habits in America. As I try to focus more on eating real food, I found it sad to learn how prevalent packaged food has become in our society. One very grim stat is that the US was once one of the healthiest countries in the world, by 1960s we dropped to the 13th healthiest and now we are 25th. For an education nation, it amazes me that collectively we are still not making better food choices for ourselves. Another sobering statistic, while the US has the cheapest food in the world, we also have the highest health-care costs per capita. The connection between the two cannot be missed. Many of the homemakers in the book discuss a renewed focus on eating as a family, growing your own food, and avoiding the packaged foods that have led to a society with high rates of both diabetes and childhood obesity.
I think if you will enjoy this book if you want to hear an outside the box opinion on schooling, vaccinations and community. It is refreshing to read about friends and family coming together to help raise children as it was done for many years. There are some homemakers that are more "radical" than others, but I appreciated hearing their stories.
Visit Radical Homemakers website to connect with other like minded men and women. There is a forum to share your location to find others in your area who share your passion for production instead of consumption.
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Radical Homemakers… Burn The Bras,Then Go Bake Some Bread.
Mixed Plate Mama - March 12, 2011
The feminist movement has since the 60′s told women to go to work, make a name for yourself, and whatever you do don’t become financially dependent on a man. Huh. I did just the exact opposite… I rely on a man to bring home the bacon, we’ve made babies and now I stay at home and raise the babies..!! I’ve always considered myself a feminist…. So where do I fit in?
I know what I do is important, and after reading ”Radical Homemakers” by Shannon Hayes I am convinced I am exactly where I need to be. If you have ever felt torn between your feminist roots and staying at home to raise a family, read this book. Even if you’re a mother that works full time…still read this book! Shannon explains in order to stop climate change, corporate greed, and dwindling resources mothers have to take a stand. We have an obligation to stop consuming so much, and teach our children how to live in a world where money loses power, crushing corporate greed. We need to start using our backyards and become more sustainable at the same time giving back to the land. There’s a new type of feminist out there , Radical Homemakers and I’m glad to be a part of this change.
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A Different Kind of Luxury - March 3, 2011
Radical Homemakers is a radical book. It challenges the idea that “homemaking” is somehow a condition for the un-liberated woman. It's a book of ideas but it sprinkles throughout the examples of widely varying people who have chosen to make their economic system one that supports the life they really want to live. It grapples with issues of health insurance as well as different feminist critiques of homemaking. A couple of chapter titles might give you an idea “Politics, Ecology and Domestic Arts” “Redifining Wealth and Poverty” “Tomato Canning Feminists” and “Toward a Homegrown Culture.” The format is different than A Different Kind of Luxury in that it’s organized by idea and theme, and not around the invidual stories and journeys, and it also takes a more overt look at the political and corporate world that has done so much to leave people in time poverty and running after some ever receding mirage.
But Radical Homemakers gives readers very much the same message as my book: spend less, live more.
Thanks to my writing student, Katrina Alcorn, by the way for telling me about this book. In fact, she insisted
that I buy it. Sometimes you have to use enough force to get people to do something. Check out Katrina’s blog,
which is about how modern life does not support people having full family lives and what we can do about it.
Here are a few quotes from Radical Homemakers:
“Thus, not only are [the radical homemakers] lowering their cost of living through producing [what they need], but they are also recuding their urge to spend on distractions, instead filling their lives with meaningful and pleasurable activity.”
"Quite often their incomes are significantly below the norm. But that is because they have learned that there are two ways to make a living. In one method ... substantial money is earned and then spent on purchasing life’s necessities. In the other method, significantly less money is earned and basic necessities are produced or otherwised procured. ... These households are filled with books, simmering pots, some dirty dishes, musical instruments, seedlings, wood shavings, maybe some hammers or drills, sewing machines, knitting baskets, canned peaches and tomato sauce, jars of saurkraut, freezers with hunted or locally raised meat and potted herbs."
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Radical homemakers: sign me up
Satchel and Tea Blog - February 10, 2011
A year ago I wouldn't have picked this book up. I was interested in having a tidy house, I wanted life to be more organized and I wanted us to eat dinners together as a family more often. But I wouldn't have called any of this "homemaking"; it reminded me too much of a 50's housewife stereotype that I found hard to articulate fully, yet made me extremely uncomfortable.
I thought of my domestic work as less an enterprise rich with meaning than simply the work that no one else in my household had time to do (being that they were at a "real job" all day). I aspired to a vaguely defined "more", which, when pressed, I would usually describe as something like, "I want to contribute more", or "I want to be a whole person". Both of those things carried in them, without my realizing, an unconscious belief that if I didn't have a career outside the home that brought in a significant portion of the necessary cash to run our lives, then my life wasn't whole or worthwhile.
And yet, while inwardly I seem to link a career with wholeness, outwardly I have never acted like I wanted a traditional career, and I've deftly avoided opportunities for one on several occasions. Growing up, both my parents held down full-time jobs, and they were exhausted and stressed out most of the time. I rarely saw their jobs making them happy, and many times I saw it wearing them down horribly. My mom still laments her inability to have been a stay-at-home parent, and she speaks wistfully of the amazing opportunity I have in my own life to be one. It breaks my heart a little to hear her. I was her only child, and she feels like she really missed something. Maybe this is why, for all my deep-down fear that I need a "real job" to be a whole person, I don't find myself envying people who have them.
I've been a stay-at-home Mom since I became pregnant with my son in late 2001. During that time I've struggled over and over with what this means. Is being a mother enough? Is being a mother and housewife enough? (And enough of what, exactly?) Why is that I staunchly refuse to leave my domain, yet I can't seem to accept that it's enough, either? How can I both defend the place I've made for myself, and yet keep feeling like I need to transcend it? Enter Shannon Hayes.
I can review only the first half of the book because that's all I've read, but I'm pretty sure that even if I dropped the Kindle in the bathtub and never got to the second half, my life would still be changed. Radical Homemaking is about how homemaking is both deeply meaningful, and culture-changing. Taking back the home is a radical thing; we're taking back our own interconnected self-sufficiency, our ability to draw on our relationships and our community to lead a meaningful life, instead of relying on morally bankrupt corporations to supply our every need. ...
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Consciously Frugal - February 3, 2011
I finished reading the much raved about book, Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it.
This book is a beautiful affirmation of the importance of home, family and self-sufficiency. For those convinced that life cannot be lived without a huge income (Hayes' family income is actually quite sufficient at $43,000 annually), Radical Homemakers is an excellent affirmation of the possibility of a different way of living. I will definitely read it again, as I believe that we need all the reinforcement for sanity that we can muster in a culture that beats the Consume Consume Consume drum non-stop.
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Hakima Midwifery - February 3, 2011
Radical Homemakers is a fascinating read with lots of history of how we got to where we are in terms of a largely consumer society rather than producing to meet most of our needs.
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The Green Phone Booth - Friday, February 4, 2011
Book Review and Giveaway: Radical Homemakers
From Emerald Apron's Library
Last summer, while I was enjoying the tail end of my maternity leave, I heard about Shannon Hayes' new book, Radial Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, and I decided to buy a copy and check it out. I was loving maternity leave so the idea of people making the conscious choice to stay home was appealing.
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Are You a Radical Homemaker at Heart?
White Pines Whisper - January 31, 2011
This lifestyle goes by many names. Some people call it ‘simple living’; others refer to ‘voluntary simplicity’, and there’s quite a crowd who think of themselves as ‘homesteaders’. Shannon Hayes refers to us as radical homemakers and has written a very interesting book by the same name.
I have to admit that, while I’d seen the book reviewed and cited in several articles around the internet, for a long while the title put me off. Radical Homemakers somehow brought to mind a vision of June Cleaver with a picket sign or something. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my, well…disdain for consumerism and it was the subtitle, “Reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture” that eventually got me to take a closer look at the book.
Hayes’ premise is simple: that in the face of the very serious financial and environmental issues that threaten us all, a growing number of women (and men) are opting out of the consumer work-spend rat race in favor of “radical” homemaking. Radical homemakers live on less income (roughly 200% of the Federal Poverty Level), but create a life of abundance by making the home a center of production rather than consumption...
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Eden Feed - January, 31, 2011
...When I started reading “Radical Homemakers,” I did so looking for support and comraderie. I found it. Shannon Hayes does a great job of bringing definition, voice and meaning to many important elements of my EdenFeed lifestyle. She shares information and excellent research about how our accumulation of stuff has done very little to improve peoples’ quality of life. In fact, as she shares on page 87… “As a nation we suffer from a depression epidemic that affects even our children; the average American child in the 1980’s reported greater anxiety than the average child receiving psychiatric treatment in the 1950s. Our physical health as a nation is poor; the American Heart Association estimates that 80,000,000 people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, and the Centers for Disease Control calculate that clinical obesity more than doubled from 1974-2004 to a rate of 32.9 percent in adults, and increased from 5 to 16.7 percent in children. For every two marriages in this country, there is a divorce before eight years.”
This book really hit home for me when it talks about our homes transitioning from units of production to units of consumption. This was one of our early EdenFeed observations…the work involved to bring bags of supplies into the home each week that all then went to curb on trash day. While my home still has a LONG way to go to really produce what we need, one of the things that I enjoy most about our home is that is buzzes with life. Between the boys, the pets, the garden, our work, the worm farms, the rain barrels, the neighborhood kids that frequently visit and the many projects always in progress…our home is never dead. Overwhelming at times…definitely, but never lifeless.
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Radical Homemaking and the Christian Life
Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts - January 21, 2011
As many mothers who begin to ‘stay at home’, I struggled to define my role and justify my decision to cease employment. I know there are some women who chose to ‘stay home’ and never look back, but for me it has been a journey of making meaning and discovering what it means to a home-maker. I have come to see my role as one who strives toward right relationships with God, others, creation and self. I would argue this is what it means to be a Christian and for each of us, this pursuit will look different. But for me, right now, it means seeking to return the home to a unit of production in the midst of a consumer culture.
As I was solidifying my ideas of being a homemaker that seeks to live simply, work toward sustainability and serve community I came across this article in the New York Times and promptly found the book Radical Homemaking by Shannon Hayes. While Hayes’ book doesn’t claim to be Christian, I was surprised that her view of the ‘Radical Homemaker’ lined up with the Christian vision of seeking right relationship with God, others, self and creation that had been forming my definition of homemaking. Hayes describes radical homemakers as
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Book review: Radical Homemakers
Dreaming Aloud - January 14, 2011
YES! YES! YES!
That's what I think. With every page that I read. YES! That's me! That's why we're doing it! That's who we are! That's how we live! It has reconfirmed our life path, our journey, our motivation, our daily choices to me...
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2010 Book Review
Stained Glass Confessional - December 29, 2010
I loved this book so much I bought 3 copies to pass around. Radical Homemakers is divided into two sections, one about (for lack of a better term), the fall and rise of homemaking, and one that details the lives of several radical homemakers. Hayes does an excellent job of describing the shift from American households as units of production to that of consumption and states her case for why she believes that reclaiming our homes as units of production is key to helping us straighten out the modern mess we’ve found ourselves in (Obesity, anyone? Environmental destruction? Maybe a little consumerism?).
While I personally don’t think I’ll go to some of the lengths she describes in this book, it was very affirming to find that I’m not the only weirdo out there, doing things like making yogurt in my crockpot, canning from my garden, sewing my own diapers, or bartering for goods and services. Overall, a fantastic and inspiring read.
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Yardavore Blog - Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Radical Homemakers.... love love love this book!!!!!!!!
Radical Homemakers has encapsulated and articulated so many ideas that I have been exploring for so long. The personal is political and starting with saying no to the "endless paid labor" cycles as the author, Shannon Hayes describes it, is a very good start...and yes to the high art of domestic bliss (half joking about the bliss part...as it is work like any other) and artistry. It all starts with taking care of the home front. Self sufficiency is a path that make sense in uncertain times and it can be a beautiful thing! A decent chemical free bar of soap is up to $6 bucks but the ingredients in a do it yourself endeavorer cost about $2 bucks.... but it's all so much more than that. Not everyone is but out for soap making or gardening but perhaps exploring a new way to exchange goods and services is. You make soap and I grow food.... simple, and has been the process for thousands of years.We can't really count on public education to actually educate our children or commercial food safety regulation to secure our food sources, so we know that we need to look out after that. It also appears that we can't count on corporate culture to supply ample jobs and opportunities to maintain what used to be a consumer culture.
"Voluntary Simplicity" is an intelligent persons recourse.
Read the original review on the Yardavore blog.
Book Review: Radical Homemakers
And Other Adventures blog - December 14, 2010
The premise of the book is that of people rejecting endless paid labor in exchange for a more simple, self-sufficient way of life. It is fascinating. By becoming more self-sufficient, these people are better able to find that work-life balance, healthier way of living that we all want. The views in this book are unconventional and a little granola, but definitely thought provoking.
This book made me question many of my own things and actions in life - things that I thought were really important, but in reality are not. And while I may not go out and immediately sell my car and start making my own clothes, I do embrace the idea that maybe I can eat better, cut down on those trips to Target, and rethink what I want out of a work life.
This would be a great book club book.
Read the entire review over at AndOtherAdventures.
A Handmade Life Blog - Wednesday, December 8, 2010
I have long thought of myself as a homemaker - as in the Maker of the Home - and have been very proud to do so, after all, what could be more important than making a home for my loved ones and I. When I heard about the book Radical Homemakers I asked our library to buy it so I was very pleased to see it sitting in my library bin last week. I knew it was my kind of book almost from the moment I started reading it. Every once in a while I find books that are so good that I don't want to put them down and so with this one I managed to find a way to read it while I went about my daily round. I even found a way to clip it open so that I could read it while knitting gifts (which I've never been tempted to do before).
It is such a good feeling to come across a book telling about a group of people who value the same things you do. I enjoyed reading about each person in the book and very much felt a feeling of community while reading. And, when you choose to live your life outside the norm in our society, it always feels good to hear about others making similar life choices - it is very affirming. Such a good book! And so, I think the next time someone asks "What do you do?" I might just say, "I am a Radical Homemaker." How fun is that?
Read the original article here.
Women’s Service Mission Reviews Radical Homemakers
LDS Wave - December 10, 2010
I come from a consumer family. My father’s mother was the 1950’s housewife who sought after the newest and greatest gadget promising greater convenience and my mother’s mother was the career woman who outsourced housekeeping, childcare and food preparation. Between my two parents, I didn’t learn many homemaking skills.
And then I joined the church.
My mother warned me that I might have a hard time assimilating into Mormon culture and embracing the role of a stay at home mother. After my college training as a preschool teacher, I embraced and enjoyed the role of mother and greatly appreciate that I am able to stay home to care for my babies. I struggle, however—and not surprisingly, with the role of homemaker.
The book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture introduced me to the name of my struggle, as well as provided a solution for it.
I, of course, had heard of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique and I’ve heard it called the book that started the feminist revolution. From what I had heard about it (I still haven’t read it), it inspired all the aspects of the feminist revolution that I disagree with and would not aspire to.
The author of Radical Homemakers, Shannon Hayes, introduced Feminine Mystique to me in a new way. Hayes disagrees with Friedan’s conclusions though accepts that housewife syndrome truly does exist (an in my experience it certainly does!). Instead of supporting Friedan’s solution of sending women into the workforce to escape the lack of fulfillment at home, Hayes points out that a generation later, women have not found the fulfillment they were seeking and instead are struggling under role strain and the stress of raising families, making a home and being employee. Instead they are finding the lack of fulfillment that comes from being a slave to a consumer culture. The solution, then, is for women and men to embrace equally the role as homemaker and live simply, each family becoming a unit of production rather than unit of consumption. The outcome, according to the 19 families and individuals she interviewed for the book, is that men and women are able to work less, earn less and live more while protecting the environment, building communities and taking steps to solve the problems plaguing our world.
Radical Homemakers is not really a how-to book on how to go about becoming a radical homemaker (which generally involves backyard homesteading or urban gardening) but readers learn the stories of those who made the transition from full-time employment to opting out of the job market and embracing domesticity. The first half of the book is a description of the history and reasons why a shift from consumerism is needed, while the second half tells the stories of families who adopted the radical homemaking lifestyle. The author has created a Radical Homemakers website where resources are being compiled.
The intersection between Mormon values of self-reliance, thrift, living simply, valuing family and community and eschewing consumption while, at the same time, embracing feminist values is fascinating. I also find it immensely validating as it shows me that the ideals of the gospel can be lived while honoring women as people with skills and interests that lie outside of motherhood and homemaking. I’m inspired by the women described in the book who after their hearths are reclaimed extend their focus outward to their communities through civic involvement, advocacy and mentoring.
Read the original article here.
GooGooGoingsOn Blog - December 3, 2010
I read Radical Homemakers - Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture during our Virgina roadtrip in October. I first heard of it from Stacy.
I was drawn to the premise for two main reasons. One – the timing was good for me personally. All of my boys are in school now, and I’m at the start of a new era after 7+ years at home full-time with them. And two – the ongoing economic recession has me asking some questions about the incentive structure that drives profit, and success, in our system. That is, the key is consumption.
At a very basic level, it feels wrong to me that the success of the American economy (to which so many of our investments, loans and jobs are tied) is directly related to our level of consumption. Why is it that we have to spend our way out of a recession? As Hayes points out, the American household is no longer a unit of production – production of food, education, health care, goods and services for barter:
Traditional knowledge to care for the sick, nourish our families, produce our own food & entertain ourselves has nearly disappeared from our culture, with all of it being transferred to “experts” – factory farms, corporate health care, chain restaurants, media conglomerates – who are more interested in maximizing a profit than in conserving or replenishing our living systems.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is much, much drudgery and suffering that has thankfully been left in the past thanks to modern inventions & innovation. And it’s likely that most American families, ours included, don’t feel capable of selling their cars & moving off-grid tomorrow. But Hayes eloquently convinces me that things have gone too far. I’m craving more self-sufficiency, more community, more nature, more humanity.
In last month’s Fixing the Future (a PBS must-watch), an economist asks, “do people exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve the people?”
Instead of being tied to a certain level of income that will buy for us life’s necessities and “necessities”, maybe I could try settling into a smaller income & producing more necessities here at home. Hang up a clothesline. Bake bread. Join the Hour Exhange Portland. Knit socks (and maybe spin the yarn to do so??) Repair clothes by hand (and maybe invest in a sewing machine?)
I am not proposing a wholescale economic revolution, but haven’t the financial meltdown as well as repeated safety recalls made you feel vulnerable? Unsettled? Confused? I don’t know. Like I said, maybe via small steps, I can take back a little control for myself & family in this very big, crazy-ass world. It’s a small, local world, after all.
Read the original review over at GooGooGoingsOn.
Radical Homemakers, Reclaming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture
Civil Eats - December 1, 2010
More than any other book I’ve read in recent years, Shannon Hayes’ Radical Homemakers has forced me to examine my life choices and question my assumptions about career and consumer culture. In an era of unprecedented economic turmoil, climate change, and damaged ecology, most of us feel a sense of urgency about the need to effect fundamental and radical change in our lives. Hayes believes that this process begins in the most local place of all: the home. And she’s provided case studies of individuals–the radical homemakers in the title–who are making the kinds of changes we all need to make, describing the processes they are going through, and profiling their work to reclaim the art of domesticity while living in the midst of a consumer culture.
Radical Homemakers is compelling, convincing…and unsettling. What I imagined to be a book describing the choices of people I couldn’t relate to instead became a highly relevant and on-target commentary on home, food, feminism (although radical homemakers include among their number both women and men), and what it means to live in what Hayes terms an “extractive economy.”
Hayes’ definition of an extractive economy (“where corporate wealth was regarded as the foundation of economic health, where mining our earth’s resources and exploiting our international neighbors was accepted as simply the cost of doing business”) very accurately describes the sort of globalized and industrialized economy that seems to be at the root of much of what plagues modern society. Hayes writes instead about people who are embracing the idea of what she terms a “life-serving economy” that values families, communities, social justice and a healthy planet.
The seven-chapter book is divided into two major sections. In the first four chapters, Hayes provides context, including laying out the tenets that radical homemakers subscribe to: ecological sustainability, social justice, family and community. Hayes does an excellent job of positioning today’s reality within the context of history–including first and second wave feminism, the work of Betty Friedan, woman’s (i.e., the domestic) sphere, and the industrial revolution–and also describing the process by which households shifted from being units of production to units of consumption. She weaves past and present together, providing an understanding of how we got where we are today, and how eighteen individuals she surveyed for her book have gotten to a different place, an alternate destination we might all be well served to visit.
It is in the second part of the book that we meet these radical homemakers. Hayes describes them individually and collectively. She notes that not one of those she surveyed had all the skills required to embrace radical homemaking, but that each was a “wizard” at nurturing relationships that could help support their efforts to reclaim domestic skills and move towards a “homegrown” culture. Hayes also points out that radical homemakers share characteristics, including being community-oriented, lifelong learners, embracing homes as “living systems,” and in being fearless as they transitioned from the notion of an extractive economic model to a life-serving economic model. There was also a notion that success could be gauged not by how much was earned, but by how much wasn’t spent. Talk about a paradigm shift!
Per Hayes, radical homemakers go through a similar process that includes three stages: renouncing, reclaiming and rebuilding. While the work begins at home, many radical homemakers develop social capital and move into larger, more community-based efforts.
Her work offers a compelling message for those engaged in the Good Food movement, and for anyone who is feeling angst in the current economic climate. Larger-than-life questions loom: What about the current inequality of wealth in our nation and the world? What’s the economy really for? Must we believe that the viability of the corporate world is integral to social and individual progress? In an age where corporate greed and irresponsibility have left highly visible human and environmental wreckage in its wake, Hayes believes these are the questions we should be grappling with.
Hayes also asks us to examine what participating in an extractive economy costs us. Certainly our time. And maybe, in many cases, it results in a loss of community. How do we challenge strongly ingrained beliefs about what constitute wealth and poverty? Success or failure? What is really essential, and how can we reclaim the domestic skills that have been devalued and, in many cases, lost? If we answered these questions, we might be forced to embrace a different reality, pursue different educational and career paths, and in the process, perhaps create a new (and truly braver) world.
Hayes shares a message of persistence, hope, renewal and resistance to the current situation we find ourselves in. I’ve had an opportunity speak with her twice now, and I find that she herself is a radical homemaker who is deeply committed to the tenets and practices of the movement. (And it is a movement…I’ve got radical homemakers on my radar now, and they are emerging everywhere, from my packed knitting class to the dozens of messages left on our office voicemail requesting assistance with gardening and home food preservation efforts).
If you read this book–and I highly recommend it–be prepared to be challenged. The book asks hard questions, but also provides some lovely answers.
Read the original review over at Civil Eats.
Book Review: Radical Homemakers
Akron Examiner - November 28, 2010
If you dream of homesteading, staying home to raise your kids and homeschooling but think you have to work outside the home to make ends meet, you need to read this book. Radical Homemakers shows that making such a transition is possible if we take the time to rediscover homemaking skills our society has moved away from and replaced with consumerist ideals.
Far from a simple how-to manual, this book offers a view of a lifestyle many of us dream is impossible, one in which we live within our financial means and honor our connection to the earth with our lifestyle choices. Author Shannon Hayes, through her interviews with twenty families and individuals, shows how others have made the decision to live a life more centered on family, home and hearth. She also explores the reasons for our cultural shift away from domesticity and towards a society in which we often equate our self-worth with our earning power. Radical Homemakers helps us clearly see the overlap between the realms of ecology, politics, and the domestic arts and understand the role feminism has played in establishing our views about housework.
Hayes explores the ways in which we can escape wage slavery and choose more creative and eco-conscious ways to provide for our families. She encourages us to be a living example for our children, showing them firsthand the important skills of building community, independent thinking, interdependence and self-reliance.
Visit the Akron-Summit County Public Library and borrow it or head over to the Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, support an independent bookstore and pick up a copy of this eye-opening book. If you have ever wanted to quit your job to color with your kids and can tomatoes, you owe it to yourself, and your family, to read this book.
Read the original review here.
Hippie Read: Radical Homemakers
The Hippie Odyssey - November 24, 2010
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes
"Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinction, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises: reduce driving; consume less; increase our self-reliance; buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities. In essence, the great work we face requires re-kindling the home fires.
Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act; who center their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefitted from feminism; where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude.
Radical Homemakers nation-wide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans, and heal the planet, this is your book."
This book is definitely an interesting read. It looks at how the role of a Homemaker has gone from a lucrative, skilled profession to one that is not even considered a legitimate career option. At one point, a homemaker was required to know how to manage and maintain a household. She (or he) knew how to be completely self-reliant and self-sufficient. But today, thanks to modern conveniences, the role of a homemaker is defined by consumerism. A homemaker is no longer required to grow food in a garden, make foods from scratch, or sew clothing. A typical day in the life of a homemaker now revolves around shopping and driving kids around. And as the homemaker's role has evolved from specialist to shopper, it has become more and more mundane, and women feel oppressed by being forced to remain in such a situation. And so, many women in today's society choose to work, which places families on vicious earning/ spending/ working cycles. Families have become forced into double-income lifestyles. By having both adults working, families must pay others to complete tasks that they could easily do themselves if they had the time: childcare, cleaning the house, lawn care, etc. They work more hours to make more money to pay for more conveniences to allow them to have more time to work.
This book focuses on Homemakers across the country who refuse to fall into this vicious cycle. They opt to live with less in order to truly enjoy the important things in life. This book is definitely worth the read. Check it out at the library. Or, if you know me personally, you are welcome to borrow my copy.
"For national and social disasters, for moral and financial evils, the cure begins in the Household." - Julia M. Wright, The Complete Home, 1879
Read the original review on HippieOdyssey.com.
Chaz and Ginger
November 22, 2010
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture was quite an enjoyable read for me. In it, author Shannon Hayes examines the effects of consumer culture on our homes, relationships and society. She suggests creation, connection and community as replacements for the earn and spend mentality that dominates much of our culture. After interviewing several households (including those with single people, couples, with children and without) she shares their unique ways of simplifying, restructuring the work-life balance and focusing attention on strengthening meaningful relationships. This book offers some radical ideas and is sure to leave you pondering how to spend your time and energy in ways that will truly nourish yourself, your loved ones and your community.
Read the original review at Chaz and Ginger.
John Jacob's Ladder
September 22, 2010
by Jacob Simonson
Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes (Paperback - Feb 1, 2010)
The premise of this book is that homemaking is in the vanguard of social change. This is about stay at home moms, yes, but they aint your momma’s moms! This is about men and women who “focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act”. This is about both family AND community. It is not about isolation of the family
In one sense it is about disengaging to some extent from the larger economy. “Radical homemakers gauge their ‘wealth’ by their ability to include in their lives such incalculable values as good relationships, good food, and self determination.” The book is about a journey from commodification to self reliance (the opposite of one of the chapter titles in the book). This is not an anti-feminist book–it is perhaps a hyper feminist book. It exalts the home, but not in the Ozzie and Harriett sugary commodified version. The Ozzie and Harriett version perhaps makes the home an appendage of the corporation, in the sense that Daddy serves the company first and foremost. Hayes would probably put it the other way around–society serves the home.
A quote or two:
The abandonment of the kitchen, the loss of personal finance skillls despite rising household incomes, the relentless increase in busy-ness and the compulsion to replace emptiness and loneliness with consumer products have put us on course an ecological, social,and cultural train wreck.
The household is no longer a unit of production. It is a unit of consumption.
Temporal abundance [what you get when you don't have to spend so much time working out of the house-jj note] buys far more daily pleasures than a paycheck can provide.
..therein lies the power of the Radical Homemaker to create these changes: the more homemakers are able to do for themselves…, the less time they exchange for money, the fewer natural resources they require from the planet, and the less they relay upon (and the less they are complicit in) the global extractive economy.
Radical Homemakers Reclaim the Simple Life
San Francisco Chronicle
By Leilani Marie Labong
August 22, 2010
An inspirational, grassroots movement is afoot in the Bay Area (yes, another one), and it's going to make the world a better place. No, really. Granted, this region has sprouted its fair share of grassroots movements; however, this particular crusade - dubbed radical homemaking by New York writer and pioneering radical homemaker Shannon Hayes - seems particularly well suited to our socially responsible, food-obsessed, eco-zealous neck of the woods.
In her recent book, "Radical Homemakers" (Left to Write Press; $23.95), Hayes, 36, makes a deeply personal and well-supported case - to be expected from someone who holds a doctorate in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University - for shunning consumer culture in favor of a life of complete and utter domesticity.
Although she had eyes on a college professorship, Hayes jumped off the career track a decade ago, along with her husband, Bob, a former county planner. Aching to "honor their deepest dreams and values" (in the radical-homemaker vernacular, these virtues include family, community, social justice and the environment), the couple moved back to her family's farm in upstate New York, where, she writes in her book, "subsistence farming, food preservation, barter and frugal living are a matter of course."
A radical notion
While the idea of banishing all dependence on wealthy corporations to practice an Emersonian life of simplicity, authenticity and self-reliance resonates soundly with many Bay Area residents - these are tenets of the 1960s counterculture, after all - making such a progressive lifestyle change seems, in a word, drastic. But they're not called radical homemakers for nothing.
"Our society has indoctrinated us with a lot of fear," says Hayes, who writes books for a (modest) living - fortified, of course, by the money saved from the farm's ready supply of grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork and poultry, and abundant fruits and vegetables. "Fear of living without a formal job title, the security of a regular paycheck, stepping outside of our educational infrastructure or even the corporate food system. Radical homemakers are pretty tired of all that fear."
Like Hayes, Petaluma resident Laura Howard-Gayeton, 41, also renounced the rat race - she was a TV producer in Hollywood from 1993 to 2003 - to reclaim her rural East Coast upbringing, in which her family grew its own food and earned money through a home-based decorative-herb business.
"A career was expected of me. That's why I got a college education," Howard-Gayeton says. "But my job required spending three hours a day commuting in traffic and eating takeout four nights a week. I was on a crash course to burnout."
This realization put into motion a fortuitous series of events that would eventually bring her full circle, back to the radical homemaking of her youth: Howard quit her job, studied yoga in India and met her husband, photographer Douglas Gayeton, in Tuscany, where he was shooting a PBS documentary on, of all fateful things, the slow food movement.
The couple purchased a 5-acre Petaluma farm in 2004; there, they keep beehives for honey, grow a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables (which they trade with local merchants for bread, meat and poultry) and raise goats - a typically cleaner and less energy-consumptive enterprise than commercial cow dairies - for their thriving organic goat's milk ice cream business, Laloo's.
"We've worked very hard to have a small carbon 'hoofprint,' " says Howard-Gayeton, who also donates her time to Ladies Who Launch, a foundation to help female entrepreneurs. "Doing things that are going to be meaningful to the next generation is such a refreshing change from the toxicity of my life in Hollywood."
Pursuing this kind of redemptive work is typical of radical homemakers. Belmont resident Robin Johnson Simpson, who chronicles her radical-homemaking pursuits on her blog, Frustrated Farmgirl (frustratedfarmgirl.wordpress.com), is laying the groundwork for a home-based soap-making business that sources palm kernel oil and shea butter from fair-trade farmers.
"I get excited when I think about creating a living wage for people in the developing world," says Johnson Simpson, a former fourth-grade teacher who, in addition to concocting such ambrosial soap scents as lavender-chamomile and green tea-bitter orange-mint, homeschools her two young children, volunteers with Akili Dada (a nonprofit that grooms young Kenyan women for a career in politics), tends a bountiful garden, raises chickens and bees, and prepares three square organic meals each day for her family. "When you make the decision to opt out of eating prepared foods, cooking takes time," she says.
The term "opt out" is rampant in Johnson Simpson's speech, further emphasizing the revolutionary nature of radical homemaking.
Recently, her family "opted out" of the daily grind for two months to attend a Christian retreat in Boston ("We had intellectual issues with trusting the Bible," she says); husband Charlie, a marketing director in Silicon Valley, is slowly "opting out" of corporate life (he's suffering stress-related health problems); the couple is "opting out" of homeownership in favor of a smaller, simpler space ("We're still cozying up to the idea of giving up the equity," she says). It appears that the simple life doesn't come easy.
A little perspective
The fact remains that such grand gestures, while admirable, aren't prerequisites for many who consider themselves radical homemakers at heart. Jessica Carew Kraft, a radical homemaker who, like many of the others, harvests her own produce, cans her bumper crops, mixes her own cleaning solutions, drives a hybrid ("Like a good San Francisco liberal," she says) and organizes a babysitting co-op in her community, also happens to have a full-fledged career outside the home as a professor of sustainable design at UC Berkeley.
"We need to start looking at our careers as a sine wave," says Kraft, 32. "We can make a difference in both worlds at the appropriate time in our lives."
She then launches an eloquent, and refreshingly honest, manifesto about the fallibility of radical homemakers who start viewing their domestic actions as a global panacea. "At the end of the day, after you've recycled gray water into your garden, biked to work and washed a hundred diapers by hand, you've done a lot of good for yourself, but have you really changed the world?" Kraft asks. "Radical homemaking can become too self-righteous."
The clarity of Hayes' original vision proves to be a good touchstone for those die-hard crusaders who may, in their earnestness, lose sight of the prize, and even for those with just a passing curiosity about the movement.
"I want to see people free to live by their values, first and foremost, not their fear," says the author. "I expect this will seem less and less outlandish as time goes on."
Read the original article here...
Becoming a counter-culture activist, a review of "Radical Homemakers"
August 18, 2010
I’ve been off line for a while. The summer has been busy with gardens and bees and life. Oh, and there’s that little issue about getting the last of our progeny off to pursue a higher education. Who knew that the third time around would be the most challenging?
Anywho, when I haven’t been involved with the above mentioned, I have been consumed by this new book that I picked up in Vermont a couple of weeks ago, “Radical Homemakers-Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture” by Shannon Hayes.
“Imagine women with masters degrees and PhDs who choose home over career advancement. Imagine wives (and husbands) who reject the false promise of endless paid labor to tend gardens and children and friendships. In a time when Wall Street MBAs-producing nothing of value but rewarded with million-dollar bonuses and blinded by greed-have driven our country to bankruptcy and despair, Shannon Hayes’ stories of women and men who choose simplicity, authenticity and community inspire hope. Outside the boxes of both conservatives and liberals, this book is radical thinking at its best. Read it and think.”-John de Graaf, coauthor of Affluenza and director of Take Back Your Time
WOW- Who was it who said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”? This book continues to open my eyes with every page I turn, and I’m not even half-way through. My favorite line right now is,
What’s the Economy for?
I mean, really, what does the economy actually do? It makes less than 2% of the population filthy rich and forces the rest of us to work in jobs that we really don’t like, 40+hrs/week to live in a house that we really can’t afford to fill up with things that we really don’t need.
If our goal is the pursuit of happiness, then we have taken the wrong fork in the road. It seems that, as the GDP and the average salary goes up, our satisfaction with life goes down. We have become so obsessed with consuming, that we have forgotten how to live. We have become so enamored with individualism that we have forgotten how to socialize. We a