Casaubon's Book

Poultry is a Feminist Issue?

First of all, may I ask which New York Times editor was responsible for permitting the coinage “femivore” to pass into language. Talk about illiterate (linguistically a “femivore” would be someone who ate women) and uneuphonious – yes, yes, I get that you want to get a Michael Pollan reference in there somehow, but come on… any writer worth her salt could do better than that.

Now to the meat of the thing – the essay, which profiles Shannon Hayes’s book _Radical Homemakers_ attempts to argue that focusing on food has given women a new set of choices.

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.

Femivorism is grounded in the very principles of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment that drove women into the work force in the first place. Given how conscious (not to say obsessive) everyone has become about the source of their food — who these days can’t wax poetic about compost? — it also confers instant legitimacy. Rather than embodying the limits of one movement, femivores expand those of another: feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly. What could be more vital, more gratifying, more morally defensible?

You’d think I’d love this, wouldn’t you ;-)? And in some ways I do, but I’m troubled by it too. It may well be that Peggy Orenstein’s (the Times article’s author) “friends with coops” are taking the first steps in a radical disconnect from their culture of affluence, but it is more likely that they are getting chickens so that their lucky kids won’t have to eat factory farmed eggs. This, in and of itself is not totally trivial – every contribution to reducing the number of CAFOs in this country is a good one – but without larger context, it isn’t an answer to the problem that women have rotten choices. It isn’t a third way if it is only viable for affluent women. Nor is it a third way unless it represents the accomplishment of something meaningful – if it establishes the possibility that others could have the same set of choices.

Orenstein uses the word “precious” here – and I think it may be in her community. Contrast that, however, with the women that Hayes is writing about in her book (full disclosure, Hayes once contacted me about interviewing me for the book, but from one thing and another it never happened) – most of them with household incomes under 40,000 dollars, most of them engaged collectively (with extended family or partners) in a project where everyone, male and female, does a lot of domestic labor. Hayes’ work is about rejecting consumer culture and the assumptions about the “housewifization” of economic activity that make invisible domestic labor, that translate into valuelessness. She focuses on women in _Radical Homemakers_ but finds that the most successful households are the ones that have the highest degree of egalitarianism – that is, what’s radical about it is that everyone involved is working to expand the household informal economy and limit the control exercised by the formal economy. All of this may be true of the women Orenstein knows – but there’s no indication of it in the article.

I have often argued that the version of American feminism that largely succeeded – the one in which freedom was framed in the terms money and the right to work 60 hours a week for someone who times your bathroom breaks – succeeded because it was so very profitable for industrial capitalism. Besides the enormous pool of new workers, it offered new consumers, and created a large market for households to purchase services once done for free by women.

My argument has never been that women alone should have continued to provide these services for free, but rather that it is no accident that parts of the feminist vision that would have been less profitable, like state subsidized childcare, or a truly egalitarian distribution of domestic work did not succeed. It was far more profitable to send everyone to work and privatize the making of meals, the cutting of lawns, the tending of children – and to shift the labor onto the poorest and often least white folks around. Since only the most affluent of us can afford to pay nannies and house cleaners fairly, the equity that affluent women and men achieve often is built on the backs of poorer people who take on the labor that they escaped.

Housewifization of labor renders the household economy invisible, and things that are invisible can be infinitely exploited. Reclaiming the household economy, then, is a radical act. Making the case for the economic and social value of household labor, and making it the valued territory of both men and women does make a major shift in the culture. Refusing to exploit other people – only using the labor of others when you can pay them fairly is a radical act. Reducing your dependence on the industrial economy, your vulnerability, and having a measure of resilience in the face of economic instability is radical. But it only works if what you are doing isn’t precious – if you aren’t just making sure your lucky kids have clean food and contact with clean ground, but that others do as well. It only works if what you are doing is not the recreation of a simulacrum of a household economy – rather like Marie Antoinette’s farm, where she milked cows on a silver stool – but an actual household economy, where domestic work produces a meaningful part of your household economy. And that requires fundamental shifts in how you view your home, your family, your economic and social culture. Otherwise, it is just precious – and empty.

The chicken coop can be a symbol – it takes a service that has been done exploitatively and destructively, and says “I can do this myself, non-destructively and without exploitation.” But it works as a symbol only when you recognize the larger context of the act – the industrial chicken is a legacy of our desire not to know what price is laid on others and on nature to meet our desires, it is a legacy of our sense that the household economy doesn’t have value, it is a legacy of our sense that ordinary and everyday things aren’t important – it is an enormously powerful symbol if you are aware of what underlies it, and live your life in accordance with what it symbolizes. But if all it is is a coop, a way out of the conversation that begins “Oh, do you work?” well, it just doesn’t work.

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Robin
    March 14, 2010

    My family is as poor as church mice, and raise our meat, including chickens. Sometimes it irritates the hell out of me when moms from more affluent families at school, church or the park talk about their 3 pet hens. I really try, though, to remind myself that at least their kids will grow up knowing from which end of the chicken the eggs come out. It’s a start, even though I have to grit my teeth when they tell me they would never eat darling Goldie, Sadie and Little Red.

  2. #2 Jim
    March 14, 2010

    –a “femivore” would be someone who ate women

    I read this article’s title in the NYT and my instant reaction was: “AUUUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!!”. A very short time later my reaction became, “Huh?”.

  3. #3 Stephen B
    March 14, 2010

    Sharon,

    I love how you are always taking your readers and followers to the next level of understanding, and this posting today is another excellent example of this.

    In a way, this essay, particularly its closing paragraph, summarizes why I think that gardening and livestock are such great activities for the under-served, poorer, and marginalized kids that constitute the clients of my employer’s residential treatment center. Of course this isn’t only about women working and being exploited in the formal economy, but about disenfranchised people of all backgrounds and genders, seeing, experiencing, and then living too, a life that says, “yes, I can do this, without being exploited, and without exploiting others or the physical and/or social environment either.”

    Unfortunately, even getting the rest of my organization to see the value of substituting school-grown eggs for the commercial, medicated variety, of helping them see farming activities as beyond something simply to replace the endless McDonalds and convenience store trips our kids suffer, has well been impossible.

    Our agency leadership has very worthy goals for inclusion of all ethnicities in the power structure of life, but they do it by making sure we buy heating oil, office supplies, and other materials from minority and/or women-owned businesses. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that we reallocate our office supply dollars away from companies such as Staples I suppose. And that’s good as far as it goes. As well, my coworkers, but especially superiors, I’m sure, think that it’s nice that kids get to learn where their food comes from, and see that said nourishment is good and can be had without chemicals. Perhaps they even see that it’s nice that some of our food dollars be diverted away from Cargill, Tyson, and ADM given those companies’ abuse of the natural environment (if our agency buyers have ever even given any thought as to where our food supplier *gets* most of the supplies itself.) And of course, all of this environmental and health stuff has been the standard argument of the organic farming and environmental movements for at least a couple of decades now (but movements that are, of course, seen as being dominated by white folk as well.) Still, I suppose coworkers think gardening is very nice just the same.

    I wonder, however, if my coworkers and superiors can see that it’s also worthy to stop sending food dollars to those same companies because of the way they exploit workers, especially women and darker people? It would seem that the powers-that-be that rule my agency and hence our client’s lives simply cannot fathom the deeper understanding, relevance, and social importance these kinds of homestead activities actually being lived and performed by clients, activities folks such as you, your readers, and myself advocate doing, things that you write of here today, things and activities that return power and knowledge to the “under”-classes every bit as much, if not more, than making sure our heating oil is purchased from a minority-owned firm.

    Thanks for writing this important expansion of an important subject, even though I’ve basically been warned not to push this stuff in work any longer.

  4. #4 Nettle
    March 14, 2010

    There are multiple ways that Orenstein’s essay makes me want to tear my hair out (“femivore” not the least of them.) I’m hardly the first to point out the problems with framing feminism as being mostly concerned with the life choices of affluent white women, but it’s sort of rare and special to see it so perfectly exemplified. Now rich ladies have a new choice – hobby farming! yay feminism! I kept thinking of that lady in Connecticut you wrote about a while back, the one who lives completely on food stamps. I’m sure she’d be thrilled to know that she can find fulfillment through chickens.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    March 14, 2010

    … a “femivore” would be someone who ate women.

    Yumm! Such cunning linguistics.

    Just don’t call them “chicks” (and be careful about asking who came first)…

  6. #6 Greenpa
    March 14, 2010

    Maybe the burgeoning suburban chicken coops can morph into the new “Woman’s House” – long missing from western culture… :-)

  7. #7 Brad K.
    March 14, 2010

    Sharon,

    what’s radical about it is that everyone involved is working to expand the household informal economy and limit the control exercised by the formal economy.

    I love this distinction between formal and informal economy. It explains so much to me.>/p>

    So I was a bit confused when you posed Women’s Liberation in solid and unyielding “formal economy” terms.

    My argument has never been that women alone should have continued to provide these services for free, but rather that it is no accident that parts of the feminist vision that would have been less profitable, like state subsidized childcare, or a truly egalitarian distribution of domestic work did not succeed. It was far more profitable to send everyone to work and privatize the making of meals, the cutting of lawns, the tending of children – and to shift the labor onto the poorest and often least white folks around

    I would restate this as “Corporate thinking won, by moving masses of women from an informal economy to the formal economy. Feminism strove to break the barriers to women that were interested in formal economy success. (The world has been a richer place for this.) Corporate thinking changed much of the produce and services of the informal economy – child care, garden produce, laundry and cleaning – into formal economy markets capable of generating coin-based wealth.

    CAFO’s, commercial agriculture farming operations, generally went pure formal economy. There are exceptions to making every choice and decision on cash flow, but they are rather few and mostly confined to smaller operators – I have a neighbor that refused to use liquid nitrogen fertilizer, when he discovered it killed the worms and nitecrawlers in the field. Now gone, his kids have other priorities.

    For those interested in a garden and a chicken or a dozen, etc., I see that as withdrawing from the formal economy where everything has a cash price, to an informal economy where healthy looking kids may be the single “payoff”.

    I was surprised also that you considered state-supported child care to be of interest. Community or neighborhood, shared care, that is what I somewhat expected – an informal economy solution, rather than a state-subsidized, artificially supported, formal economy market.

    I wonder if there won’t be a rising opportunity for people to drop out of the formal economy, as domestic (informal economy) and farm help – for mostly room and board, maybe some clothes and the odd cash “bonus”. This needn’t be an abusive relationship, merely disadvantaged vis a vis the formal economy.

    Mother’s Day is coming in a couple of months. I presume we will again see the formal economy wizards calculate all the vast wages and services that a mother brings to a (well-to-do) family. The problem with this valuation is that it points out – no man needs a “luxury” with that kind of expense tag. That make a wife and family a choice, almost a conspicuous display of wealth. It isn’t. Making a family is a matter of culture, and tradition: basic human needs. I find it much easier to value a stay-at-home Mom in terms of an informal economy. Those riches do not need to be contrived, and don’t distract from real values.

  8. #8 Greenpa
    March 14, 2010

    Robin- I totally know what you mean. I have a story that may cheer you up. Years ago we took on an intern, fresh out of college, who came complete with typical “bambi is SACRED” kinds of outlooks on nature.

    One of her jobs was to help weed the tree seedling nursery. The nursery was behind an electric fence dabbed with peanut butter, to encourage the deer to avoid the place. But, of course, they didn’t, entirely.

    After spending hours on her knees pulling grass and lamb’s quarters, she would come out to the nursery and discover- goddam Bambi had been here, and eaten the tops off of half the beautiful little tree seedlings she was so gently nurturing.

    She stayed on into autumn. And come deer season- she was overjoyed, enthusiastic, and energized, to help gut and haul Bambi’s Mom out of the woods. And found the venison quite tasty.

  9. #9 Aimee
    March 14, 2010

    Well I might just be one of the women the article was about. I live in a semi rural area and for the last three years I’ve been working hard and learning lots about chickens goats pigs and gardening, not to mention cheesemaking, preserving, and other “traditional homemaking” skills. It’s true that I can only do this because of our relative affluence(though I stress relative – we make about 40 g a year) and it’s also true that I was motivated in part by housewife-ennui. I didn’t read the article but still managed to be made to feel small and ashamed. What the he’ll? I’m actually extremely tired of having all my actions and decisions critiqued by some kind of self appointed social arbiter. If my only reasons for doing what I do were the above ones, that would be fine and nobodys business anyway. But in fact I have a plethora of reasons – the same as most of yours, I’m sure: food security, refusal to participate in harmful systems of food production, a desire to eat cleanly and ethically, and to teach mychildrento feed themselves. Personally I feel that criticizing peoples motives is counterproductive. The truth is that if we wantthese practices to become more common, it’s a good thing if they are trendy! People can have any number of reasons to engage in a desirable behavior and I don’t see the point ofsayong some of those reasons are good and enlightened but others are shallow and hypocritical.

  10. #10 Sharon Astyk
    March 14, 2010

    Aimee, I apologize if it was me who made you feel “small and ashamed” – my criticism wasn’t directed at anyone particularly – as I say, I have no idea what the women Orenstein is writing about are motivated by. What I’m criticizing is Orenstein’s claim that this is fundamentally feminist. That is, the thing that I’m criticizing is the idea that this is a feminist gesture taken in and of itself, and without actually providing a critique of social structures, or without an underlying commitment to greater egalitarianism.

    I agree with you that it is a good thing that these things are trendy. I want more families of all kinds keeping house, including with chickens. But while women practicing subsistence activities can be a feminist project, it depends on the motivation and also, how it ties into larger practical projects. My argument is that it is only feminist if it is tied to a larger cultural critique. But I didn’t mean to make anyone feel lousy. I’m sorry.

    Sharon

  11. #11 Greenpa
    March 14, 2010

    A little kerosene to pour on the flames of the gender battles:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/business/14mark.html

    Basically, data that women are better investors than men. All fun. I think they’re leaving out a couple other factors, though, like “gambling propensity”.

    I have none; zero. But I know tons of guys who do. Not sure about women- any thoughts Sharon? Do as many women enjoy the risk of gambling as men?

  12. #12 aimee
    March 14, 2010

    sharon -

    I must have been extra touchy this morning (hormones????).

    I certainly can’t argue with anything you say – of course for some people their food-choices and lifestyle choices are political, and for others they are private. Some people are more political in general than others are. I understand your point, and it has merit, but I don’t agree that a woman needs to be tied to a larger cultural critique to be a feminist. If her choices empower her, then she is empowered, and that’s a feminist ideal. Is it the highest expression of feminism, or of ethical community behavior? No, but that’s no reason to downplay the importance it does have.

    I hope I don’t annoy you too much by resorting to platitudes, but the personal IS political. As Ghandi said (I think it was him) one must be the change one wants to see in the world. If I want the industrial food system to have less power in the world, I try to unchain myself from it. I don’t necessarily have to join a club.

    I guess motives do matter – a woman who farms out of conviction might look exactly like a woman who farms out of near-starvation, and surely their work has vastly different meanings and implications.

    I just bristle at the idea that my choices are somehow less meaningful and my work of less value depending on who I am and why I choose to do it. Some people are vegetarians to save the earth, some to save an animal, and some to save their arteries, but they are all effecting similar positive change.

    Full disclosure: I’m not a vegetarian – just thought it was a good example. Neither am I a “femivore.” You might call me a rather extreme locavore since I produce about 50% of my family’s food on my farm.

    I’m a pretty far-left liberal, but my neighbors are mostly rock-ribbed republicans, and while I may dislike who they vote for, I sure do like how they husband their land and develop close-knit, mutually supportive communities. I just don’t care why people choose to the right thing – as long as it’s the right thing.

  13. #13 Lora
    March 14, 2010

    Eh, I’m with Aimee on this one. Mostly because I am glad they are starting with chickens–chickens, as many of us know, are highly addictive, like potato chips. Taking care of 20 isn’t much more work than taking care of three. Oh, sure, you start out with three Easter Eggers from MyPetChicken.com. But next year you want some more of those cute little fluffballs that go “meep” and wouldn’t brown eggs be nice? Let’s just get a couple of these fluffy-looking Cochins. And the year after that, gosh, one of our EE hens died of eggbinding, and the minimum order from (Rare Chicken Hatchery) is 15, hey, how about some Silkies and Moderns and…

    Have a friend who got into the chickens because it was trendy, and she was making six figures at the time. She started with quail, then went in on a layer hen order with me, and now has a full-blown addiction complete with veggie garden and fruit trees and local milk. Then after becoming unemployed, she was able to keep a little hobby business making cakes out of her egg surpluses. It’s a starting point, and it helps folks ease into an informal economy with less pain, now that her employment prospects are more sporadic.

  14. #14 Claire
    March 14, 2010

    I read the original article, and it grated on me. There is something in the tone of the writing that makes me grit my teeth. It seems in a way to be belittling what Peggy’s friends, and the women in Hayes’ book, are doing. The photo at the top especially adds to that impression, as does the line about waxing poetic about compost. It’s as if Peggy doesn’t really take seriously what the women are doing, as if she thinks they are playing at it rather than attempting something serious and important, for whatever reasons they consider it serious and important.

    Here’s a line from the article that stands out for me: “Is my home the engine of materialism or a refuge from it?” Home as a refuge is the 19th century view of separate spheres: men did the real work in the world, women made the home a place of rest and refuge for men tired from the real work. Home as engine of materialism is the capitalist viewpoint. I don’t think Peggy gets that there are other ways to view the home, for instance as a place of economic production, a place for education, enjoyment, religious practice, and so forth. She’s caught between a rock and a hard place. Hence she doesn’t get Hayes’ point, or those of any of the rest of us who suggest that home has multiple meanings, roles, and functions. The sad thing is that so many other people are caught between the same rock and hard place. To the extent that Peggy’s piece validates for other people that the rock and the hard place are the only options, it’s unhelpful. But other people may not read into it the same things I do.

  15. #15 Brad K.
    March 14, 2010

    Claire,

    Well said.

  16. #16 Rochelle
    March 15, 2010

    I’m with the couple women above who say, “whoa, on the quick judgments.” Yes, I saw and understood Sharon’s disclaimers, but of her critique hits a wee bit close to “small tent” feminism or localism, even.

    I’m new to chickens. My 20 hens and roos– a mix of heritage and standard egglayers– are not quite a year old. I work two half time professional jobs (community college instructor and non-profit director) that were recently cut in half (making them 2 quarter time jobs), so I did have extra resources that allowed me to more easily set up coop and necessary fencing, etc.

    I like to say that I don’t know why I got these chickens. Something welled up inside, and there they were. But that’s not entirely true. I was acutely aware that the privileged life I live on an acre and a half of mostly gardened space severely lacked the animal component of its ecosystem. I deeply believe that the best way “forward” for my own species exists outside of the current system tracks we’re on. None of this knowledge is impeded by my access to some (dwindling) resources or my upbringing in a solidly middle class background.

    Trendy or not, raising chickens is great modeling. And, yes, these damn chickens– all 20 of them– have become instant pets. That was not my intent, but who knew relationships with birds could be so engaging? I will not likely be eating them. However. For the woman above who raised the “pet chicken” issue, I will gladly send her Dude the obnoxious polish rooster for her stew pot.

    Meantime, let us claw a little less at the women in the world who are different than ourselves and whose struggles, gifts, life situations and motivations we truly do not know. Little steps make big journeys.

  17. #17 Sharon Astyk
    March 15, 2010

    Aimee, I think we do disagree on one thing – I don’t think that everything that a woman thinks is empowering is actually feminist. There was an old Onion bit “Women now empowered by every single thing women do” that made this point. I think it is great if women feel competent and powerful raising chickens, but I don’t think it is actually “empowering” in any meaningful sense without the larger context.

    I think Claire may have done a better job than I did of articulating my objections, but I guess what I see as a problem here is the framing of this as fundamentally feminist. I think poultry keeping could be a feminist act, and maybe it could be in a larger set of contexts than I allow. But I don’t think just being a woman who keeps chickens and now has something better to say to the “what do you do?” question really makes the keeping of poultry feminist in any meaningful sense. That doesn’t make it bad, or useless, or unfun, or unaddictive – it just seems strange to leap to the conclusion that there is a fundamentally political social message being enacted here.

    I think Hayes makes a really good case for a certain kind of domestic life as truly political – her book is wonderful. I just don’t think Orenstein gets it.

    Sharon

  18. #18 Dacks
    March 15, 2010

    I read the original article, and it grated on me. There is something in the tone of the writing that makes me grit my teeth.

    Yes, exactly. A good friend posted the link on facebook, and I wanted to comment along the lines that Sharon did so well, but I hesitated to be a spoil sport. There are worse things than to aspire to raising one’s own chickens.

  19. #19 Lisa Z
    March 15, 2010

    I’m going to chime in here with Aimee, Lora and Rochelle. I liked the article, mainly because it described me. Yes, I come from affluence and yes, we’re relatively “affluent” now (also to the tune of 40-50k/year as my husband is a schoolteacher, secure and decent wage but not exactly upper middle…) and yes, that does allow me choices. And thank god it does! I have often said I want to be free to live my grandmother’s life–not all the parts of it maybe, but the part where it was okay for her to, all her life even, be a housewife and take care of the home economy, the people in her home, make sure everyone got fed and on time, etc. For living this lifestyle, I have been called a “kept woman”, have had it implied that I am lazy and not using my education, and more. Well, if the locavore movement somehow justifies my doing what I want and feel called to do, then so be it. I’m glad for it. I know my own reasons behind living this lifestyle, and they are complex just as I bet for all the women/men living this lifestyle they are complex. To imply that it’s “just for the (spoiled rotten) kiddies” is a judgement and it doesn’t apply to me, thank you.

  20. #20 Lora
    March 15, 2010

    I suppose one reason I rather like it is because independence and risk management is such an important feminist issue, one that I feel has really gotten short shrift post-Second Wave. You read the old 1960s-70s era feminist critiques, and they are all about why women being able to be independent and make their own way is so important: It’s for practical reasons, not airy-fairy ideals. Women wanted to be able to divorce abusers and demand some power for themselves in relationships, to be able to care for themselves and their children when the male breadwinner was a jerk-face who was not holding up his end of the cultural bargain. Women wanted to be allowed to earn and manage their own money for their own security and safety, not because of any particular philosophy. And consciousness-raising used to be about learning not only about specific issues, but learning that you had agency and could do this, that it was not rocket science and not magic restricted to wizards only.

    Lots of the post-modern feminism articles I see out of the NYT and its ilk downplay this issue, even though it still has currency–the waiting lists for battered women’s shelters aren’t any shorter, men still leave more widows than women leave widowers, sexism still a problem in workplaces (especially STEM workplaces). And I still see lots of women who are shocked, shocked! when Hubby emptied the joint bank account to go “hiking the Appalachian Trail” because they never thought it could happen to them, and now they don’t know how to manage the household.

    So I am glad they can learn a measure of sufficiency via fashionable pets. Hopefully they can apply that lesson to other parts of their lives, and learn that doing for yourself in general is not Too Haaaaaard and is not rocket surgery and can help you through bad times when no one else is going to help you. Agree that the word “femivore” seems weirdly grotesque and ironic–eating the fruits of women’s work, should we then call ADM’s output a “migranovore” diet? And I hate the smug tone, but that seems to be the characteristic tone of all NYT articles.

  21. #21 TJ
    March 15, 2010

    as much as i usually appreciate your thoughts ….

    i take a huge exception with precious == empty

    i am in fact a father of 2 “lucky” kids (somebody please tell them that)
    and while i was unemployed i built a ….. yes .. chicken coop
    and now we have an egg every other day

    meaning is not created by “well meaning” or paying somebody above “market rates” etc etc.

    I am sure that you don’t consider your own labor empty – getting up every morning to water feed etc. – even if you enjoy it.

    and the fact that there are more hobbyists doing that, enough for “media” to notice makes it all the more significant not EMPTY !
    this hobby is
    BTW i am a father who works all day and deals with chicken(s) every morning
    and my wife stays at home and does not like it one bit.
    both of us wish we could trade places, but alas there is a mortgage to pay….

    TJ

  22. #22 dogear6
    March 15, 2010

    I think Sharon hit the main point when she said:

    “Housewifization of labor renders the household economy invisible, and things that are invisible can be infinitely exploited. Reclaiming the household economy, then, is a radical act.”

    The feminist movement had good things it did for women. One of the really bad things it did though was to minimize our contributions to our homes and families. Particularly rampant was the philosophy that anyone could raise our children and putting them into daycare was the best for everyone.

    Well it wasn’t. Don’t bother blowing back at me either. We sacrificed so my husband could stay home and raise our daughter because my income was so much greater than his. Having said that, my profession demands excessive overtime, loves face time, and thinks a personal life is something you get after retiring – if you’re not alcoholic and divorced.

    It’s hard to maintain normalcy and a good marriage in today’s work environment. This is not unique to my profession either. It was bad enough when our husbands had this kind of mental midget mentality in the workplace, now the women get to have it too! Yahoo. What an achievement.

    Chickens are just a symptom of the bigger problem – our employers want all. In the grand scheme, having or not having chickens is not the issue. The issue is our priorities and how we spend our time and affections.

  23. #23 Sharon Astyk
    March 16, 2010

    I think I haven’t done a good job of communicating my point here – TJ, I don’t think chicken coops are inherently precious – I think affluent women getting out of an awkward discussion about their role by raising chickens is precious. Raising chickens could be feminist – it could not be – it depends on the motivations and acts of the people involved. What bothers me about this article is the idea that merely raising the chickens is fundamentally feminist and radical.

    Sharon

  24. #24 TJ
    March 17, 2010

    Sharon – it may be that I am not reading you well enough…
    I am sure from where you are raising chickens is a non-event…
    Being male and all – I don’t want to argue about the “feminismness” of raising chickens, but radical OH YES

    I am working in a silicon valley startup – writing software.
    And being environmentally concerned in this company is required to get a job, quite literally, but all the liberal tree-hugging – mostly means – drive a prius and change light bulbs to CFLs.

    I don’t want to say “you can’t imagine” – i know you better – you certainly CAN imagine – me telling anybody at the office that I am keeping chickens – RADICAL does really describe what I look like to my coworkers.

    You know, you may be right – quibbling about semantics here – they think me eccentric… weird may be a more precise way to describe it, not really radical.

    So we agree after all
    *big grin*

    cheers
    TJ