15
Mar
10

chicken crisis

Today on the female-oriented internet, people are talking about chickens. On Sunday, Peggy Orenstein wrote a short piece for the NYT magazine about what she calls “The Femivore’s Diemna”. She describes a new breed of housewives and homemakers who are not only gardening, but also raising chickens, canning, root cellaring, and  home schooling. These ladies have found a way to have meaning in their domestic lives through the politicized local foods movement and the manual labor of homesteading without succumbing to the urban family pitfalls of having to spend tons of time at work behind a desk. They have chickens, they have babies, they have time, and they seem to have meaningful lives.

And yet… they don’t really have any money. Not just in a “I don’t get my monthly mani-pedi” way, but in a “my husband brings home the bacon” way. Orenstein’s article talks about urban housewives who seem to be dependent on their partner’s income to help pay for the chickens in the first place. I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I am curious to read the upcoming book “Radical Homemakers” to get a sense of just how these families can afford their swatches of land, and if they have a plan for what will happen if they start to annoy each other in their solar-powered cabins and decide to  part ways.

Not to say that I’m not totally in love with the idea of going back to the land and pickling my own chicken’s eggs. I’d say I fantasize about that very thing about 30% of my time. But the NYT article, and the response to it, point to a conflict in contemporary feminism: women need/can/should work in the world vs. lets rethink and ask the world to value domesticity. Both ways of looking at it are valid, but from what I read in my internet perusing, they are oppositional.

The conflict seems to be a case of revolution vs. reform. Either we need to work within the current system of “having a career” (get a job that brings personal fulfillment, climb the ladder, feel frazzled while having a family) or we need to revolt against that system and reclaim domesticity (have a farm, make jam, raise some babes, hope the roof doesn’t leak).

In an ideal world we could have both. We could honor and reclaim domesticity and still be able to have satisfying careers with enough time to have families and friends and communities. Oh, and chickens too. But feminists have learned over the years that one of the worst mistakes we make as women (or just as people), is to fall into the trap of thinking we can do it all: the chickens, the power suit, the kids, the partner, the whole nine yards.

And so here we are again, looking for meaningful lives and not sure where to find them. Not sure what to give up. Maybe “radical homemakers” have got a good thing going, but maybe those ladies in the city who love their jobs have something figured out too. Its a shame that there isn’t more middle ground in the media coverage about the two, because good answers might be found there for women of all stripes.

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