Radical Homemaking and Feminism

One of my devoted readers sent me a link ages ago that I only just now followed. Why did I waste so much time? It’s was an article in Yes Magazine by Shannon Hayes called Radical Homemakers and it is so, so right on with everything I believe. I went immediately to her site by the same name. The site looks pretty new, not much to it yet. But she’s got a book that I am wetting my pants to read. Oh boy! I do love me a good book.

If you’re reading this blog, you will love her article. I’m not going to lure you with any clipped word-bites. Just go, do it. I don’t want to see you back here till you’ve finished. And I don’t mean computer-blurry-eyed scanning either. I mean, R.E.A.D. it.

Now. Yesterday I read an article from Jen’s Dark Purple Moon, Green, Feminism and Class, asking why so much of the work of greening our lives is put on women, and how is a feminist supposed to feel about staying home and washing nappies. I spent a lot of my day yesterday processing. I had a great upwell of thoughts/ideas/feelings in response, but I’m having trouble putting it all into words. My gut tells me that housewifery is feminism. I mean, of course feminism as we know it falls somewhere between tolerating and abhoring the housewife. But my kind of feminism would honor, even revere the housewife, who after all does some of the most important, challenging, beautiful, rewarding and potentially revolutionary work in the world.

I feel that housewifery’s fall from grace is a true sign of patriarchy working covertly inside our brains.

Instead of wondering why we women often end up as the ones having to do the dirty work, we could see it as that we strong and amazing women choose to change the world by devoting our lives to the home front, and our loving and supportive (hopefully) partners do the boring day to day background work of bringing home some bacon.
Does our society support this idea? No. But, as revolutionaries, do we need a majority appeal?


17 thoughts on “Radical Homemaking and Feminism

  1. I went and read it. And I’m going to go read it again later.

    I think she’s articulating exactly what it is I am trying to do, but I’m also struggling with the other half of my brain that thinks what I’m doing is under appreciated semi-slavery.

    I think I should read it several more times.


  2. Awesome awesome awesome link thank you! Sharing it around now.
    As for how I feel as a feminist about staying home and washing nappies (some in the machine right now)? I wouldn’t change it for anything.

  3. Ok, little more hero worship here CJ, but only for your words. I’ll drag that link up to the top to be read later, because ironically I have got to go get nappies off the line and put wet washing on!

    Hope you’re having a great start to the week. I’m only blogging once in a long while, just trying to stay caught up!


  4. As I said, I think a big part of the problem is that looking after children and the home is not valued financially or by society.. And for me feminism is about making an informed choice, without it being forced in either direction.

    I also struggle to put things into words about this and I don’t think I have got it right in my post and I think it is one of those things, which for me, is constantly redefining!


  5. Shannon’s book is really exciting for anyone who wants to lead a life of purpose and meaning that is not fueled by consumer culture. That it focuses on the home seems to just go to show that the biggest place of loss in our culture in terms of purpose and meaning is the home (where we all live!) and there is such deep exploration of feminist theory because woman seem most split by the idea of purpose (but men clearly are too…and that same separation from the home seems to be a possible root)

    Your blog is great, I found it searching for others who have seen Shannon’s work. It’s a quick read and a great inspiration. I don’t have kids yet, and I don’t know that I will, but the home is an extremely important place to start with our relationship with the wider world sans kids, urban or rural.

    I look forward to more discussion of her radical homemakers idea here (and see mine as well if so inclined)

  6. i “gave up” organic farming(which i believe is a very imortant career though incredibly underpayed) to be a stay at home mama and I still feel I am doing the more important work now.

    Each day I am teaching myself more “homemaker skills” and I love it! I chose this and am relieved to be finding more women that feel and live this way not out of biblical or societal pressure but because its as or more important than any other career out there…..

    thank you for sharing this link!

  7. Wow! This perfectly articulates something that I have always instinctively felt and tried to follow, obstinately at times, as it has been looked down upon by a great proportion of society and esp. within my own family, as I knew it to be the most important thing that I could do.

    Creating a loving household that supports and nurtures itself and in doing so, society and the world. A microcosm of the macrocosm one loves and believes in – mother earth.

    Thank you, sweet relief!

  8. hiee…wow!
    i loved it….m doing a research on homemakers and this makes me feel so good!
    cant wait 2 read the book!

  9. What you are all struggling with is the heavy dose of propaganda you have been fed by your culture. Be careful with that. Education is meant to strengthen your ability to think for yourself . And liberation is meant to free you from forever seeking external approval.

  10. Hmm, sorry ladies but Feminism has nothing to do with self determinism. One of the stated goals of second-wave Feminism in particular was the destruction of the nuclear family and the illgitimaizing of the housewife. I hear this all the time on a thousand different blogs: “I’m a housewife but I’m still a Feminist.” With all due respect, have you studied and I mean actually studied Feminism? It was not started so that women could determine their own fate in life, carreer or home. Contrary to popular belief- it was started to get women OUT of the home and in the work place and if you don’t believe me, go research what the Feminist foremothers had to say on the subject of housewifery. It’s not pretty. I mean, have you actually read the Feminine Mystique or the Second Sex or anything by Dworkin or de Beauvior? You can not claim to be Feminist and then dismiss the very real demands and aspirations of the women who made it what it is today and they didn’t intend for women to still be housewives. May I ask, why is it so important for you to be indentified as Feminist? Please question any inkling that makes you feel that in order to be pro-woman and pro-equal treatment for women that you MUST be a Feminist. It’s not true.

    “I feel that housewifery’s fall from grace is a true sign of patriarchy working covertly inside our brains.

    Oh, really?

    “[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.” ~ Gloria Steinem

    “[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.” ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963

    “A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism…the [housewife’s] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable…. [W]oman’s work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a ‘career’ for woman.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949

    “[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed…. No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir, “Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma,” Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.

    “Feminism was profoundly opposed to traditional conceptions of how
    families should be organized, [since] the very existence of full-time homemakers was incompatible with the women’s movement…. [I]f even 10 percent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young…. If women disproportionately take time off from their careers to have children, or if they work less hard than men at their careers while their children are young, this will put them at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis men, particularly men whose wives do all the homemaking and child care…. This means that no matter how any individual feminist might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking.” ~ Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA, 1986.

    1. I’m confused by this comment. All of your references are dated at least 25 years ago. Do theories not evolve? Do cultural movements not change and develop with time? Do you really believe feminism is some stagnant thing constructed in the mid 20th-century and existing still, unchanged, unresponsive to emergent cultural forces? Nonsense. Early feminists were also elite white women. Non-white, poor, uneducated women were absent from mainstream feminism – though they were speaking, they were not heard. Entire swaths of women were silenced in the movement. I believe it is safe to say that the feminism to which you refer is archaic, was responding to the particular cultural context of the day, and serves only as a foundation for what has developed today. Read some bell hooks. She’ll rock your world. Read “No More Separate Spheres” (ed. Davidson & Hatcher). Read something about modern feminism. Please.

  11. Oh, and before anybody can slap me with the “You are probably a woman-hater with no girlfriend” please know that I am a very proud non Feminist woman.

  12. I believe that women have worked for choices, not the prison of a job out of the home that does not suit, not the responsibility of all meals, laundry, grocery shopping AND half the income while we’re at it. Choices. Over a year ago I left my financially comfortable job to build a life at home on my farm, with more time for food and my kids. Life is harder – but MUCH MUCH better. And I justify it by saying that every day I am given a choice – an opportunity to be the person on every side that I want to be and not who society tells me I should be. I too was blown away at reading Shannon Hayes’ ideas – not new anymore I know – but still such a comforting voice in the world.

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