My new friend b over at Bitch directed me to this gem, courtesy of the New York Times Magazine. She’ll probably do a better job at taking it apart than I will, but that’s the Internet for you. Titled “The Femivore’s Dilemma” (Michael Pollan is going to haunt me until I die), it lauds these women who are doing the urban-homesteading thing, including raising animals for food, as an alternative to whatever unsatisfactory thing they were doing before. It hurt my head to read all the justifications, but I think the premise is that women who are burned out on working outside the home seem to find a renewed sense of purpose in growing (and presumably slaughtering) their own food. To wit: “The omnivore’s dilemma has provided an unexpected out from the feminist predicament, a way for women to embrace homemaking without becoming Betty Draper.” While I think we can all agree that Betty Draper, though enviable for her wardrobe, is not exactly an aspirational figure, I submit that there is slightly more middle ground than is presented.
Why do I think this? Because I live it. I am a loud-and-proud feminist who works 40 hours a week and can’t grow herbs to save her life, but who happily repurposes old pillowcases into produce bags, buys organic from a locally-owned market, cleans with homemade potions her brilliant husband whipped up, and just this weekend learned to make her own seitan. I do all this without killing anybody, for food or any other unnecessary reason. I may not spend my days working at home—sometimes I wish I could—but I do my damnedest to spend them well. I am not interested in “transforming the definition of homemaker to one that’s more about soil than dirt, fresh air than air freshener.” To frame the choice between working a soulless 9-to-5 or building a backyard chicken coop and learning to can tomatoes as the only feminist options is reductive and insulting. But it gets better:
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?Earning a living wage, I would suggest. But that’s my 78 cents to my husband’s dollar talking again. Or perhaps my latent desire for instant legitimacy. Then I nearly blacked out:
Conventional feminist wisdom held that two incomes were necessary to provide a family’s basic needs — not to mention to guard against job loss, catastrophic illness, divorce or the death of a spouse. Femivores suggest that knowing how to feed and clothe yourself regardless of circumstance, to turn paucity into plenty, is an equal — possibly greater — safety net. After all, who is better equipped to weather this economy, the high-earning woman who loses her job or the frugal homemaker who can count her chickens?BITCH, DID YOU JUST TELL ME TO GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN?! Ahem. I can unequivocally get behind the notion that knowing how to do for yourself is an invaluable set of skills. I’m glad to have a sewing machine and know my way around at least most of it. I’m thrilled I know how to cook. I love DIYing the hell out of anything I can. I can’t change a tire, but I know how to use a can of Fix-a-Flat, which I defy you to tell me isn’t the next best thing. I like to think that I can, as Red tells me the Marines say, improvise, adapt, and overcome. But we’d be shit out of luck if I didn’t have my job, and I won’t be guilted by pseudo-feminist, self-congratulating omnivores telling me their choices are more valid. Life does not guarantee you unlimited choices, and most of us are doing the best we’ve can with what we’ve got. I’m so sick of the false dichotomies being set up everywhere I turn—bad vegan, bad feminist, bad human. I realize I say this from a position of considerable privilege, but get off the cross and improve your own little corner of the planet without getting your half-assed agenda all over the rest of us.
Shit, I got so spun up I don’t have any energy left to talk about the awful irony of “femivores” exploiting the reproductive cycles of other female animals. Someone get on that for me.