October 24, 2012
Categories: Culture, Family, Home, Self

{link:http://www.etsy.com/shop/amyriceart}”Putting Up Carrots” by Amy Rice{/link}

Last week I explored a tiny piece of womens’ history (a seven-inch magazine from 1947, to be exact) and found it full of ideas that have shaped consecutive generations of thought, spilling over into our own. Many of these ideas were rooted in fear, others were reactions to the gender inequality of those times and others still were (quite successful) attempts by businesses to convince women of “needs” in order to “fulfill” them and turn a profit.

There is no doubt plenty of room for further historical reflection in the conversation about creating culture by a truer set of standards (I’m on it), but in the meantime, I want to look at the ways our lives today are being shaped by what is nothing more than a smarter, polished, fully funded and highly specialized version of the same hogwash.

Here’s the thing (actually, two things). One, I can’t fit it all into a single blog post and two, unless you also read the second and third in this series, I risk sounding like a real Debbie Downer (or Beth the Bummer) and that defeats the whole point of opening this can of worms to begin with. So, I’ll commit to making it worth your while if you commit to hanging with me. Sound good?

Awesome. Here we go…

I’ve been making home for 16 years, some prettier than others (both the homes and the years). Inspired by my mom for whom domesticity is not only second nature but a labor of love, and my dad who built and dug and grew daughters right alongside her, I’ve got homemaker in my blood, the fruits of a well-made home as my foundation and enough babies, bills and blunders under my belt to know just how intense it can be to find a balance.

Recently, my world was shaken when I had the opportunity to see firsthand how women make home where abject poverty and racial oppression are all they’ve ever known. This experience took everything I thought I knew about anything, turned it upside-down and shook it out like a weekly sack of food rations.

I’ve since picked up many of the pieces (letting others lie). I’ve racked my brain, shaken my fist and searched my heart trying to decipher truth from falsehood, justify pleasure having seen their pain and most importantly, to determine the most fundamental shift in thinking needed in order that everyday folks who care might use our freedom for the good of all and at the expense of none.

Over the next couple of Wednesdays, I’ll explain why I believe that redefining homemaking is at the heart of this shift, why it hasn’t happened already and offer you 12 essential tools for “changing the world” that have less to do with “the world” than they do your small piece of it.

{link:http://www.etsy.com/shop/amyriceart}”She Thought She Was a Cat” by Amy Rice{/link}

As for today’s topic (how was that for a warm up?) before we explore redefinition, let’s take a look at what homemaking (in the US) has come to.

10 Things Today’s Homemakers (As a Whole) Have in Common

  1. We shop — a lot.
  2. We are stressed — even medicated for it.
  3. We are in a hurry — wherever we’re headed.
  4. We feel guilty — name your subject.
  5. We are uncertain — as to what we “should” be doing.
  6. We have a lot of stuff — but not enough.
  7. We struggle with body image — no matter how “beautiful.”
  8. We think we are falling short — in most every endeavor.
  9. We want things — and think they can fulfill us.
  10. We are impatient — ’cause later might be better than now.

Huh. So, this is what our foremothers fought for? This is what we’ve created given freedom?

Here’s what I wonder: Are these the characteristics we want to define us or do we simply feel helpless to change them?

I’ve got a theory: maybe this is not what our mothers and grandmothers fought for, rather this is what happens when centuries of oppression are lifted and the learning curve begins. When those with profit-driven priorities see an opportunity, take advantage of this learning curve and create a whole new form of oppression in a prettier package.

If such is the case, why aren’t more people talking about it? Because no one knows what the hell to do. Because we feel powerless against systems millions of dollars stronger than we are. Because we’ve been taught to associate consuming with pleasure, stress with productivity and hurry with fulfillment. Because we’ve bought into their notion of beauty, so we keep looking to them to tell us where to buy it. Because to question these things is to question the very nature of our modern social structure and frankly, most people are simply too exhausted.

I know, I was there. And though countercultural in my beliefs, I felt my values slipping in direct correlation with my pace of life.

Having since decompressed from the pace, seen the beast from the outside and gotten some perspective on poverty, I now believe that you and I have way more power in this mess than we’ve been led to believe.

Give me two more weeks and I may just have you convinced that social change is in the hands of the homemakers.

Part II – Homemaking Redefined, from Primitive to Antiquated to Intentional

Part III – 12 Tools For Changing the World (That You Might Already Have at Home)

*Images throughout this series are used with permission by the artist, Amy Rice. Check out these and other one-of-a-kind letterpress pieces in her Etsy store.

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25 Comments

  1. i believe that your right starts with us. ^Im so glad that someone is taking action to a better life

    Reply

  2. Rise up Homemakers of America! (I’m picturing – half-apron, baby in a sling around mama, marching and banging pots with a wooden spatula). Excellent points and I can’t wait for the next part.

    Reply

    • Thanks, Kelly! I am – starting today – trying to be better about responding to comments. I owe you many thanks for all your kind words and support from the start. THANK YOU, my friend! I miss you!

      Reply

  3. Hi, Beth,
    I love your blog and your writing. Your ideas are so inspiring. You also live in Mexico where I am from. Thank you.

    Reply

  4. Lucia Figueiredo

    I really enjoyed what you have said so far, really looking foward to the rest of this series!
    I’m from Brazil (one the countries with the highest economic inequalities), I’ve lived in the US and in Germany (so I know what wealth and excess looks like)and I’ve also worked with forest communities in the Amazon as na human ecologist (where I’ve seen absolute poverty go hand in hand with mind blowing generosity).
    I’m currently a homemaker, full time mom and occasional sling maker/t-shirt printer. I used to struggle with not working to “change the world”, with being priviledged among so much poverty, with beig a housewife. But then I read Radical Homemakers and other blogs (like yours!) started thinking and feeling differently about homemaking, social change, feminism and my place in all of it. Abraços!

    Reply

    • Thanks, Lucia. I look forward to writing the next two! I have certainly “been there” when it comes to questioning whether I was doing enough by choosing to stay home with my kids. I feel more and more confident about this decision as I explore other cultures, interestingly enough. I’ve yet to read “Radical Homemakers” but it’s on my list. Abrazos a ti!

      Reply

  5. Hi Beth – thank you for this! I’m so excited to follow your thoughts over the course of the next two weeks. I’ve just started following your blog and honestly, this is the first time I’ve felt compelled to comment on a blog. Any blog. Any time. So thank you for this – and the perspective SHIFT you’re helping create the world over.

    Peace!

    Reply

    • Wow, Ariane. That is a true complement! There are few things more satisfying than offering my truth and knowing that it resonates with others. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts after two more weeks!

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  6. Thank you! This is SO refreshing and needed! Your paragraph that begins “If such is the case…” toward the end is probably the most succinct and pointed summary of what is going on today in America in this regard that I have read. It is so true–what is often mistaken for apathy is simply exhaustion. Thank you for taking the time to write this and share it. I greatly look forward to your upcoming posts and to figuring out how to find my place–and be proud of it–in this puzzle. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Thank you, Emily! I truly appreciate your kind words of encouragement and look forward to crafting the next two. Good luck in finding your place – it may be closer at hand than it seems!

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  7. Um, I LOVE this! Not bummed at all! And cannot wait to see the 10 steps! I’m with you!

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  8. Hmmm…good stuff!! I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

    I’ve been struggling with homemaking, feeling the push/pull of the desire to be home with the kids, but feeling lost in figuring out what to do and my place in the world. My mom stayed home with us when we were little, but went back to work just as soon as she could. She took good care of us, and the house was always clean (as far as I could remember), but there was no joy in the homemaking…having a family was just another chore. She loved us as she knew how, but I want to do better…to bring joy to my work. Most days, though, I just feel overwhelmed by acedia. There is something more, though, something that my soul is striving for. I’m on a path and I can only see one tiny step in front of me (sometimes…sometimes I can only see behind me). Somehow I stumbled onto your blog (recently). What a blessing to find new thoughts to think, new ideas to ponder.

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • Thank you, Sarah, for your kindness but mostly your honesty. I, too have to work hard to keep the homemaking (and motherhood) from feeling like drudgery even though I can see it for the sacred thing it is. Connecting with like-minded mamas (even in this weird modern way) certainly helps me keep perspective. One day, one moment at a time is all I can or care to handle! Best to you and yours.

      Reply

  9. just started reading your blog, have found it to be so brilliant and inspiring. Thank you

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  10. Beth, I am really looking forward to the rest of this series. I realize that much of the subject deals with the oppression of women in particular, but I hope you will keep in mind that not all homemakers are women, just as not all feminists are women. I work a full-time job while my husband stays home with our daughter. We have both noticed how foreign the stay-at-home-dad concept is to most people, even those who seem otherwise progressive. I am a big fan of the strong, modern mama and aspire to be one. However, the strong, modern dad (and male homemaker) should not be overlooked!

    Reply

    • I totally agree. Sometimes I find it hard to speak to so many issues at once while also being sensitive to every person or group I could be speaking to. For this reason, I mostly just write from my own experience. I know many AMAZING homemaking dads, have absolute admiration and respect for whatever variations work from one family to the next and appreciate your addressing this point, because as you said, stay-home-dads are no less important, deserve more credit and ought not be overlooked. Thank you.

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  11. Hi Beth!

    Thank you for putting much of what I feel so eloquently into words. I’m only bummed because I want to read the rest of it now, not over the next 2 weeks. My husband and I also strive to be citizens of the larger world first.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply

    • Thank YOU, Molly – I so appreciate “meeting” fellow world citizens! I, too, look forward to continuing the dialogue.

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  12. PLEASE…. keep writing this. I’ve been chewing on this for awhile, but am not living the countercultural end of it all yet and I too am beginning to feel my values slipping slowly. I’m so tired of fighting, that I think I am allowing them to slip. Wisdom…. share it!

    Reply

  13. A comment and a criticism (keeping in mind that I enjoyed the post):

    First the comment. Your list of 10 common homemaker traits is the same list for many non-home-makers. Think of all the people who feel stressed, guilty, busy, etc. The ‘rushing around being busy to feel acoomplished’ you talk about is almost universal.

    Now the criticism. I wonder why you take an us vs. them stance to the whole issue of why your psychology is how it is. Like I said, your feelings are practically universal. While it’s possible that women may be the target of propaganda style media, that can’t be the only source of stress. That would also conflict with the fact that LOTS of non-home-makers feel the same way.

    I guess I just don’t like the heavy ‘victimized’ angle. If you don’t like the images portrayed in the media and think they’re fake, then believe in your gut that they’re fake. Create your own idea of what is normal and healthy(we all agree that what’s shown on TV shouldn’t be normal and probably isn’t healthy).

    There is an interesting discussion to be had around the media’s affect on our lives. I think that younger people are more vulnerable to the media images, but adults can be susceptible to them as well. You just have to remember that you’re living your life and you can decide what is right for you. The media portrayal of being a mother is just one way you can do it. There are countless other(better?) ways.

    Sincerely, a fan.

    P.S. Please don’t be insulted by my criticism.. I was just hoping to provide a new angle for viewing our problems. I love your blog.

    Reply

    • I do hope you will keep reading. I think you will find my perspective to be far from that of a victim as I further explain my thoughts. Thanks for your honest reflections!

      Reply

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