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.
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
- We shop — a lot.
- We are stressed — even medicated for it.
- We are in a hurry — wherever we’re headed.
- We feel guilty — name your subject.
- We are uncertain — as to what we “should” be doing.
- We have a lot of stuff — but not enough.
- We struggle with body image — no matter how “beautiful.”
- We think we are falling short — in most every endeavor.
- We want things — and think they can fulfill us.
- 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.
*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.