Category Archives: Feminism

Radical homemakers vs. radical housewives

This post was first published on May 20, 2010, but is relevant today because a search for MY book, “The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century” might lead you down a different path. And we wouldn’t want that!

 

Book Kitchen

Here’s the cover you need to look for, kids! Just for fun, I took this picture in my messy kitchen. Told ya I’m a housewife, not a homemaker!

 

A note from one of the publishers at the Minnesota Women’s Press reminded me of my long-delayed intention of talking a bit about a fellow Radical Shannon out there: Shannon Hayes, she of the Radical Homemaking book and series of articles in Yes! magazine. I appreciate her ideas (for the world needs MORE radical Shannons in it, not fewer) but she and I have totally different practices and goals.

Hayes’s subtitle is “reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture.” As a committed pinko, I like anything that questions the status quo. Capitalism exists to make us all desperately unhappy sheep. The short term consequences are increased L’Oreal and Bud Lite sales–long term consequences are entrenched classism, racism, and sexism.

Hayes’s book site states that “it is the story of pioneering men and women who are redefining feminism and the good life by adhering to simple principles of ecological sustainability, social justice, community engagement and family well-being.” Elsewhere, she writes: “in essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.”

And that’s where we part ways.

It starts with the word “homemaker,” one that I have always found problematic. How does one MAKE a home? I haven’t a clue. Is it by washing the floors? Baking from scratch? Quilting? Gardening? Reading bedtime stories? Nurturing relationships? I clean my home. In the interest of sustainability, I recycle and compost like a maniac, carry my cloth bags with me, bike it up, etc. etc. But I don’t think that keeping a coop of chickens or canning the beans from my garden is the way towards a more just world.

For one thing, “rekindling the home fires” implies turning inward, reaffirming the family as the basic unit of society, just like the folks at the Christian Coalition. Now, I don’t know if Shannon Hayes is religiously motivated. But once you start turning inwards, towards a unit that looks like you, talks like you and thinks like you, you start getting out of touch with the complex systems that conspire against the people who DON’T look like you!

Feminism is about fighting oppression in all its forms. That means we must work outward, not inward. This is why I must place Radical Homemaking on the Mommy Wars spectrum, despite its fine intentions. Examples of Radical Homemakers, the author included, have only been well-off, highly educated white women.  “The Opt-Out Revolution,” anyone?

A discussion on the subject at Bitch led me to the blogger Vegan Burnout, who wrote: “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.” It’s easy to choose your choice when you have so many choices to choose from that when you do choose, your choice is automatically THE BEST ONE! It’s the Opt-Out argument from 2003 all over again.

So why did I pick the Radical Housewife moniker, then? Because I find the word “housewife” really funny. That’s why. When I’m asked to fill in the box marked “occupation,” I say I’m a writer and an at-home parent. The damn home can make itself for all I care.

Sorry, Radical Shannon. I just don’t buy it (anti-capitalist pun intended).

 

If YOU’RE in the mood to buy, why not get a copy of The Radical Housewife from these fine retailers? 

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s 

Your local indie store (via IndieBound)

 

Why doesn’t she leave? Only she knows

This post was originally published in 2012, but is being revised and reposted because not much has changed in the world of victim-blaming since then. My thoughts are with Janay Rice and her daughter Rayven, both of whom are in even graver danger today than they were a few months ago. If I were the praying kind, my knees would be worn out for them.

 

I love my feminist sisters and brothers, but they aren’t perfect.  Feminists can be power trippers, backstabbers, and my-shit-don’t-stinkers as much as any other segment of the human population.

That said, there are certain ground rules that are accepted when one claims membership in The Feminist Club.  They are so mind-numbingly obvious that I feel idiotic even replicating them, but here they are:

Feminists who’ve had abortions are not called “baby-killers.”

Feminists of color are not called racist slurs.

Feminists who are rape survivors are not called “sluts.”

Feminists who are LGBTQ are not called any homophobic/transphobic insults.

We gird ourselves daily against this disapprobation from the general population, so we should understand that when we are in a feminist space, we will be safe from this kind of garbage. It follows, then, that this is also a Feminist Club Ground Rule:

Feminists in abusive relationships are not called “weak,” and/or shamed publicly for what they are going through.

Yet it happens, and much more often than you’d think.  WHY?  Marie De Santos, director of the Women’s Justice Center, an advocacy group in Sonoma County California wrote this in a piece called “Why Doesn’t She Leave?”
why the glaring blind spot in regard to domestic violence victims? Why are women denied even the validation of the dangerous dynamics of her dilemma? Why do so many people still hold a view, as cloaked as it may be in paternal tones, that is more in sync with the perpetrator’s stance than with the victim’s? 

Why, indeed. There was a time, I admit, when I did think that the first thing an abused woman should do was leave. She should walk out, call the cops, get one of those restraining order thingies that I thought solved everything. There was also a time when I didn’t think that women could be raped by their boyfriends.

I also spent a portion of my life believing in Santa Claus.

What happened? I listened, I learned, I grew the fuck up. Despite our gut feeling that a woman in an abusive relationship “needs” to leave, she might have good reasons for not going anywhere.  Statistics tell us that the victim is actually in the MOST danger when she is in the process of leaving–and 76% of women killed by their abusers had been stalked prior to their murders.

On December 28, 2011, the author, entrepreneur & blogger Penelope Trunk posted a photo of the bruise her husband gave her.  Naturally, it went viral.  Four days later, she responded: “I’m absolutely shocked by the collective hatred and disdain for women who are in violent relationships….for some reason, people feel it is honorable to rip a woman to shreds if she is living with domestic violence.”  She also declared, in no uncertain terms, that she is staying with her husband. A cursory glance at her blog in 2014 shows that she hasn’t changed her mind.

I think I wouldn’t…..but I don’t know for sure. If I were Penelope’s friend, though, I’d let her know that she had my support whenever and wherever she needed it. If she showed interest, I’d help her create a detailed and thorough safety plan. Penelope isn’t keeping her abuse a secret, obviously, but other women might want to, so I would be absolutely certain that I didn’t expose my friend’s situation without her permission. After all, the consequences of breaking the silence would be borne by my friend, not me.

Reality check: 30% of women homicide victims were killed by their intimate partners.  

If you aren’t sure about how to react to a person’s story of domestic violence,  don’t judge. Listen. Answers will reveal themselves, one story at a time.

 

TO LEARN MORE:

F YOU NEED HELP: The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

 

10 things this feminist is afraid of (and one she’s not)

 

1. Heights

2. Centipedes, or as they’re known in our house, “creepy crawlies”

3. Elliott starts college in four years and our measly savings will only pay for his first calculus textbook

4. Cancer

5. Smiling with coffee grounds in my teeth

6. Holding a book event on October 9 in Minneapolis that no one attends but my mother

7. The check engine light

8. Any suggestion that “General Hospital” might be canceled

9. The steady erosion of reproductive health care access around the country

10. My children enduring physical and/or emotional harm

 

BUT!

One thing I am NOT, repeat NOT afraid of is…..

 

Afraid to be SAHMS

 

….being a stay-at-home mom. I’ve been one for 14 years. I’ve been a feminist even longer. Of course I write a little, including a new book that is now available in print from Powell’s or Amazon , but my primary gig since the year 2000 has been stay-at-home momming.

Feminism didn’t scare me away from anything.

I await the opportunity to appear on Fox & Friends to provide a thoughtful and only slightly vitriolic rebuttal. Booking agents should write theradicalhousewife at gmail dot com.