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? 


Barnes & Noble


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.



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



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.


The Hobby Lobby debacle, in other people’s words


I’ve written that health care discrimination is wrong.

I’ve written that we need a goddamn Equal Rights Amendment already.

I just can’t bring myself to write anything more, so the Official Radical Housewife™ reaction to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. will be brought to you by people and organizations with the ability to react while in the throes of a massive, never-ending headache.

I am grateful to them.




download (3)













My son and #YesAllWomen


Last week my firstborn, 14-year-old Elliott, informed me that a group of girls at his middle school were (and I am quoting him directly here) “causing a fuss about #YesAllWomen.”

I was delighted, shocked and confused at the same time. Ever since the Isla Vista killings on May 23rd, I’d been mulling over how I was going to talk to my children about the latest mass murder to occur in the good old USA. I even started a blog post about it that bore the long-winded title “I know I should talk to my kids about Isla Vista but I don’t know if I can.”

Why the hangup? You try telling your third grade daughter about the ubiquity of gender-based violence. You try telling your keenly logical Asperger’s son about the misogyny that fuels so much of said violence–because this is what he will say:


And that is exactly what came out of Elliott’s mouth when he explained how uncomfortable the girls’ fuss made him.

Asperger’s tends to produce thinking that is black/white, good/bad, wrong/right. To him, the fact that HE has never committed an atrocity against women or girls in his life PROVES that “not all men.” If that is a FACT, and really and truly a FACT, then it MUST be brought to everyone’s attention.




Please do not read the above and think that my son is an unfeeling robot on autopilot, as current stereotypes might lead you to believe. In fact, he has an extremely tender heart, a characteristic not usually attributed to Aspies but should be; the Aspies in my acquaintance (and there are many) may flounder with the finer points of social etiquette but they are loyal and loving when it counts. I remember well how Elliott’s already pale cheeks whitened several shades when I explained the Newtown shootings over a year ago.* CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT IN SCHOOL, his mind raced. CHILDREN WERE NOT TO BE SHOT AT. WRONG WRONG WRONG. I think that the detachment some see in spectrum people is really just terrible confusion and anxiety at a world that isn’t easily categorized as they would like.

The “fuss” that the girls were causing involved writing down some of their favorite #YesAllWomen tweets and posting them on the walls of their school. I thought this was fan-freaking-tastic and told him so.

“But it made me feel bad,” Elliott said.

“Why?” I said.

“Because I don’t do that stuff,” he said.

“I know that,” I said.

“But posting all that makes me think that I’m like that, but I’m really not,” he said.

I sighed. “And you felt like you had to tell those girls that you were NOT ALL MEN, right?”

He looked bewildered and more than a little embarrassed: did his mother actually know what happened on the internet?!!




I found an excuse to take him for a walk around the neighborhood, as I’ve found my kids do their best thinking when active. We must have gone back and forth for at least 30 minutes before I stopped him on Park Avenue and asked, “Elliott, have you ever made fun of someone just because she was a girl?”

“No,” he said immediately.

“Have you ever made fun of a girl’s clothes?”

“Why would I do that?” he asked.

“Have you ever called a girl a slut?”

He looked like he was going to throw up. “No way,” he said.

“Have you ever hurt a girl? Physically or mentally? Have you? HAVE YOU?” By now I had my hands on his shoulders and I was staring directly into his adorable hazel eyes.**

“NO!” he shouted, so loudly that I’m sure the neighbors heard.


2014-05-18 16.35.53


He made a face like the one above (taken in response to the lousy defense in the first quarter of the Minnesota Lynx home opener), took a deep breath, and….


We hugged. It was amazing. It was beautiful. I have a feeling it will go down as one of my favorite parenting moments, ever.

Which is why I am blogging it and sharing it with you, and with the Elliott of the future when he Googles his mother’s name.

Elliott, if you are reading this, know that I love you and I am so proud of the boy you are and the man you will become.

Thank you.





 *it sickens me that I must have this conversation every few months. GUN SENSE NOW!

 **seriously, he’s the cutest boy in the world



The complicated feminist sisterhood


This clip is one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas:


My own sister and I love to sing it whenever the opportunity strikes–and strike they do, for she and I have the typically complicated relationship that the song describes.* We love each other as much as we hate each other, and we are as alike as we are different.




Here we are on Good Friday 2012, with my kids and her daughter. Our expressions are EXACTLY THE SAME. My son has her green eyes. Her brunette daughter looks like I did when I was a first grader, right down to the banged haircut.

Yet we are so different sometimes it’s hard to believe we can relate, much less be relatives. As I write in my new Minnesota Women’s Press column:

My sister and I look so much alike that often people can’t tell who’s younger and who’s older. They assume that my elegant and fashionable sister, who looks like she stepped out of InStyle magazine, must be more mature than the woman who’s wearing scuffed Doc Martens well into her 40s. As a born introvert…the idea of joining a group called Women in Networking makes me break out in a rash, but my gregarious sister has built a thriving real estate business on the connections she’s made there. 

I can’t tell you how horrible I would be at selling real estate, as it requires smiling at and talking to strange people all day. The only strange people I like are my husband and children. But as her sister, I am very proud of her and her work, so if you’re in the Twin Cities and need a good realtor, call her up. She’s good!

Now, let’s talk about that OTHER sisterhood of ours…




Above is the graphic that was created by the Nation for their infamous piece “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars.” If you didn’t read it in January, I will summarize it for you: “feminism is supposed to be a sisterhood where we all get along in our pursuit of a common goal, and if you don’t agree with me, it not only hurts my feelings, it hurts The Movement!!”

I am really tired of people acting like it’s a BFD when self-identified feminists don’t get along beautifully. Again, from my column:

The relationship I have with my biological sister is among the most complicated in my life; why should the sisterhood of feminists be any different? 

I admit that I’m more than a little glad that my children are different genders, born five years apart: there isn’t an automatic cultural assumption that they will get along, nor is there the belief that if they don’t then there is something TERRIBLY WRONG with them.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a couple of people in a family, let alone a few million in a social movement.

But there’s hope!

When I realized how different my sister and I really were, I had to relax many of my expectations about our relationship, but I didn’t love her any less. I learned that sisterhood is strengthened when it has the opportunity to prove its resilience. 











 *”when a certain gentleman arrived from Rome, Leah wore the dress and Shannon stayed home!”



Our Mother’s Day gift to each other: economic security


Minnesotans, this post is for you. If you live in the other 49, though, don’t worry: the economic security of women, especially mothers and caregivers, is a big deal for you too! Study the work of the Minnesota Coalition for Women’s Economic Security and see how its strategies can be applied in  your state.




The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (MNWESA), which I have written about before, needs to clear one more legislative hurdle before it can be signed into law. After being hashed out in conference committee, the bill needs a new vote in both the House and Senate.

If you’re like me, you’re thinking: “Big deal! They passed it once, they can pass it again, right?” WRONG.

Today one of my colleagues in Minnesota NOW sent me a dire e-mail: “[Senate DFLers] are getting pressure from the business community to oppose the provision protecting caregivers from workplace discrimination. Without their vote, the bill might not pass the Senate. Please….CALL OR E-MAIL NOW, even if it’s not your particular Senator!  They need to hear from MN Constituents. They need to hear from YOU!

I am happy to report that my own senator is firmly in the YES column, so today I emailed ten others:

Tom Bakk: via email form

Terri Bonoff:

Bobby Joe Champion:

Melisa Franzen:

Vicki Jensen via email form

Lyle Koenen:

Ron Latz: via email form

James Metzen:

Ann Rest: via email form

Dan Sparks:


The good people behind the coalition to pass MNWESA provided a template which I amended for Radical Housewife readers. Since many of you are mothers, I know you need protection from workplace discrimination more than you need a bouquet of tulips on Sunday morning. By putting in just a few minutes of work today, you might get both!

My Mother’s Day gift to you is giving you the names and addresses above and the message below, one that can be easily cut, pasted & customized.  And that darned header is so cute!






Sunday is Mother’s Day, that day when Minnesota moms like me are honored for the hard work we do for our families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

This year you have the opportunity to honor us with a gift that will last longer than brunch and flowers!

Moms, and the people who love them, want equal pay and equal opportunities to contribute to Minnesota’s economic prosperity.

As a Minnesota mom, I urge you to support the common sense provisions included in the Women’s Economic Security Act:
• Expansion of unpaid family leave and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees
• Greater participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work
• Improved enforcement of equal pay laws
• Protections from workplace discrimination based on being a mother
• Support for women dealing with the economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault
• Expanded opportunities for grandparents to pitch in and use earned sick time to help care for grandchildren
• Serious consideration of more options for increased retirement security

We moms hear every Mother’s Day that mothering is the most important job in the world—here is your chance to prove that you agree! Minnesota moms need you to vote “yes” on the Women’s Economic Security Act!




Your Mother’s Day gift to me? Posting in the comments that you did it!





Living family values with a liberal majority



If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my love-hate relationship with the Democratic Party. Though the party tends to be where those on the liberal end of the political spectrum end up, there are far too many in the party whose loyalty lies with power and influence, not actual, honest-to-gawd ideological principles. Heck, back in the Obamacare Battles of 2011, I wrote not one, not two, but THREE posts in a row raging against the colossal idiocy of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But I am veering away from my point, which is this: Democrats who actually vote for LIBERAL social and economic policies are giving me hope! HOPE, DAMMIT! It’s like they read my aforementioned blog posts and pondered the question I posed, namely:





Here is what they are doing: last week, my state Senate passed the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (MNWESA), a kickass package of bills that take on some of the biggest barriers to women’s physical and economic safety. Among other things, the bill would (and I’m quoting directly from the MNWESA website here):

  • Increase the minimum wage to $9.50 
  • Expand unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 to 12 weeks 
  • Add pregnancy to the Minnesota Parental Leave Act 
  • Allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to use paid leave to obtain services 
  • Expand unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault
  • Require private businesses with more than 40 employees that have contracts with the state of $500,000 or more to ensure and state compliance with equal pay laws
  • Increase reimbursement rates for child care providers participating in the Child Care Assistance Program


That is some serious family values in action there. That’s going to immediately affect sick kids, poor kids, vulnerable kids, endangered kids. It’s a huge start towards making workplaces more family-friendly. And friendly families create healthy, functional kids. And happy, safe kids make our communities better places. WIN-WIN-WIN!

Meanwhile, three years ago, the first Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature in two generations spent all of its political capitol on amendments attempting to ban same-sex marriage and restrict people from being able to vote.





What’s next? The House and Senate need to hash out a few differences in their versions of the bill, which they’re doing in conference committee today. I wonder if our governor will sign it?

I’ll give you a hint: here’s what happened in 2013 when the NEWLY Democratic Minnesota legislature gave him a bill THEY wrote that would legalize same-sex marriage:




He not only signed that bill, he did so in the middle of a big ol’ PARTY!

THIS is what happens when liberals LEGISLATE like liberals–just like Shirley Chisholm did.








Ten years ago, we marched.


Where were YOU on April 25, 2004?

I was in Washington DC with my mom, my sister, and over a million of my friends.




In case you can’t see me in the crowd, here’s what I looked like ten years ago:




My hair was shorter and my middle was smaller, but I was just as passionate about reproductive justice as I am today.

Actually, I may be even MORE passionate, as almost exactly one year after this picture was taken I gave birth to my second child, a girl. It crushes me a little bit that our massive march didn’t make it possible for Miriam to be born under a Kerry administration, but I do know that day made a difference. As Zoe Nicholson has discussed in her books and speeches (much more eloquently than I ever could), no one who attends a march like this comes away untouched by it.

I can’t wait for the next March for Women’s Lives, whenever it may be, for I know that I will be there with my own daughter. And with my son! And maybe with you and your kids.

Should we start making plans?




Getting to know your friendly neighborhood feminist



Recently I met with a friend who had just finished reading my manuscript and wanted to give me her feedback.

(Whaddaya mean what manuscript?!!  THIS ONE. The one that’s going to be available in both digital and analog form later this year.)

Unlike my oldest friends, who have known me ever since I was a ranty Bratmobile-blasting young feminist, and my activist friends, who know me as a ranty radical housewife and mama, this particular friend and I met in circumstances in which my feminism wasn’t front and center.  She admitted that when she learned that I was the president of Minnesota NOW, she panicked a little and wondered when she would say something to offend me.

Isn’t that funny?  A liberal, south Minneapolis Obama voter worried that she’d be snarled at by an Angry Feminist! Even one who had the not-very-P.C. job of housewife!

Really, is there anything terrifying about this weirdo at the March for Women’s Lives, April 2004?




On second thought, don’t answer that.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that this friend not only liked the book, she felt that it laid out a pretty good argument about how feminism is relevant and important not only to ranters, riot grrrls and radicals but to all parents everywhere.

As I write in my introduction:

Beyond the white picket fence that surrounds Focus on the Family, the American Family Council, Concerned Women for America, and other groups coalesced around “family values,” things aren’t all that great.  If American families were valued, schools would be fully funded and kindergarten bake sales abolished.  Childcare workers would be paid six figures.  Men would clamor for mandated paternity leave, eager to gain the respect and recognition that comes with dedicating time and energy to the diapering of a newborn.  Health care would be a right, not a privilege.  Safe contraception would be available in your grocery store or gas station.  Pro-lifers would direct their considerable resources towards the health and education of post-born children instead of fussing over two-celled blobs in petri dishes or worse, the wombs of sentient female adults.  

Damn!  That’s good stuff.

I can’t wait for you to read it yourself.  I want you, YES YOU, to be among the first to know when The Radical Housewife is available from the good people at Medusa’s Muse Press.  To that end, I am setting up an Official Radical Housewife Mailing List™ and if you’ll kindly share your e-mail address with me I promise to use it only in the service of REDEFINING FAMILY VALUES FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.  I will never give it to a third party, no matter nicely they ask.

What are you waiting for?

Subscribe to The Radical Housewife mailing list!

Thank you!