Recently, my students and I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," and our discussions and examination of the historical context of the story centered on the history of the bored/depressed housewife which wasn't a crisis until after industrialization. Before industrialization, for most except the rich, everyone within the family unit had a role in the survival of the family. Women and men alike worked together to grow and preserve vegetables, hunt or raise meat, and clothe the family. After industrialization, migration into the cities, and the rise of a consumer-based middle class, suddenly the housewife's importance became more tenuous, less defined and vital. She was expected to rear and raise the kids (who after the age of 5 spent much time in school), clean, and shop.

Discussing this history, I began thinking about how urban farmers are again redefining the roles of the family unit. My thoughts on this were rather nebulous, but it struck me as interesting how many of us (myself included. My move to Portland was in no way an accident) choose to live in urban centers where we can commute by bike or public transportation while simultaneously growing a kitchen garden, shopping at farmer's markets, and even raise our own chickens and bees. There's an interesting irony in all of it.

That's why I found this article, "The Femivore's Dilemma" by Peggy Orenstein, somewhat resonant and interesting. I'm not really a fan of the term "femivore's dilemma," (It seems to imply "eating women." Ha!) and I hadn't thought about this issue in terms of female empowerment, since my boyfriend and I both work and then come home to build hives and gardens and coops. But when connected to the history of feminism, I find it an interesting part of the evolution/revolution of our culture.

And in a sense, I can relate. Teaching is a vocation of love, but I'm also met by public contempt. Scapegoating teachers for the problems of our public education system seems to be increasingly popular. (See Obama's Race to the Top.) I was laid off last year, and this year, I am working over 10 hours a day as a long-term sub paid hourly (for 40 hrs./week, mind you) with aproximately 170 students and no health benefits or vacation pay. Of course, I'm glad to have work, and I will apply for full time jobs in the hopes of a better economy and a bunch of other hopes (such as a revolution within the public education system). But if it comes to the point where I wallow in under-employment or being overworked for little pay, I will replace that dream with my secret dream: not to be a stay-at-home wife or mom. Rather, to be a stay-at-home farmer.


  1. hmm, i agree, that title is kind of a stretch. i’m a little skeptical of any writer who would refer to chicken-raising female humans as “chicks with chicks” (especially in an article about feminism), and disappointed by any article that affirms the existence of a gender binary (“both sexes”) and presents a heteronormative bias. it seems to me like shannon hayes should've written the article--her quotes are great, especially the one about the necessity of an “egalitarian relationship.” it sounds like that’s what you and your partner have, which is awesome. being a stay-at-home farmer sounds fun to me!

  2. Absolutely! As I tried to articulate, the article seems to reflect (although not necessarily reflect upon) a shift in our cultural sense/defining of home. But I know lots of people who raise chickens, gay, straight, single, married, etc. It's not empowering for merely one certain demographic (married white female). As anyone knows who's eaten a salad they've grown or thrown their one basil on a pizza, it's empowering for all. And a step away from consumer culture.

    Thanks for pointing out those oversights!