Rise of the Femivores and Radical Homemakers

I've been writing all week about how to get started raising chickens in your backyard, and the pageviews have been flying, one of the biggest weeks of visits for the blog ever. The idea of raising chickens and building chicken coops is tapping into some cultural zeitgeist that goes beyond the obvious benefits of producing your own eggs.

New York Times Magazine takes a stab at describing the trend in an article titled, The Femivore's Dilemma.

Four women I know — none of whom know one another — are building chicken coops in their backyards...All of these gals — these chicks with chicks — are stay-at-home moms, highly educated women who left the work force to care for kith and kin. I don’t think that’s a coincidence: the omnivore’s dilemma has provided an unexpected out from the feminist predicament, a way for women to embrace homemaking without becoming Betty Draper. “Prior to this, I felt like my choices were either to break the glass ceiling or to accept the gilded cage,” says Shannon Hayes, a grass-fed-livestock farmer in upstate New York and author of “Radical Homemakers,” a manifesto for “tomato-canning feminists,” which was published last month...

Femivorism is grounded in the very principles of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment that drove women into the work force in the first place. Given how conscious (not to say obsessive) everyone has become about the source of their food — who these days can’t wax poetic about compost? — it also confers instant legitimacy. Rather than embodying the limits of one movement, femivores expand those of another: feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly.

This paragraph sounded oddly familiar with some of the changes we've been making but we still have insurance and carry no illusions of returning to preindustrialism.

Hayes would consider my friends’ efforts admirable if transitional. Her goal is larger: a renunciation of consumer culture, a return (or maybe an advance) to a kind of modern preindustrialism in which the home is self-sustaining, the center of labor and livelihood for both sexes. She interviewed more than a dozen families who were pursuing this way of life. They earned an average of $40,000 for a family of four. They canned peaches, stuffed sausages, grew kale, made soap. Some eschewed health insurance, and most home-schooled their kids. That, I suspect, is a little further than most of us are willing to go: it sounds a bit like being Amish, except with a car (no more than one, naturally) and a green political agenda.

The author of the article concludes with a reflective moment;

After talking to Hayes, I rushed to pick up my daughter from school. As I rustled up a quick dinner of whole-wheat quesadillas and frozen organic peas, I found my thoughts drifting back to our conversation, to the questions she raised about the nature of success, satisfaction, sustenance, fulfillment, community. What constitutes “enough”? What is my obligation to others? What do I want for my child? Is my home the engine of materialism or a refuge from it?

Those are great questions that represent much of the conversation we're having on this blog. Any femivores and radical homemakers out there? What do you think?

(h/t Rod Dreher)