Most ridiculous word I heard this week: "femivore." The concept seems to be that you keep a backyard garden and chickens, but you're rich and don't have to so it's a big hairy deal.
So why is "fem" in the name? My grandfather had a beautiful and extremely functional urban garden. He taught me how to garden there, and every time I visited we'd go and kneel in the dirt and pull weeds and fix bird nets and harvest what was ready. There were rows of tomatoes in the backyard, string beans crawling up the side of the house, berries in the summer and squash in the fall. My grandfather loved good food and was not rich, and he gained both pride and practical benefit from that garden. My grandfather was also a man.
"Fem" is in the name, as far as I can tell, because this isn't just food gardening; this is food gardening as practiced by housewives. And it's assumed like some law of goddamn nature that the stay-at-home parent will be the woman, and women have no choice and just have to come up with ways to cope with that. (There's a woman in the article expressly bemoaning the fact that mean people think being a housewife is a "choice.") It's also "fem" because somehow this is considered the feminine separate-but-equal replacement for work, where the ladies will tend the garden and household while the men take care of the real money job, but it was phrased in some way that made it sound totally novel and feminist.
There's a lot of talk too about how these women are supermothers, because mothers who just raise the kids and keep the house clearly aren't doing enough. Femivores are enriching their children's education and their diets in ways that show what losers plain old moms are.
I never thought I'd see the day when "he goes to work, I raise his children and also some chickens" was seen as a feminist narrative.
My other question is more like boggled amazement that something can be a "trend" article and get a cutesy name when it describes the way 90% of the human race has fed themselves for the last 11,000 years. Billions of people raise chickens, but most of them don't do it for the green revolution or to convince themselves of their feminine worth; they do it for protein.
And why did people stop raising chickens in their backyard? Because they didn't have to. Chickens are noisy and dirty and take a lot of work. When people realized they could have someone else raise their chickens so they could devote their time to something more interesting and just buy eggs, this was pretty much the beginning of civilization. And me, I'm a big ol' fan of civilization. Getting my eggs in nice rows in cardboard containers isn't a degradation of "natural" egg-gathering, it's a goddamn blessing. You can pay 20 minutes' wages for a two-week supply and get on with your life.
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.
Will we still be allowed to use metal tools?
And more to the point, who will make those metal tools? Presumably the class of people who don't get to play pioneer lady for fun. People who never had to whine about not having enough chores. People who don't have a big empty fertile backyard. People who do the math about what it would really take to support their family entirely from the backyard all year (It's pretty clear the "femivores" still go to the supermarket) and realize they have to get a real job.
Living in a deliberately inefficient manner, and being all self-righteous about it, is kind of a "fuck you" to people who are living as efficiently as they fucking can just to get by.
Not that the femivores should be living off freezer-pizza out of sympathy or something; if you want a food garden and can afford it, hey, it's fun and it'll make delicious food. Just don't kid yourself that it's something more than a hobby. What bothers me here is not the actions but the justifications, the attempt to make gardening somehow more righteous than jogging or Book Club. You're not a "femivore," you're not changing the world, and you're sure as fuck not liberating women. You're just a gardener.
Raising your own food: lovely, either as a hobby or a necessity. Writing insanely sexist and privileged "trend" articles about how it's news when rich housewives do it: bleh.
The word "femivore" bugs the shit out of me because (if we assume it follows the same pattern as carnivore and herbivore), it should mean SOMEONE WHO EATS WOMEN.ReplyDelete
There must be a more clever word for the housewives-who-grow-veggies phenomenon, but I can't think of one. If it was gay men instead of housewives, however, I'd call it FAGRICULTURE.
You're not a "femivore," you're not changing the world, and you're sure as fuck not liberating women. You're just a gardener.ReplyDelete
Fucking Christ, thank you.
I grew up on a farm. If you're actually trying to sustain a family on it, it's a lot of fucking work, especially if we're being all enlightened about it and rejecting Evil Industrial Items--like tractors. Farmers often work ten-hour days or more, extremely strenuous manual labor, and that's with modern farm equipment. It's not something you can do and still have time to do your book club and your spa and your play-dates with the other Environmentally Correct mommies and all the Quality Character Building time you're supposed to be spending with your offspring.
And chickens are noisy, disgusting, and peck your legs and hands when you try to get in their coop.
A backyard vegetable garden is a lovely thing, but the people who pretend they're going to feed their families with it and that it's SO ENVIRONMENTALLY AWARE make me want to beat my head against a wall.
"who these days can’t wax poetic about compost?"ReplyDelete
Ooo! Ooo! I know the answer to this one: everyone I know can't wax poetic about compost! Where are these people FROM? (rhetorical: it's Berkely. Out where I live, they fertilize, not compost, and it's usually nasty pig manure or a much more horrible-smelling rendering plant byproduct that smells like the white liquid at the bottom of an undercleaned trash can spread across hundreds of acres, and if you can wax poetic about it you need a jacket with wraparound sleeves.)
"It was an unnervingly familiar litany: if a woman is not careful, it seems, chicken wire can coop her up as surely as any gilded cage."
Yep, here's the real secret of the whole thing. Life is an unending series of traps for the really hardcore feminist; she may be trapped doing what she wants without strugging against the Establishment at all. Raising children been considered a rewarding career by most for almost all of history; how much magic was fertility magic? Gardening was a major pastime of nobility. Even raising chickens has been a hobby for some for a long time, though I have trouble understanding it. If a woman happens to want these things, she has to find a way to define them other than "I like doing this". Thus, "femivore".
Without the chickens, my sister-in-law lives like this with no excuses or redefinitions. My brother is not a traditionalist or Christian fundamentalist like me, and she is a liberal from a long line of liberal feminists. But she doesn't need a reason to garden or stay home with their kids beyond that that's what she likes, and she'll spit in your eye if you tell her she needs to justify what she likes.
Living in a deliberately inefficient manner, and being all self-righteous about it, is kind of a "fuck you" to people who are living as efficiently as they fucking can just to get by.ReplyDelete
[...] Just don't kid yourself that it's something more than a hobby. What bothers me here is not the actions but the justifications, the attempt to make gardening somehow more righteous than jogging or Book Club. You're not a "femivore," you're not changing the world, and you're sure as fuck not liberating women. You're just a gardener.
Though, I have to say, I visited my Aunts and Uncles up in Montana last summer, and they keep chickens (the ones that don't get eaten by bears, anyway) and super fresh eggs really do taste better than ones that sat in the grocery store for a week after taking another week to get there.
Perlhaqr - Oh yeah, and so much more so with fruits and vegetables. Homegrown tomatoes are so good and different they seem like an entirely different food from store tomatoes, and home strawberries and blueberries are oh my god sweet and delicious. There's just more flavor in plants that have ripened naturally and been eaten fresh.ReplyDelete
...That said, it's still not a fair trade for my entire career.
Agreed on all points. I have about 2000 square feet of garden and some mongo pumpkins in the back field (no chickens -- I'm allergic, I get an exception -- although I do have rabbits [also allergic to them, so they're there for pets and to give me some pseudo-'farm cred']), so I suppose I'm almost a femivore. Especially given that the constrcution of the word leans much more to eating women than farming at home, and I like to chew on girls now and then.ReplyDelete
We garden extensively and chop our own firewood (hence... the recent Maul Incident), and there's an appeal to the simplicity of working with your hands and having things you had a bigger part in creating than just exchanging paper money for. And we know that the food is clean, organic, ultra-fresh, and OURS. That said, I wouldn't want to be a farmer and work the grueling hours for subsistence levels, and wouldn't want to have a fundamentally agrarian society and pass up lovely things like penicillin, professional football and the Internet. There's a balance.
But it's 80-20 in favor of all that cool internet porn.
Jack - It's just creepy to think that in "a kind of modern preindustrialism in which the home is self-sustaining, the center of labor and livelihood for both sexes," the Maul Incident might have been permanently crippling or fatal.ReplyDelete
Is your garden to the point where it actually feeds everyone, or do you also buy food? (Particularly in the winter.)
Home self-sustaining? I'd like to see their small scale smelters and chip fabs! lol.Delete
That said, growing a small amount of food can be pretty functional and useful w/o too much work. For example, my family would never have the luxury of good spaghetti sauce without our tomato garden.
The same goes for nonbiological equipment. The world would be a better place if one in 5 households had somebody very good at fixing equipment, and willing to share.
Thank you. I've gardened, raised and slaughtered meat animals, canned, pickled and preserved enough food to feed a small army--ie, my children---while working full-time to pay the bills as a single mom and raising kids. It is hard. Backbreaking, too tired to even sit down and cry hard....but it wasn't the new incarnation of feminism. It was just work.ReplyDelete
"Femivore" and the trend pieces surrounding it are absolutely ridiculous. But I have to object a little to what I see as your criticising the alleged "femivore" lifestyle itself.ReplyDelete
"When people realized they could have someone else raise their chickens so they could devote their time to something more interesting and just buy eggs, this was pretty much the beginning of civilization....You can pay 20 minutes' wages for a two-week supply and get on with your life." Well yes, but for many people "getting on with your life" involves a horribly stressful, pointless job and a long commute every day in heavy traffic. So the idea that providing the basic materials for living is just a distraction from the fun parts of life isn't really true for many people. Spend some time doing data entry, or commuting on the D.C. beltway, and the concept of backbreaking labor on a farm starts to sound not half bad. (Although yes, I realize it takes much longer if you try to provide all your needs that way.)
When people switched over to buying eggs in neat cartons at the supermarket, yes there's a reason for that, but there are also downsides they likely weren't thinking about. For one, fresh eggs taste much better. (And so do other fresh foods, so if you're getting most of your food from your back yard, your meals are more flavorful.) And for another thing, if everyone does that, you have a whole generation who's so alienated from the sources of their food, they barely know what a chicken looks like. Anyhow, back at the "beginning of civilisation," not everyone may have raised chickens, but the people who did still lived in your village or tribe. You still had a sense of how the process worked, and could perceive the egg farmers as people much like yourself, not as dreadfully banal working-class types whom you'd never set eyes on. (I'm not suggesting that's what you, Holly, think, but that that's sorta the inevitable result of having all farming activity bunched up in the flyover states.) & it seems to me the hippie gentlemen-farm people are going for something like that, i.e., thinking of raising one's own food as something anyone can do, not as a specialised activity for people who aren't smart enough to write computer code.
"If it was gay men instead of housewives, however, I'd call it FAGRICULTURE."ReplyDelete
BEST comment EVER. LOL
In some ways, I quess I'd be considered a "feminist". A woman can do anything a man can do and should be treated equally while doing it. There's a lot of things I'm not quite sure WHY a woman would want to do but, if she does, have at it. That said, what I choose to do is stay home and raise my keds and, yes, grow fruits and veggies, as of this year. I'd love to have some chickens. Unfortunately, so would my American Bulldog.
I'm sure as hell NOT a "femivore". I'm just a stay at home mom who's kids will eat their weight in watermelon in a 24 hour period. Between the melons, green peppers, green beans, cucumbers and strawberries I should be able to keep these little snackers fed half the day, just from the garden. I have the time, and the space, so it just made sense to plant a useful garden instead of just the flowers I usually plant. That doesn't make me a revolutionary. I'm just cheap.
I don't think I could raise chickens anyway. I'd end up with a yard full of chickens and then a chicken feed budget that would rival the food budget of all the 2-leggers living here so it would be counter-productive anyway.
Screw feminist millitantas. If you want to go save the world and fight shoulder to shoulder with men in a war in a far away country, be my guest. I choose to stay home and raise my family and grow some damn veggies and I don't need a fancy title like "femivore" to do it. In my world, feminism doesn't mean that you need to climb into a jock strap and work on an oil rig to fight the fiminist fight. It just means you get to choose what you want to do and I get to choose what I want to do and everybody should keep their trap shut about where my "place" is. My "place" just happens to be at home raising my family and I'm enough of a "feminist" to punch anyone in the neck that feels the need to comment on my "woman's work".
Lastnightsclothes - I am absolutely not criticizing urban/home gardening. I agree that it's fun, healthy, and delicious. Although I think as a full-time lifestyle (especially since having food won't remove the need for money to pay other bills) it's probably about as fun as the anon above you makes it sound.ReplyDelete
Farm work or data entry? Frankly, that's kind of a toss-up. Is the data entry center air-conditioned?
You still had a sense of how the process worked, and could perceive the egg farmers as people much like yourself, not as dreadfully banal working-class types whom you'd never set eyes on.
Femivores think this more than anyone! When they gather the eggs from their backyard coop, they're thinking of themselves as vastly superior to the ignorant proletariat that works in soulless industrial chicken farming. Their connection to real agriculture is entirely romanticized and dependent on everyone having a rich husband to pick up the slack.
June Clever - feminism doesn't mean that you need to climb into a jock strap and work on an oil rig to fight the fiminist fightReplyDelete
That's fine with me as long as you don't mind if I *do* put on that jockstrap. I agree completely that freedom of choice is the essence of feminism, but it always cuts both ways.
"femivore" should be the opposite-gender equivalent of a "maneater" (which, I was never really sure what that was).ReplyDelete
My last comment was getting way too long, but I still had a bunch of stuff I wanted to say.ReplyDelete
"Who will make those metal tools? Presumably the class of people who don't get to play pioneer lady for fun. People who never had to whine about not having enough chores. ...if you want a food garden and can afford it, hey, it's fun and it'll make delicious food. Just don't kid yourself that it's something more than a hobby."
Well first of all, everyone who gets to make ethical decisions about how their decisions affect the earth/the ecosystem and how to make their lifestyle sustainable is privileged. We live in a very classist society and we've apparently decided that eating Doritos and shopping at Wal-Mart are good enough for the poor. So making fun of privileged people for, LOL, spending more money and working harder in pursuit of an ethical lifestyle sorta misses the point. We should be complaining about the huge numbers of people who can't afford to make these kinds of choices, not about the people who are trying to use their privilege to make a difference.
Anyhow, you can't have it both ways -- you can't claim that farming is horrible backbreaking labor people will realize soon enough that they hate, AND that it doesn't count because you're rich and you're just playing pioneer lady. Presumably most of these people are trying to strike a balance between backyard hobby farming and backbreaking subsistence labor. After all, "real" farmers get to go to the supermarket too, it's not like that's cheating.
Once a hobby gets to a certain point of seriousness and learned expertise, it's no longer a hobby. Raising actual crops and live animals is, like, a real thing, and if it makes up a significant proportion of your life, there's no reason you should have to regard it as a "hobby," just because you're a hipster who used to work in publishing (or something).
Middle-class people who try to do organic-y stuff always seem to face this catch-22 that if they do something quick and easy, like buy a Prius or switch to organic toothpaste, it's mocked as lazy trend-hoppers. But if they make actual sacrifices in pursuit of change, they're mocked as crazy self-righteous masochists. There has to be a way to balance those two things. The fact that some people think hipster farmers are annoying doesn't make our present way of life any more responsible or sustainable.
It's actually the superiority-complex that gets to me, the idea that they're the most creative and awesome people in the world for coming up with the idea of a vegetable garden (like it's something nobody else ever thought of). If they just had a vegetable garden in their backyard, I wouldn't mock, but I'm irritated by the romanticism of subsistence-farming by people who've never done it.
My parents' next-door neighbors are classic hipster farmers, college-educated hippies who work part-time at Cornell University and run an organic farm. They are not hobby-farmers; they are farmers, with an understanding of the realities and challenges of farming in general and organic farming in particular, which means that when they have something to say about either issue, they're coming from an informed perspective.
tl;dr, the problem with self-righteous backyard farmers is that they extend their understanding of hobby-farming to actual farming of the level required to feed a society, and in doing so tend to come up with inaccurate, classist, and frankly ridiculous ideas.
Lastnightsclothes - Again, I'm not criticizing the gardening, I'm criticizing people who talk about their gardens in an oh-so-fancy "this is a big important movement that I just invented" way.ReplyDelete
I don't look down on people who drive Prisuses, I look down on people who think the Prius came with a free licence to sneer at and make assumptions about SUV drivers.
So grow that garden, spend money and time on it, just because it's a privilege doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy it. But when you pose for twee little photographs where you cuddle chickens in your adorable little shawl and perfectly clean untanned unscarred skin, it's a goddamn hobby. No shame in that if you admit it.
To me, fresh food, particularly eggs, does TASTE better than the stuff from the store. That's not enough of a benefit for me to raise the damn chickens myself, though. I keep a kitchen garden, and I love it, but it's not enough to keep me fed. Far from it.ReplyDelete
Funny how what people struggle to avoid becomes trendy when it's not a matter of life and death
William the Coroner
Well, I garden and forage a bit when I can. Partly because if I'm going to work pretty much my entire waking hours anyway, I might as well spend a small part of the time doing something that involves being outside. And partly for practice, so that if civilization collapses or something I won't be completely useless.ReplyDelete
One of the advantages of being both a gardener *and* a forager is that you can tell which weeds are edible, so you get a bit more for your work.
"Jack - It's just creepy to think that in "a kind of modern preindustrialism in which the home is self-sustaining, the center of labor and livelihood for both sexes,"
*** First, let's winnow some of the bullshit out of that article -- the VAST majority of these folks are not self-sustaining, not within their communities and certainly not within their own 'homesteads.' They're not milling grain, making tools or anything like that. Like the rest of us, they're enjoying a hobby, and to some degree (great or small) supplementing their diets with home-grown food. The rest is just posing.
"the Maul Incident might have been permanently crippling or fatal."
*** Very true, but perhaps besides the point -- we don't even have a fireplace, so we're not using the wood to heat our home. Our equation isn't one of fundamental-need-vs.-risk-factor. We have a firepit in the yard, strictly used for bonfires and the drunken carousing about thereof. We just like cutting up our own wood; it's good exercise, and again, gives us a more direct connection (albeit small) to what we're doing, vs. lighting a Duralog, etc. Of course, the Maul Incident could've been just as easily replaced by 'suffered Injury X during the kind of play usually featured in this blog,' or 'Suffered Injury Y while going to the mall to pick up a dvd.' Accidents happen whether the activity is fundamental, transcendental, or banal.
"Is your garden to the point where it actually feeds everyone, or do you also buy food? (Particularly in the winter.)"
*** Not at all --shit, lassie, like I said, it's only 2000 square feet, and my fat ass takes up nearly that much space all by its hairy self. Our garden provides about 20% of our yearly veggies, and the other more emotional/intellectual benefits, that sense of doing it ourselves. But as I said, I wouldn't want to do the self-sustaining household deal -- you give up too much. I just want some of the earthiness that comes with wielding an ax and digging up my beloved potatoes. It's a valid hobby, but no longer a valid lifestyle in our infinitely intermeshed world.
Has no one else noticed that "femivore" means "woman eater?"ReplyDelete
Carnivore = meat eater.
Femivore = woman eater?
I think that makes me a femivore, in a manner of speaking. If you know what I mean.
Actually, the term for "woman eater" is "gynophage". "Femivore" would probably mean "one who has a feminine and/or feminist type diet" ...whatever the hell that would be referring to.ReplyDelete
At the very least it has nothing to do with gardening.
"June Clever - feminism doesn't mean that you need to climb into a jock strap and work on an oil rig to fight the fiminist fightReplyDelete
That's fine with me as long as you don't mind if I *do* put on that jockstrap. I agree completely that freedom of choice is the essence of feminism, but it always cuts both ways. "
Oh, absolutely. If the jock strap/oil rig/18 wheeler deal is your "thing", go for it. If you want to do it all while weraing heels and a ball gown, more power to ya. It's just not my thing. Whatever choice someone makes, it doesn't make them less valuable, or less feminine (unless your choice involves a sex change).
My whole philosophy on life tends to run along the lines of "You do your thing, I'll do mine and as long as you butt out of my business, I'll butt out of your's" which, really, I think is just pretty damn good advice for anyone. People make choices about whatever it is they want to do with their lives and, as long as it doesn't affect my life, or anyone else's, I have no business giving an opinion about it.
What I had originally tried to say was, I think feminism has come to be seen as this woman crusader-male bashing kind of thing when, in my mind, it shouldn't be that way at all. Every person, man or woman, should have the right to choose whatever type lifestyle they want, be treated and paid equally, and don't worry about what other people are doing. By being a stay at home mom and wife and "femivore" I'm not some repressed, submissive woman who is being used by my husband (ok, well sometimes, but that's a different topic). I choose to stay home and take care of my family, just like another woman may choose to fly a plane or work on a fishing boat. Both of our choices are perfectly valid and we should both be free to make those choices without being judged for them.
The whole choice vs idealized 'womyns lives' thing is getting to be a mess and it doesn't need to be.ReplyDelete