Wednesday, April 28, 2010
how my chickens made me a feminist
I have never called myself a feminist. It seemed silly to me to allow all the women who came before and fought the good fight down by not taking full advantage of what I had. No point naming it or drawing lines in the sand, right? I can learn what I want, work where I want, live where I want, vote for what I want, fuck who I want, I have kids if I want, not have kids if I want...
This isn't to say I wasn't an angry girl. Until recently, I was pissed. I didn't do "injustice" well, or quietly. I loved my riot grrrls. I fought back every time and without out pause. I surrounded myself with good, strong people, women and men, who probably consider themselves feminists. I still did not.
I was at the market the last week during the middle of the day, which is unusual for me. (Ash and I generally do the shopping together.) I had wandered a little aimlessly, puttered about the garden section, picked up a movie we didn't need, put back a bra I totally did... When I checked out something else unusual happened. The checker asked me if I had the day off work. (and he also carded me for those three bottles of wine and the one bottle of Belgian beer...sweet, right?)
"No, I don't work." I replied.
He looked a little confused and embarrassed, handed me my receipt and said,
"Well have a nice day anyway!"
Huh? Anyway? This made me remember a text that I received from a male friend just a day before. He asked me if I wouldn't feel better if I had a job and "lessened the burden" on my family. Huh? I'm a burden? I immediately sent the text to Ash who laughed it off and called the guy a dummy. I asked the kids if they thought I should go to work. My oldest responded, "only if you want to". My daughter said, "who would do everything"? My youngest son, "Why?". These responses set me at ease. My daughter was right. Who would do everything? I make our daily bread, I grow our food, I do our laundry and hang it on the line, I clean the bathroom, I make the meals from scratch (almost every single night). I make most of our decisions in regards to daily life. I do these things because I want to. Everyone helps out. My kids don't have assigned chores. We have a "do it" rule. If you're asked to do it, do it. I don't care whose turn it is, I don't care who did it last, work that out between yourselves and go do what I fucking asked. It works really well. They are responsible, mature, hardworking kids. Well...except Ethan. He's a clown. Are they going to get the wrong idea about women because of the amount of work I do in the home? No. I don't think so. They know I do this by choice. They know mommy can be whatever she wants and she chose to be self-sufficient.
I was bringing in the recycle bins from the curb when my neighbor came out to get in her car. She waved and said, "Isn't that mans work?". To be honest I was dumbstruck. I hadn't heard anything so overtly stupid and sexist in a really long time. To hear something so wrong come from a woman, a mother, who considered herself a successful business owner was sad. I know you may be thinking it was innocent and she was just kidding, blah blah blah. This is my story not yours, shut up. I regretfully said something equally stupid back to her, "well, I guess it depends on when you want it done." What the fuck did I just say? See,I know that my husband walks right past those recycle bins without thought because he knows Elliot will bring them in when he gets home from school. I would normally leave them out myself. I was only doing it because I happened to be out there. I thought I'd help him out. Did I say any of this to her? NO. I implied that my husband was incompetent and I was shouldering the burden. He didn't seem as disturbed as I when I told him. I am pretty certain he called her a dummy and made a lurid joke about mans work. I didn't really let it go. It got me thinking about these jobs, these boxes that still exist and why.
I was cleaning the chicken coop yesterday. I had fed them some snacks and I was happily scooping the poop from the hen box and tossing it into the compost when I realized I had it all. I at that moment realized that up until then some part of me had felt guilty for staying home. They were all right. The guy at the market, my dummy friend who called me a burden, the neighbor and her "mans" work, the women of my life who had asked when I was planning on going back to work for a decade before they finally got the hint. I didn't feel I was contributing. I felt guilty for not being a better Capitalist!
All along I had thought this was a Womans issue but it wasn't at all. It was a conformity issue. Deep inside I felt I wasn't doing the things current society dictate I should be doing. I hadn't realized I had found ways to deal with it, this guilt. I wasn't writing so I started cooking, I wasn't sculpting so I started growing, I wasn't seeking out your attention and approval and I started to breathe. My half done stories were playing out complete amongst those clucking, bitching, soothing chickens. Every poem I had scrapped was wrapping itself around the pea teepe's. The music was there too. It was the dogs tag as he jumped the asparagus bed, a cat landing on the rain barrel. I was taking care of myself. I was taking care of my family. I found what I need to do this now. I am not a consumer. I am a woman. I am...sigh...a feminist.