I mentioned over the weekend that I was a little too miffed after reading the terribly myopic piece in the New York Times Magazine last weekend, “The Femivore’s Dilemma,” to write about it then. The internets move quickly, but I figure a few days late is better than never. Since my time here is quickly drawing to a close, I figured I’d revisit the piece because it really deserves some ecofeminist deconstruction.
First, the obvious: “femivore” is a dumb word. Why? Because it implies a diet of women. The suffix vorous is defined as “feeding on a specified food.” As I read it in this case, that would be female humans. Did anyone bother to consider that implication? I don’t find it funny word play, particularly since the article largely centered, without irony, on the idea that humans can continue slaughtering female animals and consuming them and their babies. FWIW, Feminist Philosophers also thought the term was problematic.
I don’t even care that Peggy Orenstein calls the article’s subjects “chicks with chicks,” you know? I get it, or I wouldn’t be writing for a mag/blog called Bitch. But Orenstein says some outright classist crap in roundup of the women who choose to build chicken coops, such as this gem:
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.
I don’t know about folks reading this, but I know exactly zero people who can “wax poetic about compost.” I’m a freaking vegan, surely among people who are more conscious/obsessive about certain food attributes and environmental issues, and I don’t know anyone who has time for that! Money is time, and I’m short on both. One reason I can afford to be vegan is that I do it on the cheap: beans, legumes, surplus root veggies, rice by the five-pound bag, and olive oil by the five-liter tin. Sometimes—rarely—I grow my own herbs because at least all it takes is a packet of seeds and some dirt. Figuring out where your food comes from takes time and money, but when you remove certain questionable items from your meal plan, you do inevitably opt out of buying those eggs from battery hens, for example. I think that’s legitimate, since we’re throwing around value words.
Reclamation—especially the “feminist” kind (you can decide what that word means to you in this context)—comes around quickly. We all know this. But Orenstein’s article fails to consider just how bizarre this sort of can look from another perspective—say, an older one. Do any of y’all have grandmas who can’t quite figure out why young feminists romanticize canning or knitting? My grams, Charlotte and Bernice, are 85, and 92 next month, respectively, and frankly, they’re bewildered why hip young gals want to crochet for kicks. Bernice—the 92-year-old one—got her Master’s degree decades ago, put my grandpa through graduate school by teaching, and though she eventually stayed home with her own kids, I think she’d honestly be appalled if I chose to be a homemaker. For what it’s worth, I have several close friends who are stay-at-home spouses/parents—and I work from home, which some people seem to misunderstand and equate with being unemployed or a house spouse—so I don’t have scorn for whatever choice works for you. What does bother me is the implication that something we found oppressive seventy-five or even fifty years ago is now suddenly empowering. Context shifts, no doubt, but aren’t we sort of screwing up our own progress by going back and forth on these things?
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.
Well said, Shannon. Go read her thoughts too because she breaks this crap down so well. Then tell me why you think urban homesteading is awesome, stupid, or the best option we have right now.
I’m a femivore, and I’m having a dilemma, Rurally Screwed
Please disseminate widely about backyard birds, Eastern Shore Sanctuary Blog