Radical homemakers should lead new women’s liberation movement

(24 Posts)
FreyaSnow Thu 20-Jun-13 15:56:55

Hope, sorry, never really answered your question. I think there is a huge benefit to society, children, families and society of women being SAHMs. I have been one myself.

I don't think it is an ideal social setup though, apart from when caring for babies and young children. I would rather see a sustainable society where most people worked part time and then did more work for themselves at home. I do not want to see all the unpaid work falling to women, just because they're at home breastfeeding a baby.

FreyaSnow Thu 20-Jun-13 15:49:24

Having looked at the radical homemaker blog, the woman who coined the phrase has a herd of cattle, sheep etc. So I think she would be classed as a smallholder surely?

My friend has 3 school age kids, runs a small holding (by the legal definition), works full time and does a volunteer position in the evening. So she would presumably be doing all that a radical homemaker does and works for a wage too. That is clearly a very different situation to women smallholders in the developing world who work 18 hour days manuring fields etc where it would be impossible to take on paid work as well.

Whether SAHMs in the UK collectively do more than WOHMs other than childcare, I don't know. Maybe there's some research on it? I dislike the idea that a. childcare isn't valuable enough in it's own right and SAHMs have to justify themselves by making jam, knitting 50 jumpers etc. People wouldn't turn up at a day nursery and demand to know how many pots of jam the staff had made while looking after the kids. I also dislike the whole Steiner feel to this of children should see that adults are constantly working, so you should always be knitting or something.

I think it is extremely important in terms of planning society that people take into account that a. a huge amount of essential work is unpaid, b. it is mostly done by women and c. many women cannot and/or do not wish to combine paid work with young children.

I think radical homemaking is really not the same thing as being a SAHM.

EmmelineGoulden Thu 20-Jun-13 15:06:43

Hope what is that you think a radical homemaker does, or could do that a WOHM doesn't? And how does that benefit the family, the homemaker and society?

EmmelineGoulden Thu 20-Jun-13 14:58:40

I think there can be a lot of benefit to the family. That's why I do it. Our lives are much less stressful and we have a lot more free time because one of us is not at the beck and call of an employer. We wouldn't come close to affording to pay someone to do what I currently do if I went back to work and we'd spend our weekends and evening running around doing chores (like most working parents).

In our case I personally benefit from the opportunity to study that I wouldn't have if I worked, but I also lose out on financial security and (as mentioned above) the satisfaction I got from work, over all for me personally I think it's a slight negative at the moment.

I'm not sure about society as a whole. One thing that radical homemaking doesn't do is pass on wealth to the government to be used for society's benefit - so less money for education, health care, benefits, road and rail network, defence, police, prisons etc. I think society currently fails to acknowledge the huge economic benefit that parents provide to the country by raising children, but that benefit is shouldered if both parents are employed too. SAHP may provide significantly more in the way of volunteering and building/maintaining social fabric, would need to look at that very carefully to get a picture without bias (if you could).

Is the only difference between a WOHM and a SAHM is that the SAHM does more childcare? Other than that, the SAHM is basically doing stuff which the WOHM does in the evenings and weekends, just spreading it out over the course of the day?

Do you (that is a general "you" to anyone reading this, rather than one particular poster) think that there is any benefit (to the individual, family or society) in choosing to be a SAHM?

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 15:09:58

I also don't think it needs a word like homemaker. I have neighbours that rarely work and are fairly self sufficient. They do dry stone walling, weaving etc. They don't describe themselves by any particular word. I think it's more an issue of getting people to stop making the assumption about what people who are not in paid employment do or do not do.

Obviously if you are producing food beyond a certain level you are legally a smallholder.

FreyaSnow Wed 19-Jun-13 15:00:58

I think it's more plausible that if there are continuing problems with the economy, environment and energy that we will return to a pre sixties UK pattern of people being in paid employment and doing more unpaid work for themselves. So people using gardens and allotments to grow more of their own food, making more things themselves and so on. I don't think there should be a divide where all that work is pushed on to people who are not in paid employment.

It can be a positive thing but there could also be negatives to it if the government decided to make it so. If very many people were less reliant on the cash economy the government could do stuff like a garden or allotment tax. They could cut benefits by £80 a month by claiming if you are at home with kids and have land you could be using that time to produce the equivalent of £80 of food each month from a garden. That would seem to be the down side to the radical homemaker argument. If you are doing more for yourself because you don't agree with consumerism then the government can say you have all this time to knit, make logs by compressing newspapers, sew, repair your own house, make jam, keep chickens and grow vegetables so you and your kids don't need as much in benefits to buy food, clothes, pay for plumbers, energy etc.

ithaka Wed 19-Jun-13 14:52:57

If 'homemaking' was so great, men would do it. Frankly, I am not prepared to be shoved back into the kitchen by a bunch of feminists telling me work is a capitalist con, any more than my mum was prepared to be shoved in the kitchen back in the day.

grimbletart Wed 19-Jun-13 14:45:44

It's worth noting too that economic growth is not just about buying consumables and driving to work it's about paying for things we do value such as advances in medical care.

AutumnMadness Wed 19-Jun-13 10:13:04

EmmelineGoulden, I agree that our measure of value is bonkers. I also agree that the corporations have successfully sold us the notion that we need to work, work, work for them to have meaning in our lives. We all could do with less work and more play.

However, the major issue in the industrialised societies is that the main source of income for us is selling our labour. How many of us own farms or businesses where we can essentially work for ourselves AND keep our children around while we do it?

I also don't buy this idea that somewhere in the past there was this magical time where women stayed at home, baked cupcakes and gave their children loads of attention. Women, unless they were very rich, always worked. They tilled the fields, milked cows, fed pigs, mucked out stables, spun yarn, made cloth, sewn clothes, knitted socks, killed and plucked chickens, made fires, and washed and cleaned. And I seriously doubt that in between all this they had much time for creative baking with toddlers. If you really want to find a time in history when people sat around loads and socialised, you've got to go back to hunter-gatherers.

EmmelineGoulden Wed 19-Jun-13 07:52:38

Sorry scratch the " I could be a part of a movement to push for a" in the middle of the last paragraph.

EmmelineGoulden Wed 19-Jun-13 07:51:10

I think she has a point about how we measure the success of countries when she points out things like:
"[we value] an economic model which applauds “growth” even if that’s an increase in the sales of prosthetic breasts because more women have breast cancer."

And "“Getting dressed in clothes you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.”

The way we measure the wealth of countries is pretty screwy. If two nations lived exactly the same except one nation ate all its meals as takeaways and the other nation ate all its meals as food cooked from scratch at home, the takeaway nation would look richer. A country in which families swapped babies during the day and paid each other to do their childcare would have a far higher GDP than one in which young children were looked after by a SAHP. One way swaps services for cash and so increases GDP, the other way doesn't and is completely ignored. It's the quality of life V standard of living argument.

I think the standard of living argument has won out over the last couple of decades despite continual lip service to "well-being" and I'm pretty sad about that. I'm not sure how much of that is what has been mis-sold to us by a corporate world desperate to skim the cream off and how much of it is that people genuinely get a lot out of being employees. I'm a SAHM and despite having the opportunity to do all sorts of things for myself )like study a degree purely out of interest) as well as increase our family's quality of life, I really miss work. However, I have been thinking a lot lately about the way men near death are said to say their biggest regret is spending too much time on work and not enough with their families. I don't think it's clear cut.

I am unconvinced by the idea of leading social change by having women championing a "radical homemaker" route - it seems like it would entrench gender roles and it seems to push a particular approach to life which not everyone wants. I could be a part of a movement to push for a I also think there's a lot of nostalgia for bits of an imagined past in the idea that isn't realistic. It's a bit Good Life lite. I'd rather see more pressure to make all jobs family friendly and increased social expectations on men to do the "wife-work".

AutumnMadness Tue 18-Jun-13 22:53:31

Sorry, I don't get the idea of radical homemaking or the author's argument. I can see the argument that people (men or women) who perform unpaid/volunteer labour over and above the normal upkeep of the household and children such as caring for disabled relatives or volunteering in the community should receive work-related benefits such as pension contributions. I can see the argument that everyone, no matter what they do, should have a financially secure old age.

But the only difference between me and a homemaker (if I had a severely disabled relative, I would probably be a "homemaker" too) is that she/he does 40 hours a week more childcare. She/he choses to spend time with their children and make jam, I and my husband choose to make dosh. Nobody pays me or my husband anything special for all the childcare, cleaning, cooking, gardening, DIY, hobbies, and even occasional community work that we do.

FreyaSnow Tue 18-Jun-13 12:58:58

No, I'm not saying that. But people divide their time up differently. Somebody who does stuff that a SAHM does during the day might do it at a different time of day if they are out at work.

So the SAHM is sitting around doing f-all during "school hours" in that scenario? hmm

Have you even read the article?

FreyaSnow Tue 18-Jun-13 10:17:35

If you have school age children and you work within school hours, you are effectively doing the same at home job as a SAHM. Just as somebody who works in an office all day and then leaves to work evenings in a bar does the same job in the office as all the other office workers.

See I'd disagree with that because if I paid someone to look after ds (ie arranged childcare) then they would definitely not be doing the same that I would be doing as a SAHM, either with regards to looking after ds nor as far as the "homemaking" (or whatever you want to call it) is concerned.

It's not just about housework.

Marcheline Mon 17-Jun-13 21:02:18

Sorry, I can't open the link because my phone is playing up. But I'd really like to read the article and will do as soon as phone stops being in a strop with me.

Marcheline Mon 17-Jun-13 20:55:53

Hope surely the difference is, the WOHM has to arrange childcare for her children while she is at work, while the SAHM is the childcare?

The women have to do the same amount of washing, cleaning, sorting out piles of random stuff that accumulate at the bottom of the stairs, they have the same weekends (assuming the job for WOHM is mon-fri) but one of them goes to work and the other is at home with her children?

I've been a SAHM and a WOHM. I don't think going to work devalues what I was doing when I was at home. They're different but each has its challenges. Simply being a woman has its challenges, whatever job I'm doing.

But then what do you call someone who doesn't work (paid, job-type work I mean)? How should they define themselves if you're not going to let them have "homemaker"?

It will v. quickly come back round to WOHM (I'm going to use M rather than P because we're specifically talking about women here) does everything that a SAHM does as well as having a paid job, which sort of by default devalues what a SAHM does, doesn't it?

Surely there must be something which a SAHM does which a WOHM doesn't or can't do? They're not the same but one has a job, are they?

grimbletart Fri 14-Jun-13 16:28:17

I have a lot of sympathy for her concept of home work being valuable and undervalued. And I take her point about a lot of women's work worldwide is not classified as work. However, she seems to think that most of us would not work unless we were in thrall to, or manipulated by capitalism and 'things', which is to over simplify situations and people.

There are some of us who work/worked because it's satisfying, stimulating, challenging, life-enhancing and the money is definitely secondary. The fact that we (generic we) work/worked does not mean we are not homemakers as well. The two are not mutually exclusive.

That was a very interesting article, thank you for sharing smile

PromQueenWithin Fri 14-Jun-13 14:25:31

I think its interesting. I also note that she doesn't name the 'they' that want us to consume and define everything in traditional economic terms. Who are they? All together now...

Article in the Irish Examiner today

Does she have a point? What do you think?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now