Chicks With Chicks

I love the feminist blogs. Really, I do. I have a selection in my google reader that I read everyday. They are fantastic for pointing me to articles that interest me and for shouting "bullshit" at the correct moments. However, I can't deal with the finger wagging about what makes a good feminist and for outing the anti-feminists. It's a little too Spanish Inquisition for me.

14fob-wwln-t_CA0-articleLarge On Sunday, the New York Times had an article about women who are raising chickens and have embraced the organic food movement whole-hog. While chickens gross me out, I've been warming to them. I've been following Susan Orlean on Twitter, and she makes chickens sound cool. Those who have been able to really embrace the movement are stay-at-home moms.

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

I've written before that the new foodie rules are hard on working moms. I've been able to do a better job on this stuff only because I'm not teaching this year. Others, who are more organized and have more support than myself, are able to do both. I'm a SAHM, who is trying to write when she's not getting distracted by the blog. Since I've been home full time, I have increased the difficulty level of cooking and food preparation and the kids. Because otherwise, I would lose my brain with boredom. 

Am I a bad feminist? I don't really give a shit. Do I think I'm part of a big movement that is challenging traditional feminism? Absolutely not. Am I making the most of a sub-optimal situation? Yes.

For more on the debate over this article, read Amanda Marcotte and Elizabeth Nolan Brown.


24 thoughts on “Chicks With Chicks

  1. The problem with this is considering chicken raising any kind of a hedge or money-producing measure. Everyone who price it out knows that chickens cost a lot, making those eggs very very expensive.
    People keep chickens as pets. The chicks with chicks I know love their chickens. It’s a pet that doesn’t live inside the house, doesn’t require a lot of cuddling, and does provoke allergic reactions in people who have allergies to fur.
    The bigger question, of how women who have time (left over from the job they don’t have) and sufficient support (don’t spend all their time taking care of their children and the necessities of home) spend it. Cooking better, cleaning better, organizing better, decorating better, scrapbooking, blogs, art, etsy crafts, photography, chicken raising, gardening, blogging, school volunteering. . . . are all examples. Can any of those things become income producers? Only rarely, and when they do, they require a different kind of time investment, one that would take away from the family demands that attracted the moms them in the first place.

  2. I’m normally not a huge fan of Marcotte, and there’s some things I’d pick on in her article, but in general I think she’s right. She’s especially right that, while the photo is sort of pretty, it’s also ridiculous.

  3. My mom, a former farm girl (not at all nostalgic about farm life), would say they’re a bunch of crazy, bored housewives playing farmer because they can afford to. Myself? I say go for it if that’s what they want to do. I am not sure if they will still have a chicken coop in the backyard in 10 years, but for the time being, why not?
    I engage in a number of different homemaking activities. I love to cook with fresh ingredients, compost and, when I can find the time, garden. But I know, without even trying, that animal husbandry is not my thing. I have a friend who has gradually added into her already stressed life of family, pets (3 dogs, 1 cat) and work (she owns a business and works 7 days a week), two goats, a flock of Banta chickens, and two rescue colts. It sounds like the constant management of food, manure, animal shelters and pet hairs. Not to mention getting up at the crack of dawn to do all this and staying up late to finish. And no vacations (hard to find friends willing to take on the chores). No thank you.

  4. Goats are great prizes for a raffle. To get something that everybody wants to win, you usually have to get a very expensive prize. To get something that everybody wants somebody else to win, you can just get a goat.

  5. I agree with Amanda Marcotte, there is more than a whiff of Marie Antoinette playing peasant in the NY Times account of rich housewives playing at farm wife.
    I love organic food and I love to cook (I don’t sew nor do I scrapbook) but really, I have no desire to play peasant girl. According to my grandma, whose mom was born and raised on a farm, rural girls who had the choice to go to town or city fled in droves. My great-grandma moved to the nearby town and married a postman. There’s a reason for the saying, you can’t keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree. Most of these women in the NY Times article would be screaming for the city and a nice latte after a day as a real old-fashioned farm wife.

  6. I largely agree with Marcotte, too. This article is a CLASSIC NYT Style’s piece. The author knows of three people doing something, so it must be a huge movement. Eyes rolling.
    What irked me about the Marcotte piece was her judginess of SAHM. She doesn’t like them and doesn’t really get them. Rich, bored, bitches. I really hate it when women pile on other women.
    I’m sure that few can make any money doing this chicken stuff and it’s not really doable for most people. I’m pretty sure my town has ordinances against raising chickens in the backyard. I also don’t have room for a porch, nevermind a chicken coop. But I don’t get the hate on women who do this stuff. Good for them, I say.
    Off topic. I just got library access at the local community college. Yay. Geekgirl has access to JSTOR.

  7. What irked me about the Marcotte piece was her judginess of SAHM. She doesn’t like them and doesn’t really get them. Rich, bored, bitches. I really hate it when women pile on other women.
    Yes- I agree with this, and it’s this sort of stuff that often turns me off of Marcotte.
    For a few years while I was growing up my family bought eggs and milk from a near-by family that had a cow and chickens. (In Boise, especially at that time, you could live inside the city limits and have farm animals. There are still some horses, but fewer.) Selling the milk and eggs was done by the mother of the family (with the help of the kids), a stay-at-home mother of several children. They were not making big bucks on it, of course, but they were not rich and doing it just as a hobby, either, and did contribute to the family budget. (I suspect they did also just enjoy it.)

  8. Here in Arlington VA, you can have chickens, but you have to have them more than 100 feet from your property line. Do the math, it’s about three acres. So, about five of the richest women in town could be chicks with chicks. Not holding my breath for a local trend, y’knowit?

  9. We can keep chickens out here, and know people who do, on small urban properties. But then, it is the wild west. My friends love their chickens. I’m thinking of giving them chicken portraits the next time I give them a gift. (and, no, I’m not trying to be snarky).

  10. There are quite a lot of chicken-raisers in Portland (you can have 3 in the city limits) but I don’t know anyone who’s trying to make money from this kind of thing except a former boss who got some kind of small farming tax break for failed turkey raising.
    It’s a hobby generally. To make it pay, you need to treat it like a business.

  11. In my experience, there was always a strand of feminism that tended toward a stay-at-home, grow-your-own-food, fight-the-patriarchy-by-opting-out approach. Roots in the hippy movement(s); often connections to the wicca movement(s). Nothing new under the sun…. Piercy’s novel, “Woman on the Edge of Time” reflects some of these ideas.

  12. Well, bj, on Antiques Roadshow relatively recently, they did feature an old painting of someone’s cattle herd. So it could be a future classic. (And it was a nice painting, so I’m also trying not to be snarky.)
    The property on the “corner” of where I grew up had a giant chicken barn (identifiable by the windows), although that was converted into an antiques store and then a (unnecessarily huge) garage years ago. And the new-age church’s standing stone circle was on the other “corner.” So apparently we were way ahead of this trend upstate! (Okay, the snark leaked out a bit there.)
    (If we had chickens growing up, I would have hated them as much as I do cows and my father turkeys. The wild ones are getting quite annoying to me already.)

  13. You can understand cows. They want to stick together, and they don’t want to be separated from their babies, they like a nice bale of alfalfa, bulls fight when there is a new bull and that’s pretty much all there is to it.

  14. I am glad that Feminists are still fighting the good fight. So many of us, myself included, are “making the most of a sub-optimal situation” and doing it well. But I’m glad that there are still women who take a hard line approach to these matters, if only to remind us of what an optimal situation might be.

  15. Cows are large and smell and make you get up early in the morning when it’s supposed to be your summer vacation and they’re not always pleasant in temper. Maybe particularly in small dairy farms.
    I don’t like picking beans either. (I didn’t even grow up on a farm. Just got roped into chores when visiting the paternal relatives.)

  16. “It was citing the lyrics from the Rawhide theme.”
    By George, you’re right. Did you know you can get the Rawhide song as a ringtone?
    “But I’m glad that there are still women who take a hard line approach to these matters, if only to remind us of what an optimal situation might be.”
    It would be interesting to figure out how many American women count as feminists in good standing. I’m thinking something like 5-10%.

  17. I’m a suburban mom with a full time job and chickens in the backyard–but the chickens are the interest and responsibility of 12-year-old daughter, who feeds them, brings in the eggs, and periodically cleans out coop (which is a converted former kids’ playhouse). We get a constant supply of fresh eggs for very little cost (just feed and hay) and very little time (mostly me having to remind daughter to clean coop and feed chickens). Not sure why this is being pegged as a SAHM enterprise, nor why it’s being described as cost-ineffective. Chickens are 1000x easier to care for than dogs, and surprisingly entertaining and charming.

  18. Everyone I know who’s tried/trying chickens — from Minneapolis to Las Vegas to suburban here — does it for two reasons: to eat ethical chicken (in which case it’s marginally expensive) or to eat ethical eggs (in which cases it APPEARS to be cost-effective). Some of them are working parents, some aren’t, and none of them were remotely recognizable in Orenstein’s article.
    I happen to feel like chicken-raising IS a bit of a real trend, and not a NYT trend. Every time I turn around, it seems like someone else is trying their hand at chicken-raising. There was a big push to change our town’s chicken ordinances (we have a property-line restriction).
    Then again, this is the Berkeley of the south. What do I know from representative. 😉

  19. My mom said that one year they kept a chick and a duckling that they got for Easter. When they got big, grandma used the “We sent them to a farm because they were too big” line and then cooked them.

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