Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture I tell you what, it has been a long long while since a book has made me think so much, challenged me so much and energized me so much. This book was due back at the library yesterday and as you can see, has about many many places marked in it that I wanted to go back to, ponder over and digest more.
I couldn’t figure out how best to portray the goodness within these pages, so I thought I would just share with you passages I found to be the most thought-provoking.
I bring you quotes from the author bolded and my thoughts following.
Mainstream Americans have lost the simple domestic skills that would enable them to live an ecologically sensible life with a modest or low income.
I completely agree with this–it’s scary how many people think it’s amazing if you make your own bread. Worse than this, most people don’t want those skills and think it’s beneath modern living to be so “little house on the prairie.”
At the other extreme, homemaking was seen as a realm of the ultra-religious, where women accepted the role of Biblical “help-meets” to their husbands. They cooked, cleaned, toiled, served and remained silent and powerless.
Obviously, the author and I don’t see eye to eye on this point at all. I feel like I am a help-meet to my husband. As far as power, we had a recent conversation where I mentioned something that a couple of other people in Kevin’s life had also said. He got kind of miffed at me, and I called him out on it. He said, “Well, if you say it, it carries more weight. I want to act on what you say.” Silent? Powerless? I don’t think so.
Home is where the great change will begin. It is not where it ends. Once we feel sufficiently proficient with our domestic skills, few of us will be content to simply practice them to the end of our days. Many of us will strive for more, to bring more beauty to the world, to bring about greater social change, to make life better for our neighbors, to contribute our creative powers to the building of a new, brighter, sustainable and happier future. That is precisely the great work we should all be tackling. If we start by focusing our energies on our domestic lives, we will do more than reduce our ecological impact and help create a living for all. We will craft a safe, nurturing place from which this great creative work can happen.
I love the future this paragraph envisions.
(By the 1960s) The middle class American housewife’s life had become, essentially, meaningless. The industrial revolution and subsequent rise of America’s consumer culture had demoted homemaking from a craft tradition to the mindless occupation of primping the house, shopping and chauffeuring.
Unfortunately, I think that is what many stay-at-home moms relegate themselves to. They don’t see all the beauty of creating sustenance for their families, of sewing practicality, of figuring out how to do it themselves, of saying, “I could make that!” and then trying to do it.
The purpose of higher education should be to prepare students to perpetually teach themselves, cultivate their interests, talents and skills, and ultimately use them to serve their communities in a meaningful way.
I don’t necessarily think you even need higher education for this. It’s called personal responsibility, people! You don’t need a $50,000 university degree to self teach and cultivate your interests–stop watching TV and figure out what you like to do; then go out there and do it, and impact others doing so! Part of the problem in my opinion is the classic public school education and people can no longer think for themselves.
(As women fled the hearth and went to the work place during the last fifty years), our health, happiness and well-being have also dramatically declined. The abandonment of the kitchen, the loss of personal finance skills despite rising household incomes, the relentless increase in busy-ness and the compulsion to replace emptiness and loneliness with consumer products have ups us on a course for an ecological, social and cultural train wreck.
For there to be true social egalitarianism, then the work of keeping a home must be valued for its contribution to the welfare of all.
(As women and men became ‘radical homemakers’), they took on genuine creative challenges, tended toward engagement with their communities and made significant contributions toward rebuilding a new society that reflected their vision of a better world.
The choice of these individuals to become homemakers is not an act of submission or family servitude. It is an act of social transformation.
These quotes pretty much just need an “Amen, sista!”
Doubtless, the suggestion of creating a life-nurturing alternative to our existing consumer society still has countless key-punching economists puckering their mouths, rolling their eyes, and trying to persuade their sons and daughters that such an effort is fruitless. These folks go home at night and, sometime between heaving takeout on the table and finding the TV remote, they offer parental guidance, urging their daughters to grow up to continue the fight for fair treatment in the workforce,and their sons to practice their necktie knots so they will be able to comfortably don their daily noose in adulthood.
The thing I struggle with on an almost daily basis, whether it’s in regard to homeschooling, discipline, food choices or what have you, is that whenever you are doing something that is different from the majority you are quite often met with puckered mouths and rolling eyes. I just love her word picture.
Our national (now global) economic principles have served only a handful of powerful elites. In the process, it has wrought havoc on our culture, our planet, and on the lives of most who serve it. By rebuilding our home lives according to values of social justice, ecological sustainability, and family and community security, we begin the process of dismantling the extractive economy and creating in its place a life-serving economy that enables us to meet our needs while thriving in harmony with our earth and spirits.
I love the thought of being able to meet my needs while creating my home in harmony with my beliefs and to end up with a family that can change the world for the better. That’s what I’m doing, what I’m striving for, and it’s just a blessing having someone phrase it so well for me!