Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gender Roles in the Woods

There is  book I would like to find on women homesteading in the west. I can't remember the title. I think of it often as we prepare for winter. I've been hearing recently about women's roles involving caring for children and the home. This is generally understood to involve cleaning, cooking, laundry and the like. But when the home is a homestead like ours, caring for the home often includes some pretty heavy labor: building a road, cutting gardens out of forest floor, and hauling in wood and water. Gender roles that leave out the strength and power of women forget the heavy tasks that often did, and occassionally still do fall under "housekeeping".

I'm not trying to imply that my "work" is harder than my husband's. I know it isn't. I've done enough hard labor to know his work can be absolutely exhausting. The labor I do, on my own land, at my own pace, is often challenging, but it is not a job, it's my life, my land, my home, my family. The freedom that comes with this labor is too satisfying to be considered work. But the visible roles are somewhat similar, out here I do build, haul, labor, and create. He does the same, together we make a home that is beautiful and full of joy.


  1. Hey, commenting ability!

    Yeah, there are a lot of misconceptions about division of labor in the past, as well as about just how physically intense most "women's work" was. A lot of people think e.g. "Victorian women" and see upper-middle-class white women doing embroidery on pillows instead of the more numerous factory workers, farmers, domestic servants, service employees and so on. There were jobs that were closed to women, but they certainly weren't protected from heavy labor unless they were well-off enough to have multiple (female) servants.

    Well, and modern India is very similar, in a way. There can be very strict rules about appropriate dress and behavior for women, but poor women still work construction, farm labor, laundry, all kinds of heavy, difficult jobs. Statistically speaking, most women in the world right now work pretty hard -- women make up the majority of farmers worldwide, for example.

    All that aside, I hope everything's going well on the land!

  2. Everything is going so well! I have one area of the outhouse papered in poems - photos to come- and Yarrow is learing to be involved in outdoor projects without being completely in the way. :)

  3. *inevitably pictures Yarrow chopping firewood with an axe twice her size*

    *thinks about it for a second and concludes that probably isn't exactly what you mean*

    *remembers whose daughter she is and begins to doubt the certainty of that conclusion*

  4. Yarrow is not chopping wood, just sitting in her basket playing with her squirrel and eating her hands. But she's loving the outdoors, and I'm sure we'll have her chopping soon enough!

  5. I cannot tell you how happy we are that she likes that squirrel. I mean, I could try. But it would mostly involve clapping my hands like a silly person and saying "Squirrel!" a lot, so maybe it's best if I don't.

  6. yeah, The Squirrel even beats out The Teething Frog, which is impressive. It's saved a lot of crying for us!