The 1970′s were one challenging time to be a teenage girl. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem raged in opposition to other cultural voices, including the lyrics to every rock song we loved, but in the middle of the confusion we knew one thing: we were free. We were not property anymore. We were not doomed to slavery over a hot stove. We could have careers and pay our own way.
The one class in school that we sneered at, that we knew was obsolete, was Home Ec. We weren’t going to be Stepford Wives. We were not going to be aproned nobodies, existing to serve men. We were going to make our mark and remake civilization for all the enslaved women who came before us and for the women of the future. It was not simply snobbery that made us refuse to learn to knit or make bread. It was our sacred responsibility.
A few decades of struggle later we’d all learned a lot about glass ceilings and carrots on sticks and shell games, and about Ponzi economies. We also learned a lot about relationships and community and the value of belonging somewhere other than at work.
And now, many of us are relearning the subject we spurned. We are geeking out on the principals of Home Ec. Conversations with women my age used to be about surviving in a man’s world and keeping your soul intact while you chased the brass ring. Now they are about backyard crops and sewing classes. Many of us had, or still have, careers. We made marks. We got to call ourselves “successful”. We grabbed the brass ring.
Then we found out the ride was rigged.
You don’t hold on to the ring forever- it would rip your arm out. You grab it, you let go, then what? Then, you realize that your life needs more than achievement, titles and work. You and your life need a home, a place to belong, and a place to produce what you need. You need home. As a culture, we are rediscovering what home really means.
As Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers, said in her speech at the Ft Collins Sustainability Fair in 2011, “Home used to be the center of production,” In 1776 we grew our food and medicines and made our clothes at home, we set up businesses as potters and blacksmiths and bakers in our homes, and that made us unbeatable. The British couldn’t keep us under rule, because we did everything for ourselves and we didn’t need them anymore.
Many women started up the ladder of success believing that success meant independence, but that kind of success is just someone else’s idea of what you’ve done.
Now we’re learning that real independence begins at home.