Shannon Hayes is a different kind of feminist, a feminist who has not only broken from the patriarchy but from she views as a global capitalist system that buttresses the patriarchy. She is a Radical Homemaker.
She explains that “Radical Homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives. They reject any form of labor or the expenditure of any resource that does not honor these tenets. For about five thousand years, our culture has been hostage to a form of organization by domination that fails to honor our living systems, where ‘he who holds the gold makes the rules.’ By contrast, Radical Homemakers use life skills and relationships as a replacement for gold, on the premise that he or she who doesn’t need the gold can change the rules. The greater our domestic skills, be they to plant a garden, grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony, mend a shirt, repair an appliance, provide for our own entertainment, cook and preserve a local harvest or care for our children and loved ones, the less dependent we are on the gold.
In short, a radical homemaker is “someone who wasn’t ruled by our consumer culture, who embodied a strong ecological ethic, who held genuine power in the household, who was living a full, creative, challenging and socially contributory life.”
She interviewed others who were pursuing this vision of counter-cultural life and discovered that “most Radical Homemakers do not have conventional jobs. They simply refuse to work to make the rich richer. They do have some form of income that comes into their lives. But they were not the privileged set by any means. Most of the families that I interviewed were living with a sense of abundance at about 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. That’s a little over $40,000 for a family of four, about 37 percent below the national median family income and 45 percent below the median income for married couple families. Some lived on considerably less, few had appreciably more.”
Their goal is to “draw on historical traditions to craft a more ecologically viable existence, but their life’s work is to create a new, pleasurable, sustainable and socially just society, different than any we have known in the last 5,000 years.” She insists it’s a vision compatible with feminism: “Women are not second-class citizens. The governing tenet of social justice precludes treating any member of the family as subservient.” As she says early on, it’s possible to be a feminist and to can tomatoes.
Radical Homemaking is one of those curious trends where the radical left meets the radical right, where feminists find themselves living in parallel with patriarchy-affirming homeschoolers.