Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Now that I know you all a bit better, and considering the winds of change that are headed this way, I've decided it's time for a confession. I want to tell you a deep, dark secret - one I have struggled to keep hidden for many, many years. My name is Becky T. Lane, and I...was a Home Ec. major. There, it's finally out in the open. Whew, what a relief!

For years now, any time someone asked me what my major was in college, I usually mumbled something about "merchandising", then quickly went on to add that I later went back for a degree in horticulture. Which is true, but the first degree was actually a B.S. in Home Economics, with a specialization in Clothing, Textiles, and Fashion Merchandising. Why did I keep it under wraps? Well, because when you tell someone you were a Home Ec. major, at the very least you can expect a condescending grin or a derisive snort. Usually it's followed by a comment such as "Ah, I see! You were working on your M.R.S., huh?" So, why then, have I suddenly decided to "out" myself? Well, the times, they are a changin'!

In her wonderful book Depletion and Abundance: Life On The New Home Front, or One Woman's Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change and Hard Times, author Sharon Astyk wrote "We often believe that work done for money in the 'public' world is more valuable than work done to avoid needing money in the 'private' realm. This is one of the reasons that we tend to devalue homemaking and other domestic labor. And such devaluation is deeply bound up in industrial capitalism...When we decide something lacks value and power, we demean it. For a long time private labor was demeaned in part because women were considered secondary and inferior, and much private subsistence labor was done by women in the home. When women began to work more often in the public realm, they, for the most part, accepted industrial capitalism's diminution of the importance and meaning of home-based labor, deciding that working 'out' was a way to achieve political and social power. Women came to see abandoning 'women's work' as means to power. So some of it we stopped doing (gardening, canning, much cooking and sewing); other parts (childcare, housecleaning, food preparation) we contracted out to low-paid, often non-white workers of low status. So while women's status in society rose, domestic, private work fell even further in cultural value, and so did the status of 'private life' and its practices."

Now, however, people are waking up to the fact that industrial capitalists may not have our best interests at heart, nor has rampant consumerism made us quite as happy as we thought it would. And so, the pendulum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction. Just the other day I read a post over at the blog Down To Earth, entitled The Return of the Homemaker. In it she discusses the many women who are returning to private life, either by choice, to raise their own children, or perhaps because they were laid off. They are discovering that there is much they can do to contribute to their family's health and well-being there at home. And, as we are forced to deal with wars, peak oil, global warming and assorted natural disasters, financial crises, foreclosures and lack of work, plus water and food shortages, more and more will discover that they can gain independence by learning to look after themselves, grow food and reduce their debt as much as possible. They will also find that there is joy to be found in living a simple, green, frugal life.

So, finally, a woman who can knit, sew, mend, alter, plant a garden, can and preserve food, cook meals from scratch, bake bread, raise chickens, milk a cow, make cheese and yogurt, build a solar oven, make compost, catch rain, re-sole shoes, home-school her children and keep them entertained and happy using her imagination and little else, well, this woman is becoming something of a commodity. Skills that we have been keeping under wraps since we were "liberated" back in the early 70's are once again being brought out into the open.

Seeing this trend in the blogs that I follow has got me to thinking about the movie Gone With the Wind. Sure, Scarlett had her faults, but you have to give credit where credit is due. When the going got tough, and women such as the precious Melanie were turning into sniveling piles of uselessness, that Katy Scarlett O'hara hitched up her skirts, straightened her spine, and did what needed to be done. She dug those potatoes, whipped up dresses out of curtains, learned about birthin' babies, and kept her family together in spite of dire conditions. She was a woman of spunk and determination, and I hope the same can be said of me, should the occasion arise.

What about you? If the going gets tough, which will you turn out to be? A Scarlett, or a Melanie?

P.S. Many thanks to hubpages.com for the above image.

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