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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gender Roles on a Homestead.

Yesterdays post was not meant to be about gender roles. Part of the post however, did bring up an observation that my husband and I have fallen into these roles.

I am not the bread winner, I am the bread maker. These traditional gender roles that our homestead is in was not intentional, it slowly happened. I stayed at home with my children and began homesteading on my own. I was the spouse that wanted to do these things, like several of my readers. It took a little time for my husband to embrace this way of life. I do work a paying job, but from home. And because of this, I sleep very little. My husband works away from home and care giving has fallen to me. If it was the opposite, and I left for work and he stayed at home, our gender roles would not be opposite, just skewed.

Because that has been brought up, I will explore that possibility. While staying at home, my husband would take on all the caregiver roles. But there are many things that I am unable to do as of this moment, that he can. My days off would revert back to me being the caregiver, and he would be the brunt of physical labor. But this is our homestead.

There are many different ways homesteads are tended today. You have the SAHD, you have the single parents, the young couples just starting off, the older generation with foundation, you have christian and pagans, you have lesbian and gay couples, gender roles can be sneaky and you will more then likely find a little of it with each homestead. But this is not academic study, only personal observation. I am too busy to actually set my life aside to watch others. So please do not take my word as gospel.

Gender roles do tend to emerge, not on the pure basis of sex, but at what we find our talents lay. I know nothing about working on a tractor. My husband does. I am not physically even with my husband, so fencing and grabbing cows by their horns is a struggle for me. Because of my limitations, my husband doesn't need to concern himself with basic care giving or smaller projects. But I can tell you that if I died, the homestead would continue to run. Not to say that I do no physical labor. For a homestead to run everyone works, and sweats, and bleeds, or like my case yesterday, vomits from heat stroke.

I have three boys, and they are learning both "women's work" and "men's work." They shouldn't have the limitations that my husband and I have, but they will find what they prefer and go from there. We do not inform them that one chore is gender related as they are not.

Living on a homestead doesn't mean we are forced into traditional gender roles. Just like living in suburbia or in urban areas does. My father cooked, my mother worked and vice verse. Homesteading with marriage means that we find our niche, we must find our niche and continue from there. Homesteading can be dangerous, and that niche can be what saves you. We have to work together in where ever our talents, or lack thereof, are. Bull headedness of something as silly as gender roles might cause pain.

Gender roles happen, sometimes for the best and sometimes not. But my week doing my husband chores has shown me that I am not prepared to take on the masculine role, let alone both roles. I shall continue to be the silly frilly wife...oh I mean the physically tortured...um, no, I will continue to be an equal partner on my homestead, female, and accomplish more things by 8 am then most will have done all day.

Gender roles in homesteading? Yep, but we are still a bad (censor) bunch of women. I dare you to go challenge one to an arm wrestle match.

8 comments:

Gina said...

Really, when it comes down to it, I think many of the homesteading women I know (and this may be because I "talk" to more of them) would fare better if they had to take on the other gender's (i.e partner's) roles. It's not a sexist thing, I just think since in many of our cases it was the woman who embraced the idea first (even in my case and I married a "country boy"), we would be willing to carry the tradition on (like in our kids as you mentioned) and find a way to do without the other. If I reverse it, I am fairly certain Sr would keep the homestead going too-just not at the same level. He can cook (not always very nutritional food though) and clean and does it often enough that we don't have clearly defined roles. However, I admit I save a lot of chores for him because, also like you, I am smaller and physically some things are just easier for him. I guess if I did't have him, I would get a ladder or find a neighbor.

Interesting topic! I do think that one of bigget challenges in this day of "modern homesteading" is the lack of able-body relatives. Your commentor reminded us that farming families had many kids and the chores could have been spread out. We are doing this more like the pioneer families (removed from our immediate relatives, in other words). The only way we can make this work is to share roles.

MeadowLark said...

I really thought about this and look back to growing up on 12,000 acres. Because I was "a girl", my dad didn't allow me to drive combine or wheat truck or the hay wagon. Other girls in high school could, but not me. I was always stuck "at home" cooking, cleaning, gardening. I think this might be why I'm a terrible housekeeper (that's my story, I'm sticking to it). That's also probably why I'll be outside running the jackhammer when we take out the sidewalk... proving I'm a "hard worker" is really important.

I'm wondering your thoughts on the theory that the chores/responsibilities societally assigned to men usually also confer greater bragging rights. One time I changed the CV boot on our car... now I could bring that up for six more months (amazing how often you can work car repairs into a conversation) and get kudos. Quite honestly, there aren't quite as many kudos for "I unloaded the dishwasher" or "I made bread from scratch" or "I keep this household running". So I wonder where the so-called importance of men's versus women's chores came from and if you guys notice it as well.

Of course, there was the year my husband made a pumpkin pie from scratch... as in bought a pumpkin, made the crust, the whole 9 yards. He manages to milk THAT bragging right every thanksgiving.

Phelan said...

Gina, when it comes to any household, knowing your partners role is greatlly important.

Meadowlark, when gender roles are reversed, you will hear many kudos. Who would have know that the woman was able to change a tire or a man could crochet a blanket? These are not typical things for people to hear and see. No matter how far along we think we have come when it comes to gender issues, a "typical" man making a pie from scratch will be a great surprise. Not until it becomes common place, that we will stop getting those pats on the back. And ya know, those pats aren't that bad. Like you said, there isn't a party for us when we hang laundry out to dry. (but maybe some day)

I use to buck hay for 8 hours a day. Out there it wasn't such a big deal. But here in the area I live in, well most women seemed surprised that I would do such a thing. It is definatly a socital thing. And I really don't mind taking on this gender role that I have found myself in. I was raised in a super feminist house surrounded by boys. I did everything they did, and they did what I did. For me gender roles is a non-issue.

Matriarchy said...

This is something we will have to confront in our family. When I lured my DH from his bachelor pad, he ate entirely out of microwaves and take-out containers. He was raised with a housekeeper and does not know how to clean anything. He is allergic to grass, and does not recognize a rose when it is still on the bush.

But he is a hottie and a darned good conversationalist. He makes my brain smile, and he is my choice. He does appreciate our garden produce, the food we cook and preserve, and my efforts to prepare for an uncertain future. He has learned to cook more, mostly from the Food Network, but it's a start. He is sensible.

I am the "urban homesteader" and he is not completely on board, yet. He is the primary breadwinner. I also work from home and produce a good chunk of our income, as well as the savings from frugality efforts. Neither of us could afford to reproduce our lifestyle alone.

I believe I can do this work for our family, if he continues to work. I have strong tween/teen girls to help, and can imagine finding another single mom to team up with. I am the one with the power tools, the garden tools, the food service production skills. I am the one that scavenges, shops, hauls, stores, researches, maintains records, does taxes. I am the one that can deal with vomit, poop, pee, bugs, and bad smells.

If his job were lost - to economic upheaval, or to an inability to travel, things might get weird. We have all seen that awkwardness when a breadwinning man retires and has trouble finding a niche in his wife's household. Lucky couples adapt as the guy finds his skillset and they mutually adjust the routine in a way that preserves egos. I would like to think that will happen with us. He will develop a skillset that complements the rest of us - distilling alcohol for trade, becoming the baker or candle-stick maker, starting a community school. That is why he is he is my choice - he will adapt, bless his little urban heart.

Stephanie said...

Right now until things settle our incomes are both needed. Bill has child support (that he gladly pays too!) so I actually bring home more money. Around the house Bill does a lot of the "manly" stuff like tilling, building, mowing and I do a lot of cleaning and well, cleaning and gardening and errand running. I am NOT a very good cook. Bill cooks more than I do. I try to cook on my days off, or at the least pay for dinner lol.

Terry said...

Hiya,
A massive topic. I'm a stay at home guy doing homesteading things including spinning, crochet and homeschooling. I've done the tradesman thing and later, social work. I was raised in town in a classically gender-divided house and just thought clothes automatically got themselves from the floor to the draw!Embarrassing. I love my life now, my wife likes her career. I really think that whatever you do you can't escape criticism for whatever you do, gender assigned or nonconforming. At present my bug is getting quizzed by homeschooling mums and I try not to find it slightly painful. I take the Nike appproach.

Phelan said...

Matriarchy, love the description of your ol' man. :D I am not sure that gender roles is something that needs to be confronted. We never even noticed it until I mentioned it on an earlier post. Back in my mor idealistic days, I woldhave been concsidered the "man" of the house. But as things progressed, things changed. But as I said before, each homestead is ran differently. We adjust to what is needed.

Stephanie, I hope you don't think I meant to say that you shouldn't have a job away from home. This is just our situation. We looked at many things before deciding that I should not work away from home. Plus our goals are to not have jobs besides the homestead in the near future. It sunds as though you guys have found your nice. And that is wha is the most imortant when it comes to having your home work smoothly.

Terry, It is a massive subject. One that is barely touched on this little post. My father in law crochets. He was taught by his grandmother, and I hope that my boys will learn all those tools s well. I don't feel that is is "woman's" work, just things that need to be done on the homestead. I too get the looks and the questions because not all of my work is gender related. After awhile you can shrug it off, or add some dry humor to the questioning to throw them off. Good luck to you and your homestead!

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