Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 14: Radical Homemakers


Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture, by Shannon Hayes

I had heard a lot of good things about this book and I was looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that I am disappointed. "Radical Homemaking" is all about becoming more self-reliant and building a community, reclaiming old skills and getting out of the rat race as much as possible. I'm all for that stuff and I expected to like this book, where Hayes talks about "Radical Homemaker" convictions and interviews a bunch of people for their insights.

I think it was the tone that got to me. The first part of the book is all social history and philosophy, but the very first thing Hayes claims is that back in Neolithic times, there were egalitarian, goddess-worshiping matriarchal societies that were peaceful and so on, until they were destroyed by the more violent patriarchal nomadic tribes that came in and killed them all, starting a competitive culture of greed and imperialism that continues to this day. Well, there isn't a shred of proof for those utopian matriarchal societies; they're hypothesized from those "Venus" statuettes found in archaeological sites.

Then Hayes gets to Darwin and his disregard of women, but she only quotes a historian with theories about Darwin's thoughts. If Darwin "explicitly stated" something, then by all means, quote him!

Anyway, there's quite a lot of meandering through history, disparaging everyone except Betty Friedan and farming families, and generally being against convenience and corporations. It made me want to feed my family McDonald's for dinner (I never set foot in a McD's if I can possibly help it). I mean, yes, there are environmental depredations and corporations that do unethical things. But all a corporation is, is a bunch of people. People don't always do good things.

After that she interviews a lot of people about what they do, and it's probably more interesting than I thought it was, because by then I was pretty turned off. However, she lists some good skills like independent thinking, willingness to learn and jump in and make mistakes, and so on. I got one good quotation out of it: "...anyone who seeks to do things for themselves must have fortitude and a high tolerance for failure." (p. 221)

So I didn't care for her tone. But maybe you'll like it. It might be a good idea to read the second half first.

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