world of exhausted privilege

Thanks to Johanna, I have been thinking about this post from a blog called Nourishing Revolution. I will confess I haven't thought about it day and night because there were the hours when I got paid for my time and wondered where I could go for tact school. There are no bottles called
"Tact"
Take 3 per day with meals.
$34.50.
I would pay the money if there were. If you think I display tact on this blog, then that is because I get time to reflect, whereas sometimes elsewhere I am called to furnish a response, an explanation and five miracles with as much warning as a drunkard before he is mugged.

When else did I not think about Nourishing Revolution? I didn't think about it when I dashed from work to Robyn's, collected Brighid and made a note of childcare changes for next week as Robyn also negotiates supporting her own children's special activities and training days for her other paid work job. I didn't think about it when we went straight to kindy and I thanked all the gods that Brighid could not read the sign about a shared meal at kindy tonight which is a very beautiful idea only I don't feel very beautiful; I feel somewhat trashed and in great need of staying in for the evening. Then I went home, had lunch because you can't buy anything on the run which has no dairy and no gluten in it (trust me, in Wetville you cannot) and went BACK to work. Then I went to Sharon's to check she can fill my childcare gaps next week, enquired after her own ill children and thanked her profusely before putting the car into gear and going to school to collect Fionn and pass on apologies that the much improved asthma boy will not be at league practise because he has a protective mother who doesn't want him regressing on the breathing front. Next stop kindy and checking that my wonderful friend Gaylene can have Brighid tomorrow while Robyn is at work and Sharon takes her son to see the eye specialist in Christchurch and re-arranging times for appointments next week so Brighid and I can play stay at home people and go to coffee group in six days' time.

I might have thought about the blog back home this afternoon as I chopped onions and ginger and garlic and opened a tinned of organic beans and then turned everything off so we could drop off some things for work and collect Favourite Handyman. It is a world of privilege, but nevertheless a one car family world of privilege where a ride home at the end of a long day is a treat we like to both provide and receive. Library books dropped off because I haven't forgotten that maths thing the librarian did with me on the new fines and back home to finish dinner and keep the laundry machines moving.

Okay okay, I mostly thought about it yesterday, only I was also too busy getting lymphatic drainage done and attending writers' group (what have I written? hahaha I had to print off a book review from this blog just to scrape by on the criteria of having actually written something.) to write a blog post.

Oh yes, Mrs Whingy from Wetville. She hasn't been harvesting sunshine and smelling flowers this afternoon. Only I did fit in making some rye bread on my lunch break which is pretty back to earth kind of food loving soul nurturing type stuff. Perhaps symbolically, I forgot completely about putting it into a loaf tin until much later in the afternoon and now I can't bake it until the morning.

Isa Ritchie writes in the linked post about her conference abstract: Back to the kitchen: Middle class women's role in a new social movement., this opening line:
Despite the second wave of feminism’s emphasis on freeing women from the
confines of domesticity, a new generation of middle class women are now
reclaiming the kitchen in an effort to take control of their lives and their
health as well as the health of their families.

I'd like to point out, before I unleash my grumpiness on a wonderful idea, that I am deeply impressed with Ritchie's premise and that I think it offers some fantastic analytical possibilities.

First stop: reclaiming the kitchen? Who did you have to wrestle with to get some time back in that kitchen? Come on, pour out your stories, the long evenings of heated and tortured debate where your partner sulked because he wanted to do the cooking (yes yes heterosexual assumptions), the frustration as you wondered when indeed he would finally allow you to do the food shopping, the jealousy when he seemed to have spent all the time finding out about wheat allergies or lactose intolerance or clicky hips or dodgy children or poisonous toilet cleaner when actually you wanted to be that nurturer. Fill my comments box all millions of you.

Next up, also from Ritchie's abstract:
"This presentation will look at the transformation of the kitchen as a place of
confinement to a place of empowerment, [and] explore the role of middle class
women in this new social movement ..."

So once I was confined and now I am empowered. 'Twas blind but now I see? (Amazing Grace for any heathens, written by a slave owner who repented after he made all his dosh and set his sights on the pearly gates. Beautiful song, sung at the funerals of several people I have loved.)

I wouldn't go so far as to say I feel empowered in my kitchen, though I do like to cook and experiment sometimes. I would point out that the food in the supermarkets which doesn't require effortful transformation is crap, that takeaways are not just nutritionally crap but also expensive and that when my children whine and display other signs of hunger, it is a torturous noise which I try to quell as fast as possible as I love them too much and too well to suppress the painful noises with a well placed, firmly held, pillow.

The thing which I think, for me, is empowering, is writing my blog. I make food and they/we eat it. Ditto dishes. I'm not sure I can even bear a sentence about laundry - sometimes my children find the clean washing and use it to play games with in the lounge and then declare it dirty when no one has even worn it. When peak oil hits and automatic washing machines become too expensive, I shall make my family become nudists in summer and mangy blanket wearers in winter.

But, unlike laundry and dishes and meals (and many aspects of my paid work and fundraising which appears to be in peak season round my way), my blog is still here the next day and the week and month after that. In an existence where everything that is practically vital seems to disappear in an instant and need repeating again and again and again, the permanence of my words, the link with the rest of the world, the sense that I can string a sentence together even if I cannot summon the energy or willpower to clean off the toilet roll papier mache pulp on the bathroom basin and windowsill, matters to me.

Thank you to Isa Ritchie who finds women blogging interesting enough to devote her MA to it. That in itself accords a respect to women's voices which I appreciate and applaud. I will probably come back to the food issues Isa alludes to another time.

Comments

Sharonnz said…
You made me pee my pants a little with your "reclaiming the kitchen" bit. Tru dat! Nothing intelligent to add from this middle class white lady rushing out door to do some unpaid volunteering while my friend minds my kids, unpaid - and feeds them well too;-)
Sharonnz said…
OK. Adding briefly. I personally do have a sense of "reclaiming" my kitchen, although having never left it, and not having had to kick anyone out of it. Certainly it feels as if I'm fighting off the colonising attempts of the industrial food complex and the invasion of the easy packaged foods. So reclaiming it from dominant STRUCTURES, yes? From other AGENTS, no;-) The structure versus agency has always been an interesting distinction for me when finding moments to analyse what I see around me.
Isa Ritchie said…
This is fantastic! Thanks for putting the time into respond. It is exactly the sort of thing that I need to look into for this chapter of my thesis - when I get around to writing it.

I find the multiple perspectives around this topic fascinating - I hadn't thought too deeply about it when I wrote the abstract (I must admit). For me, making food can be a wonderful, empowering, creative process - when I have the time, inspiration and energy. It can also be tiring and draining - making the kitchen a site of mild oppression. But, as you point out, blogging is empowering when it is something you choose to do - to share your opinion with the virtual world.
Johanna said…
Sandra - and Sharon - you both articulate some of the same thoughts I have better than I could.

I feel both empowered and disempowered in the kitchen (which one dominates depends on my mood, what's for dinner, and whether I've managed to co-opt someone else into helping).

Sandra - I relate to what you say about this insane privileged middle class life, where time-wise you feel completely poverty stricken (Though I have to admit, the feeling has lessened as my children have got older. But four or five years ago I was frankly a wreck. Now I'm just a bit stressed ... but then again that could change if certain circumstances change, and things could get worse again ...)

No, I never left the kitchen and came back and reclaimed it - I was always there ... what I did reclaim, to some extent, was the power over what I and my family ate. (More natural stuff, vs corporate processed stuff). But it is more time consuming, and sometimes I just want to stand in the middle of the kitchen and yell, 'A little help here??!!!'

So for me it is very much a double edged sword.

Regarding agency ... well, this is one thing that niggles away at me. I AM doing a lot of the things I like doing these days, by and large, and it so happens that quite a few of the things I like doing are traditionally women's things - cooking, gathering, children's literature work, a bit of fibrecraft ... perfumery for gods sake.

Oh and having children and then worrying endlessly over their wellbeing. I don't mean I like the worrying, but I always, always wanted children, and now that I have them I love them so ferociously that I have to worry, and constantly think how to do what's best for them.

So, on the one hand I have agency, but on the other hand - why is it that all these things I do are traditionally women's areas? How freely did I REALLY choose this? I'll never know, it's so engrained now.

Well, while I'm veering wildly from subject to subject, I want to add that another thing I like about being involved in traditionally women's areas, is that you get to hang out with lots of groups of women - whether in real life or on the net.

And this thing people say about groups of women together being bitchy and tearing each other down??? Where are these groups? I have never met them. (Oh, with the exception of one workplace I was at when I was about 18.)

In my experience women are extremely supportive to each other - and that includes on all these women's blogs.

For me anyway, a key value of the blogs is in the networking with other women.

I better add, too, because I'm not sure if my comment on Isa's website could be miscontrued - but when I said I had a growing level of discomfort with the blogs - it wasn't the blogging per se, but what they are representing.

To go back to what I said at the start - it's the double-edged sword ... spend more time on food and craft to fight the corporate systems ... but at the same time, spend less time on other stuff ... (or as you say Sandra, just run yourself ragged.)

Does any of this make sense??
Johanna said…
Oh! I just had another thought! The thing with the blogs ... well, I feel this anyway ... is that there is quite a lot of subtle pressure to talk very positively about one's own life.

You feel like you have to be a bit of a poster child for the values you support, and that includes always talking positively about the great stuff you made or cooked or did. Sandra, you are actually fairly unusual I think in revealing the difficulties and rough times on your blog.

I never really write about the times when, for example, I am slowly filled with rage at the seemingly perfectly reasonable excuses people make, one after another, and horribly regularly, for not being able to help with housekeeping stuff ...

I think there's a feeling that you (well, I) don't want to show the chinks in the armour, because then you open yourself for people to actually put the knife into your whole value system ....

There's also the whole transition townsy thing of wanting to making a sustainable life sound fun and enticing ...

So the overall result of this (if as I suspect, many people feel and act like I do on their blogs), is that you get a whole lot of happy homemaker blogs from women on the net.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound so flippant, and I count myself in amongst those blogs ... But it is making me feel a bit uncomfortable ... although I love many of these blogs I'm referring to!!!!!
Marty said…
Clever, funny post, thank you. I also like that paragraph you posted written by Isa Ritchie. For me 'reclaiming the kitchen' strikes me as the same feeling I get when I confidently state my occupation as 'housewife' or 'SAHM'. I feel empowered to stay at home, I feel that it is not looked down on by society the way it was as little as a decade ago.
Sharonnz said…
Snicker, Johanna...oh yes, I feel that pressure to be the "perfect homeschooler" online and in real life too. Nowadays I make a point of trying to not "pose" any photos I post on the blog and to point out to anyone who seems vaguely interested that homeschooling is NOT a bed of roses and I'd happily send all three to boarding school some days;-)
Wow. How comnpletely wonderful to read everyone's comments. More to think about. I'm going to respond in another post(s).
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