I may be one of the last people to review this book but alas I was number #60 on my library lending list. Does that tell you it is good or what? Well, either good or controversial… perhaps both, but I “mostly” enjoyed it. The book is Radical Homemakers – Reclaiming Domesticity From a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes.
It basically seeks to show how we all used to be homemakers (even the men) and how industrialization caused men to leaves homes for work and women to become the main homemakers. The women then had the lions share of home work and upkeep thus making many of them feel subjugated and feeling the need for some “liberation”. Companies stepped up to the plate to offer convenience products and foods which made women’s lives easier but it also meant the creation of a consumer society. Homes went from units of production… growing food, preserving foods, sewing clothes, bartering within their community… to units of consumption. We became consumers who relied on companies and corporations for most of our needs and high paying jobs to support all of this consumption. Many families even found that both partners needed to work outside the home to support this lifestyle.
Homemaking though is essentially where it starts though. What we can or cannot do in the home is what requires us to make all of these consumer purchases and spend so much time working outside the home. Shannon Hayes makes a case for why returning home and being homemakers improves family, community, social justice, and the health of the planet.
The first half is rather like a thesis making a case for how we have became a society of consumers and what that has meant for families, communities, and the planet. The second half shows us what we can do to get back in the home and make it a more self sufficient, unit of production. It does this by highlighting the lives of 20 radical homemakers and sharing their thoughts about how returning or staying home (sometimes mom AND dad) has been life altering and empowering.
I kept reading this book and thinking I knew a person or two who NEEDS to read it… usually die hard Republicans who tout the benefits of a capitalist society. There was however one area of the book I really did not like. It makes a case for why we might want to forgo the healthcare system and traditional health insurance and all the reasons why. That was all good and fine and it did seem to make exceptions for children. Then in the next breath it condoned choosing to stay at home and not seek out employment to cover these costs and instead sign up for Medicaid. That whole section just rubbed me the wrong way but I fully admit I am not so liberal in my views on welfare and healthcare. Then a few pages after that it makes an argument for why it is perfectly okay to live off welfare.
Okay I am down with living with less, simplifying, sticking it to the man, becoming self sufficient, going off-grid, and doing without but how is using tax payer funded assistance programs taking care of yourself? It isn’t and the argument for why it is fell flat IMO. These programs are not meant to be lifestyle choices. It is kind of like saying that you choose to raid the tip jar on the grocer’s counter for the rest of your life instead of finding a way to pay for your own groceries. Oh and tip jar contributions are mandatory for everyone else. You are not a self sustaining productive unit if you are taking government aid. The goal should be to get by without that.
I did however love the idea of building your friendships and your community so that you can support each other. Bartering was discussed at length and I think that is a key ingredient of self sufficiency in this day and age. I also liked the section on homeschooling.
Overall I like the message in this book and I think there is a lot to be gleaned from it. I am glad I got it from the library though, since it won’t be a book I read more than once.