Monday, March 15, 2010

Who's raising all those urban chickens?

According to Peggy Orenstein's essay in yesterday's New York Times magazine, The Femivore's Dilemma, women--mostly stay-at-home moms--comprise the majority of folks who have become urban chicken keepers (at least in Berkeley, California, where Orenstein lives). Orenstein observes that the locavore movement has provided an alternative for well-educated women--an alternative, that is, to the standard "break the glass ceiling" or "accept the gilded cage." Here is how she sums up what she calls "femivorism."
Femivorism is grounded in the very principles of self-sufficiency, autonomy and personal fulfillment that drove women into the work force in the first place. Given how conscious (not to say obsessive) everyone has become about the source of their food — who these days can’t wax poetic about compost? — it also confers instant legitimacy. Rather than embodying the limits of one movement, femivores expand those of another: feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly.
An interesting perspective--very idealized, I'd say. Maybe Orenstein is correct that this is a "good" option for women who have left paid work, but I am reminded of this earlier post regarding the added burdens that locavorism and the slow food movement have put on many women, including those working outside the home and already burdened by the second shift.

Indeed, at the end of her essay, Orenstein comes around to a similar point, concluding "if a woman is not careful, it seems, chicken wire can coop her up as surely as any gilded cage." And that, I suppose, is the femivore's dilemma. Be sure to read the rest of the essay to see how Orenstein gets to that point.

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