Friday, June 28, 2013

Gender Trappings in the Life of a Homesteader

I'm friends with guys who own back hoes and dump trucks and skid steers.  With all these building related projects we've got going on here they have been helping out, streamlining our process.  In these moments, when they're problem solving and doing monumental amounts of work in minutes, they come alive. Their veins bulge, their eyes alight, and they bound in and out, up and down from equipment to building site and back again like little boys playing with their trucks in the sand box.

Meanwhile, I try to make myself useful, which means making lemonade, whipping up food, washing dishes, and concerning myself with all things domestic--I made my own room spray and counter spray this week. I hung lemon wedges on the edges of the drinking glasses. I smoothed out linens, beat rugs with a broom, and organized cupbords.

What I really want to know is how the hell I got here, playing Martha Stewart in my little house on the prairie?  So often it seems, people who homestead, live off the grid, or off the land seem to fall into stereotypical gender roles when it comes to division of labor, in spite their well-meaning intentions.

I love how these guys have kept their little boy dreams alive rather than suffocating behind a desk with a tie around their necks, and I enjoy nurturing them and creating beauty around us. The thing is, I think that we also appreciate the qualities in one another that buck typical gender roles. No one's saying I can't be the disheveled, competitive, outspoken, independent woman I am and I adore their vast capacity for sentimentality, empathy, softness, sensitivity, and tolerance.

Other women who have lived up here have written about this tendency with greater eloquence and insight--read them here: Not One More Winter in the Tipi, Honey and Women who love men who live in huts too much


  1. Beautiful photos: I especially love the moths mating and the heart beet. The idea of the gender based roles is also interesting to me. Today (fierce heat outside) I just felt happy cleaning up the kitchen and using last year's pie cherries to make a cherry cobbler in the solar cooker. Nice to be a "house wife" in the cool house. --Tara

  2. Holy cow, Tara, my brain is swelling in this summer heat. It feels like August. I'm definitely grateful for the indoor moments in this weather. While building kinda baffles me, I feel like gardening/farming is one place where I can use my muscles and my problem solving skills and buck those gender roles. xo!

  3. I also am constantly perplexed by this. I sometimes become frustrated as well when it is silently assumed that I will be staying in to clean, can, bake, etc while The Man heads outdoors. But it mostly falls into that "natural" way of being...and I have ample opportunities to use my muscles and get dirty, as well. So it goes.

  4. Some guys can bake and can and make the house look just so, but some guys are function driven with no concept of form. I like doing these domestic things and I take pride in doing them well. I'm thankful The Man regularly asks if he can help or sees what needs to be done and does it.
    I think you've hit on something that can get under my skin which is the *silent assumption* I just about blow my lid when we come in from all day outdoor work at 9pm and I'm starving and I'm the only one jumping up to fix dinner and get house chores done. Growing up my mother worked a full time job and still took care of 90% of domestic affairs and child rearing responsibilities. That won't be me...
    Good to hear from you Hannah!