Is Urban Homesteading Keeping Women Down?

Back in the kitchen: how does today's woman reclaim her role in the urban homestead?

Earlier this year, a chorus of bloggers accused Michael Pollan of being shortsighted when, in a plea to Americans to cook more of their meals at home, he failed to acknowledge the tangible freedoms many women experienced when they were no longer tied to cooking from scratch. Although the media dialogue came and went, I don't think I was alone when I found myself stepping back, counting the hours I'd spent in the kitchen and garden recently and wondering if I was taking some kind of (albeit thoroughly enjoyable) step backward for womankind.Pollan had a point, and so did his critics. We now know that the promises of the processed food industry were too good to be true; most working people can't, it turns out, have an abundance of free time and put authentically delicious and healthy food on their tables-let alone keep their resource use down.Enter the "urban homestead." Whether it's a trend or a movement we can't yet say, but more and more of my peers seem to be spending what free time they have making jam, gardening, bee keeping, fermenting, or participating in a long list of related DIY activities. Doing things with our hands might just be commonplace again. And while this set of preoccupations borrows its name from the original homesteading era, when both men and women struggled daily to survive, the new homestead-with its free will and fluid gender roles-might be just as complex.K. Ruby Blume, who teaches beekeeping, gardening and canning at the Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland, California, isn't worried about women's roles in this new era home domesticity. For one, she's seen a number of the women in the DIY families she knows act as breadwinners, while their male partners stay home. Nonetheless, she adds, "women have a natural affinity towards a certain kind of caring about our environment and toward homemaking," even when "freed from the feeling of ‘must.'"Erik Knutzen co-authored the book The Urban Homestead with his wife Kelly Coyne and he keeps a blog called He says the couple's roles do play out along standard gender lines at times: he does the building, carries heavy loads, and works on a lot of the technical stuff, like adding drip irrigation to their garden. But he also bakes the bread. He says he thinks a little differently about what it means to be a nurturer than he did before they embarked on their decade-long process of building a thriving, ecologically sound home and urban farm in the middle of Los Angeles."I think men and women both need to be comfortable being nurturers of the land, of their homes of each other," he says. His wife agrees, but adds that domestic gender politics can obscure a larger set of problems."It's important to take the thinking further," says Coyne. "We need to be asking why it takes two adults working 40-hours-a-week to pay a mortgage. From what I've seen, both men and women just work [out of the house] more and more. They commute an hour each way, and when they get home, all they can do is plunk themselves down in front of the TV." Shifting their lives to focus on working in the home, and paring down many of the consumer habits that went along with their previous lifestyle has been enriching for both of them, says Coyne, while allowing more room for their gender roles to overlap.Kateryna Wetmore, who runs Urban Kitchen SF, also believes in expanding the discussion beyond typical gender rhetoric. At the classes she and her colleagues teach, she's seen women and an increasing number of men hoping to fill what she sees as "a critical vacuum left in the American kitchen."Rather than a gender battleground, Wetmore says, "the kitchen is now a space colonized by entities whose objectives are profit over nutrition and convenience over community." The last several decades of advertising, she believes, has "discouraged our participation in the production and preservation of our own food by cloaking it in a veil of 1950s imagery of female bondage."It's hard not to begin unpacking linear ideas of progress. Considering how many of us are slowing down and examining the sustainability of our choices, it's also possible that-without realizing we were doing it-many of us have started believing that its worth the risk to turn back occasionally for the important things we leave behind. It hardly surprises me, then, that so many women are leading the way.Photo courtesy of Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne.Guest blogger Twilight Greenaway writes a weekly newsletter about sustainable food for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture. Her writing can also be found at Culinate, Civil Eats, and Ethicurean. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

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Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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