A month or so ago, I wrote a post questioning what it means to be a feminist when living “back to the land.”
I got a lot of feedback from that article, and a fair amount of flak.
Some commenters didn’t understand where I was coming from, some intellectualized the bejesus out of what I was trying to say (note to self: refrain from using the word “feminist” in future articles).
My “dilemma,” as it were, really boils down to not being able to perform key physical tasks that living a more agrarian lifestyle demands. There’s nothing intellectually rigorous or theoretical about it. Rather, it’s a practical, tangible, day-to-day issue that I deal with. It’s also a pain in my ass.
Witness: The chicken tractor.
Jake spent the last couple of days fashioning this cool new chicken tractor prototype that will be used to house 50 new chicks. The design protects the birds from predators while the open bottom means they’ll have a constant supply of fresh grass to munch on. Each day, my job is to manually pull the tractor to a fresh patch of grass. Easy, right?
Only there’s one small problem.
The damn thing is too heavy for me to pull.
Jake meanwhile can pull it fine.
Some might say…..”AND?? He’s a man! You’re a woman! Dudes are stronger! Get over it, whiner!”
But for someone like me, this seemingly inconsequential scenario has, in many ways, shaped my rural existence. It seems I am constantly faced with another task I suck at or can’t perform because it’s either too heavy or too hard. The cumulative effect is that I’m often left feeling that maybe I should go back inside and watch reruns of Supermarket Sweep and fold laundry while my husband takes care of all the outdoor stuff…..which pretty much makes up our entire lives down here.
For someone who has always prided herself on her self-sufficiency and independence — at least that’s how I defined myself in New York City – this has been a manure-stained pill to swallow. A “niggling purposefulness” sets in; I’ve often felt helpless; I start questioning who I am, both as a woman and a wife, and, um, why the hell do I live here?, and before I know it I’m having a meltdown in the laundry room because I’m folding my husband’s socks because it appears that’s the only household task I can handle with any real proficiency, along with cleaning the bathtub and — holy sh$*, I really am June Cleaver.
On some level, my consternation is the result of my own physical competitiveness. I’ve run marathons, I exercise religiously. Pulling a chicken tractor around the yard seems like something I should be able to do. Yet I can’t. It also doesn’t help that my husband places a high premium on one’s physicality….this is to be expected from someone who’s been horned in the face by a bull.
So it’s either back to the drawing board for a more lady-friendly version of the prototype OR Jake will have to pull it around the yard. Either way, I’ll probably be inside, fending off waves of guilt for not doing my part and/or wishing I still possessed that free and easy sense of self I took for granted in New York, when the heaviest thing I had to lift was a 5 pound weight at Chelsea Piers.