Friday, January 9, 2009

The Diversity of Voices in the Blogosphere

To continue our discussion from the past few days, today I wanted to talk about a comment that Going Green Mama left and that she then explored further on her blog. She wrote:
So, Erin, here's the question. Is the housewife/green theme on many of these blogs a result of peer pressure or because the working mom who's trying to incorporate some of these changes just doesn't have enough hours in the day to blog about it?
It's a good question. And I think that while I had sort of assumed that the focus on DIY was somewhat a result of peer pressure, I think Erin makes a good point that perhaps, the focus on DIY makes sense when you consider that a lot of eco-bloggers are SAHMs.

Now, I hope I was clear in my initial post, but just in case I wasn't, I'm going to be completely clear right now. I don't think there is anything wrong with a woman wanting to stay at home with her children, and wanting to make her own jam, or can her own vegetables, or grow her own garden or anything like that. I don't think any of them women whose blogs I read daily are some sort of affront to feminism. I don't think they're being brainwashed with the patriarchy. I think it's great that we do have choices in this day and age, and frankly, I think we all have to individually make the choices that are best for *us* and, wouldn't it be nice if we could do that without everyone else judging those choices?

(Although, with regard to choices, Abbie makes a good point that we actually don't all have choices, which is true. She can't give up work, and frankly, nor can I. I have to support myself, even if I didn't want to, I don't actually have a choice. But the point remains that we do have *more* choices than many other generations. Even a generation ago, I would have had little choice about getting married. At a certain point, if I weren't married, I would have simply had an arranged marriage. But now, I have the choice not to do that. So while I may not have a choice right now in terms of supporting myself, I do think I have way more choice in my life than Indian women did 50-100 years ago.)

Now, for whatever reason, it happens that a lot of eco-bloggers are SAHMs. And as Erin pointed out, if you are a family living off of one pay-check, then paying $8 for a jar of jam doesn't make sense. And yes, I really did pay $8 for my jam when I lived in LA. I'm not just making up numbers in case you were curious. ;)

On the other hand, if you're me, and you live alone, and there is no one with whom to divide work (but also no one other than myself to spend money on), it might make more sense to just buy the $8 jam. There's also an eco-efficiency of scale that you lose when you're making jam for one, so honestly, I think that for me, the most eco-solution probably is to just buy my jam at the farmer's market.

I guess the truth of the matter is,  we write about our personal experiences, and what we know. Given that SAHMs represent a large portion of the eco-blogosphere, it's probably not surprising that DIY is a big component of the eco-blogs.

But I do think it's also important to remember that we're not all alike, and that's okay. It's okay for us all to follow different paths. And that's something that I have to remind myself. 


Jamie D. said...

I've been following these posts with great interest, because it's something I've often thought about too. I've never really considered myself a "feminist", mostly because I really don't mind most domestic work...but I like having the extra money that two incomes provides as well. I guess I am sort of "feminist" in that I feel more equal to my husband because I'm working outside the home - which isn't to disparage women who stay home at all. If we had decided to have kids, one of us would certainly have stayed home with them (agreed before we married), and I'm sure that would be equal work to any outside job, but not having kids makes it seem like I *should* work outside the home, if that makes sense.

I do work a full 40 hours per I feel that frustration when reading many of the other eco-blogs wherein women are making *everything* at home, from soap to nut butters, and then when I think that I should apply that to my life, I find that I just don't have the time, or if I can find the time somewhere, I simply don't have the energy to do everything I'd like to do at home for a more eco-friendly existence. Hubby and I are child-free by choice, but I can't imagine both of us working and trying to care for children at the same time...just making homemade dog food for my two dogs has been a serious time-management challenge lately!

It's definitely a balancing act, and I try to keep reminding myself that much of what I read online *is* written by women who are home most of the day, or work part time, and keep it in that context. I try to find the best eco-friendly choices that fit with my *own* time schedule and finances - and that does mean buying instead of making things like skin care products and soap.

And while my friends/family think I'm "radical" (when in reality I don't do half of what many do in terms of "being green"), I have to hope that those women who do have the time to go the extra mile don't look down on me for what I *can't* do, but instead encourage me to keep doing as much as I can. If we can keep encouraging each other and avoid falling into the judgments of who is or isn't doing "enough", then yes, I think feminism and environmentalism can work together just fine.

Green Bean said...

One of the things I love about your blog, Ruchi, and this series of posts is the fact that you are writing from a different place than I.

I am a SAHM and I do do alot of the stuff myself. Not all mind you because I don't have a driving need to be self sufficient, just green.

That said, we need as many green voices as possible on the blogosphere. We need working parents, non-parents, singles, everyone and everything. There are so many ways to live in accordance with your eco-principles.

Thank you for speaking out and representing working people, people without kids, singles and so on. And thanks to all the commenters from different points of view expressing theirs.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Expounding on Green Bean's comment that we need as many green voices in the blogosphere as possible, I think a diversity of eco-bloggers shows that anyone can live a green lifestyle no matter what excuse they can come up with.

In response to "I can't go green because I live in the city." - check out No Impact Man

In response to "I can't go green because I live in the country." - check out Farmer's Daughter

In response to "I can't go green because I live in the suburbs." - check out Burbanmom

In response to "I can't go green because I'm too busy." - check out Crunchy Chicken

In response to "I can't go green because I'm a student." - check out Arduous

See! No one has any excuse!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Erin makes a great point. I probably stick out (as usual) because I'm a fulltime working Mom who ecoblogs. Probably the big difference is that I have a flexible schedule, but that's offset by a sick husband and a special needs kid.

Now, do I always make my own bread, soap, jam, etc.? Ha ha ha. No f'in way. I just don't have the time. Okay, maybe the jam. But, I try to make the time because these are things that I enjoy doing. And I don't watch TV so that helps.

I like the fact that what I make is homemade, I have total control over the ingredients and the fact that I save money by doing it. Do I need to save the money? Not really.

Between my paycheck and my husband's disability we are doing okay. Not as well as when he was working FT, but I make a nice salary so I must have something wrong with me that I still clean my own toilets and make my own yogurt. But, from the money I save, I get to giveaway a lot of stuff on my blog :) Because I know (for now at least) I'm financially better off than most of my readers.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I blog about DIY stuff because that's what I enjoy. I also write a lot about my job, but I've gotta have a life outside of that!

I could write about a whole bunch of different things, but I choose to write about what's fun for me. Science is something I do everyday, so is teaching, so while they're incorporated into a lot of what I write, it's not really a hobby to write about that.

Anonymous said...

I work fulltime, and have a kid, and live in a (small) city, and garden and can and use cloth napkins and ride my bike to work.

I don't blog about it, mostly because I'm not making much of a transition anymore. I have a LJ but it's all cute things my kids did and a dream I had about Jay Smooth and bitching about my job.

I think there are a lot of bloggers out there talking about the science and policy issues, but they're mostly men - La Marguerite posted about this a couple times. The lifestyle-y blogs are mostly women, seems like - though of course not entirely, including No Impact Man & ~p over at the coop site.

There are some mom blogs I read by women who work in science (I really like Good Mom, Bad Mom) that are also incidentally environmental blogs.

I do know several women in real life who do policy work or work in environmental science - water department stuff, researchers, wildlife biology, food policy - and some of them blog, but *not* about environmental stuff. Most of them blog about knitting, or their kids, or whatever.

Anonymous said...

I think we all might get a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of people's lives we read about and somehow decide that each person is doing everything. The person who bicycles to the farmers' market in the rain and hasn't used a car in six years is not necessarily the same person who makes his or her own soap. People who work full time probably can't grow all their own vegetables, raise chickens, and make soap; people who live in rural areas probably can't totally give up their cars.

I for one love reading about people's failures, or the things that they can't quite bring themselves to face, because not all of these "more sustainable ways of living" are easy (and if it makes your life a living hell, it's not sustainable). I love to bake, and I'm a good baker, but that damn no-knead bread recipe from the New York Times that everyone swears by has been a ridiculous disaster both times I've tried. So I rarely bake bread, and I DON'T CARE.

For the bloggers, talk about what you do, but also talk about what you don't do and why. When you buy a local chicken and it comes with the neck still attached and you don't know what to do so you just cook it and the neck curves into a horrible red hook that keeps catching on the edge of the pan, tell people! Yes, true story. Local meat can be a little scary for those of us who don't know what we're doing.

And all of these artisanal jam makers are going to go out of business if everyone who cares about local, organic jam is at home making his or her own. (Haven't tried my hand at it yet; maybe next summer. Maybe it will work, and maybe I'll end up twitching in a jam-spattered kitchen.)

Unknown said...

When did you pay eight dollars for jam? Your jam came from Trader Joe's just like your soy nut butter and everything else.

Unknown said...

I mean, you can get jam for WAY CHEAPER than eight dollars. I don't care if you are in London.

Talk me off this ledge.

Eliane said...

A couple of points:

1. I'm not so sure all this homemade stuff is as green as everyone thinks. I make my own bread and my own jam sometimes and so on, but I'm not going to kid myself that it is less green to buy good quality jam from a shop than it is to use my own electricity to make a paltry (by comparison) few jars or loaves. Just as living in the country as I now do can seem greener, frankly it isn't. In London my car moved once every month or so. Here it gets driven every day. In London my house was efficiently heated with gas and insulated properly. Here it isn't and it's heated by oil. I've got my own chickens now but really I think my carbon footprint has definitely gone up. So arduous, I suspect you in Bloomsbury are greener than I am in Wales for all my homemade jam.

2. Life is full of changes and I may be a housewife/SAHM/homemaker (please could someone come up with more attractive terms than those!) now but I was a "career woman" for the preceding 15 years and will probably be so again. These are phases of life and based on personal changes and I don't think we should fall for the "media"'s insistence on opposition and conflict. My best friend is a full-time working mother with a full-time working husband; her choices are right for her, mine for me and I don't think either of us has a problem with that. And yes I am a feminist.

Now off to bake next week's bread.

Anonymous said...

Oh Runchi! I love reading your blog - and especially loved the jam topic. As always, you make me think, and I was inspired to post this:

Stephanie said...

So, how DO you go green as a student in a foreign country? I'm curious because I'm at the same point right now, and especially with the language barrier find it harder and harder to not use plastic, can't compost, and so on. Um, plus I think I forgot what it means to 'be green' what with all the transitions going on...

I love this discussion though. Great to get some different perspectives in.

Megan said...

I think blogs are easy for lifestyle posts, regardless of your lifestyle.

I would LOVE to see more policy/science based blogs. Maybe I just need to keep my eyes open.

The nice thing about lifestyle posts is that they can, as a previous person said, admit failure. Our temptations and pitfalls make excellent reading material, and we get to share that journey with people. Science/policy ones probably wouldn't focus on failure as much.

Although I don't can at home (no garden yet to create a need to can) I get to live vicariously through those that do, but feel camaraderie with those who are trying to find farmers markets and the like.