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Real Women Grow Tomatoes: Defining Feminism

October 24, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

defining feminismIf I had a nickel for every time my mother expresses her astonishment that, as an adult, I enjoy making a decent scone, growing tomatoes, or canning plum jam, I would be able to end world hunger with enough money left over to buy a sweet new pair of hiking boots. She’s surprised because, growing up, I was never into these domestic and traditionally female endeavors.

I wanted to live in a high-rise in Chicago, drive a Porsche, and be important. Mom also reminds me that I couldn’t even be bothered to clean up my room. That’s when I remind her that during all of this, I was like, 12.

When I reached my 20s and was pursuing two graduate degrees, I knew I was going to be a career girl. What other choice did I have considering my student loan debt and aspirations of owning a Coach handbag? My career took some unexpected turns, but I never stopped to second guess the path that I was on. If I wasn’t married and making babies, then I should be busy making money. It was very black and white to me in those days.

I consider myself a feminist, and I thought that meant I was empowered to make my own money, buy my own home, and choose my own way. Never did I consider that a feminist might also be interested in growing her own food or making her own bread. In case you thought that I was going to make an attempt at defining feminism in a measly blog post, you can rest assured that I’m not. I am just suggesting that the lines aren’t, and shouldn’t be, so rigid.

The women’s lib movement of the 60s and 70s took women out of the home and encouraged them to enter the workforce. Sounds great, right? But were we really “liberated” or did we just make more work for ourselves? In most homes even in 2014, women still carry or feel they should carry the load when it comes to housekeeping and preparing meals- all this while holding down a job outside the home!

Some of our responsibilities took on a new look but didn’t go away. For instance, during those decades, there was also an increase in the availability of processed convenience foods that made putting dinner on the table a little easier for working moms. That doesn’t mean working moms weren’t still responsible for providing dinner.

defining feminismFriends of mine who have daughters talk about the “new” pressures their girls face in society today, but I think very little has changed since I was growing up. I think it’s great for women, businesses, families and society that we are empowered to do just about anything our hearts desire. But, how many of us actually do that? I mean, without listening at all to the voices outside ourselves telling us what we should be doing or what’s “responsible” or normal.

Several years ago, when I was still single, I discovered that succeeding in a demanding career and embracing the “domestic arts” were not mutually exclusive. Cooking from scratch, baking, and growing a garden became joy-filled outlets for my creativity and girly-ness. The tactile experience of getting my hands dirty in the garden and the physicality of working outside was relaxing.

I discovered that I don’t want to be just a brain that occupies a desk. I want to use my whole self to make a great life full of tasty meals, a home that I want to be in, and a fabulous outdoor space .

Now that I’m married to Mr. President, I get super-excited when I make him dinner and he exclaims, while patting his belly, “Ten outta ten!” Is it weak somehow that I get a kick out of “taking care” of my husband or my home? I don’t think so. Women are not dudes. We are wired differently and that’s a good thing. I get a deeper satisfaction from watching a seed turn into food and mastering the perfect pie crust than I will ever get from a pat on the back at my job.

I will most likely work my corporate job for years to come. I’m still (!) paying for my graduate degrees, and the paycheck allows me to follow my true passions which are right at home. I want to know what you think. Have we been defining feminism the wrong way? Are you a feminist, and if so, why?


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  1. This so so perfect and lovely!! xoxo I’ve struggled to articulate my feelings on feminism and how I see it differently than my friends seem to, so thanks for your lighthearted expression. Yes, it’s all about choice, joy, and authenticity.
    And tomatoes and homemade bread and acts of love! This is just plain refreshing, thanks for sharing.
    Also? Three cheers for maturing past age 12 and also pursuing those college degrees. So awesome.

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