The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

questions for the agrarian "feminist"

Dear AJ,

I'm just trying to see if I have your ideas straight, please feel free to correct me or to answer the questions i have posed for my further illumination (which i have in some cases posed to you before in comments on the numerous postings that have been addressing all of this, including on your own blog, Maria Von Trapp, The Radical Tory, Pink Panda, ...oh my starry eyed surprise..., About Town, here, and probably elsewhere too).

1. Is it correct that you believe women (all women?) would find life in the home, preferably on the farm, caring for children, house and husband (and presumably filling those essential unpaid roles that underpin our communities and churches) the most fulfilling way to live?

2. Is it correct that you believe women can receive all of the education they require in the home, in particular from their own mothers (and other female relatives I assume)? Why does this not similarly apply to men?

3. Is it correct that you believe in a rigid division of labour between men and women that mirrors the model of men being active in public life and women in private, and that you also think that women would prefer to return to private life, leaving any public roles to men? What basis do you have for believing that given that throughout human history women have become more and more involved in public life, suggesting that we seek it too?

4. How would you apply your model to same sex relationships - for example in a lesbian relationship who cares for the children? what about in a gay relationship with two fathers (and no mother)?

5. What about couples who are unable to have children? Does a woman's inability to have children (or in fact her conscious choice not to) mean she is by your definition incapable of living a fulfilling life? And what about for men - if they cannot or do not have children are their lives similarly blighted?

6. How can you ignore all the evidence that women are a) capable of, and b) quite keen on, a role in public life and still maintain that we would prefer to return to the agrarian utopia you propose?

7. Have you read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood? If your answer is no I suggest you do so at the first possible opportunity.

8. You have written a lot about the role of women in your farming paradise - what role do you see for men, in particular in terms of their child-raising responsibilities? Who would do the housework on your farm? Who would get up in the night if the baby cries? Who would change the bed linen? Who would do the food shopping? What I am getting at is; would men and women share those unpaid, unrecognised tasks that keep a household and a family going?


Of course I do not speak for all women. I am abundantly aware that there are women who in part prefer the kind of private life that you support - some of my best friends are aching to be stay at home mums, and they'll do a damn fine job. But they won't be the passive partners in the relationship that you seem to envisage - they will take an active role in decision-making, they will continue to vote, some of them might even (shock horror) continue to work side by side with their husband in the business that they run together, or work part time for the financial security it provides their family (not to mention the social interaction and sense of worth it gives them in their own right).

But the key difference between what you espouse and the decisions some women make is who chooses. Do you (or other men, or other people in power) choose this life for them, or do they choose it for themselves? IMHO there are already more than enough factors taking choices away from women (socio-economic in particular).

Answers on the back of a postcard* please AJ.

And please, no carping about being told by others to shut up, or that you have been accused of being a Nazi - I have not done so and will not - I am genuinely puzzled by your views, which seem to be honestly held, and seek clarity and explanation, as well as to challenge you and hold up a flag as a woman who does not conform to your ideas about members of my gender.

---
*span parlance for in comments.

28 comments:

A. J. Chesswas said...

Thank you so much for this post Span. I will endeavour to provide some comment as soon as I can, and will look forward to your reaction. I am as puzzled as everyone here, don't worry about that!

A. J. Chesswas said...

Dear Span,

Thank you for your sincere and respectful post re: agrarian “feminism”. It was a breath of fresh air to have someone see past the offensiveness of my comments and look for understanding. You may call me Allan; now to address your questions.

1. Is it correct that you believe women (all women?) would find life in the home, preferably on the farm, caring for children, house and husband (and presumably filling those essential unpaid roles that underpin our communities and churches) the most fulfilling way to live?

I do believe such would be the most fulfilling way for a woman to live. Given that women have the capacity by nature for childbearing, and also, like men, a desire to have a sexual relationship with the member of the opposite sex, it only makes sense that psychologically a women would have such a desire, and that if she didn’t she may have psychological or emotional issues. A rural setting is preferable to an urban setting for everyone. Whether you are a creationist or an evolutionist, both theology and ecology highlight to us the importance of our relationship with natural resources. Again, surely our psychology is wired to this effect.

I’m not saying that women can’t also find fulfillment in work outside of the home, or forms of cultural expression such as music, dance, drama, literature etc. What I am saying is that a women should not let ambition affect her ability to be a faithful wife and mother. Neither should a man let ambition affect his being a good husband and father.

2. Is it correct that you believe women can receive all of the education they require in the home, in particular from their own mothers (and other female relatives I assume)? Why does this not similarly apply to men?

Both men and women should receive all the education they NEED within the home, within school, and within various possible arrangements for community-based education, as well as more efficient and effective on-the-job apprenticeship schemes. Obviously this is less possible when highly specialized, highly technical skills are sought (i.e. Doctor, Dentist, Engineer). My thinking is that it is best for a woman not to pursue such a specialized field of knowledge unless she knows she will not be marrying and/or having children, otherwise it could be a misspent “investment”.

Alternately, given the flexibility of today’s market she may be able to work in her field on a part-time basis, not compromising her roles of wife and mother. I would not say a woman can’t go to university, but I’d encourage her to maintain her femininity and not be socialized into thinking and feeling like a man.

3. Is it correct that you believe in a rigid division of labour between men and women that mirrors the model of men being active in public life and women in private, and that you also think that women would prefer to return to private life, leaving any public roles to men? What basis do you have for believing that given that throughout human history women have become more and more involved in public life, suggesting that we seek it too?

As above, my thinking is not that rigid. I am merely saying that if a woman is trying to choose between home life and public life, that home life is the more preferable and ideal choice. I don’t believe the increase in women’s participation in politics is something that is inspired by their “heart”. New Zealand in particular has experienced social conditions (settling, war, economic depression) within which it was demanded women worked and lived like men. We socialized women into masculinity to the point many now consider it natural.

4. How would you apply your model to same sex relationships - for example in a lesbian relationship who cares for the children? what about in a gay relationship with two fathers (and no mother)?

God, or nature, chooses for us who will be our children and who will be our parents. Examples of family such as those you suggest here are out of sync with the created order and shouldn’t be encouraged.

5. What about couples who are unable to have children? Does a woman's inability to have children (or in fact her conscious choice not to) mean she is by your definition incapable of living a fulfilling life? And what about for men - if they cannot or do not have children are their lives similarly blighted?

I would feel saddened if it turned out I was infertile. Highly saddened. I hope that anyone would. Yet I know that if it happened so, I could still live a contented life, at least I could still be at peace with God and with the world. I would always be disappointed I couldn’t have children, but I would accept that there are many other ways to live and serve God and would use my “freedom” to his advantage.

6. How can you ignore all the evidence that women are a) capable of, and b) quite keen on, a role in public life and still maintain that we would prefer to return to the agrarian utopia you propose?

I am yet to see such evidence. I am yet to meet such a woman who seems content and peaceable with themselves and with the world. I know women who do want to have a role in public life, but never at the expense of their family or their femininity. This I encourage.

7. Have you read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood? If your answer is no I suggest you do so at the first possible opportunity.

I haven’t read it.

8. You have written a lot about the role of women in your farming paradise - what role do you see for men, in particular in terms of their child-raising responsibilities? Who would do the housework on your farm? Who would get up in the night if the baby cries? Who would change the bed linen? Who would do the food shopping? What I am getting at is; would men and women share those unpaid, unrecognised tasks that keep a household and a family going?

The beauty of an agrarian lifestyle is that a man actually works hard, and at the end of the day is sore and tired and finds solace in his wife and his home. His work provides the family with an income, and the woman complements his provision with her aptitude for homemaking and the finer points of child-raising. In his thankfulness for this a good man would not require his wife to work hard all day in the same way as him, given that she is in a sense 24-7 on call.

Within an agrarian context a man also has far more opportunity to be involved in raising children, as they can be involved in working the land. Men tend to relate best when they’re working together, this gives father and children the ability to develop a bond that would be difficult within an urban, office-based industry.


Of course I do not speak for all women. I am abundantly aware that there are women who in part prefer the kind of private life that you support - some of my best friends are aching to be stay at home mums, and they'll do a damn fine job. But they won't be the passive partners in the relationship that you seem to envisage - they will take an active role in decision-making, they will continue to vote, some of them might even (shock horror) continue to work side by side with their husband in the business that they run together, or work part time for the financial security it provides their family (not to mention the social interaction and sense of worth it gives them in their own right).

The Christian agrarian model of family is patriarchal, with the understanding marriage is an analogy of God’s relationship with us. The man gives his life for his wife by providing for her, protecting her, encouraging her and complimenting her. The woman submits to her husband by respecting his ideas and opinions, and his leadership. This doesn’t mean she has to be silent in her own opinions, but rather that she wouldn’t expect him to bow and bend to her every wish and concern. As I said I have little problem with women working part-time, but if that’s her only source of social interaction I would be concerned. Within a Christian context a woman has a whole church with whom she can socialize, and often this includes other mothers whose children her own can also socialize with.


But the key difference between what you espouse and the decisions some women make is who chooses. Do you (or other men, or other people in power) choose this life for them, or do they choose it for themselves? IMHO there are already more than enough factors taking choices away from women (socio-economic in particular).

Only you can make the choices about how you can live, and only I can make choices about how I live. As I discussed, though, Christian theology has implications for leadership within marriage. Perhaps it is to safeguard the essence of a man’s masculinity (strength – protecting his family) and a woman’s femininity (sensitivity – nurturing her children).


At the end of the day, my views are grounded partly in nature and ecology, partly in culture and theology, and partly in my experiences in trying to understand and relate to rural and urban men and women. I am quite cynical about how honest people are in these issues; honest with me and honest with themselves. I am sympathetic to the Marxist idea of false consciousness whereby people become blinded to what they really want. This makes it almost impossible to convince me otherwise, as you would first need to prove to me I could trust you were being honest, which would be a long and very relational process. But it seems you're not trying to change my mind anyway, but rather trying to understand where I am coming from. I hope I have helped you in this.

If you have any questions about what I've said I'd be happy to answer; any comments and I would be happy to listen. Bless you, I go in peace :)

A. J. Chesswas said...

Check KSMilkmaid's blog, and some of the blogs she links to, for an illustration of the depth and satisfaction of agrarian life;

http://www.fullerfamilyfarms.com/topics/blog/

maps said...

Sometimes I'm convinced that history is flowing backwards. I was just reading a Guardian review of Osama bin Laden's Selected Writings, with their screwball theism and bogus appeals to the 'natural', and now I stumble upon this old school fundy Christianity crossed with New Age greenie nonsense.

I find the notion that the dairy farm is an exemplar of a harmonious relationship with the earth father rather strange - stranger, even, than some of Osama's conspiracy theories. The sort of capital-intensive large-scale dairy farms we see in New Zealand today are very much the products of a particular historical conjuncture, and are extraordinarily different from other more historically typical forms of agriculture. The most productive ones are also quite unsustainable, because they usually rely on the fertility left in the soil by thousands of years of now-extinct native forests (kahikatea in Hauraki and the Waikato, for instance). Besides all that, they are incredibly inefficient, as a way of providing sustenance, when one compares them to other types of agriculture.

Dairy farms exist in New Zealand not because God wants us to live in harmony with nature, but because in the international division of land and labour in the old British Empire we were assigned the role of being Britain's farm.

I don't say all this as a vegan anarchist who hates meat-eaters or anything - I've spent most of my life on a dairy farm and I had hamburgers for dinner tonight. But the fact is that this person is, like so many others who have extolled the virtues of blood and soil, weaving their own little myth in the name of the 'natural'. Their claim that the typical or ideal (it doesn't really matter which) dairy farm sees a division of labour between homemaking women and men working outdoors is contradicted by the experiences of thousands and thousands of dairy farmers' and sharemilkers' wives, who have played an active role in everything from milking to fencing to doing the farm accounts.

In fact, I think that, in the dark days before women had the opportunity to enter most of the job market, the farm was one of the rare areas where a woman could do 'masculine' work. Well before women were temporarily given farming jobs during World War Two (and they were *not* encouraged to hold onto these jobs once the war was finished) there are records of farmers' wives and widows playing leadership roles and doing hard physical work on the land.

Intriguing examples of the phenomenon can be found in the early, semi-documentary stories of Frank Sargeson, where men are often outworked
by farmers' wives and widows.

Anyone who has lived on a dairy farm for more than five minutes will have known women like this, and I don't think they'd appreciate some shrinking violet who's afraid of her own sexuality and free will telling them to get back into the kitchen. The sooner history moves on and we can get rid of the whole antiquated notion of gender-specific characteristics and roles the better.

maps said...

PS: those comments were aimed mostly at the Milkmaid blog, which I had been reading thinking it was also AJ's abode. It's rather to depressing to consider the possibility that there might be a network of these people blogging...;)

Make Tea Not War said...

This is reminding me of Ladies Against Feminism (not a parody site) and the whole biblical feminity internet scene. They are much more hard core though- even University education and part time work are not allowed. I find the whole movement quite fascinating. They are always harking back to some mythical period where women stayed home and did as they were told and were happy.

Paul said...

AJ claims to be an agrarian but he voices his opinons on a COMPUTER connected to the INTERNET. Does he think HTML grows on trees?

A. J. Chesswas said...

Paul you have a very narrow understanding of agrarianism. You'll find links on my blog to plenty of other agrarians who also know how to use the internet.

One of the best:

http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/

Paul said...

AJ, if we all lived as you wish, there would be no technological progress. The internet, like almost everything else in our lives in the result of industrialisation that produced technology. Without it, we would be in the Middle Ages.

The question I often ask of people who romanticise the past or extol the pastoral life and tradition is "would you like traditional dentistry?"

I guess your wife would extract your rotting teeth at the end of a day of back-breaking manual labour.

A. J. Chesswas said...

So you're telling me without industrialisation and urbanisation we wouldn't have modern day dentistry? Do you have any evidence for such a sweeping statement?

stef said...

Jeeze span I would think you would know better than to fee dthe fucking trolls.

span said...

well i'm not feeding him on your blog stef, i'm feeding him on mine.

i genuinely wanted clarification - i was honestly expecting him to be less extreme than i had painted him in my questions and i'm quite disappointed that in fact my worse case scenario was right, and in some cases he is even worse than i had thought.

a little more (in)digestion is required before i comment further, but everyone else please feel free.

Paul said...

AJ, think of countries like Afghanistan, Sudan or PNG and you have a pretty good likeness of the West in its agrarian past. Agrarian societies are marked by subsistence farming, where people farm mostly for their own food with perhaps a small surplus that can be traded. They are also marked by famine, because people are at the mercy of climate and agricultural methods are rudimentary - there are no modern fertilisers or pesticides. There is little opportunity for social progress - people live in the village where they are born for all their lives and do what generations before them did - farm the same patch of land. There is little technology.

In modern agriculture, farmers produce for cash. They do so because there is demand from large urban populations, at home and overseas. They can do so because they have agricultural technology, which began its development with inventions like Jethro Tull's seed drill, which mechanised a previously labour-intensive process. Farming is now an industrial process.

Dentistry is also the result of scientific enquiry and technological development. Until the 18th Century Enlightenment, people generally did not think scientifically or technologically. Such technologies as the making of steel were previously impossible. The use of electricity and engines are later inventions still. All this technology is the result of industrialisation and its motivation.

The agrarian, pastoral ideal also dates from the 18th Century. It was only when people where less dependent on the land that an idealised view of nature and of rural life developed.

A. J. Chesswas said...

So what you're saying is specialisation of labour, and better technology, means we don't have to all be farmers, and some people can focus on knowledge and skills such as dentistry?

Paul said...

That is part of it. The agricultural revolution caused the industrial revolution in several respects: it created surplus production, which could feed growing urban populations. It also created a surplus of labour, because fewer people were needed on the land. Technological developments in agriculture led to developments in industry, first in skills like spinning and weaving. Change also happened because some people were less inclined to continue traditional practices and developed a scientific, enquiring attitude.

Cathy Odgers said...

Dear All

Please note that AJ is not alone in these views in the NZ rural community.

I say this also as possibly the least pro-woman female blogger on the net.

I am not saying most rural NZ men share his religious beliefs but the ones about women and their role are as widespread as toxic algae.

It is why I spared myself having to lower my standards to accept this kind of nonsense in Cambridge or Matamata with such beasts and moved to Auckland as soon as I could at age 16 to attend a real University (ie. one without a degree in Agriculture).

The sooner NZ becomes a completely corporatised farming community the better.

Cathy

A. J. Chesswas said...

Ms Odgers considers herself the least pro-woman female blogger, and I would consider she actually verges on misogyny herself, and is certainly amisopaedist and a misoandryst. Children offend and bore her, and she's allowed her heart to become so cold and unromantic she'll sleep with married men so that she can psychoanalyse them. The irony is her views are closer to those of feminists than they are to mine. This doesn't suprise me, because at the heart of radical feminism is, I believe, a self-hatred, a woman's hatred for her own femininity; as well as a hatred of men, and an obsession with power, disguised by the word "choice". It was actually Cathy's comments about children on Maria's blog that sparked this whole discussion a whole month ago.

As for your comments Paul, I don't think an inquiring, scientific attitude can't coexist with a commitment to traditional practices. Your spiel sounds like humanist/globalist/urbanist/capitalist mythology and propaganda to me.

Cathy Odgers said...

AJ

If in fact it was my comments that sparked this debate then why are you the one coming out of this looking like a complete cunt?

If you have not noticed these people actually now hate you more than they do me.

Perhaps it is because I have never suggested (to an audience remember that has better qualifications than you do) a woman actually belongs in the home. She belongs wherever and doing whatever the fuck she wants.

And as for "hating men" or being "cold" or "unromantic". For christ's sake, you don't honestly think I would blog in a public forum about the men I actually really really like?

maps said...

Why is it automatically evil for a woman to dislike men, be cold, and be unromantic, if she chooses to be so? It is the notion that every woman must be a slightly dizzy heterosexual who loves flowers, chocolates, and walks on the beach, not to mention cooking and cleaning, which is artificial and profoundly misogynistic. I think that men like AJ feel threatened by the idea that women might be able to have an emotional, intellectual and sexual life independent of them. Their ideal of feminity is actually an expression of their own need to control the women around them by repressing the potential of these women for independence. The origin of this desire for control often seems to be a sort of selfish longing for the one-way emotional relationship a child enjoys with its mother. For all their talk about love and honouring women, men like AJ never seem able to see beyond thenselves and their own needs to the human beings that are their wives and daughters. I suppose whether this tragic or merely pathetic depends on your gender and your proximity to the likes of AJ.

Josh said...

I've been watching this with mild interest, but now I call bullshit -- "humanist/globalist/urbanist/capitalist mythology and propaganda"? No human being talks like that. This AJ person is clearly the fake persona of someone taking the piss.

A. J. Chesswas said...

Nobody talks like that Josh, because humanism, globalism, urbanism and centralism are attitudes and philosophies so ingrained in our lifestyle we see them as "normal" and "natural", and shun those who don't as "strange".

I don't feel threatened by the idea of an independent woman, or by the idea of an independent man. It's just people who do fall into those categories so often seem so discontent, cold, heartless and wounded that one can't help but think it's just not right, not natural (with the odd exception of course). I'm talking about a two-way relationship, I'm talking about the needs and desires of women as much as men. I know plenty of women that would feel like slapping you over the face for implying that a woman who "loves flowers, chocolates, and walks on the beach, not to mention cooking and cleaning...must be slightly dizzy...artificial and profoundly misogynistic"!

Paul said...

If AJ is the avatar of someone else, that person has done a very good job, even to the extent of a Chesswas family website. I think we may have to face the possiblity that he is real. Another exciting prospect is that AJ is a machine, is set to produce phrases like humanist/globalist/urbanist/capitalist mythology and propaganda whenever the name Maria von Trapp is mentioned in public. Although the product of the most advanced techology, this machine advances mediaeval ideas, proving that capitalism sows the seeds of its own destruction (a metaphor which AJ would understand, if he were real).

A. J. Chesswas said...

:)

Brother Karl did get a few things right!

Josh said...

Intriguing possibility, Paul, although one that lends itself to imaginings of armies of Chewsswasbots subjagating entire continents to their silicon will, flattening all who oppose them with their hulking, steam-powered exoskeletons. Awesome! \m/ \m/

A. J. Chesswas said...

Why, when people read a philosophical ideal, do they a POLITICAL philosophy with armies of Nazis forcing them to live that ideal? Christians across this planet have ideals that they think apply to everyone, but I don't see them forcing anyone to be a Christian. Having an ideal about how people should live, yet also allowing people to live how they want to live, are not mutually exclusive attitudes. Yes, they subject the believer to a lot of tension and discomfort about the state of the world, and of other souls, but learning to live with brokenness is part of the Christian life that Christ illustrates for us so clearly. But never does it mean we fold into some sort of pomo attitude of "whatever makes you happy baby". Instead we believe in persuasion, and the cardinal sin of patronism and condescension. And if any Christians take exception to that please tell me how you engage in evangelism without bring patronising and condescending.

Josh said...

No, it's when I think of killer robots that I imagine armies of robo-Nazis oppressing all that fall under their mighty pistons. And if modern literature has taught us anything, it's that all robots are ultimately killer robots, even those that outwardly espouse idealized pastoral lifestyles. I wouldn't expect a soulless automaton such as yourself to understand the subtle intricacies of the human-deathbot dynamic.

Kakariki said...

Cathy said:
The sooner NZ becomes a completely corporatised farming community the better.

HA HA HA HA HA That's the funniest thing I've read in ages, like a neo-liberal McGillicuddy!

Good on ya span for stirring up shit, highly entertaining. I'd do it myself but I can never manage to stay away from dripping sarcasm..

xox

Nixie! said...

What I find fascinatingly disturbing about A.J.'s reply is that I, like Span, had hoped that his comments might prove him less of an extremist. Sadly, it seems that I was incorrect. Now, I'm writing from the perspective of a Christian woman, who is a Children's Pastor, loves romanticism, loves flowers, chocolates, walks on the beaches and plan on teaching eventually (which apparently is a suitably feminine role). However, there is no way in hell that I would speak with anyone who told me to 'get back in the kitchen' and actually meant it. I'd hate to live in a rural area and I'd feel bored and intellectually starved if my world was ever reduced to a farm where my key company was looking after my wee little ones. I had a flatmate whose father was extremely conservative, refused to allow his wife to work and insisted that his daughters be homeschooled. So this poor women gets up at the crack of dawn to cook breakfast, has her daughters for intellectual stimulation and, if she's lucky, gets to socialize with the other wives at church on a Sunday. A really exciting day is getting to drive for an hour or two to get to the nearest Warehouse.
Don't get me wrong, the Greenie in me wouldn't mind a lifestyle block with a few fruit trees, a vegie patch and some chickens - as long as I could still get to town in 20 minutes if there's no traffic (a bit like Albany before it started getting subsidized to hell).
At the moment I teach children on a Sunday and do Data Integrity and Project Implementation for National Bank on weekdays - surrounded by friendly, intelligent adults and able to meet up with liberal left-wing bloggers for wine, dinner and debate a few minutes away from work.
There's no way I'd want to swap that for some isolated farm where the kids fill the weekdays and I might see a decent dose of adults on the weekend!

And no, I'm not an ardent feminist (as in 'men suck'), nor am I lesbian (but I have plenty of gay friends), nor am I infertile or against marriage or kids. I'd love to get married and have kids in the next 5 years but not if it meant giving up my identity for some antiquated, romanticised, Victorian Luddite ideal!