March is Women’s History Month, with International Women’s Day marked on March 8th. As with, well, pretty much anything, there is much debate over whether this is justified, what or whose agenda it furthers, who it seeks to celebrate, and so forth. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the contributions of daily and historical importance women have made, and our importance in the fabric of society.
This period of discourse has reminded me of a thought that often works its way into my head surrounding the fact that, while I'm not aspiring to minimalism, I am seeking to minimize my footprint of consumption.
As women, we are taught from a young age to minimize the space we occupy, minimize our voices, minimize our bodies. The space we are permitted to grown in, however, is in our consumption. Since the beginning of the retail explosion of the early 20th century, if not sooner, the power of a woman was found in her purchasing power. As much as 85% of purchases in the US today are made by women, for numerous noteable reasons, yet society has somehow perpetuated a degrading troupe of women with armfuls of shopping bags filled with frivolous purchases. It’s as if we’ve been told our worth is in our utility, not our creativity, aspirations, or interests.
So what about women, like myself, that take a stand to effectively take up less space? Those who strive to use fewer things, live in smaller homes, or shrink our physical footprints?
Happy Valentine’s Day. While my thoughts on the holiday are a little convoluted and conflicted, I hope y’all are feeling the love today (and everyday), whether through a relationship, friendship – or place.
This weekend’s unseasonably warm weather, a community race through the local mental hospital turned public park, and an evening spent outside with friends was reminiscent of the atmosphere in which I was first prompted to write about how much I’d come to desire to take ownership of this place in which I was planted.
Though Raleigh, and my place in it, have changed a bit in the last year and a half since I wrote this piece, this sentiment remains. Originally titled “Home Ownership”, I was trying to capture the feeling of pride and belonging in place one has come to love:
Thursday is Produce Day. It’s the day on which our Produce Project shares are ready for pickup from the local shipping container turned “Produce Cave”, a name coined by a child of a shareholder. This week, as I loaded the share into my box to take home, a man and his elementary age daughter came in behind me. Immediately after crossing the threshold into the container, the man stopped, took a deep breath, smiled, and asked “Doesn’t it smell good in here?” before prompting his daughter to try and pick out their box among the alphabetized containers of fruits and veggies. The question seemed to be directed partially to her, partially for his own acknowledgement. Though I didn’t answer him, I silently concurred. The distinct smell of fresh produce laced with a bit of cardboard is oddly refreshing, a reminder of the earth from which the bounty was cultivated.
I think there is great value in knowing where something comes from, and knowing where it’s going. I think there’s even greater value in turning that knowledge to action & trying it for myself. While picking up a share of produce on a weekly basis is not the same as growing it, or speaking with a farmer, it’s one step closer to the source – and the smell is a reminder of this.
As evidenced by today’s politics, we fear what we do not know. Similarly, we may often take for granted that which we have not witnessed.
Humor me as I indulge in a tangent here.
This post is adapted from a piece I originally wrote in July 2015, and I’ve been reminded of it as a result of the strange coexistence of both unity and divisiveness that seems to have intensified over the last week or so. The kitchen is often a hub of activity, but also a polarizing subject, especially in conversations of equality. Perhaps it is also place in which we can gather & learn more about each other.
There’s no well-defined purpose of sharing this here. But I will say that reflecting on the role of the kitchen in my life generates warm, positive feelings – and I think I could use a little bit of that right now.
Part of putting thoughts into writing is the fact that the expression of ideas breathes life into them. No longer confined to one’s mind, they have been made available for discussion and critique. While I’m not afraid of critique – it is both healthy and necessary – I find myself concerned that those who read what I write here, particularly people I know, will simply think “why?”.
The last thing I want is for my objective to be infantilized or patronized, implying my goals are “cute” or “silly”, or my efforts futile. Perhaps those who ask why may be thinking “why go through all this trouble?” or “why turn from habits and patterns that have been established to make our lives arguably easier and more efficient?”, both of which are valid questions. But I will admit, I am scared of the why-question because, superficially, I think it implies some kind of selfishness. It could imply that perhaps I am trying to change my actions to shift blame or guilt associated with my consumption and point fingers elsewhere. While I want to take better responsibility for my actions and prompt others to consider theirs, I by no means want to cast a cloud of guilt on readers that don’t share my perspectives or objectives.
So, to those questions I have this to say:
- “Why” is a question with an ever-evolving answer. I hope that the accumulation of what I address here continues to speak to why I think it is important to not passively consume. Consider joining me, even if that means reading only at this point.
- I could respond with my own question (admittedly borrowed from Thoreau via Wendell Berry): why should anyone wait to do what is right until everybody does it? I don’t need the blessing or permission of others to change my habits and act in a way that I see fit – ideally better for myself and others. You don’t have to wait either. So once again, consider joining me, even if that means reading only at this point.
I understand the need to think big, to make a different through changes in our energy grid, to build smarter, to demand sweeping change from our leaders. I see how that perspective may render my efforts ineffectual. But these large scale problems grow out of the additive effect of small scale causes. An engine doesn’t suddenly improve its function because we implore it to, but when each component is attended to, maintained, and replaced as needed.
I can worry and whine about the prospective damaging changes that may be on the horizon on the eve of our presidential transition – I have and I will. But I am doing this to tackle a problem I see at its source – our individual lives – the best way I know how:by critically evaluating and making changes.
So why bother? Simply because I should, and because I can. And if I can, perhaps others can too.