Monday, May 17, 2010

Well, shoot, there goes my blog tagline ...

Check out the really interesting discussion of  "homesteading," and what that term really means over at Grow & Resist.

(Hint: It does not actually mean growing tomatoes in your front yard in Oakland, California.)

I confess, I have used the term "homestead" a bit unthinkingly. I further confess that I have romanticized certain aspects of homesteading and pioneer life, while conveniently overlooking some of the less savory aspects of that "lifestyle."*

Suddenly, all of my half-joking references to myself as a wannabe "pioneer woman" sound ... well ... almost sinister.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

But, the more I think about it, the more I can't help but agree with Grow & Resist. The term "homestead" is loaded with all sorts of unpleasant (and far more than just unpleasant) historical and racial baggage. As a white girl living in a gentrifying part of a diverse city, I feel especially uncomfortable using a term that, at its core, romanticizes stealing land from non-white folks.

Ick. (Excuse me while I go take a shower.)

So, okay, point taken. I would like to come up with a better phrase to describe the trying-to-be-cheap-and-green DIY lifestyle that we enjoy. Something with no connection to racial supremacy, "manifest destiny," or genocide (really, this doesn't seem to be too much to ask). Extra points for something non-trendy. Any ideas?

* Edited to add: I think for most of us, "Urban Homesteading" connotes self-reliance, environmental consciousness, simplicity, and enjoying the honest fruits of one's labor (or "seizing the means of production," you crazy Marxist). All wonderful things, but maybe "homesteading" is too loaded a word to describe them. Let's find something that captures the honest work, the rebellion, and the fun, without this history of exclusion. Because, needless to say, I love the movement!


  1. Awesome! (well, bummer about the tagline!)
    But I am really glad you are joining in the conversation. It is difficult to examine the ways that we, as white folks, unintentionally harm others. It is easier to not examine, consider, ponder, etc.
    I can't wait to hear what names people come up with! I'll have to think about it too. Because it most definitely IS a movement and could use a name makeover!
    Rock on!

  2. Thanks for posting, Meg! This is already generating some discussion on my Facebook page ... so interesting to hear everyone's take!

  3. Hmmmm... this is a tough one. I'm completely sold on the need to shed "homestead," but my critical thinking skills have been dulled my almost a year of not sleeping through the night. I'm thinking we can't just subsitute another word for "homestead" in your tagline because there is no word that evokes all the things (both good and evil) that the word homestead evokes. So we have to think more of what you DO when you tend the urban homestead. What about a list of verbs (I'm brain-dead here, bear with me) like planting, stitching, cooking, growing. But better than that list. That's all I got right now. Bummer. It's hard to lose a catchy, oppressive turn of phrase. Sigh.

  4. It is really tough! We talked about it out at dinner tonight and didn't come up with anything fantastic.
    The best I could do was 'urban farming.' But I also know there is a discussion of gardening vs. farming (
    DIY was mentioned and then we thought that wasn't community oriented enough. Simplicity...because it is basics but then what we are doing doesn't always feel simple.
    Sustainable? Basics? Political? Necessity? Food safety? Craftiness? It is hard to come up with a word or term that really gets at what many in the movement are doing.
    It seems like it should be easier, but since there are so many reasons people engage it is hard.
    I think my head just exploded.
    I hope you get some good input for ideas!
    Maybe I'll just call it my "grow&resist movement" =)

  5. I so appreciate your addressing this... while I don't have any particular attachment to urban homesteading as a Movement-with-a-capital-M, I do a moderate amount of browsing crafty/garden-y/sustainable-y family blogs and it drives me just absolutely bonkers when people refuse to explore/take ownership of, or even ADDRESS issues of racism or classism inherent in some of the things they talk about, as having "no place" in that particular blog - not that they need to be THE focus, or even a MAIN focus, of every blog... but the fact that these conversations are not being held at ALL (and when they are, they are usually ignored or the person who brings up the issue is attacked or dismissed), EVER, is indicative of such overarching privilege that it boggles the mind sometimes. (/longest sentence ever and excessive use of caps lock :))

    So in conclusion, thanks! And now I eagerly await the next installment of adorable chubbycheeked toddler photographs...

  6. KT- you nailed it! Right on!

  7. KT - Let it never be said that I am the sort who ignores the root meanings and connotations of words. Not me. I didn't major in cultural anthropology for nuthin', right?

    But seriously, I started out reading Meg's post with the idea that I was going to defend the "new meaning" of the term. But when I got to the part about white hipsters moving to non-white, gentrifying neighborhoods to "homestead," I had to acknowledge complete and utter defeat. And also, major heeby-jeebies. I can only liken this feeling to like, slugs crawling all over my body.

    As far as the "Movement" with a Capital-M. Well. That's a subject for another post. I was born on a commune, during the last "return to the land movement." I then survived 30 years of derision and eye-rolling every time I mentioned that I like bluegrass music or growing veggies. I am not a fair weather friend of this "movement," if it can be called that. Sometimes I'm happy to see the things I love come back into style - but sometimes, it's kind of annoying. I see that it is the "fashion" right now, and I'm okay with that. But I fear the "backlash." Like I said, another post.

  8. See new tagline. At least my blog wasn't called "Inder Loves Homesteads." It could be worse.

  9. "Inder loves homesteads"! =)
    Love the new tagline!
    Anyone on your FB come up with good alternative term?

    I still don't know~ I am in a "Garden Helpers" class right now to teach others to organic garden in a volunteer capacity. I am sure the term is bound to come up soon. I can't wait! =)

  10. Meg, I got some ideas from my dad and some FB/Buzz folks. My favorite was "Urban Ag." Kind of like "Urban Farming," it still has connotations of running it as a business, maybe, but possibly not as formal? Still pondering.


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