Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I am a Radical!

There! I said (wrote) it, out loud. Not that most people who know me don't already consider me a radical. No, I'm claiming the title because I want to be even more radical. But first, a few highlights from my past:

At age 15, I declare myself a vegetarian. It is short-lived; I have the kind of father who shouted "Not while you live under my roof!" Still, the seeds are planted.

Also at age 15, I decide that I am not willing to accept the umbrella theory of (Judeo-Christian) God-Dad (or Husband)-Child; where the child is under the disciplinary hand of the father, and the father is under the disciplinary hand of G-d. I told the pastor straight out that I'd be doing my own talking with any deity and that I'd be responsible for my own actions. He told my parents I was "troubled."

At 19, revolted by the practices of industrial meat production and unaware of any alternatives, I go vegetarian. Soon I am a card carrying PETA member; I return hundreds (if not thousands) of American Express applications to the company (postage-paid) with Fur is Dead written in big red letters (Amex offered fur coats in their rewards catalog). By 21 I am vegan.

In 1990 I celebrate the reemergence of Earth Day. I buy canvas grocery bags, I recycle, I start my interest in natural hair and body products, I join the Green party.

As I go through my college years I am introduced to feminism. My life changes. I study women's literature and decide to pursue a minor degree in Feminist Studies (the university insisted on calling it Women's Studies, however both the students and professors preferred the former).

I am introduced to a wide range of thinking of campus, and my ideas evolve regarding homosexuality, patriarchy, environmentalism, religion, politics, and much more. I attend a great women's conference and find out how great it was to be someplace where their are vegetarian options, openly lesbian women, women of color speaking out...women of all ages, races, sizes, religions, and sexual orientations connecting in a way I've never experienced before.

Back at my home university, I participate in a women's consciousness raising group, and I am a founding member of the women's center on campus. I spend hours alone everyday in a cold room with a desk, a couple of chairs, some old copies of Ms. Magazine, and a poster of Rosie the Riveter on the wall. Obviously, we got off to a slow start, but today the university has a large, thriving women's resource center.

I graduate, and ditch the idea of getting my teaching credential. Instead I pursue banking. I become the youngest branch manager in the history of the company, and help to change a lot of people's thinking about the abilities of young people. I butt heads with upper management quite often, advocating for better wages for my staff.

In 1999 I become a mother, and a stay-at-home mother at that. Many people see this as a step backward. I, however, am a radical mother. I make baby food from organic produce. I use cloth diapers on my baby, and I don't bleach them. I wear my baby in a sling, and I sleep with him too. Soon I have two babies, both boys, and I realize that I am raising the next generation of feminist men....

The past 8 years have seen me moving more and more away from the mainstream. Once I realized that many of my values had been co-opted and were being marketed to I stepped away. If big organic wants to sell me food, I decide to grow as much of my own as I can. If they want me to buy eco-friendly clothing, I decide to buy second hand clothing and other items. I focus strongly on the reduce portion of reduce-reuse-recycle. I reduce my electricity use, and I reduce it again. I walk and ride my bike to reduce my use of oil. I find local farmers to purchase food from.

So, yes, my eating is radical. We eat nearly 100% organic, and we are making a conscious shift toward local and seasonal food. We don't eat trans fats, HFCS, artificial flavorings or colorings, or much that is processed in any way. In an absolute shift from the vegetarianism we once pursued, we have begun eating humanely-raised meat. Our standards are high, and big organic doesn't make the cut. For us there must be no CAFOs. Animals must be treated with respect during their lives and at death. All ruminants must be strictly grass-fed, on pasture. Eggs come from a small, local, free-ranging flock. We don't eat a lot of meat, however we are voting with our dollars for sustainable agriculture. After years as vegetarians we see that the organic life must include animals for soil fertility.

My parenting is radical. I don't hit my children. I don't shame them. I live my life with them. They don't go to public school, and we don't home learn for religious reasons either. They are growing up in a home where their father and I live as partners, sharing the tasks of home tending and child raising. Most importantly, my children are growing up with the belief that they are important. They aren't second class citizens. They have wants and needs that are as important as mine. I want them to live now, and not only for the future.

After years of informally studying women and friendship I have finally overcome many of the stumbling blocks that prevent true friendship among women, and I have a great group of friends. Each and everyone of us is radical in some way. We are all home learners. Some are home birthers, some cloth diaper, some co-sleep, some baby wear, some use alternative medicine, some are environmentalists, some are hand crafters, some are gardeners, some are thrifters, some eat an organic diet, some eat local, some don't vaccinate...the list goes on.

There is more, of course. Laundry lists aren't that helpful. I, however, wanted to shout loud and clear "I AM A RADICAL!" I'm at a place now where I'm not sure I want to hide the radical things about myself that other people don't like. I'm proud to be radical, and I want to be even more so. A radical woman, raising radical children, changing the world.

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