A woman’s place

If you find
Women are often excluded or think they are excluded from farm decision making.
People who marry into the family may find it difficult to become fully accepted members
It used to be said that a woman’s place was in the kitchen or the bedroom.

However, around 50 years of modern feminism has brought us to the clear understanding that a woman’s place is everywhere.

Too often, farming is still seen as largely a man’s game, but many of the best farms are run by a partnership where the woman is a full partner or where a woman farms on her own.

As part of ensuring A place for everyone it is important to take particular care to make room for those who have been excluded or left on the margins in the past, such as women and in particular the daughter-in-law.

She marries into the family expecting that things will roll forward to a time when she and her partner will have a fair and equal role and say in their joint future. Unfortunately, often she finds out that there is less room for her than she needs and less than is fair.

A woman’s place on the land is often seen in Western society today as a full partnership or as an independent farmer or grazier. But there was a time when women’s role on the land was seen by many as

  • baking cakes
  • supporting the menfolk
  • raising children and
  • keeping quiet.

Often this also involved long days of back-breaking farm and household work which went unrecognized because men got most of the credit for work done, no matter who did it.

Not that men were trying to stop women doing the work. The concern was usually about who got the credit and the value of the work done by the different genders.

Nor was it only the men. Many women held the same views, putting themselves and other women behind men.

Fortunately, those days are gone or going in most developed countries. And even in countries with much more traditional gender roles, the role of women is now seen as broader.

And of course there are many countries where the present social, political and religious situation is trying to roll things back to those old days and old ways.

However, there is an outside world which is opening eyes even in closed societies. So it is almost certainly a brief and vain hope by those who would have things go backwards.

Time will bring us all to a more humane and caring world, even as some people try to take things backwards into oppression and unfairness.

It is common for farm women to have a longer term view, a more alternative view and a view which takes into account relationships and humans, particularly children.

When I was the organic farming officer with the NSW Department of Agriculture we had a very high rate of inquiry from women for organic farming info. Often they would be the one in the family who first considered organics a real possibility. Many were very strongly supportive of anything that was more sustainable, organic, healthier or would lead to less stress.

Many men also took these approaches, but the number of women was certainly much higher than in other lines of inquiry such as technical or economic questions.

Whether you are a woman or a man, it is important to be part of ensuring that a woman’s place is an equal and valued one. To be pro-active you could:

  • BRING UP your children with traditional and non-traditional gender role models. When females have an equal role and work under equal and realistic expectations, the farm is more balanced in so many ways and the children grow up believing that they are able to do the sort of work with their father does or that their mother does or ideally that both do.
  • SUPPORT women taking on leadership roles in families, social, political and other groups
  • ENCOURAGE women and men into non-traditional roles and support them during the conversion
  • SUPPORT men taking on support roles in families, social, political and other groups
  • MAINTAIN reasonable expectations for women, rather than setting out to denigrate, undermine or find fault with their efforts
  • VOTE for women politicians and ACCEPT that some will be just as good and just as bad as the men are. Keep going until we get more decent politicians of both genders
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