Yesterday morning, I ran across what appeared to be a harmless list about the most favorable qualities in a farm wife from a popular agriculture newspaper. I was wrong – it wasn’t harmless. In fact, the article left me shocked and speechless. I can’t muster a sufficient description of how off-the-charts ticked off I was, so you’ll just have to believe me that I was boiling mad. And let’s make no bones about it, I was mad, not offended.
This is not about being offended.
Anyone who has ever met me in real life, or online, knows that I am very blunt, straight-forward and thick-skinned; I’m not easily offended, to say the least. Nor is this about the phrase “farm wife.” True, I prefer to be called a “rancher” over “ranch wife” but other bloggers have covered that topic sufficiently so I don’t think my commentary is necessary. My comments and frustration lie in the fact that readers will see the article in question and think “OK, well this guy wrote this ‘satirical’ piece and everyone is OK with it so I’ll write one too.” No. It’s not OK.
The problem with the article is not that it doesn’t appreciate women. It does. The problem is that it completely ignores massive contributions that women make to American agriculture while diminishing our value to simply “reheating late suppers” and keeping seed hats clean. This article could have been a huge success by lauding the daily struggle that farmHERs and rancHERs (because we aren’t just wives) manage while raising a family and pulling their own weight on the farm or ranch. The author very easily could have said “She can sort cows, put out mineral, help the kids with their homework and have supper on the table by 8 pm” and that would have been freaking awesome. I am a good cook and I keep a clean house but I also deal with mean cows, hay season and squirrely calves. But the author chose to act as if we are still in 1952. I cannot believe that the value of a woman (satirical or not) is still, in 2016, being placed on her ability to cook, clean and rear children. I mean for cripes sake, a woman will quite likely be in the White House next year.
For example, the author could have highlighted that there are 969,672 female farm operators in the U.S. which account for 30% of farm operators in the United States. Of that 969,672, nearly 290,000 are the principal operators.* Meaning those women call all the shots and answer to no one. Take note, female farmers and ranchers are not a small contingency.
Or, the author could have spoken about how female farmers and ranchers sold nearly $13 billion in agricultural products, including $6 billion in crop sales and $6.9 billion in livestock sales in 2012.* About 1/4 of women farmers specialized in combination crop farming, meaning they raised more than one ag product, and the next largest sector was beef cattle farming and ranching.* These are not small ventures, folks.
The blatant disregard for the role that women play in building and maintaining an operation while building and supporting a family flies in the face of a progressive America. I’m not Michelle Obama but I don’t have to be to know that if we build tenacious women, our families, workforce and nation become stronger as a whole. I know so many women who put in just as many or more hours than their spouses on the farm or ranch, and many of them are also the head honcho of raising the family.
I am pro-woman — that does not mean I am anti-man. You can be pro-something without tearing down the other side, in this case the male gender, and I am not tearing down men. Feminism is believing that women deserve what men have had for thousands of years. I will not stop standing up for women, especially women in ag, because as my aunt Cheryl told me recently “A lot of us old ladies fought very hard for equality and it’s important to keep up the fight.” It’s up to my generation to continue this journey and I plan to do so by raising my future daughter(s) to stand up and be heard. My time, money, blood, sweat and tears are invested in our ranch and I won’t be diminished to the antiquated view of a perfect wife.
In closing, I want to make it clear that I’m not asking for the article to be taken down or edited. I’m also not asking for the author’s or editor’s heads on a platter – I DO NOT WANT hordes of people bombarding the social media outlets of this publication lambasting the author or the editor so PLEASE DON’T DO THAT**. I’m asking for more thought to be given to what is viewed as “satirical” and what is viewed as funny because there is a big difference. I’m asking for us as a society to not settle for the status quo and to stop letting things like this roll off our backs. I’m asking for more women, and men, to stand up and say “This wouldn’t be acceptable if the shoe was on the other foot.”
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~
* Figures taken from 2012 U.S. Agriculture Census
** I cannot stress enough that I do not want multitudes of people attacking this news outlet or its staff so please, just don’t. That’s not the point or the goal. Many thanks.