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femivore

noun [countable]

a woman who chooses to look after her home and family as her main job, and who grows and provides food herself as much as possible

femivorism

noun [countable]

'… femivores argue the same ideals that sent women to the workforce – self-sufficiency, autonomy, and personal fulfillment – sent them to the garden.'

TrèsSugar 15th March 2010

'What is femivorism? Well educated, stay at home housewives who take their role as providers of health and well being as a statement of womanhood through back yard agriculture.'

The New Farmer's Blog 23rd March 2010

A carnivore eats meat, a herbivore eats plants, and a femivore eats … women? Well, no actually, nor even other plausible interpretations, like someone who only eats the meat of female livestock. A femivore is in fact an educated, stay-at-home woman who makes sourcing and growing her own food one of her main occupations.

in the context of the current economic situation, it's argued that … being able to feed your family whatever the circumstances seems preferable to a high-earning mum out of a job

The new term femivore lies somewhere at the intersection of the concepts of feminism, the belief that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men, and self-sufficiency, the ability to provide food and other household needs independently. The movement, correspondingly dubbed femivorism, is based on the idea that women who choose to stay at home to look after their family, worthy though this task is in itself, further enhance their contribution to society by feeding their family clean, wholesome food, reducing their carbon footprint along the way. The femivore grows her own veg, keeps her own chickens, and maybe even provides her own meat by rearing livestock. In the context of the current economic situation, it's argued that the femivore's ideal of providing a literal rather than a financial 'nest egg' is a safer bet – being able to feed your family whatever the circumstances seems preferable to a high-earning mum out of a job.

For some however, the concept of femivorism is flawed on various levels. From a feminist angle, it's argued that a woman shouldn't feel obliged to enhance or justify her role as a homemaker by taking on the mantle of self-sufficiency or greener living. From a practical point of view, there are physical aspects of farming and full-blown self-sufficiency that some women might struggle to cope with, an issue discussed by the self-identified femivore in this blog post.

Background – femivore

The term femivore was coined in 2010 by US author Peggy Orenstein, in the context of an article on the subject in the New York Times.

As well as prompting discussion from feminists and housewives alike, the term femivore has also been the subject of debate among linguists. As highlighted by Stan Carey in this post on Macmillan Dictionary Blog, the word is a blend of two familiar morphemes: fem (as in female, feminine etc) and -vore (meaning 'one who eats a particular food'), but completely breaks the mould of -vore words in that the prefix in no way relates to a particular food (as e.g. carnivore), or any attribute of food (compare locavore and ecovore which refer respectively to people who eat food sourced locally or in an environmentally-responsible way). Femivore's success as a neologism seems to hang in the balance, both because it breaks the rules of pattern-matching conventionally associated with winning neologisms, and, perhaps more importantly, because its meaning – a complex balance of attitudes to feminism, food and ecological responsibility – seems particularly difficult to unpack.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. Social jet lag.

This article was first published on 1st August 2011.

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