A couple of months ago, three other women and I moved approximately 2300 pounds of food waste into compost piles. By hand. And afterward, I wasn’t alone in feeling a surge of pride, strength, and self-sufficiency as a woman – as well as a sense of kinship with all the amazing women out there feeding the world.
Women are, and always have been, the givers of food. Around the world and throughout human history, they’ve usually been the ones who provide most of the food for their families – not only in cooking, but in production. Women are also intimately tied to water procurement. In regions without in-home water supply, it is women and children who usually haul water from community wells, springs, or rivers.
In the United States, our cultural conditioning teaches us that women are physically weak and delicate. Despite women doing crossfit, mixed martial arts, and marathons, the general pervasive cultural attitude is one that acts as though these women are the exception, not the rule. But this gendered way of looking at strength and endurance isn’t held up by history. All over the world, throughout human history, women have demonstrated strength and endurance – usually through demanding routines for procuring and providing the basic necessities for their families.
There is something very satisfying in the feeling of connection to this history and to all the women in the world at any given moment who are planting, harvesting, hauling water, processing and preserving food, tending animals, and (often) managing children at the same time. Composting in the heat, just us women, helped me remember our collective strength.