The anti-colonial rad wives of Instagram
Plus: nofilter comes to an end ... and Embedded comes online!
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The response has been so encouraging, in fact, that Kate and I have decided to build something entirely new. And so, we are ending nofilter and launching Embedded.
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If you're signed up for nofilter, you'll automatically start getting Embedded on Monday, when we'll fill you in a bit more on the "mission." (If you aren’t signed up, subscribe to Embedded now!) In the meantime, for a fuller breakdown of the differences between the two newsletters, please consult the graph below.
Thank you for reading! —Nick Catucci
“How to get a haircut similar to Joseph Stalin without showing the girl who cuts my hair a picture of Joseph Stalin?”
Yahoo Answers is shutting down May 4.
The titans of Old Internet have been falling for some time now (Hotmail folded into Outlook, Homestar Runner no longer loads, Tumblr got rid of porn), but the demise of Yahoo Answers hits especially close to home. While it serves a similar function to Reddit, something about scrolling through Yahoo Answers feels quaint instead of diseased. Where else could you ask “How to get a haircut similar to Joseph Stalin without showing the girl who cuts my hair a picture of Joseph Stalin?” and only receive earnest responses?
“I feel your anguish,” a user named marauder wrote. “Stalin's steel-booted brutality aside, that is one amazing haircut.”
The consensus? Just show the hairdresser a picture of Zayn Malik. —Kate Lindsay
Here Come the Rad Wives
Homesteaders on Instagram have gotten a conservative rep, but progressive creators are attempting to reclaim the space.
As everything that tethered me to “real life” crumbled at the start of the pandemic, there was a certain subset of people on Instagram for whom it appeared not much had changed: trad wives. I’ve written about them at length, because I came to rely heavily on these accounts—their aesthetically-pleasing gardens and textiles and baking—in the past year as inspiration for making the confines of quarantine not just bearable, but possibly even fulfilling.
This self-sufficient style of living is known as homesteading, a broad genre on Instagram of which trad wives (short for “traditional wives”) occupy a specific, family-focused corner. In my winding 2020 journey down the rabbit hole of homesteading accounts, it became increasingly harder to ignore a common thread between some of the most popular creators: They are staunchly politically conservative.
In the heat of this past summer’s Black Lives Matter movement, one homesteading account lamented that it was actually Christians who faced “immense persecution.” In December, when over 200,000 Americans were being diagnosed with Covid-19 daily, another account claimed that “I just know Jesus would not be social distancing.” After a year of such important political and societal change, following these accounts felt like tacit support for conservative beliefs I do not hold.
In January, after I posted yet another tweet about trad wives, creator Gemma Tomlinson posed an intriguing question in response: “is the left leaning alternative a radwife because I’m down tbh”
It was perhaps stupid of me, but this was first time I realized that there could be such a thing as progressive homesteading. In fact, as I learned from the people I spoke to over Instagram DM for this piece, homesteading is arguably an innately progressive act.
“The homesteaders that are radically trying to change the way humans consume from an ecological perspective are seemingly radically political in comparison to the very religious homesteaders, who are an embodiment of colonialism,” Ashley York, a Wisconsin-based homesteader with 15,000 Instagram followers, tells me.
The colonial undertones of this style of living are something these creators are actively trying to acknowledge and reclaim.
“As a non-Indigenous person living on treaty land, I’m constantly making myself aware of the injustices past and present, and analyzing what I am doing to uphold my responsibilities as a treaty person,” Kathryn Laframboise, a 29-year-old creator from Canada who posts under the username @raspberryontheprairie, says. “‘Owning’ is a Eurocentric idea and I think some folks struggle with unpacking this uncomfortable idea and their involvement in owning land as a homesteader/farmer.”
“A lot of white farmers have a hard time admitting to their privileges and advantages because they see themselves as hardworking, but those aren’t mutually exclusive,” Steph, the Vermont-based creator behind @wildandrootedfarm, says. “We very intentionally moved here to surround ourselves with likeminded people who weren’t in farming to make money or stick to tradition, but almost as a form of protest.”
(Note: The sources who agreed to speak to me for this story are all white. Read to the end for a list of homesteading and farming accounts that I recommend, which includes BIPOC people who are leaders in this movement.)
Ashley, Kathryn, and Steph, who were all gradually drawn to homesteading as their living situations and interests shifted towards respect of the earth and animal rights, are careful not to paint homesteaders with a broad brush. A religious homesteader is not automatically a conservative who isn’t cognizant of their role in colonialism, and the term “conservative” itself can mean different things to different people. But if progressive homesteaders see themselves as “eco warriors,” conservative homesteaders, in Ashley’s experience, tend to be “more of the doomsday prepper types.”
“I have had to disengage with many people I thought could be community but [whose] religious beliefs seemed to get in the way of real humanitarian evolution and ecological change,” she says.
And then there’s the Instagram of it all. As a tool for storytelling, the creators found it an efficient way to document their journey through an idyllic lens while also acknowledging BIPOC knowledge systems that paved the way for this style of living—but some homesteaders are reluctant to use their platform for political purposes.
“Some folks believe it is ‘off brand’ for them to share anything non-farm, meaning it doesn’t fit within their squares,” Kathryn, who proudly states her passion for social justice in her bio, says. “I just wish folks would see that anything we do or say is political and what they choose not to say or do is also a political statement.”
“We should be looking to BIPOC farmers as the experts, handing them the mic, amplifying their methods and ideas which have so often been co-opted by white farmers and white audiences,” Steph says.
But you don’t need to move to the country, own land, or even have a backyard to uphold these values and embody the spirit of progressive homesteading.
“Community is my favorite word and I lean wholeheartedly into it,” Kathryn says. “Figure out what community means to you. Explore what you value and what you’re willing to do to uphold those values. Take some risks, whether that’s bringing home a new animal, starting a new crop or sharing what you believe in with others. Ask yourself hard questions and challenge yourself.” —KL
Some progressive homesteaders to follow
If you’re interested in rad wives, I think you’ll find similarly peaceful vibes in this TikTok account belonging to a Welsh schoolteacher named Paul Gash. Paul only has a little over 11,000 followers, but a video he took of his wife, mother-in-law, and daughter on Easter Sunday appeared on my For You Page yesterday. I subsequently watched every single one of his TikToks, which document his day-to-day activities at home by the sea, including planting his garden, assisting his visually-impaired wife with her pottery-making, and feeding carrots to his dogs Bailey and Jaz. Every video is stunning in its simplicity, and Paul has formed a charming old-school relationship with his followers, replying to each and every comment and taking requests.
The Fine Print
Thank you Ashley, Kathryn, and Steph. Enjoy our Twitter and Instagram accounts, which have a peaceful vibe, because we don't post much on them. And look out for the first edition of Embedded on Monday!