"It’s no wonder that many LDS women have taken to Momfluencing and Homefluencing (and now Farmfluencing) like fish who finally found water."
There are so many gems in this interview, but I feel like we need a whole other convo on this gem: "women aren’t really allowed to be good at things, so all of the skill has to be elided, and other parts of the story inflated." YESSSSSSSSSSSS
This has me thinking about something I see a lot that is related, that I like to call "blue collar tourism". I see it a lot where I live, the generic suburbs of the rust belt. I've been guilty of it myself. A lot of people who work white collar desk jobs desperate to express themselves as salt of the earth, self-made, gritty, and tough. They drive big trucks and wear Carhartts, but they've never shoveled shit or driven a tractor or else they'd know those boots aren't any good for it. People with plenty of money trying to pretend they don't have it, often as a way of signaling some subtler white supremacist inclinations. Wealthy suburban "rednecks"... Yupnecks, maybe. I don't know, this thought is half-baked...
“When Ballerina Farm pretends their reality *is* reality, those people are erased. This critique applies to lots of white people buying homes: just be honest. Stop erasing all the people who do everything they can and still can’t buy a home.”
This part of the piece REALLY moved me, and it reminded me that I always wonder if they have any outside help with their kids. Is the work of a nanny or a babysitter also being erased as well? Are the kids homeschooled or do they rely on the work of teachers to raise their family? Do they have help from their nearby family? Do they ever talk about any of this? I’m curious because sometimes influencers in similar positions do have help from paid care workers who largely get left out of the “raising the family” narrative. As an extremely casual Amber Fillerup fan, I remember moments where she’s “revealed” that she has nannies, and the drama that’s ensued. With Amber, despite her good faith efforts as transparency, you really wouldn’t know that she has help with her kids if you’re just seeing her pop up on social media and you haven’t been reading her writing all along as well.
To be clear, I’m all in favor of having help to raise your kids (personally I don’t have any because I’m not up to the task) and whether it’s paid or familial, I truly believe it takes a village. Even as a single, childless person, I look at their life on Ballerina Farm and can’t help but feel deeply inadequate, so I can’t even imagine how some parents who consume their content must feel. I understand the argument that it isn’t that serious, that it’s meant to be fun and aspirational, but really, these feelings of inadequacy are inherent and essential to the experience of IG and the industry of influencing and deserve to be examined. I wonder what else is being obscured, in addition to the wealth piece that Meg examines so wonderfully here.
I also think that rugged individualism is a core part of the Ballerina Farm narrative, and the idea that they completely erase the community and context they exist in outside of their nuclear family (hello 15 minutes outside Park City) feels very purposeful and also deeply unsurprising, considering that the Mormon church/modern day conservatism values that core nuclear family above all else.
Just a geeky “oooh oooh teacher I have a story to share” moment: the brilliant Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was my next door neighbor in small-town New Hampshire, growing up! I hung out with her daughter! She was working on “that book” for seemingly ages (it had been our entire LIVES, all TEN YEARS of them) before it won a Pulitzer! I love that Meg contextualizes that quotation, which is usually not attributed and inevitably taken out of context. It drives me bonkers and makes me want to become THAT lady who taps a total stranger on the shoulder and says “ACKshually …” (But I promise, I don’t.) Really loved this thoughtful conversation with Meg.
I respectfully disagree with the commenter below who suggests that we are “overthinking” Hannah’s carefully curated feed. She stages and selects and edits and captions these images in hopes of influencing, in both the social media and the LDS senses of that word. If we *don’t* think about what we are being sold, and what is being obfuscated, when we are thereby “influenced,” we are just social media zombies, mindless consumption machines gobbling up whatever images come across our feeds without regard for what they value and devalue. Any media worth consuming is worth critical thought and engagement. In my opinion.
As someone who lives in Utah, and covers business as editor-in-chief for Utah Business, I think this article is overthinking Hannah’s life a bit.
I understand, I had a similar reaction when I first moved to Utah and found people giving up their dreams to pursue a simple life in Utah. Like Adam Dietlein who was starring in roles on Broadway, but moved back to Utah because he got married and wanted to start a family. I wrote an article about it at the time and I was incredulous. Why would anyone do that?: https://www.utahbusiness.com/there-are-theater-jobs-in-utah/
Hannah did the same. Starting her ranch was not about trading pageants and ballet slippers to make money as a farmer, it was about the fact that they had kids, and in the Mormon Church raising kids is the most important thing parents can do. And they wanted their kids to live a beautiful life.
And it’s not just her. Just about everyone who lives in Kamas (and Heber and Midway too) are wealthy, Mormon, and semi-retired, farming and raising animals for the fun of it, and raising their kids in a pastoral setting in the mountains. Our state’s most prolific angel investor does the same. Scott Paul farms goats, not for money, but as a fun family activity. He, his wife, or any of his kids could just as easily devote an Instagram account to it if they wanted to.
I think it helps to understand Utah’s tech scene. Imagine Silicon Valley but where all the tech founders are Mormon, so they leave work at four or five to spend time with their families. The value here is family over work. In fact, it’s a bad look to be caught at the office at 7pm if you have kids. For this reason, having kids and moving to the mountains to spend more time with them is the equivalent of the Bay Area’s having kids, moving to Sonoma, working until 8pm, then spending two hours in the car to see the kids before they fall asleep. The value there is work over family. In fact, it’s a bad look to be caught leaving the office before the traffic starts. Why don’t we call that weird?
And the idyllic crafts in the mountains are a thing. Crafting in general is all the rage in Utah. As it turns out, not drinking alcohol manifests in the Mormons as eating sugar and doing crafts. That’s their hobby. It’s why Cricut is headquartered here. It’s why we have more cookie shops and soda shops than anywhere else. It’s an activity to do with family and that’s what they value.
And yes, most Mormons leave BYU off their internet personas because it comes with a stigma they don’t want to have. The Bucket List family learned that early on and a lot of influencers have followed suit. And if I were Hannah I’d shout it from the roof tops that I went to Juilliard too!
It’s true that Mormon women can’t hold positions of leadership, and that does manifest in oppressive ways (it’s why our state also has the highest rates of depression, suicide, breast implants, etc.). But I also think that women like Hannah are kind of sticking it to that regime by creating value and leadership for themselves online. It’s a sort of resistance. It’s “I may not be able to be the CEO of a company but watch me be successful without that title.” Solopreneurship here is a form of feminine power and definitely shouldn’t be discounted!
I think it’s easy to look at Hannah’s story and assume that she gave up a career as a ballerina or a beauty queen because of that oppression, but the even easier truth is that, for a lot of these women what they value even more than having a career is having a family. And honestly, that’s true for a lot of the Dad’s here too.
As a person of color in America, when I'm around some white people (especially liberal, self-identified environmentalist activists), when I share with them that I grew up on farms (outside of America), they have a very different idea in their mind than reality. I know this, because the comments range from, "Can I visit? It must be so idyllic," to "Everyone should have that as an upbringing."
Yes, it is absolutely beautiful in its simplicity, quieter and slower. Yes, there is a direct connection to nature inside and outside.
And, it requires financial backing of some kind (in our case, through generational wealth passing down via my great-great-great grandparents to the current generation), and even then - everyone in my family still had to have a primary job / career to financially sustain the tiny farming one can do on the side. So commutes are long, sometimes family members are separated for months at a time while someone works in the next town over and visits on long weekends. Our farm town didn't have internet until a couple years ago, and in 2022, its very strained and inconsistent (we still send letters if we need to connect - no remote working life possible there, or Instagram uploading). Electricity arrived not so long ago either. There's one bus that comes once a day, and the ever growing challenging reality that there aren't enough young people who stay, because they've had to move to the cities, sometimes only to return as visitors. (Like me).
When I meet people of color in America who also grew up on farms, there's a shared sense of what I like to think of as radical hospitality, deep warmth, sharing of resources (sometimes, too generously too quickly), an understanding of "mud becomes lotus" mentality.
I like seeing the animal sanctuaries on Instagram and Youtube that are targeted ads towards my clicking, and, I am aware that "Ballerinafarm" is just another example of someone with way too much privilege, who chooses to contribute to land displacement and greed instead of uplifting and supporting their local community and the folks they actually have access to.
Ugh, I honestly find this all so gloomy and depressing, despite Meg and AHP’s compelling analysis and engaging back-and-forth about it. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with hobby farming— I’ve known people who do it in retirement, but they don’t pretend they’re running a profitable business. There’s something about the fake “took a big risk and bought a ranch and now we’re making it work and teaching our kids the value of hard work!” narrative, and then the profitable business IS THE LIE that is both harmful and depressing. I get that it’s complicated, I use and enjoy the internet, etc etc etc, but the speed and force by which every new technology becomes a tool for reinforcing existing norms of capitalism, white supremacy, misogyny… fighting back some despair here!
I apologize for commenting without reading the post, but the AGA stove picture absolutely exploded off the page. I grew up feeding coal into an AGA stove. It was a very pale pink, and quite old. It was in my grandparents' house, which we moved into in 1979. It sat idle summers, but burned through the winter. There was an ash scoop, a coal hopper, and a lighting tool. To light it, one filled the lighting tool with kerosene and put it in the ash tray, then filled the chamber with charcoal and lit the lighting tool. The chamber was under the left-hand burner, and had to be filled with coal twice a day. That was my job. The center of the burner lifted out, and the hopper had a tube that released coal into the fire. The other burner had a movable metal center, too. Once I turned it 90 degrees, because I could. In a few hours, the burner above the chamber was glowing red. Before filling the chamber, I had to agitate the ash out of the chamber and scoop it out. There was a tool for that. The fire burned from late September until late April, or thereabouts, every year.
In '81 or '82 we had a ton of coal delivered. The barn had a hole in the wall for the coal chute. There really was, in Westwood, Massachusetts, a coal delivery in 1982. They can't have had much business.
The house had an incinerator, too, where we put kitchen trash into a chute in the wall until it filled the chimney, probably in a twelve-foot pile, when it was lit. The burning trash smelled sweet and acrid. My brother had to shovel out the ashes as punishment for some antics as a teenager. It may not have been done since the fifties.
My grandparents were from a society that did not make it intact through World War Two. They had hunted foxes on horseback, and servants managed the incinerator and the AGA fire, but servants could all get better work once the war came. Also, my grandparents' circumstances had changed. The fire in the AGA is interesting in that respect: that it burned on for decades with the world around it changing so much.
Again, I'm sorry to comment without reading, but that stove picture really brought back the memories.
A million thank yous to Meg and AHP for this thought provoking, thorough, fascinating account. I've been a longtime follower of Ballerinafarm and you've answered so many of my questions & given me new ones. I appreciate your work.
There is something that always bothers me that I can’t exactly articulate but I feel has something to do with privilege or class and as I went down this rabbit hole I saw ballerina farm is guilty of it too - for instance on the web page it says “in the spring you will always find him climbing our pine trees” or lots of comments about “our land”. It feels wrong to me to say it like that, that sense of ownership over trees, instead of saying you will always find him in the pine trees it’s our pine trees, our hills, our field etc. I know they own the land so technically it is theirs but still…
I found this comment on twitter about the significance of Julliard in this context a bit enlightening as well. Perhaps the idea that Hannah chose farming over a future ballet career is also a bit of a myth? https://twitter.com/cjp_still/status/1455005523233869826?s=21
"Racism and misogyny always go hand in hand. There are a lot of amazing LDS people working to address the racist past of their church."
I thought you were going to address misogyny in the church, and make the important point that misogyny is every bit as horrific and unacceptable as racism.
You didn't, though.
Instead you veered into safer territory and wrote "the culture of the church is a lot like America. While women are consistently disempowered, white LDS women are granted influence in a way other LDS women are not."
Who are these "other" LDS women?
I guess you mean Black and Asian women. But since only 1% of LDS members are Black, doesn't it make sense that there would be less influence coming from that 1% than from the 99% of LDS women who are white?
The LDS church has a serious MISOGYNY problem, and the rate of domestic violence among LDS women is higher than the national average.https://www.sltrib.com/opinion/commentary/2018/02/14/michelle-quist-the-mormon-church-can-be-better-at-handling-domestic-violence/
Any ideology that places the rights of women below the rights of men (both LDS and Woke ideology do this) endangers the lives of women and, by default, children (since women are the primary caretakers of children and cannot protect them if they are disempowered).
Misogyny is just as serious a form of oppression as racism, regardless of the race of the woman who is victimized by it.
When 21 year old Gabby Petito was beaten, strangled, and dumped in the woods like road kill, did the media call it oppression?
They called it "Missing White Woman Syndrome" as if it were a privilege to have her torture and murder turned into a reality show circus.
What a "privileged" corpse Miss Petito was/is.
LDS white women are not "privileged" they are oppressed; far too often they are raped, beaten, and killed by the "priests" in their own families.
The timidity of women when it comes to prioritizing misogyny is harmful to other women, especially poor women of color who are most likely to be victims of misogynistic violence (committed by men of color, not by "Karen's").
It's time to stop being Woke Handmaids and grow a backbone.
#MisogynyMatter #WomensLivesMatters #NoMoreApologies
While I found this interview enthralling, I was especially interested in the idea of Talking Points USA/Charlie Kirk promoting an influencer. I would be very interested in an analytical piece about following/supporting influencers and any intersection with their political viewpoints. This would be different from the Taking Cara Babies drama, but more like, if I follow an instagrammer who I know I differ with politically, am I indirectly supporting their politics? Does not using their links or just lurking make a difference?
So glad you shared this. I finally subscribed, after months of reading your free version, in part so I could thank you for this! I saw a piece about Ballerina Farm in some Utah-based publication a couple of months ago and I was...intrigued? In a...troubled way? I don't know how else to articulate it--I knew something was weird about it, but I wasn't sure how to describe it, or what it even was. Something about it felt so inauthentic, but it was more than just that...I grew up LDS in Utah, so that's probably exactly what made me feel unsettled about it, and I feel like this piece sums up a lot of what I was feeling.
Thank you so much for doing this interview! It’s just what I requested a few months ago!! I need to re-read it and sit with it for a few hours or days but it’s basically put into words what I’ve been feeling about the Farmfluencer for several years. Thanks again!
I know this is not the point, but that she pretends to set the camera down in this video when someone is clearly holding it has me losing my misty eyed marbles. https://www.instagram.com/p/CUJT_fdMTw4/