I watched an episode of the show You Are What You Eat on Saturday. Gillian McKeith hosts the show, doling out questionable nutritional advice to fat people. The family featured on this episode consisted of a mom, a dad, and four children, and Gillian’s goal was to get them to change their eating and exercise habits. Most of the shaming was reserved for the mother. As the man of the house stood by, Gillian told mom she’s killing her children with unhealthy food. But my jaw dropped when she blamed mom for her husband’s bad diet and poor health as well. Everyone’s waistline is at mom’s mercy, according to Gillian. She’s not the only one who thinks so.
The notion that (pro bono) cooking is women’s work is popping up all over the food movement. The first season of Gordon Ramsay’s show The F Word (which I happen to love) was based around his cheekily titled “Get Women Back in the Kitchen” campaign. Modern women “can’t cook to save their lives,” Ramsay quipped.
In his New York Times review of Janet A. Flammang’s new book, “The Taste of Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society,” foodie hero Michael Pollan wrote:
In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, Flammang suggests that by denigrating “foodwork” — everything involved in putting meals on the family table — we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal.
I wish feminists were as powerful as everyone thinks we are. Some women got sick of living their lives to grocery shop and tend to the stove, and suddenly they’ve singlehandedly “wrecked the family meal.” Pollan never questions that assertion. In fact, he seems to believe it. Last year, he wrote in the Times that “The Feminine Mystique” taught American women “to regard housework, cooking included, as drudgery, indeed as a form of oppression.” If women were not so gullible, children wouldn’t eat so much high fructose corn syrup and play video games all day! But Pollan has some admiration for one feminist:
Simone de Beauvoir wrote in “The Second Sex” that though cooking could be oppressive, it could also be a form of “revelation and creation; and a woman can find special satisfaction in a successful cake or a flaky pastry, for not everyone can do it: one must have the gift.” This can be read either as a special Frenchie exemption for the culinary arts (féminisme, c’est bon, but we must not jeopardize those flaky pastries!) or as a bit of wisdom that some American feminists thoughtlessly trampled in their rush to get women out of the kitchen.
Emphasis mine, because isn’t that fucked?!
Ernie Bufflo wrote a nice response, explaining:
The problem is not feminism, it’s that the work of feminism, which is of course true gender equality, is not done! If it were, women doing less cooking wouldn’t have to mean less net cooking over all, because men could be filling the gaps!
I might join the mourners at cooking’s funeral if a woman wasn’t lying in the coffin.