Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Food and feminism

I like cooking. At different points in time, it's been implied that as a feminist, I shouldn't like cooking.

Once I suggested to some new friends that later in the week, we take a study break and I would cook pizza for everyone (a family recipe, quite good). One friend said to me, "I didn't think you would like cooking." He knew that I identify as feminist and to him, that meant that I wouldn't like making food.

Feminism isn't about not liking cooking or vacuuming or taking care of kids. It's about not being expected to like and/or do things based on gender. As a feminist, I can do whatever I please and I can like whatever I please, including anything that is "women's work" (whatever that means). Likewise, feminism allows men to enjoy whatever they like, regardless of traditional gender roles.

I've got some great examples for this - my brother and sister-in-law both love cooking and experimenting with food. She doesn't feel like she has to cook dinner every night and he likes just throwing a bunch of different spices in the pan and seeing what comes out. Neither are bound by what they feel they should do and actually spend a lot of time cooking together.

I'd probably like cooking a lot less if I had to make a meal for multiple people every day. I'm privileged enough to be able to spend a couple hours cooking for leisure, as opposed to necessity, or cooking what I like and experimenting with things, as opposed to the same 10 dishes in rotation. I'm also not terribly limited by budget; I can spend money on fresh vegetables and fruit as opposed to the cheaper, easier junk food.

Anyway, today I made chili and applesauce. They smell delicious. And I'm still a feminist.


Amelia said...

Wow. The idea that feminists wouldn't like cooking? Haven't heard that one before.

You do an excellent job explaining why enjoying cooking can still mean that you're a feminist, though.

I have never really gotten into cooking, and my boyfriend is actually a much better cook than I am. So when I visit him, it's nice being able to help with the cooking, since I'm spoiled and don't have to do much food preparation when I'm at school.

And your food looks delicious!

professor what if said...

"Feminism isn't about not liking cooking or vacuuming or taking care of kids. It's about not being expected to like and/or do things based on gender." Hurrah!

I enjoyed this post as I too am a feminist that likes to cook! And, as a feminist mom, I am trying to share my love of cooking and teaching of cooking skills to both my children -- regardless of their gender... Ah, the kitchen too, is political.

Anonymous said...

One could also argue that cooking and enjoying one's food are feminist acts of resistance to the misogynistic diet culture that we live in.

You know, just in case you wanted to make a theoretical argument about it. :)

I LOVE to cook on weekends. My partner and I make pizza every Sunday night, and we're currently planning on starting a blog about our recipes. I don't much enjoy cooking on weenights, because I am usually drained from work. But I'm learning to use my slow-cooker more - prepping food in the morning so dinner is ready when I get home. It's great.

Anonymous said...

I find inherently sexist the idea that a feminist would not want to do so-called "women's work". It makes it seem as though cooking, sewing, knitting, cleaning, and whatever else are somehow degrading, when in fact they are skills and arts and are as worth anyone's time as painting or fixing a car or something.

Anonymous said...

As a feminist man who likes to cook (and sew), I probably get off lightly on this particular issue, at least as far as identifying as feminist goes - because I'm doing something gender-variant when I do it.

But I really struggle whenever anyone supposedly feminist talks about things that women shouldn't do - for example, the idea that a feminist should refuse to do "women's work". After all, in my mind, when I cook, cooking is a man's job because I'm a man and I've taken responsibility for it, and that is the only distinguishing thing between a man's job and a woman's. It seems to me that the idea that there are such categories as "man's job", "woman's job" into which tasks are divided, is one of the great prejudices against which feminism campaigns.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I HEART cooking. Half my Christmas presents were cooking-related, all of which I asked for specifically. Here's the thing - cooking in the house for your husband and kids is "women's cooking", in the sexist mindset. Cooking in a restaurant with lots of fancy techniques and getting rave reviews and being on the cutting edge of cuisine is "men's cooking". A lot of important chefs are men, and the movie Ratatouille even mentions that - there's one female chef in the movie and she points out that she's the only woman in the kitchen and that it's hard for a woman to get that job. So it's not cooking per se that sexist people think is for women - it's unpaid, amateur housework. Therefore, I'm thinking of designing an apron that says something like "Get your own damn sandwich, I'm working on a consomme". But even though I love cooking, it's important to me that my boyfriend be willing to cook too (which he is, yay).