Food is an easier word than feminism to discuss at the dinner table.
People always say that food brings us together. But feminism, like politics, has long been divisive, even among women. Many pro-women women refuse to publicly call themselves feminists, and the tension between second wave feminists and third wave feminists has lingered for far too long.
This blog isn’t meant to dwell on the F-word, but I wanted to make it clear from the start that I’m writing about women and food from the perspective of a feminist who embraces both the term and the domestic tasks that for many years were considered anti-feminist.
The Burden of Cooking
For many women, the kitchen represents centuries of patriarchal oppression.
Cooking has always been a source of power because the people who turn raw ingredients from the field into fuel for the stomach are as essential as the food itself.
The problem was that for thousands of years the gathering and cooking part of that equation was a yoke that happened to fit perfectly on the back of the shoulders of women already carrying children and the burden of keeping house.
Through the beginning of the 20th century, cooking was not a woman’s choice. (I’ve often wondered what women back then thought would happen if they stopped doing domestic tasks befallen on them because of their gender. Shame from the family or community? Physical abuse? Expulsion?)
Now, many women — empowered for decades to be breadwinners, professionals and real-world She-Ras — can choose how involved them want to be with the food that sustains them. Many cooks, farmers, canners, sausage-makers, entrepreneurs and even homemakers who happen to be women have reclaimed domestic tasks not because they have to, but because they want to.
It’s important to note that in a sizable portion of U.S. households (both in real life and in commercials on TV), women are still completing domestic tasks out of an obligation to a role that is not of their choosing. (“Choosy moms choose Jiff!”)
I’m thankful to belong in this first category of women, and I’ve chosen to nourish a relationship with cooking and food while respecting those who don’t.
The Kitchen is a Safe Space
We live in a world obsessed with the petty and the broken.
Unfortunately, women play a large role in this negativity. Despite all the advances we’ve made, women are still ridiculously and unnecessarily mean and unsupportive of one another.
As moms, as coworkers, as foodies, as self-proclaimed feminists, as peers, we nitpick and criticize and harp and judge as if we were still in junior high establishing the pecking order.
I’m going to try my best to keep things positive, supportive and accepting here in The Feminist Kitchen. That doesn’t mean I’m a softie (teeth are meant for both chewing and baring), but life is much easier when we assume the best of people and set a positive intention for change instead of tearing down anything or anyone in your way.
My intention is for the dialogue, including from guest bloggers and commenters, to remain constructive. That doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements, but every kitchen should be a safe space for people to exchange ideas and opinions all while sharing a meal lovingly prepared by someone, no matter the gender, who enjoys doing so.
— Addie Broyles, May 2010