"I’m not a feminist… I love cooking!" Why food is a feminist issue

Another day, another “I’m not a feminist” news story.

In an interview for Redbook, Kaley Cuoco — who plays Penny in the CBS comedy series “The Big Bang Theory” — talks about her recent $1 million an episode pay cheque, her decision to get breast implants and, perhaps most controversially, about her opinions on feminism. In response to being asked if she identifies as a feminist or not — a response which has since generated much talk among feminists online — Cuoco replied: “Is it bad if I say no?”

Joining a long list of female celebrities who shy away from the f-word due to a basic lack of understanding, Cuoco’s answer comes as no surprise. Feminists have become used to cries of “humanism” and “but I love men!” from various celebrities over the years. What makes Cuoco’s rejection of feminism surprising is — wait for it — that it conflicts with nurturing her husband:

I cook for Ryan five nights a week. It makes me feel like a housewife. I love that. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but I like the idea of women taking care of their men… I’m so in control of my work that I like coming home and serving him. My mom was like that, so I think it kind of rubbed off.

I’m not exactly in the position to disprove Cuoco’s assumptions that feminists hate cooking. I once famously burnt spaghetti because I forgot to put water in the pot, and I struggle to open the Sara Lee box when it’s my turn to “make” dessert. But my lack of prowess in the kitchen has nothing to do with my belief in feminism, just as Cuoco’s love of cooking should have nothing to do with her lack of interest in feminism.

Western culture is dominated by references to cooking as an anti-feminist act — which is, unfortunately, often reinforced by women who fly the feminist flag. Scattered throughout pop culture and even politics; from Lily Allen’s “feminist” anthem Hard Out Here (e.g., “I suppose I should tell you what this bitch is thinking; you’ll find me in the studio and not in the kitchen”) to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s response to Gordon Ramsay (e.g., “he should confine himself to the kitchen … rather than make public comments about others” — I must admit, I had a little laugh about this one), cooking is depicted as an insignificant act, or worse, as an act that has nothing to do with feminism at all.

But why is cooking considered the antithesis of the feminist movement? Why do the phrases “go back to the kitchen” and “make me a sandwich” still feature as regular insults against women who convey feminist sentiments? And why do the Cuoco’s of the world seem to think that being a feminist involves the senseless burning of aprons?

 

It’s accurate to say that feminists have a long and conflicted relationship with all things domestic. Cooking, a task traditionally relegated to women through the role of the selfless nurturer, is perceived by feminists as an act that reflects women’s oppressed cultural status both inside and outside the home. In The Whole Woman, Australian feminist Germaine Greer argues that the role of feeding is essentialized to women through our ability to breastfeed, and as a result, generalized to our relationships in the kitchen. Specifically, she explains that while our bodies may have the capacity to feed and nurture others, that our relationships with food are marred by the social conditions that hold us principally responsible for its preparation, in some cases leading to resentment, boredom, and what Betty Friedan famously referred to as “the problem that has no name.”

Women’s resentment towards cooking has been represented in various ways throughout the years. Performance artist Martha Rosler famously expressed the conflicted sense of apathy and rage involved in cooking in her video piece The Semiotics of the Kitchen. In a mock cooking show backdrop, Rosler is shown alphabetizing the utensils in her kitchen (“A is for Apron”); becoming increasingly violent as she moves from letter to letter. These sentiments are echoed by radical feminist writers such as Ann Oakley. Oakley expresses her frustration with housework when she describes women’s responsibilities in the home, such as cooking, as acts that inhibit women’s lives and calls for the abolition of housework — and therefore, cooking — altogether. Some researchers argue that radical feminist perspectives on cooking (and housework in general) have gone so far as to contribute to changes in contemporary architecture, leading to the popularity of the open-plan kitchen space, where cooking is intended to be collaborative rather than confined to women.

While references to cooking (and domesticity) feature in many feminist texts as an unwanted and in some cases negative experience of being a woman, what becomes apparent is that feminists are not directly opposed to cooking per se. Rather, feminist writers such as Greer and Oakley object to the patriarchal restrictions that prevent women from doing anything other than cooking.

When Cuoco fantasizes about “feel[ing] like a housewife,” she is not fantasizing about actually being a housewife. She is not channeling the countless women out there who, with less substantial paycheques, are expected to feed their families every night and be given the leftovers as a consolation prize; or the career women who spend all day working to then come home and be expected to get their Nigella on. Cuoco is privileged enough to reap the benefits of the feminist movement, which is what makes her dismissal of feminism in the name of cooking all the more confusing.

I am not suggesting that finding cooking pleasurable is somehow strange or anti-feminist. Cooking for oneself, and for others, can be an enjoyable experience when it’s done out of one’s own volition. But it’s important to acknowledge that just because some women enjoy cooking, that doesn’t mean that we should stop politicizing the act itself, or renounce feminism in the process. When Cuoco — and others — perceive feminism as a movement that rallies against women’s relationships with food and cooking — or as a movement that is fundamentally incompatible with nurturing and respect — they implicitly hold feminists responsible for women’s lack of interest in cooking.

Ultimately, it is not feminism that divorces women from food and cooking — it is the patriarchal social structures that confine women to the kitchen. If it were not for the systematic devaluation of women’s labour both inside and outside the home, women would not need to feel burdened by the act of cooking (and housework in general). As Greer explains, “food is a feminist issue” and, as such, is subject to the same politicization as every other “personal” aspect of women’s lives.

So the next time Cuoco is in the kitchen leisurely making herself (or her husband) a sandwich, it might be useful for her to remember that cooking does not define her lack of interest in feminism; but rather, that feminism is the often missing ingredient that makes all her meals taste better.

Natalie Jovanovski is a PhD Candidate and Feminist Researcher from Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests include the harms of sexual objectification, the cultural reinforcement of eating disorders, and the discursive portrayal of food in contemporary Western media. 
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  • Ligia Wild

    Cooking is one of the last bastions of domestic work that is not acceptable to delegate out. Home cleaners are ok, dishwashers are ok, dryers are ok, but somehow we are supposed to cook a meal each night. As a very busy woman, working seven days a week I don’t want to spend my incredibly limited spare time cooking, but there are not a lot of options if you want to eat well. I once employed someone to cook five meals a week and this engendered such a disgusted response in my colleagues; it was like I had employed someone to deal with my personal hygiene. I am lucky; I only have to worry about me, so I can eat out and even skip dinner, but I can’t imagine what it is like for families with both parents as busy as me.
    I guess that’s why the highest percentage of stay-at-home wives are in Silicon Valley.

    • Morag

      I’m sure part of their disgust was sexism. Nobody is disgusted with single men who have no time to cook — those hard-working, hungry dears.

      But I wouldn’t be surprised if their disgust was also an issue of socio-economic class. Not very many people, except the most privileged, can hire someone to do their domestic chores for them. Usually that hired person is a woman — a poor woman, who probably has her own cooking, cleaning and childcare to do in her own home.

      • Ligia

        Oh yes, you are right. A woman not having time to cook is a disgrace, a man not having time to cook must be off doing more important things.

        And don’t get me started about single women being made to feel bad for being wealthy, when men are not. Perhaps another article Natalie Jovanovski?

        • Natalie Jovanovski

          I’d love to!

          I may need to live life as a wealthy woman for a while… you know, just to connect with the women I’m writing about 😉 lol

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      I’ve never actually thought about it in this context before! But it’s so true.

      The reactions of disgust that you received speak volumes about how we’re expected to conduct ourselves. As Morag said, I doubt that a man would have received the same reaction.

      • amongster

        Men can even buy prostitutes or sex dolls and get away with it without being called disgusting because of course their choices are alwayas reasonable. Why spending time on cooking or bonding with someone when it is easier – and more masculine – to simply order others around.

        • Natalie Jovanovski

          @amongster: Very, very sad/disturbing. This seems to be the norm I’m afraid.

  • Pingback: What’s For Dinner? – Feminism in the Kitchen | The Barefoot Cook()

  • The Real Cie

    Cuoco’s comment about wanting to “serve” her husband makes me bristle a little. I adore this lovely later in life surprise who was dropped in my lap by the Universe last year. I love nurturing him. But I hate the idea of serving anyone. That does not set well with me.
    He wouldn’t be in my life if he expected me to serve him. He doesn’t. He appreciates it when I do little extra things for him, just as I appreciate when he does such things for me.
    Neither of us are particularly good cooks, so we make things that don’t take a whole lot of special skill. Sometimes he makes me dinner, sometimes I make him dinner, sometimes we order out and just enjoy being together. We like nurturing each other, and nobody is expected to “serve” anybody.

  • I will admit that I have not read Cuoco’s quote in context, but it seems like this is about something other than cooking.

    “I like the idea of women taking care of their men… I’m so in control of my work that I like coming home and serving him.”

    She does not like the act of cooking itself. She does not gain pleasure out of mixing flavours and textures to create unique and delicious foods. She likes the thought of women submitting to their husbands and sees cooking as being symbolic of that. I doubt she would enjoy cooking in any other context.

    Her statement sounds a lot like the BDSM rhetoric you often hear about those poor CEOs who are stressed out by all the power they have at work and need to “relax” by having someone dominate them at home. BDSMers are totally wrong of course, power does not stress people out (it often enables them to avoid responsibility), lack of power does. I am annoyed that BDSMers get support from leftists while habouring such pro-capitalist, pro-ruling class viewpoints.

    Of course, Cuoco is not a CEO, but you are totally right about her being privilleged. She has power due to the fact that she has money, but she likes to fantasise about not having power and can afford to, because she will never have to be in that situation. For women who are being abused by their husbands and cannot escape because they have no job, no education and no source of income other than their husband’s support, powerlessness is not so sexy.

    As for the question of whether cooking is anti-feminist, I think a clear distinction needs to be made between the kind of cooking associated with women and the kind of cooking associated with men. Women are supposed to cook in the home, where they prepare the same unimpressive meals over and over again, for husbands who think they have a basic human right to demand such meals and kids who whine about having to eat anything that is not junk food. Of course if women allow their kids to eat junk food, they get branded as bad mothers who do not care about their children’s health, so they are condemned either way.

    By contrast, cooking in a fancy restaurant is considered a men’s profession. Men get to prepare a wide variety of complex and difficult meals, use exotic ingredients, serve a larger amount of people (which means that like it or not, their labour really does contribute more to the economy than the labour of women working at home) and earn money for the work they do (which enables them to exercise power at home.) Working in restaurants also gives men a chance to rise up through the ranks of whatever business they work for and if they reach a high enough level they get to exercise creativity by coming up with their own recipes.

    I will admit that I have never cooked in a restaurant myself, so I am basing my arguments on the cultural portrayal of such work, but the fact that men are encouraged to aspire towards this kind of cooking (while women are encouraged to participate in “housewife” type cooking) is itself evidence of men’s dominant position within the culture.

    I see no reason for the “housewife” style of cooking to exist (aside from Cuoco’s appearant submission fetish, but I think it is possible to abolish such anti-egalitarian romantic and sexual desires, by changing the culture). If you really like cooking, why do it in a boring, repetitive, unchallenging, uncreative manner?

    Maybe this sounds a bit utopian, but maybe in some distant communist*, post-nuclear family future, we could have a society where professional cooks (before male and female) prepared meals for everyone in their community and people gathered in large halls to eat them together. In such a society, anyone who really liked cooking, would have the opportunity to cook without having to submit to a man (or anybody). I will admit that I am engaged in speculation and I do not think that the citizens of a future socialist/communist society are obligated to obey my personal preferences, but I do not that true equality requires the abolish of dominant and submissive roles. It is not enough to simply create a society in which nobody is forced into these roles or these roles are not associated with men/women. That vision is too liberal and reformist in my opinion.

    *In case this is not clear, when I talk about a communist society, I am talking about a society free from class divisions in which everybody contributes as much as they can to society, while getting back what they need in order to survive and thrive. I am talking about totalitarian government control. I know most people on this blog will probably understand what I mean, but I wanted to make myself clear to anyone who might not be that familiar with radical leftist thought.

    • C.K. Egbert

      I think you hit the nail on the head, IR. It does sound exactly like BDSM and what she “enjoys” is the submission, not the act of cooking.

      I think in a liberated society a lot of our “domestic work” would be socialized, particularly for people with disabilities or who had dependents.

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      “By contrast, cooking in a fancy restaurant is considered a men’s profession.”

      Yeah, so true. Men are – more often than not – referred to as chefs, whereas women are referred to as cooks. Classic example of this stratification is in food celebrity culture (e.g., Gordon, Jamie, Heston = chefs. Nigella, Rachael Ray, Delia = cooks.)

      • Tom

        I am a chef at a busy upscale restaurant. I was trained through a very good culinary program at a community college and through an apprenticeship at a nice restaurant. Because of the way I came up I always try to give back by having several apprentices work at my place. There are always many more men in culinary than women so I often try to hire women as apprentices. The way I look at an apprentice is much like a student, they are allowed to make mistakes and I don’t hold them to the same time constraints as my other cooks and chefs. I want them to learn and grow so growing pains are almost inevitable. Over the last decade I’ve had a really hard time retaining these women apprentices as full time cooking staff. Lots of young people get into cooking and find out it’s way more physically demanding and time consuming than they ever thought so I have a hard time retaining the male cooks as well but still it is disproportionately the women that don’t want to make it a career. I can’t blame them, it’s almost impossible for single mothers to do this kind of work because most of my staff works past midnight. Physically it is a really demanding field so it can really drain a person. I would like to more women in the culinary field but it has to start in the home so women can’t have a stigma against food preparation. Being a chef is all about serving others, there is no way around it.

        • Natalie Jovanovski

          “I would like to more women in the culinary field but it has to start in the home so women can’t have a stigma against food preparation.”

          Some really good points, Tom. I think there also needs to be a massive change in the way that society views women’s responsibilities with cooking/nurturing. Because it is implicitly expected of us, there is always that underlying sense of resentment there (from me, anyway).

    • Yeah I think this article totally misses the point. The comment had nothing to do with cooking =/= feminist, cooking was a way of ‘serving her man’ which the author totally ignored. Which is obviously anti-feminist. So at least she is not pretending to be feminist when she clearly is not.

      No offense Natalie/Meghan, but I think the argument that ‘we don’t have to give up doing X just because patriarchy always forced us into it’ is a little basic for this blog. Like, obviously no one is going to suggest abolishing cooking because feminism…

      • Natalie Jovanovski

        “The comment had nothing to do with cooking =/= feminist, cooking was a way of ‘serving her man’ which the author totally ignored.”

        Cuoco is using cooking (and the selfless nurturing that comes with cooking) as a way of distancing herself from feminism.

        “No offense Natalie/Meghan, but I think…”

        I work in academia… it takes a lot more to offend me 😉

      • Meh

        This article doesn’t miss the point at all. Cuoco conflates cooking with serving her husband, and uses cooking as a way of saying, “I’m not a feminist”.

        Also – the idea of “serving” husbands/families comes up several times in the article. The theoretical portion of the article, which talks about Greer’s arguments, makes this point clearly.

      • Sabine

        Rididill, no offense but I think it’s you who has totally missed the point.

        • The article states:

          “But why is cooking considered the antithesis of the feminist movement? Why do the phrases “go back to the kitchen” and “make me a sandwich” still feature as regular insults against women who convey feminist sentiments? And why do the Cuoco’s of the world seem to think that being a feminist involves the senseless burning of aprons?”

          “what becomes apparent is that feminists are not directly opposed to cooking per se.”

          At this point I’m thinking, yeah, no sh*t sherlock. that’s what I mean when I say this is basic.

          Natalie goes on to say,

          “which makes her dismissal of feminism in the name of cooking all the more confusing.”

          Except, it was never a dismissal of feminism in the name of cooking. It was a dismissal in the name of cooking FOR HER MAN. In fulfilling the image of the nurturing housewife. It’s not confusing at all.

          “When Cuoco — and others — perceive feminism as a movement that rallies against women’s relationships with food and cooking — or as a movement that is fundamentally incompatible with nurturing and respect — they implicitly hold feminists responsible for women’s lack of interest in cooking.”

          Yeah I don’t really think Cuoco did anything of the sort. She explicitly talked about cooking for her man and the idea of ‘taking care of her man’, which is anti-feminist. There is no doubt about that. She is not saying, well I love cooking so I can’t be a feminist. She is saying I love fulfilling a patriarchal role so I am not a feminist. It seems to me she has a pretty good understanding of feminism then.

          The whole premise of this article is that Cuoco thinks feminists want to ban cooking or some such, and the article goes about disproving that. The idea is that Cuoco is somehow confused about feminism because of some kind of anti-culinary myth. But from the quotes you gave, it just doesn’t hold up, so spending all that time arguing why it isn’t intrinsic to cooking itself seems like a waste of time.

          I mean we all eat. Food has to be prepared somewhere, this seems blindingly obvious to me that we can’t abolish cooking for the feminist revolution… so yeah. I stand by my original statement.

          • When I said the author totally ignores how Cuoco said it was about serving her man, what I meant is that the author ignores how Cuoco originally talked about cooking *specifically* in the role of serving her man, not cooking per se.

            Wanting to cook to serve her man is the whole reason she is not a feminist. She does not suggest that cooking itself and serving her man are the exact same thing. Therefore, she does not suggest that cooking per se is anti-feminist.

            Yet this is ignored in order to go into some tedious discussion of whether cooking itself is intrinsically anti-feminist which nobody claimed.

            My apologies that I did not make myself very clear the first time around.

          • Natalie Jovanovski

            Hi Rididill, yes I can see your argument. I feel that I did address it, but my primary focus was on food/cooking (as that is my research focus and a topic that I’m strongly invested in. So when I see references to cooking in pop culture that also reference subservience/anti-feminist sentiments, I write about it).

            I feel that all the comments I’ve received so far are valid and interesting/important in their own way. Definitely didn’t intend to upset anybody!

          • Meh

            “Tedious”? “Basic”? “No shit sherlock”?

            You’re being really defensive lol. It’s fine that you disagree with the premise of the article, and it’s fine that you see Cuoco’s comments as reflective of the fucked up way women are encouraged to nurture men at any cost, but you don’t need to be nasty.

            There’s many other constructive criticisms (and disagreements) under this article that don’t resort to being quite so hostile.

    • bella_cose

      Although her husband is a professional tennis player, it sounds like she is more successful, and makes more money than he does. I wonder if her submission fetish is her way of compensating for that?

    • marv

      Poor overworked women are condescended to by liberals and conservatives for taking their children to fast food outlets instead of providing allegedly lower cost healthier home cooked meals. That these women are exhausted from toiling in an exploitative capitalist labour market and from unpaid work at home is lost on the elitist critics. Also when all factors are considered burgers and fries are a rational money saving choice over purchasing whole foods in grocery stores:

      http://radfemimages.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/stfu-conservatives-is-junk-food-really-cheaper/

      • I think that it is important for people to be physically healthy, but I blame the obesity epidemic on corporations producing addictive, high fat, high sugar junk and then marketing it to children. I hate how mainstream culture blaims individuals (particularly women and parents) for obesity, instead of questioning whether something as important as food should be produced by institutions, that only care about profit and are not held accountable for the harms they caused.

        Thanks for posting the link. The creator of the article is right. Costs to a person’s time should be taken into account when evaluating whether a decision makes economic sense. Plus there is the fact that junk food outlets are often open later than other stores, so people who work long hours may have no other options.

        However, I would not dismiss concerns about obesity altogether, not only does it cause real harm to people’s bodies, but concerns about it could be a way of introducing people to anti-capitalist politics. Of course, the mainstream media is not going to present the issue that way, but leftists could.

        • marv

          I think people who are insensitively labelled obese should be leading the way in analyzing the issues around their bodies not those with slim privilege (not accusing you of fat oppression btw). Society can’t seem to accept that one can be fit and fat. Whether healthy or unhealthy though, people of size are weary and exasperated of others obsessing over their girths.

          https://adiposeactivist.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/what-is-fat-acceptance/

          https://fatpanic.wordpress.com/

          • Yes, of course people can be heavier and fit, or lean and not healthy at all, but in any case being fit requires nutritious food. I’m not obese but am small and plump and will never be a fashion model.

            The problem, once again is the availability – in terms of cost and time – to poor working-class people.

            But don’t forget that cooking is a point of pride in many communities, and not only among women.

      • That stuff is poisonous crap. Of course working-class women shouldn’t be who is skewered – the capitalist market should be.

    • Andrew

      I see no problem with that. I love to cook. Other’s don’t. I think the central problem is that women are expected to cook and men are not. Women are burdened with domestic chores as a given, and it’s wrong. At least cooking is something that some people like. What about the dishes. I always do those as well, and it doesn’t get any more fun as you get better at it, nor does scrubbing toilets or folding clothes. Domestic chores are almost entirely tedious annoying hassles that can suck the fun out of life. The fact that women have been burdened with it is a great shame on the history of society.

      I’m pretty liberal and socialist myself so I sympathize. Have you also noticed that when it comes to making money then it’s ok for a man to do it? Chefs are men. Home cooks are women. Dish washers at retaurants are men, but the women do the dishes at home.

  • Missfit

    I love cooking too. And I’m a feminist (true!). I can also appreciate cooking for others. Now my daily cooking is for myself and my daughters; I don’t have to deal with the daily comments (and the pressure that comes with it) of a judgy husband, as was often the case a few decades ago. Cooking, viewed as a woman’s duty, in a patriarchal context, can be burdensome and engender feelings of resentment or guilt. I think men cook regularly more nowadays than before but we are not yet there as to expect it to be an equally shared familial responsibility.

    It is my impression that Cuoco, not unlike other ‘not-a-feminist’ celebrities, benefits from feminism’s gains and enjoy so while holding on to some aspects of patriarchy and sex roles. She may be of the opinion that feminism is not necessary anymore (now that she personally earns millions of dollars), so don’t see the relevance of being a feminist nowadays. She is not a feminist not because she loves to cook, but because of this : ‘I like the idea of women taking care of their men’. She did not say ‘I like the idea of men and women taking care of each other’, what she said sounds unidirectional (and intentionally so), the whole quote gives off an attachment for traditional gender roles. The cooking she refers to is not simple cooking but the one that comes with the ‘good woman’ aura. Cuoco says she does not identify as a feminist and I belive her. Not sure if it is due to a basic lack of understanding, maybe more a lack of reflection.

    • Survivorthrrver

      This woman’s attitudes about feminism are irrelevant. She is wearing Golden Handcuffs. She cannot irritate The Man or she may be tossed back into the slush pile for a more groom-able female.

      What a sell out. I completely agree with you on Cuoco benefiting from feminism’s hard-earned gains while snubbing her forbearers that made her opportunity possible.

      Cuoco says she does not identify as a feminist because…patriarchal industry to whom she truly must submit. Daily.

  • Ellesar

    I suppose that the issue of ‘get back to the kitchen’ comments and the idea that a woman can only prove her worth by how well she looks after others (good food being a obvious measure) is why cooking may rankle a bit for some feminists. But it really has got nothing to do with whether we are good at it or not.

    My grandmother was undeniably a great cook, but my grandfather still abused her around food. If it wasn’t EXACTLY the way he wanted it (she liked to vary her cooking, as all good cooks do, and he wanted everything to be the same every time) he would kick up. She never told me this until he was dead – her loyalty to him was incredible. I learnt what a nasty bastard he had been and I am SO glad that she had nearly 30 years of widowhood, with people who treated her with respect (her sons hated their dad).

  • C.K. Egbert

    This is an interesting article. I was recently listening to a radio show on obesity and the scientists were lamenting about how we spend less time preparing meals (instead of the two hours(!!!) we used to), eating home cooked meals, and eating together.

    I couldn’t help but hear a lot of women-shaming in their tone, because cooking meals is traditionally “women’s work” and women with jobs cannot spend the two hours to make a home-cooked meals (and a lot of stay at home mothers cannot do so either, or don’t want to, and that’s a perfectly reasonable stance).

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      Thanks 🙂 I agree!

      There is a definite underlying expectation that women are responsible for cooking.

      The whole childhood obesity “epidemic” is centered around the notion of “bad motherhood” (i.e., women who work/career women, women who don’t like cooking, etc.) It’s also very much related to class (i.e., “poor women feed their children junk food; wealthy women feed their children nutritious, organic food”)

    • Miranda

      “about how we spend less time preparing meals”

      We! Ha! Ain’t that right! ‘Cause it’s totally ALSO alllll the man-scientists who used to do all that meal-prep at home, too, right??? And then they achieved some basic level of equality and went out and got jobs and/or fulfilled other personal goals and no longer had as much time/energy to make all that food for their families! WE!!! It amazes me how men can completely divorce topics like that from politics.

  • I love cooking. I make dinner almost every night. And I’m a feminist.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I love cooking too! If only it weren’t equated with being servile to men/if it weren’t so attached to femininity…

      • Sabine

        I also love cooking and I am really into nutrition, raw food, the organic scene and veganism so I’ll often take control of meal times. But if any guy expected this, took it for granted or bailed on ever cooking themselves they would be invited to take a running jump! The problem isn’t cooking (we all have to eat) it’s the “women’s work” bullshit attached to it and the fact patriarchy uses it as yet another hammer to batter us into submission. I love nurturing people (and animals!) full-stop. The idea of “looking after” a man purely because he is a man makes me heave. What bloody century are we in here????!!!!

    • I also love cooking; I (deliberately) live close to Montréal’s Jean-Talon Market and have always made my own food. However, I also (deliberately) have never had children, so I don’t have the obligation to churn out “family meals”. In other words, I cook in the same way and for the same reasons my cookery-loving male friends do.

      Now, as for housework…

  • What that interview underlines for me is how stupid it is to celebrate people for how they look instead of how many others they’ve helped in their lives.

    Honestly. A 20-something is asked searching questions and answers them with all the depth of a card-carrying twit. And the magazine, instead of saying, “This is hopeless. Let’s interview a high school drama society.” goes ahead and publishes the drivel they generated.

    I guess I’m saying the problem isn’t the oblivious woman who wouldn’t be anywhere near her current status without feminism. The problem is the dumbass gatekeepers who promote obliviousness.

    • Meghan Murphy

      This is a great point, actually. We create stars and idols out of brainless twits because we value superficially beautiful people — in particular, young, objectificable women — over intelligence or activism and then wonder why we’re constantly appalled by their answers to questions that require at least a minimal level of thought, political engagement, or meaningful life experience.

      • Sabine

        The nail is hit on the head once again by Meghan! So painfully true.

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      “The problem is the dumbass gatekeepers who promote obliviousness.”

      HAHAHAHAHA!!! I actually can’t quite figure out why she was asked if she’s a feminist to begin with.

    • Derrington

      I think this promotion of feminist knocking women is political and done to ensure young women stay away from the liberation of women – to starve the movement into non being. Its done a pretty good job when you look at the low interest in feminist marches as oppossed to anti racism marches. As for big bang theory actress, wish she would shut up about subjects she knows fuck all about and has leached off the back of. If she so enjoys cooking and submission then she should give up the job and fuck off back to the kitchen and leave the revolution to be spoken about by women who need human rights and appreciate them, not by someone who is so priveleged she cann act out her fantasies of bondage in her kitchen.

      • Morag

        I agree, Derrington. Big Bang Girl is a twit with a cooking fetish she can afford to indulge in, but the point in all of this is to give voices like hers a platform. The point is to misrepresent feminism as unreasonable movement, and to thwart the development of a feminist consciousness in girls and women — the goal is, as you said, “to starve the movement into non being.” As if being a feminist means not preparing and cooking food. How dumb can people get?

        “Starve the movement” — nice choice of words given the topic!

  • Meagan

    Great article Nat! Love the way you’ve worked some theory into this.

    There is so much more to say about women’s ongoing / changing (maybe not really changing all that much…?) relationships to domesticity and food – so I hope it kick starts new conversations about feminism and food.

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      Thank you! Yeah, I’m hoping it does, too.

      I’m hoping that people start seeing patterns between the way that women are expected to cook/nurture others, their disordered relationships with food/feeding their own bodies, and the way this is culturally reinforced.

  • Michelle

    I think I’m missing something – if I don’t “cook” (which I assime to mean a catch-all for preparing food) how will I eat? Every human has to eat. Do most Americans eat at restaurants now? I prepare about 99% of the food I ingest, and if I didnt, I would starve. I dont think this is really about food preparation, but about femininity and obligation to serve others so they don’t have to do the work of life. Patriarchy is based largely on males not having to do the human work of life but setting up a hierarchy where they can just do the work that pays, – depending on their social class – and women can conveniently be placed in a “role” where they do the unpaid work of life for other people. It is normal that everyone should prepare their own food and clean up after themselves and take care of their own children. Patriarchy succeeded in seeing to it that women did this work for themselves and for all the males around too (and depending on social class, they may have to do this work for the wealthier/more powerful /more privileged people as well).

    Wealthy women can of course employ lower income women to do this work for them. This is not a step up. The dramatic majority of humans on this planet prepare their own food, and do not subcontract it out to lower income women to come into their houses to do. Hiring “servants” is not feminist either. That’s why these comments about feminism excluding cooking or making clothes etc. are so ridiculous. It’s not really about those things as activities. It’s about who we are expected to do them for simply because of our sex, and/or income class. As mentioned above, the work of life should be shared among adults in a household but this has still hardly progressed in the last 40 years and women still do the bulk of “house work” even when they work more hours outside the home than their male partner . This ignorant, incredibly privileged actor has set up a false dichotomy which is sadly very common, and such a politically challenged mind is fertile ground for MRA rhetoric.

    • Sabine

      “It’s not really about those things as activities. It’s about who we are expected to do them for simply because of our sex, and/or income class.”

      Abso-bloody-lutely!!!!!

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      “I think I’m missing something – if I don’t “cook” (which I assime to mean a catch-all for preparing food) how will I eat?”

      Yes, exactly! I would have starved to death by now.

      Unfortunately, the act itself (cooking) is often conflated with the oppressive social conditions that are attached to it (the need to selfless nurture others).

  • Francine Sporenda

    . “Cooking for oneself, and for others, can be an enjoyable experience when it’s done out of one’s own volition.”
    Please not the old “it’s my choice” again! What kind of “own volition ” is there, wether for prostitution or for cooking, when what a woman “chooses” to do is precisely what society wants her to do?
    I intensely dislike cooking, not just for the activity itself but because it’s my social duty as a woman to cook, feed, nurture and generally take care of other people for free,and I will go out of my way to NOT EVER do that.
    The only kind of truly feminist cooking in my view is cooking for oneself, or being paid for it in a restaurant. Any cooking done for free for the benefit of others is archetypical women exploitation.

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      Francine – I know exactly what you mean. I am the first to criticise the “choice” argument in any other context. I’m sorry if the article was conveyed in this way – I will be more mindful of how I word my argument in future.

      Cooking is an everyday phenomenon for a lot of people. I hate cooking but, unfortunately, I do it everyday because I am too poor to eat out. Every now and again I am motivated to cook for fun because I find a great recipe that I want to try – this does not happen often, but it does happen. When I do cook for others it is (more often than not) done collaboratively – where we’re all huddled up in my tiny kitchen (usually there is a lot of drinking/laughing involved).

      At the end of the day, I wanted the article to convey how complicated discussions are around feminism and cooking (and to generate a lot of debate!)

    • amongster

      I do not particularly like or dislike the activity itself – when there is enough time cooking can be even meditating for me but mostly it’s a pain – but I also really hate how cooking is gendered and what is expected of me as a woman. A regular man who is able to not burn toasts is considered a chef while the regular woman better has some secret recipes from their grand-grand-grand-mothers memorized.

      I mostly cook for myself or in turn with family members and usually stick to a few recipes that we all like because it’s easy and I don’t feel the need to try out something new every day.
      Unfortunately I’m surrounded by (female) friends and acquaintances who need to post their self-cooked meals everyday on instagram and other social media and even though I haven’t cared about being the “good wife”-type at all before I finally feel inadequate nonetheless for not even wanting to participate in what seems to be a contest. Good that there are food-blogs out there that offer advice and recipes, but why has every woman to be a food-blogger nowadays? Makes me mad.

  • Francine Sporenda

    No problem, I tend also to be sometimes too blunt in my way of writing.
    I understand that a woman might like to cook, if she likes to eat, it’s a good enough reason.
    However I am a bit skeptical when people pretend they really want to do what society prescribes them to do. Be it prostitution, cooking, motherhood, wearing a burqa etc

    • Natalie Jovanovski

      Totally agree! It’s virtually impossible these days to question the “choice” argument.

      Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’d hate to come across that way. It’ll help with future writing.

  • RHM

    1. We all have to eat and drink. Along with clean air, clean water, somewhere safe to rest our head at night, we won’t survive long without adequate and proper nutrition.

    2. Even if we don’t die (humans can live for years despite malnutrition and inadequate calories) poor sanitation and disease, which so often go together with poor nutrition, may render us so ill and weak that we can barely do more than get through from one day to the other.

    3. Before Nestlé came along and convinced us otherwise, human infants were dependent upon human breast milk, either that of their biological mother or that of a wet nurse.

    4. Small children (pre-school children), have more autonomy than infants have, but are still largely dependent upon a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle, other relative, family friend or a compassionate stranger to feed them.

    5. Restaurants and other commercial eating places are not only amongst some of the most dangerous places to work, with scalds and burns, cuts and injured limbs commonplace, they exploit poor men, women and children on low wages, and made to work irregular, long, and unpredictable working hours – in just the same way that sweatshops exploit poor men, women and children.

    6. If eating in a restaurant, one doesn’t/can’t know for sure what ingredients have been used by the cook/chef, where they’ve been produced, and the conditions of their production.

    7. In a restaurant, one doesn’t know how fresh or stale the ingredients or prepared meals are, or how long the food has been sitting there kept warm as all the vitamins slowly oxidise and bacteria multiply.

    8. In short, eating at restaurants and cafes is a solution to women’s domestic concerns about food preparation akin to the way that tight jeans, push-up bras and fancy shoes are solutions to women’s concerns about being sexually objectified and/or about the exploitation of sweatshop workers.

    9. Here in Oz, Aboriginal Australians, especially if they live in places like Hermannsburg, and Torres Strait Islanders, have serious and important nutritional issues that are, dare I suggest, much weightier than the culinary concerns of middle-class white women.

    10. Further afield, in the USA, for example, Native Americans, African Americans and Mexican Americans should not have still to endure the never-ending effects of long centuries of institutionalised racism, and have to work for upper-middle-class white women and men in the home for very low wages and long hours. Nor should they have to work on behalf of middle-class, white women and men, again for very low wages and under appalling conditions, on farms and in factories making and processing food, and in so-called ‘family restaurants’ such as MacDonald’s.