I was minding my own business sat on the tube yesterday evening when an article in the Evening Standard caught my eye – The five rules for feminist cooking by Rosamund Urwin. Unfortunately I’d reached my stop, so ripped it out and tucked it away for reading later.
This morning I managed to have a good old read. Feminism and cooking being two of my favourite topics I decided to open the article up for discussion, and to share with you my thoughts.
The first rule from Rosamund Urwin is “Men belong in the kitchen too!” And I couldn’t agree more. Now we are not talking about the professional kitchen here, but instead about the room that you and I spend a lot of time in as food bloggers. I’ve never really struggled with the image of a man in the kitchen as its my Dad who taught me a lot of what I know about cooking. Mum on the other hand lacks confidence and quite simply burns everything to a crisp. That said there does still seem to be a lack of men willing to take the reins when it comes to mealtimes. So how do we combat this built-in notion that the woman of the house does the cooking? In the spirit of equality, I say get him in there with you! You can chop and he can stir – cooking is far more fun when you’re sharing it with someone.
“Backwards and in high heels” is less about actually cooking in high heels and more about the male/female divide in professional kitchens. The trend has been for fast paced high-end restaurant kitchens to be dominated by men. Though the likes of Angela Hartnett, Clare Smyth and Anna Hansen are going a long way to help combat this.
Any arguments you could use for women reaching the top ranks of professional cooking apply equally to any other industry. I myself have chosen a male dominated career path in Corporate law and I face a whole host of challenges surrounding that on a daily basis. Whether you opt for a substantive view of equality or normative view there is no hard and fast solution. However we should continue to encourage young women to pursue their dreams doing all we can to support them in their decision to work in professional kitchens.
Rosamund’s third rule is “My favourite animal is steak”. Here she denounces the absurd distinction that subsists between male food and female food. Steak and chips is not a dish fit only for a man. Nor is salad women’s fare. Lets make that abundantly clear now.
This issue is something which sits close to my heart as it is something my partner Jon has faced a number of times. Jon has been a vegetarian for nearly 10 years and the general consensus of friends, family and waiting staff in restaurants is that vegetarianism is only for women. I can’t count the times that a waiter has assumed the vegetarian dish is for me, by virtue of my having breasts, and plonked it down in front of me. I find it astonishing that these attitudes still exist and I think we need to not only educate the public but also those within the food industry!
While we are at it I agree with Rosamund, Yorkies are not just for boys!
“Stop baking cupcakes!!!!!!!!!” (Emphasis added…)
This one really left me in two minds. In her article Rosamund sites feminist blog Jezebel. I don’t always agree with its views but I absolutely love this blog and what it’s trying to do. Jezebel believes that cupcakes not only represent domesticity, modesty and sweetness but they also suggest that they represent “prescribed modes of femininity and our cultural fixation on eternal girlhood”. (Would now be a good time to mention the hollywood wax?)
And while I wholeheartedly agree that this all makes sense and is probably depressingly true, I also think that if we simply stopped baking them, our patriarchal society would simply pick up another sweet treat I love and ruin that for us too!
Lets face it. Cupcakes taste good. They are a blank canvas on which the amateur baker can easily experiment with flavours. They are also a creatives dream – they can be decorated in a million different ways, from the incredibly girly to the downright gruesome and both are fine with me.
For me feminism is not about rejecting those activities or behaviours which our patriarchal society has deemed feminine. I embrace these along with the activities and behaviours I possess which are supposedly ‘masculine.’ I am some feminists worst nightmare – a walking contradiction that bakes, sews and conforms to the male idea of the perfect female, doing my hair and makeup before I leave the house. But I also have a very ‘masculine’ competitive streak. I have a steely determinedness that means I want to make partner by the age of 35 and will not sacrifice my career for child rearing *god forbid* – instead Jon will become a house husband.
And how can I do all this and still proudly fly the feminist flag? I don’t believe in rejecting the feminine (no burning bras here…just subtly removing them after 4pm) but I also don’t believe in the hatred of men either. I believe in equality and isn’t that what feminism is fighting for? I should be allowed to have a strong, dominant, career minded personality as much as men should be allowed to don a pinny and make a batch of cakes. I am who I am and none of this should be influenced by gender.
With this in mind I say don’t stop baking cupcakes in the name of feminism. Take them back! Forget the sprinkles, shimmer powder and pink and enjoy them no matter what gender you may be.
Rule no. 5
“Eating isn’t orgasmic” – I couldn’t help but laugh at this one. Hands up who has ever had an orgasm through food? No, I thought not…but how many of us have teased our male counterparts by saying you’d rather a tub of ben and jerrys than a roll around in the sack? Yes – that’s more like it! I kid, I kid. Rosamund’s real point here is that we need to make te fridge our friend. The media is so contradictory one minute suggesting chocolate can induce orgasm, the next making us feel guilty for having that extra square. Do what makes you feel good and forget what everyone else thinks.
So there we go. The five rules of feminist cooking and my slant on them.
For me the main thing here is do what you love and if that is cooking, embrace it, no matter what your gender.
What’s your take on all this. Are you a feminist (note: men can be feminists too!) or do you think this is a load of nonsense?
I’ll leave you with one final quote from an interview with a senior male partner during an interview I had at an anonymous law firm:
“Oh. So you are one of those little women who bakes?”
- The five rules for feminist cooking (standard.co.uk)
- Nigella Lawson: Feminism has made women feel a sense of dread in the kitchen (metro.co.uk)