It's Always Convenient to Blame the Woman

7 years ago

There’s been a lot of talk in the feminist blogosphere lately about Michael Pollan, food activist and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is anti-meat, pro-organic and pro locally grown food, and a major critic of the global industrial food complex. These are all fine things to be, since our healthy-food-is-only-for-the-rich lifestyle is having major repercussions on our health and happiness. It is, however, not so great when he jumps on the “feminists have ruined family mealtime by refusing to cook” bandwagon.

In “The Foodie Indictment of Feminism,” Salon’s Anna Clark points to Pollan’s most recent screed. She writes:

“So while reading Pollan’s latest piece in The New York Review of Books, I was nodding along as he articulated how the local food culture manifests the good kind of movement fragmentation — threading together diverse interests to create a powerful force. I was nodding, at least, until I got to the part where he discusses Janet A. Flammang’s new book, The Taste of Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society. Pollan writes:

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.

Clark goes on to say that this is not the first time Pollan has idealized the notion of woman as food provider and keeper of the family hearth–nor is it the first time he’s blamed feminists for encouraging women to discard that role, which he implies has led (if only partly) to the mess we’re in now.

I’m surprised that Clark is surprised by this, even though she asserts that she is a big fan of his work. The thing is, men, even supposedly thinking men like Pollan, have been blaming women for everything that goes wrong in their lives since Adam. Hey, that dude could have refused that apple Eve was peddling, right? Why didn’t Adam ask if it was organic and free trade? But, no, it was much easier to throw her under the bus. The fact that Flammang, a woman, throws her entire sex under the bus isn’t surprising either. Patriarchy only works because some women collude with it–Sarah Palin, anyone?

But back to the food — I’m the last person to agree that the best way to fight for feminism is to reject the kitchen. Knowing how to cook is a great and valuable skill. I love to cook, and I make things from scratch, and take great pleasure in producing a good meal.

Then again, I’m privileged.  I’m not stuck making three meals a day for a large family who may or may not complain about my cooking. I’m not struggling to stretch my food dollar. I don’t have to walk a few miles to find fresh produce that’s not prohibitively over-priced. I don’t have to work two jobs, then come home to a third shift where I’m expected to spend hours cooking from scratch. If that were the case, I would probably say “fuck this, I’m going to KFC,” too. If Pollan has a problem with that, he can get his locavore ass over here and cook for me.

What do you think, Sirens? Is feminism responsible for the decline of healthy eating? Debate on our message boards below.

-- A.K. Whitney

For further reading: Lessons Learned from a Vegan Diet, Being a Responsible Carnivore

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