Michael Pollan is a bona fide food celebrity, and rightly so: much of America's changing attitudes towards food is due to his peruasive and intelligent writing. But what's his deal with those pesky "feminists?"
Broadsheet's Anna Clark draws attention to Pollan's discussion of local food movements in the New York Review of Books. There is, she writes, one segment - that on Janet A. Flammang's new The Taste of Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society - that she finds troubling: "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."
Pollan chooses not to challenge the assertion that second-wave feminists are responsible for "wrecking one of the nurseries of democracy" because they urged women to explore possibilities outside of cooking the family meal. Nor does Pollan question the notion that feminists are to blame for "urging" women to leave the kitchen, when one might imagine that those who left the aprons behind were thinking beings who made their own choice to leave, regardless of the persuasions of feminists and family alike.
And she points to Pollan's controversial "return to the kitchen" article of last summer, which many took to task for a rather disingenuous disregard for the obvious corollation between women's historically fraught role "in the kitchen," and contemporary eating habits.
I, too, was struck by this segment of Pollan's review, but I was also surprised by what seemed to be an obvious disconnect. Pollan may snipe at - or at least condone snipes at — "second-wave feminism," but to suggest that the "return" to food is the work of a new population regretting a prior generation's excesses and reclaiming lost arts just seems...odd. If "second-wave feminism" was the purview of progressives, well...who does he think is spearheading the return to local and sustainable? It's very much a progressive, frequently (for good and ill) political movement, and less a refutation than a continuation. Indeed, I'd venture to suggest that many of the same people have championed both causes — Alice Waters, anyone? — and seen the two not as ideologically opposed but as natural bedfellows. To lump "second-wave feminism" in with the scourge of fast-food and obesity seems not just wrong-headed but serves to distract attention from the actual root causes of these serious issues. Clark worries that "nonsensical feminist-baiting is a pattern for the leading thinker of the vibrant food movement." Let's hope not.