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No, Feminism Isn't Making America Fat

Illustration for article titled No, Feminism Isnt Making America Fat

Feminism often gets blamed for rising obesity rates by those who lament latchkey kids but seem to forget we've been eating processed crap long before the second wave; DIY messiah Michael Pollan has even claimed that modern women have lost the “moral obligation to cook” they so enjoyed when he was growing up in the 1960s. How lovely: another modern failing for which we can conveniently blame working women.


Evil career ladies have no time to feed their kids, but the "New Domestic" housewives who can jams and bake bread from scratch are saving the world one gluten-free scone at a time. “American women now allow corporations to cook for them," Michael Pollan complained in 2009. “[The appreciation of cooking was] a bit of wisdom that some American feminists thoughtlessly trampled in their rush to get women out of the kitchen.” Totes thoughtless; it's not like they had anything better to do outside of there, right?

Not right. In a Salon excerpt of "Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity", which sounds fantastic if this chapter is anything to go by, Emily Matchar gives us data that proves Pollan's disciples are growing exponentially: at the start of the recession, 60 percent of Americans said they were cooking more than they had previously; by 2012, 37 percent of Americans said they were cooking more than the previous year. Home canning has "gone viral," Backyard Poultry magazine isn't worried about the death of print, and cities across America have legalized urban chicken keeping. Stay-at-home wives and mothers are ON IT.


Matchar describes a meeting of the From Scratch Club, "a group of women in the Albany area who get together to share their love of handmade and locally sourced foods," which sounds straight out of Portlandia. There's the sanctimonious approach (“People have become very disillusioned with where their food is coming from, especially once they have kids.”), the braggy, (“I always make my own English muffins.”) and the cringe-inducingly ignorant. (“I want to teach inner-city kids about where veggies come from.”)

“The return to domesticity by young, intelligent, educated women like you see around here is a reaction against a broken food system in America,” said Marcie Cohen Ferris, a professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on food culture. And, in some cases, that's true! But it's also pretty fucking surface level, because it punishes feminists for creating the problem instead of the policies that keep them at work overtime, the market forces that make cheap food so cheap, and the gender norms that assume women should be in the kitchen in the first place.

"It’s easy to forget, in the face of today’s foodie culture, that cooking is not fun when it’s mandatory," Matchar writes. Especially when you have to choose between cooking for your family and paying for the groceries.



(Image via Getty)

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It's worth noting that Michael Pollan wrote 3 books telling people what to eat before he bothered to learn how to cook (which he says he did for his recent cookbook). So while that guy has been right about a lot of things, his deep commitment to the assumption that it's women's work to do the cooking and feeding is the kind of shit that leaves him in "halfway-hero" territory for me.