Pollan's Feminism Fail

By FoodNerd August 1, 2009


With the highly anticipated movie "Julie and Julia" opening in selected cities this week (the movie combines the story of Julie Powell, who prepared every recipe in Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking, with scenes from Child's life), local-food evangelist Michael Pollan had a cover story in last week's New York Times Magazine praising Child for popularizing the notion that cooking could be fun—could be, in fact, an art.

I agree. Too bad he ruined it by saying this:
Curiously, the year Julia Child went on the air — 1963 — was the same year Betty Friedan published “The Feminine Mystique,” the book that taught millions of American women to regard housework, cooking included, as drudgery, indeed as a form of oppression.

Kate Harding at Broadsheet makes short work of that notion:
Funny, I always thought Friedan became a feminist icon because she articulated what millions of women already felt, not because she brainwashed them into believing that repetitive, menial, unpaid labor might not be the best use of their talents.

Pollan even goes on to lambaste "some American feminists" who "trampled the notion" that cooking was inherently enjoyable "in their rush to get women out of the kitchen."

To which Harding responds, "I'm guessing they made ridiculous, man-hating arguments like, 'Dude, Julia Child gets paid to cook," and to which I respond, Dude, feminism was about choices, not telling women what to do. And if some women didn't like spending eight unpaid hours a day in the kitchen, well, far be it from me or anyone else to tell them to get back there.

Another glaring oversight is that somehow, Pollan managed to write approximately 9,000 words on why "we" don't cook at home as much as we used to without acknowledging that the "we" he refers to is women. (He does note rather proudly that men "are cooking more today than ever before"—preparing a whopping 13 percent of all meals.)

Without that recognition—with, in fact, the implicit assumption that women are supposed to be the ones who cook—Pollan's piece reads more like antifeminist polemic than what he probably intended it to be: An urgent (and, frankly, needed) call for everyone, not just women, to spend a little more time thinking about what we eat.

And that's a shame.
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