Do you remember this? It's Jamie Oliver's TED talk, which came out about a year and a half ago. It's well worth a watch, if you have a moment, but the summary is obesity is bad and unhealthy food is bad and people need to learn how to cook properly and school lunches need to suck less. Some blogs I read had qualms with his discussion of obesity, for good reason, but other than that there seems to be nothing objectionable about suggesting that healthy food should be more available and people should be educated in how to prepare it.
But I remember, when I finished watching it last year, something about it felt... off. To me. I tweeted: "It sounds kind of like he's saying, 'women, get back to the kitchen.'" A teacher disagreed with me - He heard: "everyone, get back to the kitchen." But I went back through the transcripts he gave, and found it striking that all the examples he gave - with the exception of a minister - were women. He talks about a young woman whose poor diet led to serious health problems, a mother who doesn't know how to cook and whose children are obese, another woman whose obese father died in her arms. (Why not just tell us about him? Why make the story about her, as though she had something to do with it?) He talks at length about lunch ladies, called that, because men don't cook school lunch. He waxes nostalgically about a time when cooking knowledge was passed down from grandmothers and mothers - presumably to daughters, though it's not stated that way.
Today TreeHugger has an article making a similar point: part of increasing access to healthier food would have to be teaching people how to cook. In my middle school, cooking class was a co-ed, several-week affair, of which the only thing I remember is how to lay a formal table setting and that wrapping croissants around marshmallows is incredibly delicious. So perhaps it left something to be desired on the health and nutrition side. But everyone knew that cooking was the 'girls'' part of the year - later that year, we spent a few weeks in shop class learning how to use big fancy tools, and that was the boys' part.
I think if we're really going to have a conversation about teaching people how to cook healthy food, we have to make it a conversation about gender. I know Jamie Oliver probably didn't mean to, but he managed to lay the blame for unhealthy food at least in part on the backs of women. Why not ask the boys and men in those families he interviewed what they think about cooking, and whose job it is, and whether or not they're able to do it (or that it's worth their time)? Maybe it's just because I think everything about gender, but I think that'd be a much more productive conversation in figuring out how to encourage healthy cooking for everyone!
Was I that teacher? I could have been that teacher. Either way, reading your post here, I see your point. If I was that teacher, I'm guessing I heard "everyone" because I tend to hear "everyone," and maybe I hear "everyone" because I want to be gender-inclusive but still sit in a position of privilege (as a white, heterosexual male), and so I can choose to hear gender-inclusive even when it's not there. I'm guessing Oliver didn't mean to lay blame at the feet of women, but he also sits in the same seat of privilege ...
Good post. Keep keeping us on our toes!
Hey Mr. Hoefler! Yup, that was you! (Thanks for such an interesting little twitter exchange that it occurred to me a year later!)
I think he probably meant to be gender-inclusive too, but the cases he points out and the way he says it end up playing into pretty typical gender ideas, rather than challenging them in a way that I think would help his goal even more...
I'm always irritated when things like cooking are gendered. I'm really girly but I hate cooking. Joe loves it. I'm like, have you people even heard of Emeril?
I agree Brinn. Cooking is a unisex craft so no need to call gender.
- kitchen designs webmaster
Post a Comment