Feminism to blame for “obesity epidemic”?

Just when you thought there wasn’t anything left to blame us for: “Today, cook books dominate the bestseller lists: most of them are destined to lie, unused, on kitchen shelves. Schools no longer teach cooking per se, just variants on subjects such as home technology, in which teachers explain to children how microwaves heat up food. Meanwhile, sales of ready meals continue to climb hand in hand with teenage obesity. It may be fanciful to lay the blame for this at the feet of the early feminists, but, without a doubt, our struggle to free women from the sheer drudgery of housework was a small link in the chain.” Or so Rosie Boycott argues here. The idea seems to be that early feminist mags should have put more emphasis on cooking quick, nutritious meals while holding down a job. Too bad men have that gene that makes their heads explode if they try to use a pan. Otherwise one might have thought cooking wasn’t just women’s work. Nice example of how strong our unconconscious assumptions about this sort of thing are: Boycott has done some important feminist work, but it still never seems to cross her mind that men could conceivably cook. (Thanks to Stoat for passing this one on to me.)

4 thoughts on “Feminism to blame for “obesity epidemic”?

  1. Whilst, on the other hand, ‘The Butch Cookbook’ offers advice for lesbian couples for occasions when the ‘beautiful femme… every now and again, needs to be allowed to put her feet up’.
    (reported on here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/gender/story/0,,2081303,00.html)
    A very strange write up! ‘Butch’ or ‘big boy’ food, as it is referred to, includes burgers slathered with cheese; femme food is more asparagus crepes and babycham.
    Also, the suggestion seems to be that patterns of unequal divisions of domestic labour (at least, cooking)extend to these lesbian relationships – but there are statistics suggesting that household work is divided up more equally (generally speaking) in same sex couples (Shelton and John 1996, mentioned in Saul 2003, pg6).
    Assumptions about who does which household tasks abounding!

  2. I’m not sure this is really fair to Rosie Boycott. She is focusing on one cause, the emphasis in 1970’s feminist literature on getting women out of the kitchen, but she does say it is a small link.

    She is clear that one thing that kept her out of the kitchen is the fact that her male partner was a great cook, but , aside from one other comment, guys are not part of the narrative. I really don’t mind that, as long as she is clear – as she is – that she isn’t giving a full account of the social setting leading to obesity.

  3. I guess what I have a problem with is the fact that guys aren’t part of the narrative when they should be. But you’re right– she does only *say* that feminism played a small role. Still, I think general tone suggests a stronger feminism-blaming than that. Although some of that may be due to headline, and she may not have been responsible for that.

  4. Uh, this post’s reaction is bizarre. The problem isn’t that women no longer know how to cook for men; it’s that no one knows how to cook for themselves or their kids and we’re all fatter for it. Expecting men to pick up the slack like 1950s housewives is ridiculous and sexist, because we don’t live in a one-breadwinner household economy anymore, not to mention irrelevant to the fact that single women don’t know how to cook for themselves and they’re obese, too.

    Autonomy includes being resposible for your own behavior and regularly eating crap isn’t responsible behavior, regardless of gender. Is this what passes for philosophy?

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