Jennifer Jeffrey explores whether the “eat local” movement is anti-feminist in that it places undue expectations and burdens on women. Now I’m sure there are people who would immediately leap to point out that, duh, men cook too! Which, you know, obviously. But women — especially married women and women with children — are still disproportionately likely to be making their families’ meals (and shopping for those meals). Working mothers are already under a lot of stress (and societal expectation) to be able to work a full day and still prepare a home-cooked meal for their families, lest they be deemed a bad parent, contributing to the obesity “epidemic,” yada yada yada. The whole “eat local” and organic movement, with all its inherent class and moral connotations, provides another expectation for working women/mothers to feel stressed or guilty about not living up to. Jeffrey writes:
My flexible schedule is no small advantage when it comes to putting locally grown meals on the table (heck – even meals on the table at all), a fact that becomes crystal clear on weeks when I suddenly have more projects than I can handle, and What To Make For Dinner is the very last thing on my mind. If eating local is still a challenge for me, what about women who, voluntarily or not, log 8 to 10 hours a day, five or six days a week, in an office or hospital or courtroom? What about women who, in addition to working long hours and commuting back and forth, also have children at home who need love and affection and help with homework? What about women who, in addition to work and kids and a significant other, also think it might be nice to hit the gym two or three times a week? Or have a social life? Or read a book or take a judo class or become a better photographer? How do those women get it all done? How on earth do these same women have time to plan balanced meals, let alone meals composed of organic, in-season ingredients… grown locally?
I wonder. I wonder if the slow-organic-local food movement is truly sustainable for and friendly to the larger community of women.
Well, no, obviously not, which is why it gets labeled as classist. And it is. Erin might argue the nuances of this statment (and there are, of cousre, nuances), but I think you can’t get around the fact eating “sustainably” is a luxury. Doesn’t make it a bad thing, per se. To the extent that it carries over into more “working class” options — fresher produce at WalMart, for instance, or the awesome sushi you can get at Krogers — it benefits everybody, in that healthier options are more easily and widely available all around. I think this “pro” outweighs the “con” that it may place new stresses on working mothers, but that doesn’t mean that these stresses shouldn’t be considered, which is why Jennifer’s post is interesting. Jennifer asks:
Can we call ourselves feminists (simply defined here as people who desire the equality of all women, everywhere) and still suggest that an ideal dinner consists of handmade ravioli and slow-simmered marinara from vine-ripened, hand-picked tomatoes and a salad composed of vegetables that (let’s be honest) are Not Available at Safeway?
Sure you can, as long as you realize that’s YOUR ideal dinner, not everybody’s. Jennifer gets this, and notes that women career equality has been helped in no small part by convenience foods.
Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is going to write,” and I would further argue that a woman must have convenient food preparation options in order to be truly independent. The relative convenience of our grocery system has been an invaluable partner in the quest for equality and choice.
(she offers more thoughts in a Part 2 post)