Archives for the month of: September, 2014

I’m one of those feminists who read Silvia Federici and has a lot to say about the gender division of labour. So obviously, I had a strong response to an article in the CBC titled “Is foodie culture putting too much pressure on working moms?” But, it wasn’t the response my fellow feminists gave, and probably not the one Federici herself would give. Most of my compatriots posted it with a sighing frustration at this “foodie culture”, since working moms have enough to deal with as is. My response though, was “are you fucking kidding me?”

I have the benefit of a very good therapist, and I am also definitely a foodie. My Instagram account is filled with pictures of food that I’ve cooked myself from my favourite cookbooks (If you’re looking to get an idea of which ones I like, here’s my Pinterest board for cookbooks) and eaten at some of the best restaurants in Victoria, Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. My therapist is important because she told me some valuable advice that I wish more people knew: “Whenever you start talking about what they expect of you, replace the they with I, and you’ll get an idea of who is putting the pressure on you.” So, when I see articles about X putting pressure on Y, I cock a brow, because oftentimes it’s just a code for “scapegoating an actual societal ill onto something else and underestimating everyone’s agency and autonomy”. My involvement in foodie culture also tells me that, if foodie culture is to blame for people feeling inadequate about what they cook at home, then that’s because they’re listening to the wrong sorts of foodies.

And, having read the article, I know that that’s definitely the case. It starts off with some celebrity chef quoted in the article praising the  sit-down dinner: “I always say to remember that every single family that takes more dinners together, there is less drop outs at school, there is less divorce, less obesity, less social problems,” This guy definitely falls in the Michael Pollan vein of “pseudo foodie who is less interested in the food and more in the fantasy.” The fantasy here, is that every Canadian family is just simply dying to sit down together to have a meal, and that the act of eating together will, for the time that it takes to eat a meal, smooth over all their dysfunctions and psychic wounds, and then world peace will follow.

I ate together with my family every night, and let me tell you, that’s not the case. Eating around the dinner table was my first lesson in why I needed feminism. When I was a small child, it was the pain of watching my mother serve dinner, then come to the table later to pick at a miserable looking, wilted salad while the rest of the family ate what she had cooked, because she was terrified of gaining a single drop of fat on her measly sparrow-like bones. Then, as a teenager, my food was swapped out for a salad, and I had to watch my stepfather and stepbrother eat the choicest meals and bully and berate me and my sister for being fat in between bites.

I probably would have been psychologically off better if I’d just been allowed to eat in my room while reading a book, like I’d always wanted to. Eating dinner together isn’t a cure for either societal or family ills, anyone who thinks that is living in a fantasy world of Leave It To Beaver style dinners served by smiling housewives and consumed by happy husbands and obedient children.

Moving away from my personal story, back to the article, I thought, “So, some celebrity chefs are dicks, is that really causing that much psychological stress for parents?” Then, I hit the jackpot. The article provided the real answer to the problem:

“”I don’t know that many Canadian realize this, but Canadian women actually spend quite a bit more time doing housework and working in the home, than do American women, and in fact women in many countries. We spend on average about 35 hours a week just contributing to home care,” she told The 180’s Jim Brown. “And interestingly, Canadian men do less than men in other countries, so in this country, for some reason that isn’t exactly clear, women are actually shouldering a much greater burden for home care than are the men.”

Bingo.

The article shouldn’t be called “Is foodie culture putting too much pressure on working moms?” The real title is, “Are lazy, stupid men who apparently don’t want to bother with helping out with food preparation or any other part of housework, putting too much pressure on women who for whatever reason can’t or won’t remind their spouses that they’re grown-ups who should be expected to help in feeding, cleaning, and caring for themselves?”

Challenging patriarchy and giving working moms a break isn’t going to happen by belittling Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain. It’s going to happen when it’s no longer assumed that the problem lays outside of getting people to move past patriarchal ideas of who should do what work.

Last semester and this semester, I had two different professors in my department who had two things in common: They were both, in general, rather disorganized and absent-minded, and they were both really interested in having students do projects that involved a lot of skills not generally learned in our department, namely: videography, web-editing, sound production. Professor One wanted us to make a youtube video documenting us performing a stunt in public. Professor Two wants us to start up our own class blog to talk about our feelings as we learn the material.

I have a strong feeling that there’s a connection between their sloppiness as instructors and their over reliance on students using new media to do class projects, but I can’t articulate exactly how, yet… Give me time and I’ll figure it out.

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”
— Zadie Smith

Oftentimes, when talking with other bisexual people, we lament how difficult it was to deal with coming out as bisexual. It carried with it not only the difficulty of explaining our sexuality to straight people, but the pain of rejection from the majority of “LGBT” and queer organizations, groups, and social circles that mainly catered to gays and lesbians.

But, compared to many bisexuals in my friend group, I’ve never had as difficult of a time as they did adjusting to the baggage of bisexuality of being seen as conniving, shadowy, opportunistic, untrustworthy, and having most of my underlying motivations driven by greed. It’s not as though I’m an easygoing person who takes being mistreated in stride, but I somehow never reacted quite as angrily to it as my friends did when they came out.

“It bothers me, believe me it does,” I said to a friend tonight. “But, I’ll be honest, it’s not anything I’m not used to. I have a lifetime experience of being treated that way because I’m Jewish.”

America-centrism is annoying but inescapable in nearly every corner of the internet I’ve come across. In the last three weeks, it began to really get on my nerves, for two reasons. The first was that it meant that news items coming from America overshadowed similar stories to the point where it was impossible to get Americans to pay attention or care about the non-American items. I’m speaking, of course, of the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Tina Fontaine, and Colton Crowshoe. I saw about five times the coverage of the first name than I did the other two. All three were murder victims who faced the terror of police/state violence against children of colour. But Michael Brown was American, so his tragic murder meant he became a household name, even in Canada, whereas it was only with other Indigenous people in Canada that I could have discussions about Tina and Colton. All three of them should be household names. All three of their terrible murders deserve international attention.

The other reason was, the more sinister and annoying part of America-centrism is the assumption that you can take American cultural truths, American understandings, American historical memory, and transfer it to any other country and understand any situation going on there perfectly well. Even the best-intended and most worldly Americans can often fall victim to this.

What gets me about this is that this produces disastrous results for understanding even Canada. Perfectly nice, reasonably intelligent Americans have made this mistake when trying to talk about Canadian political history and current events, and it irritates me. But in the larger picture of things, if it is so ill-fitting for a country which is culturally and linguistically and geographically one of the closest to the United States, I can only imagine the effect this mindset creates on other nations.