Food and Feminism

Canning peaches

“Is Michael Pollan a sexist pig?” Rebecca Burns starts her article off provocatively. She convened a roundtable including Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, Tracie McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating, Laura Orlando, and myself to discuss.

The omnipresent omnivore apparently criticized the second wave feminist classic The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan as “the book that taught millions of American women to regard housework, cooking included, as drudgery, indeed as a form of oppression.”

Times writer Peggy Orenstein takes it one step further, crowing about the femivores “feeding their families clean, flavorful food; reducing their carbon footprints; producing sustainably instead of consuming rampantly. What could be more vital, more gratifying, more morally defensible?”

The problem I have with all of this is how narrowly sighted it is. Yes, for middle class white women, it’s lovely that you can take hours to cook an egg. Yet, what choices do women of color have, especially mothers, who are pushed into low wage jobs?

I’ve been working on a report for ROC-United, The Third Shift, about the difficult and precarious balance mothers working in restaurants must walk, taking care of their families on a salary of $2.13 an hour, the tipped minimum wage. Over 90 percent of working moms in restaurants lack paid sick days, often forced to work despite the fact that they or their child are sick.

Unfortunately, this is the face of most of the economy: the feminized working poor. Four in ten households are headed by a breadwinner mom. By 2020, 80 percent of our economy will be employed in the food service and retail sectors. Moms make less than dads and even childless women, paying a penalty of 4 percent per child.

Let’s work to ensure that everyone has the choice to pursue a fulfilling life, femivores and the 2 million working mothers in restaurants.

We have to remain focused on actions that will help ensure that workers in the food chain are being treated well in addition to the animals—by working to raise the minimum wage, for example. We can’t just bunker down in our backyards to can peaches and raise chickens.

via In These Times

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