FemiNoshing: It's Always Convenient to Blame the Woman

There’s been a lot of talk in the feminist blogosphere lately about Michael Pollan, food activist and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is anti-meat, pro-organic and pro locally grown food, and a major critic of the global industrial food complex. These are all fine things to be, since our healthy-food-is-only-for-the-rich lifestyle is having major repercussions on our health and happiness. It is, however, not so great when he jumps on the “feminists have ruined family mealtime by refusing to cook” bandwagon.

In “The Foodie Indictment of Feminism,” Salon’s Anna Clark points to Pollan’s most recent screed. She writes:

“So while reading Pollan’s latest piece in The New York Review of Books, I was nodding along as he articulated how the local food culture manifests the good kind of movement fragmentation — threading together diverse interests to create a powerful force. I was nodding, at least, until I got to the part where he discusses Janet A. Flammang’s new book, The Taste of Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society. Pollan writes:

In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, Flammang suggests that by denigrating “foodwork” — everything involved in putting meals on the family table — we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal.

Clark goes on to say that this is not the first time Pollan has idealized the notion of woman as food provider and keeper of the family hearth–nor is it the first time he’s blamed feminists for encouraging women to discard that role, which he implies has led (if only partly) to the mess we’re in now.

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The Female Genital Cutting Debate: An Argument for Compromise

From Amnesty International's anti-genital mutilation campaign

When families come to American doctors seeking the traditional practice of Female Genital Cutting, is it better to offer them a “ritual nick” — a symbolic pinprick — or turn them away and possibly prompt them to find the service under far less safe conditions? The American Academy of Pediatrics caused a stir last month by advocating the ritual nick in a new policy statement written by a team of expert consultants who laid out the case for choosing what they saw as the lesser of evils. Now the AAP has reversed its position, saying in a statement this week: “The AAP reaffirms its strong opposition to FGC and counsels its members not to perform such procedures. As typically practiced, FGC can be life-threatening. Little girls who escape death are still vulnerable to sterility, infection, and psychological trauma. The AAP does not endorse the practice of offering a ‘clitoral nick.’ This minimal pinprick is forbidden under federal law and the AAP does not recommend it to its members.”

Sirens spoke to the lead author of the statement in favor of “nicking,” Dena Davis, a law professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University, about the reasoning behind their recommendation, the debate over male circumcision, and the similarities between female genital cutting and plastic surgery:

Sirens: Your statement was more of a suggested compromise on following the cultural tradition of FGC by suggesting a ritual “nick” for families that insist on continuing the practice — since many simply go overseas when they find they can’t get it done here. First, can you explain the basic reasoning behind your recommendation?

Dena Davis: Harm reduction.  Here, the AAP and I assume most people, are not in favor of any form of FGC–but in a real world, given the very real likelihood that these girls will be taken back to their home countries to have terrible things done to them, a tiny nick seems like a reasonable way to avert this greater harm.  A parallel would be needle exchange for drug addicts–we would prefer that no one shot up heroin at all, but given the realities, we think it better to provide them with clean needles and try to protect them from HIV (of course, that’s pretty controversial as well!).

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