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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Boobs: The New Political Battleground

Boobquake 2010 on Monday, April 26, had lady bloggers and Facebookers and Twitterers everywhere psyching each other up to show tons of cleavage in the name of feminism. The idea came courtesy of blogger Jen McCreight, who got annoyed (like most of us) at Iranian cleric Kazem Sedighi’s recent statement of sound scientific theory that women dressing immodestly “lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity, and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes.” I’d be pretty content to let those words indict themselves, but McCreight vowed to wear the “most cleavage showing shirt I own” on April 26, and encouraged women everywhere to join her: “I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. Or short shorts, if that’s your preferred form of immodesty. With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake.”

Look, it’s funny. And well-intentioned, as she’s doing something we do far too little of: She’s making feminism fun and sexy. (Not to mention that we totally get that she fired off a quick blog post without thinking it would become a national movement, as she explained in a subsequent post.) There are some problems, however: First, the whole idea makes us a little uncomfortable if we analyze it too much (or, really, at all), like a politicized version of “Female Chauvinist Pigs” mentality, like that sneaky Pussycat Dolls way of dressing like strippers to court male fans while calling hotpants empowering to court female ones. And we don’t love that suddenly other bloggers are suggesting push-up bras for the event and message boarders everywhere have shown a disturbing tendency to react to the idea by decrying their own lack of cleavage or otherwise subpar bodies. (It doesn’t take much to set off our body image issues, does it, girls?) And while more than 36,000 people have now become fans of the Boobquake “movement” on Facebook, we’re sadly not shocked one bit to report that the comments on photos women have posted of their own breasts (some very naked, some not) run the gamut from guys panting (“awesome tits!” and “freaking hot nice wow!” are the tamer thoughts) to guys calling pictures “horrible” and saying “please delete.” It’s not unlike a few weeks ago, when women took to the streets of Portland, Maine, topless to, essentially, claim women’s right to go topless in public just as men do. It went peacefully and without arrests, but — unsurprisingly — attracted a lot of male onlookers who weren’t really interested in the political undertones of the event. Go figure.

We live in an age when a celebrity’s slight variation in cleavage can prompt days of heated “did-she-or-didn’t-she” debate over whether she’s gotten implants — people, please see the push-up-bra link above to find out how that can happen without surgery. (Heck we also still live in an age when, as SF Gate blogger Margot Magowan points out, actresses are still routinely cast based on breast evaluation.) We could soldier forth flashing folks in hopes of eventually desexualizing our breasts, but that seems biologically dubious — they are particularly erogenous, they are unique to women and thus intriguing to men, and it has been established as a basic mating tenet that we show them to indicate sexual interest. It’s hard to blame men for looking, though we do blame them for being sexually harassing about it. (Why is it so hard to keep your thoughts to yourself? No one is forcing you to type creepy thoughts onto Facebook, guys.) At any rate, the demystification of breasts seems a long way away.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jenmarmstrong

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