Are the foodie and DIY movements the new face of feminism? Author Emily Matchar argues that they are.
In her book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity (and an excerpt from it at Salon.com), Matchar says that the DIY foodie movement is a reaction against a broken food system, a legitimization of stay-at-home moms in the age of the working woman, and an uprising against the notion that women—or specifically feminists—were to blame for the industrialization of our food.
In 2010, writer Peggy Orenstein coined the term “femivore” to describe a certain breed of stay-at-home mom who goes to any lengths to ensure the highest quality food for her family, learning to make her own bread, jam, cheese—you name it—and and able to cite chapter and verse the origins of her milk and pork chops.
While I kind of hate the term “femivore” (it totally sounds like we’re eating women), I also fall smack dab into that category: a work-from-home mom obsessed with quality food and healing the food system with my well informed choices. Although I don’t have my own chickens (city ordinances where I am frown on it), I do bake my own bread, can my own jam and tomatoes, and make hella good salsa and pickles.
“Prior to this, I felt like my choices were either to break the glass ceiling or to accept the gilded cage,” says Shannon Hayes, a grass-fed-livestock farmer in upstate New York and author of “Radical Homemakers,” in Orenstein’s article. Femivoreism (yikes, what a term) finds a middle way, somehow legitimizing the work of the stay-at-home mom. And in troubling economic times, it might make sense for some to be the mom who is learning to feed and care for her family with very little as opposed to the high-earning working mom who could lose her position at any moment.
My decision to learn to do for myself and grow my own was hardly based in any feminist–or anti-feminist–ideals, but rather as a form of self-expression and fulfillment. As a white, roughly middle class person, cooking from scratch is largely optional for me (though some I do out of budgetary concerns)—and some of my more esoteric cooking adventures could even be called hobby. Despite the rosy haze of “the good old days,” when cooking from scratch is mandatory it can quickly become drudgery.
Yet I am nevertheless proud to be part of a movement reclaiming these skills as the purview of the modern woman. These femivores, from where I’m sitting, are more concerned with having what they want—family and meaningful work, motherhood and success—than with proving they can do or be the same as a man. And when we can embrace traditional feminine roles as well as modern ones, becoming bread makers and bread winners on our own terms, it seems to me that we are one step closer to embracing who we as women truly are.