Viv Groskop asks if good feminists bake cupcakes? Linked to
, I was so shocked by the title, that my first reaction was to say
oh sod off, I can bake if I want to
, and went to read the article all worked up to hate it, and ready to pass all sorts of judgements on Groskop.
Judgements which turned out to be unneeded, as the article was much more fair than I was expecting, in pitching 'girliness is good' young folks against older 'these were tools of our oppression' women. The problem was in its overly simplistic viewpoint.
I cook, and I knit. On Saturday night I sat with a glass of wine in front of Midsomer Murders
and sewed up the lining of what my friend Oomar flatteringly calls my Gestapo coat, making the £10 it cost me stretch even longer than the five years for which I've already had it. The next day I shamelessly lay on the floor with my niece and made those sickening baby noises that I never thought I'd ever hear coming out of my mouth. I cook my own food from actual ingredients at least twice a week. I own a mortar and pestle. I bake a mean cookie.
I really should bake oatmeal and raisins. *makes a note*
OTOH, I can diagnose when my computer is sick. I know how science works. I can put up shelves. I remove my own spiders from the flat. I own a set of screwdrivers.
For me, doing all those things is - maybe not a specifically feminist
choice, but definitely an empowering political choice. I'm not a slave to prepackaged lifestyle. I don't need anyone, male, female or other, to do things for me (unless that thing is doing up my own corset OR the person is one of my parents). It's simple competence. I enjoy doing crafty things and I can save myself money and improve my quality of life with them.
But the article isn't really about me and my politically motivated self reliance as it is about the fashion trend of domesticity. Groskop talked about groups like The Great Cake Project
, which combines baking with a very definite sense of 50s aesthetic, and Afternoon Tease
, burlesque with cake. It's against these she offers the viewpoints of women who feel that fetishising the 1950s housewife is making light of the troubles she faced.
A young woman like me has the privilege to be able to look at retro styles and techniques and lives and pick and choose from them to enrich my own life as I want. But I do so having nearly completed my postgraduate education, in the full knowledge that my grandmother, who was a housewife in the 40s and 50s, was in full time work at 14 because women just couldn't cope with education. I might have a problem with older feminists who insist Feminism has to work their way, stuck in a narrow field defined by their own privilege of being white, middle-class, monosexual and cisgendered, but I still owe it to my foremothers not to belittle their fight.
What's the appropriate gunslinger phrase?
Forgetting the face of my mother?
I reject out of hand that there is something fundamentally wrong or unfeminist about my knowing how to knit or bake. I'm not so sure I can as simply dismiss concerns surrounding the celebration of a feminine ideal from an era in which feminine ideals were used as a prison for women. At some point, if you're creating art, you have to look at your art and ask yourself
what is this saying and am I happy being the one saying that?
like 50s bondage pinups. So who am I to judge anything? I imagine it's the old dilemma: you keep your politics out of my porn, and I'll stop claiming my porn is political.