The kitchen is arguably the last battle – ground for reproduction of gender relations in the western world Essay
The kitchen is arguably the last battle – ground for reproduction of gender relations in the western world
The gender division in the food preparation has an atavistic stigma. Men hunted and acquired meat; women were preparing meat at home and served it to the family. All primitive communities are characterised by the subordinate role of woman. Food in Douglas’ classification theory has been linked with rituals which adherence prevents the chaos and the social destruction. Deep divide between gender roles in the patriarchal model of society, became a precondition of social order. Douglas (1971) This rule still applies to the present society and “the kitchen” becomes probably the last battlefield of gender in the western world.
In this essay I will present arguments that patriarchal reproduction of gender affiliation still exists in the contemporary society and is strongly correlated with the food and the kitchen zone. I will also present arguments that some significant changes have been recorded in the society which violate the old social order and have changed the understanding of male and female roles in the present society.
Patriarchate on Sardinia
Douglas argued that the meal and rituals created around it reinforced the gender division and hierarchisation of gender in the world dominated by men. (1971) Counihan described the process of baking bread in a small, isolated community on Sardinia where inhabitants kept the traditional distribution of masculine and feminine jobs. Women and men were assigned to their roles by gender by many generations that determine the hierarchy of their society with the leading role of man. Counihan (2008:288)
Swenson according to Weedon states that the patriarchal model still exists in the veiled form in the modern, urban culture and it is recorded in the social consciousness by new media and state authorities who referred to social, cultural and structural tradition. Weedon (1997) also describes gender as a socially produced and historically changing aspect of identity that is shaped by cultural and institutional discourse within a society. She writes: “As children we learn what girls and boys should be and later, what
women and men should be” from social institutions, such as “the family schools, colleges, teenage fashion, pop culture, the church and worlds of work and leisure” (Weedon, 1997:3 cited Swenson 2008:138, 139).
Man’s Position in the Contemporary Society
The contemporary man is standing on the top of the social order. The media and the state help him to attain this position… His dominant position is linked with his role in the corporation. Holden (2013:119), Forson (20013:115) He takes the privileged place at the family table served by a woman where “the best piece of chicken” is reserved only for him as for a “breadwinner”, a “salary man” or a “house holder”. Forson (2013: 114) The kitchen is not his natural place; however, if he comes in to the kitchen by his own choice, he plays a dominant role of professional chef or women’s teacher. Holden (2013: 121,122, 127) Swenson (2013:145)
The man is guided by own taste and dictate his culinary preference other people and he uses only manly food in the cookery (wild game or other sort of meat) Swenson (2008:141,144) Many TV’s programmes and newspapers ( “Playboy Adventure”, “Road Tasted” or “Have Fork Will Travel”) are linked masculinity cooking with travelling what referred to atavistic hunting. Swenson (2013: 148) He sees affiliate between sex and food served by women. The woman is playing inferior role of the person providing him pleasure. Swenson (2013: 144)
Woman’s Position in the Contemporary Society
The woman still remains in the lower position in society and in the family and her home job is undervalued. Couhain (2013:175, 177). Althusser (1971) argued that masculinity ideology of power reproduced by state and media to maintain the patriarchal status quo (the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues) between gender , reserved for her a role of a babysitter heart.(cited Allison 2013:155)
Contrasted with this is a second structure of power—Ideological State Apparatus (es) (ISA). These are institutions which have some overt function other than a political and/or administrative one: mass media, education, health and welfare, for example. More numerous, disparate, and functionally polymorphous than the SA, the ISA exert power not primarily through repression but through ideology. (Althusser 1971 cited Allison 2013: 155)
Food and cooking play ideological key roles. State and media reproduce the image of a woman cooking in the kitchen (Nigella Lawson, Amy Finell, Giada De Laurentiis or Ina Garten) to show her love for her children or partner that involves the sexual men’s approval. (Swenson 2013: 145) However, the kitchen is a female place, but woman still has an unequal position there. The low-calorie food is seen as feminine food in opposition to the high – calorie food or meat as masculinity food. Clark (2013:235) Swenson (2013: 140, 145) The sine qua non (an essential condition , the thing is absolutely necessary) of a good family relations is a joint dinner prepared wholly by the women. The double message is that the woman should cook to maintain traditional unity of family (woman in feeding) and that is her responsibility. Swenson (2013:145), El – Tom (2014) She must take into account other tastes and the time of meals adapted to the rhythm of family life. (shifting cooking). Forson (2013:116). The woman in the culinary TV’s programmes occurs as an assistant or student of the man. If she travels only to find cheaper food (to reduced family budget), not for fun like the men on the same type of programmes. Swensen (2013: 148)
Patriarchal Structures in Lesbian and Gay families
This comparison demonstrates consistently strong and hegemonic position of men in society. The emancipation of women, industrialization and globalization has led, however, to break through the fossilized and patriarchal structure. Women got financial independence by selling food. Counihan (2008: 176, 180). Their next step to sovereignty was education. Many educated women started to work outside the home and provided an income to maintain the family; it was reversing gender roles. Men took over the domestic duties, but the phenomenon is that is it occurs in the egalitarian part of society. Counihan (2008: 179,180)
Ruybal’s relatively egalitarian marriage went against the publicly stated value of men controlling family and budget. One man told me that he knew several marriages that fell apart when the women bettered themselves through education, attained jobs outside the home, and gained financial independence. Husbands did not always define their wives’ economic success as a boon, but according to Ruybal, Carlos respected her brains and business acumen, and they worked together as successful business partners, with Helen bringing in a steady salary and Carlos managing the growing ranch. Their cooperation allowed them to maximize their economic position and accumulate land and cattle, attaining the status of ricos . Counihan (2013: 180)
The development of democracy, tolerance and social perception has permitted recognition of equal rights for homosexual families in the present culture. According to the present day sociologists’ theory , the homosexual families identify gender by social interaction and domestic duties. Gender is not the consequence of socialization. (Berk 1985 ; Coltrane 1989 ; West and Zimmerman 1987 cited Carrington 2013: 189 ).
Recent empirical and theoretical work on the sociology of gender conceives of the production or achievement of gender identity as resulting from routine and continuous engagement in certain kinds of work and activities socially defined as gendered (Berk 1985 ; Coltrane 1989 ; West and Zimmerman 1987 )
Collins according to Goffman’s conceptions of “frontstage” and “backstage” work , that in lesbian and gay relationship , both partners work full time and share domestic duties. The cooking partner does not feel dissatisfied about his “backstage work” , they cooperate well and both are interested in the shopping of food according to own taste preference (most of the time health and organic food) The preparation of meals is a factor of consolidating the family. Carrington (2013:190) In spite of this, Carrington argued, that in the homosexual families present masculinity of gay men and femininity of lesbians women related to patriarchal role of “breadwinner” in relationship . Carrington (2013: 204) The kitchen and the food, in the case of homosexual relationship , is not a place and reason of conflict between partners . Nevertheless, still distribution and reproduction of food shape the homosexual relations on a patriarchal pattern.. Carrington (2013: 204)
American anarchists punk movement (“The Black Cat Cafe”) presents ideology based on the total critique of capitalism and patriarchal system based on state , race and gender power . From this perspective the food is seen as a commodity and modified product and a tool of social and gender control.
As a site of resource allocation, food tends to recapitulate power relations. Around the globe, unequal allocations of food according to a patriarchal system are common. A working-class male comes of age in France when he is able to help himself to large volumes of food (Bourdieu 1984 ). Men, and sometimes boys, often receive larger amounts of food and have culinary choices catered to their taste (see Narotzky 1997 : 136–37; Mintz 1985: 144–45; Appadurai 1981). Thus, food displays practices through which unequal gender power is acted out, resisted, and reproduced(Counihan 1999 ). Punks, too, play out gender/power relations in their diets. In recent years, the punk ethic has become more committed to anarchist, egalitarian principles that celebrate and practice an antihierarchical social order, including one that prohibits a hierarchy of gender. Feminist praxis in punk explicitly critiques food as a site of repression, using the Victorian age as an example of a discourse disciplining female bodies through food. Clark (2008:234, 235)
Clark argued that only organic food and a vegetarian kitchen is accepted in the punk community. The eating of meat is associated with masculine power in patriarchal relationship. Clark (2013:235) The relations between man and women should be based on equality, free from sexism and equitable division of food.( Narotzky 1997; Mintz 1985; Appadurai 1981 cited Clark 2013:234) Punk censures the Body Project in America as a strong intervention into American women diet and influenced the dangers of serious diseases as bulimia or anorexia . Clark (2013:235) Nevertheless there are some contradictions in the punk ideology. Punks criticise the patriarchal order, but they copied gender differences from it. Vegetarianism in Punk ideology is feminist practice . Eating meat is a sign of masculinity and balances the element male and female . Clark (2013:235)
The contemporary Western society is constantly a subject of dynamic, social and cultural change. Since the nineteenth century these changes could be called “revolutionary”. However, still the modern society is firmly stuck with patriarchal patterns. The kitchen is not the last battleground for reproduction of gender relations , but still the battlefield , where men maintain their gender predominance . Hegemonic male power is perpetuated and reinforced by the state, economic system , tradition and culture. The leading role in this process played out in the modern Media . Images of women based on men’s expectations and the media message, show them as being subordinate to men. The kitchen is their natural place and cooking their natural duty. Domestic duties carried out by women have been described by the masculine world as not economically and social important. Women on TV’s programs are showed as assistants or students of professional men. The men have all the attributes of power. They are the “breadwinner “ and they distribute an economic measure for the family. The patriarchal state’s ideology is aimed on keeping the women in a subservient position in the masculine society. You can see some changes that have occurred in the modern society under influences of feministic and anarchistic movements, globalisation and industrialisation. The emancipation and education of women starting to work outside home, has changed them to “house holders”. Men took over their domestic duties. Unfortunately, it is an egalitarian phenomena. The influences on the patriarchal model are so huge that they imprinted their stigma on homosexual families and even on communities linked with anarchistic movements maintaining gender inequalities. So clearly, I can say, that the kitchen still stays the battle – ground of gender.
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University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 March 2016
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