In My House

Why We Still Need Feminism

With the thought of today being International Women’s Day, I pulled my old NOW shirt out of the bottom of a dresser drawer last night. It’s wrinkled and worn. In my teens and early twenties feminism was a big part of my life and my identity. As I looked at the old tee from those days, I began to think “is all this feminism and activism still necessary?”

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Then there was my answer: My 10-month-old daughter crawled into the room, babbling low and deep as if to say, yes, Mama, it’s all still necessary.

I am fortunate to be married to a great guy who believes in feminism, is dedicated to equal parenting and household duties, and nurtures every hope and dream of our young daughters because he truly believes men and women are equal. I am also fortunate to work with a group of strong and intelligent women as well as men who respect that strength and intelligence.

Still, sexism drifts into my life, usually in the form of comments.

“You might want to think it over a little more. I mean, you just got back from maternity leave.” –A male (former) coworker in response to a business decision I made.

“You’re so lucky your husband will babysit for you.” –A female acquaintance.

“I won’t set foot in that church because women shouldn’t be pastors.” –A male community member.

Occasional sexist comments, while inappropriate and frustrating, are nothing compared to the vicious sexism and misogyny taking place in many places around our world. According to the United Nations, globally, more than 200 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone some form of genital mutilation. Worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Here at home and throughout the world, we owe it to our daughters to keep gender equality at the forefront. Feminism has a place in our daily lives, even when our NOW shirts are yellowed, tattered, and shoved in a drawer. Feminism isn’t a shirt, or a placard, or a loud angry mob with megaphones.

We can choose to stand up against inappropriate behavior targeting people of all shapes, colors, genders, and beliefs. We can choose to support one another instead of tearing one another down. We can choose to raise strong, confident girls, and fair, respectful boys. That’s feminism, my friends, and we still need it.

In My House

Betty Crocker, Sexism, and Beef Tongue

I have had the 1950 Edition of Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book for so long I have forgotten who gave it to me. I have never really flipped through it, but a few days ago I was wondering how to properly cook beef tongue while simultaneously vacuuming my home in high heels, and I knew just where to turn.

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This thing is a classic kitchen staple. I think everybody I know has a copy. As I perused the recipes and kitchen tips, I realized just how sexist this book is.

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Sometimes it is easy not to notice how much human culture is centered around food. How we obtain it, how we prepare it, which members of the household are responsible for these tasks.

The book is not without its charm. It features two-page color spreads of meticulously arranged meals that I imagine were quite impressive to the 1950s reader.

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Some of the recipes for standard, classic American fare are truly useful and easy to follow.

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Then the book veers into over-the-top sexist territory. It reminds us women that it is important to not only prepare a nine-course feast every evening, but also to have our husbands’ favorite cocktails ready for them when they walk in the door and be prepared to amuse him with funny anecdotes.

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“Darling, it was just so humorous today when the neighbor’s cat got stuck in our tree. Fortunately I hadn’t started the Welsh rarebit and your vodka martini yet so I had time retrieve the poor dear.”

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Betty Crocker also urges us to be comfortable while cleaning the home. Today’s version would have me vacuuming barefoot in yoga pants and a Metallica tee, with my wild mane of greasy hair pulled into a messy top knot. Hey, at least the vacuuming gets done.

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The quotes from actual housewives also speaks to the time in which the book was published. What?! No help in your five-room home? Poor thing.

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Ms. Crocker also reminds us to relax from time-to-time as we scurry about to make a happy home. Word is, the original versions came complete with your very own prescription for Valium.

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Despite its flaws, I will keep Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book around as a good reminder of how much has changed in six decades. If the book was published today, I would be horrified by it and immediately boycott it, but the 1950s were a different time. It is also easy to see why women eventually became so annoyed with the status quo that they burned their bras and started the Women’s Liberation Movement.

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So I will place Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book back on the shelf where it will stay until I need a potato salad recipe or decided to venture outside the box and prepare a meal of beef tongue. And I might just put my copy of The Feminine Mystique next to it on the shelf for good measure.