Recently, The Grio ran an article by god-is Rivera entitled “Fear of a Black Stove: Are Women Still Putting In Work In the Kitchen?” It’s an utter fail. I’d like to say that it is at least a well-intentioned fail, but that’s inaccurate. This piece is, essentially, a ham-fisted argument for women remembering their roles and getting back in the kitchen, awkwardly and ineffectively disguised as concern for childhood obesity and the family piggybank.
This piece was posted about a week ago, but my timeline is still buzzing about it. The author makes several disclaimers–she says that as a mother she can understand being too tired to cook, that she isn’t “some southern belle brainwashed by the ‘barefoot-and-pregnant’ syndrome,” and refers to her inner feminist. Then she goes on to basically say that women should be able to cook because, well, they’re women.
Her argument never really gets any deeper than that. She tries, pointing casually to the very real problem of health and childhood obesity. But suggesting that women not cooking is the reason for the epidemic is problematic and astoundingly incorrect. Rivera blames the “decline of cooking sistas” on “the recent rise in the number of professional women” and “the bump in fast food availability.” She never seriously considers the bigger, more expansive problem of the lack of healthy, affordable food available to families living in poverty (an overwhelming number of whom are black). What good will cooking for your family do if the only food you have access to is high in sodium, MSG, and high fructose corn syrup? Without affordable, accessible food, little Ron-Ron still risks losing that foot to juvenile diabetes, no matter who is–or isn’t–in the kitchen.
Also worth noting, there is a privilege that Rivera never acknowledges: she is married. The high rates of single parent households in the black community is fairly well known, and motherhood itself is a full-time job. Rivera has a benefit: she is married. That she has another parent in the household who can hold down the fort while she chooses to prepare a nutritious meal for her family is a privilege that should be noted in an argument about black women not cooking enough. The author has a greater chance of having someone help her around the house, to watch her child/children while she cooks. Married working women have the luxury of two incomes with which to pay the bills and still have the money to buy healthy food, and a car with which to bring it home in. Single mothers often don’t have the benefits of that extra time, energy, or money. But, no, let’s not mention any of that. The problem, she says, is the black woman’s “fear of the stove,” and it is “punishing our children.”
The author then points to cooking as a cultural tradition as a reason for women to get back in the kitchen. What’s that? Why can’t men get in the kitchen? Shh! This is not the time for making sense! Rivera says that cooking “used to be a way for women to pass down traditions, culture and family history to their daughters,” and that it is “a way to ensure that their daughters would grow into women who were self-sufficient.” The implication is that unless women get back in the kitchen, those cultures and traditions will be lost, and their daughters won’t be able to take care of themselves when they become women.
Let me pause here to give a bit of background about myself.