Baking was – and is – traditionally a women’s game. Let’s face it – it’s unlikely your male colleagues are the ones leaving those chocolate cupcakes with the pink polka-dot wrappers in the work fridge for everyone to share.
And I’m the first to put my hand up! I love frilly pinafore aprons, heart shaped measuring cups, and kitchen utensils in gaudy shades of pink. I instagram freshly baked cakes. And I feel a smidge of admiration – not disgust – when I turn the pages of my Country Women’s Association cookbook and see pictures of demure 1950’s women in kitten heels and perfectly pressed aprons posing with their award-winning sponge cakes.
But I also wave the flag of feminism, and I am sick and tired of the world’s assumption that finding pleasure in the kitchen – or any domesticity – somehow goes against everything the feminist movement fought for.
Now, I don’t know what exactly the women of the 60’s were fighting for when they set fire to their bras, but I am almost certain it wasn’t for us to sit around in the 21st century questioning the value of women’s choices, interests and careers (or lack thereof). They fought for women to have the right to be in the workplace – not to force them there. They fought to show the world that women had skills outside the kitchen – not that they couldn’t stay there if they wanted to. They fought for choice! And that’s the difference. I bake in my kitchen because I want to. Not because some man expects me to.
An article published in the Good Weekend Magazine on April 28 titled ‘The Retro Housewife’ acknowledged the growing rise of “tertiary-educated women who grew up steeped in girl power and feminism [who] have turned their backs on a career.” The article chronicles a number of women who have swapped career success for baking cakes and doing household chores.
It quotes “feminist” Anne Summers, who says “How could it have come to this – and so quickly? Not even a generation after the women’s movement fought for the right for married women to keep their jobs, to have equal access to promotion, and to be paid the same as men, scores of women are walking away and saying, ‘We’d rather be Mummies.’
Well I’ll give you your answer, Anne Summers. You said it yourself – the women’s movement fought for rights. If women are walking away from them, then hooray! The women’s movement has been more successful than we could ever have imagined! Women have choice – and if that choice is being a domestic goddess, then all I have to say is “you go gurlll!”
The real question is: How could it have come to this? Women criticising other women for the way they have chosen to live their life. (And you call yourself a feminist!)
In Sophie Kinsella’s novel ‘The Undomestic Goddess,’ Samantha swaps her high-powered career as a lawyer for life as a house-maid, and regards the bread she learns to bake with the kind of pride one might expect her to reserve for winning a high-profile case or getting a promotion. Nobody in Samantha’s life understands how she could possibly want to bake bread instead of be the star breadwinner, but I think she’s onto something. Seeing someone happy because of a cake I baked and decorated from scratch can spark the same kind of pride – or maybe even more – as I might feel from receiving a High Distinction on an assignment (well actually, I can’t say I’m too well acquainted with the latter but the sentiment still stands hypothetically!). The novel is cliched and far-fetched and the chickest of chick-lit, but it highlights the underling assumption that modern feminism operates on: that success can’t be found in the kitchen and domestic pursuits are of little worth.
If I had to pin the cause of “feminism” down to one thing, it would be the fight for women to have the opportunity to be successful. And I would say that the problem lies with our idea of success. Being successful means being happy, and if women decide that happiness is found with a kitchenaid and pair of oven mits, then so be it! That doesn’t make you some kind of women’s-rights-hater! And it doesn’t make you any more or less feminine, or feminist, than the woman who finds happiness in a corporate board room.
It saddens me that our contemporary world seems to put women into two camps: you are a crazy-bitch career woman who hires domestic help and wouldn’t be caught dead icing a cupcake, or you are a submissive, frill-wearing, cooking, cleaning, baking enthusiast with no worth outside the home. I don’t think many women fit into these extreme categories; most of us are a mix of both, and if we just stopped pointing the finger at each other, the world would be a much less narky place.
And to anyone who says baking isn’t empowering… you have clearly never baked the perfect macaron!