Sisterhood Blog

Feminists in the Kitchen

By Elissa Strauss

  • Print
  • Share Share

Feminism and motherhood continue to be the Ross and Rachel of the never-ending sitcom that is contemporary womanhood. We know they should get together, that they belong together, but its just not happening. Meanwhile, their little pas de deux is growing tiresome, and honestly we all have better things to do than wait for season who-knows-what to see how it plays out.

In a recent Modern Love column, Janet Benton wrote about how before being swept away by second-wave feminism her mother “inhabited the kitchen with care,” letting her and her siblings lick “drippy, sweet things off the mixing spoon.”

Then she got radical, ditched the kitchen for her studio where she could be found “wielding a torch of blue flame, shaping metal into sculpture. She wore a leather apron, elbow-high gloves, a polka-dot cap, a breathing mask and a plastic face visor. Her bushy red hair burst out the back of the cap, a sign of her uncontainable passion.”

Suddenly there was not only no more licking sweet things off of spoons, there wasn’t any food. Benton “went from being well fed and popular in third grade to near skeletal and often mocked in fifth.”

Fast-forward to today when Benton is conflicted about her mom’s choosing feminism over parenthood. She appreciates the lessons in self-respect and assertiveness that her mom taught her, and calls them “more nutritive than hundreds of perfectly cooked meals.” That said, she makes sure her daughters have hundreds of perfectly cooked meals — that she prepared.

For this reason, she decided to only work while her daughter is in school and makes sure her little one’s life is filled with “drippy, sweet things,” literal and otherwise, that the two of them can share together. The kitchen was once a prison for her mom; it is now a place of healing for her.

I liked this essay. Navigating personal ambition, communal ambition (feminism) and motherhood is not easy, and it is always nice to hear someone else thoughtfully explain their approach. I liked it even more that this was featured in a column dedicated to love, because too often that messy dimension is left out of conversations on being a working parent.

Still, it left me hungry (hehe) for stories that feature a vision of feminism that is not at odds with motherhood, and vice versa. No, we are not going to find that in tales of the rabid ’70s feminists when the only thing on the agenda was getting the you-know-what out of that house. But would it be so bad if in a few contemporary stories we can see those two living, finally, happily-ever-after? I guess I am just a hopeless romantic when it comes to these two.

Benton talks about the time she went to receive a feminist award on her mother’s behalf, and how one of the older women tried to defend their abandonment of domestic tasks on the grounds that it was the only way out.

“I listened. I am a feminist, too, and I know there were and are innumerable good reasons for outrage and action,” Benton writes. “Yet children do not stop needing what they need, even when their parents are fighting for justice. And if you do not attend to them or find a loving substitute, they will suffer and may hold it against you.”

Oh how I wish we could hear more stories without that “yet” — in which one’s struggle for self-fulfillment are not mutually exclusive from fulfilling our children’s needs. Until next season.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.