Cooking: Women's Work or Human Necessity?


Is the act of cooking itself something that has been shoved far into the gender stereotype box and reserved with the sole purpose of degrading women, forcing them to stand barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen whipping together the night’s meal?

When discussing my husband’s presence in the kitchen and he is in the kitchen just as much as I am I usually hear how lucky I am to have a husband who cooks and cooks well. Is it luck because we’ve raised generations of children and men who don’t know how to feed themselves, or am I lucky because my husband is really embracing a so-called women’s role?

I ran across a post by Meagan Francis over on Strollerderby the other day that she had written in response to a post on The Huntington Post titled A Failed Woman Out of the Kitchen: Why I Don’t Cook by Jowita Bydlowska.

Jowita had claimed that she hates cooking, which is all well and good. My own mother doesn’t enjoy the act. Just like everything in life, there are some people who enjoy cooking and others who simply do not. Some people get a kick out of scrubbing floors, too. I don’t happen to be one of them, but to the people who find it cathartic, want to come for dinner? We can trade floors for food.

All joking aside, I grew up in a home where my mother did 90% of the cooking, but as she did that, I did not assume the act of cooking to be a role that women needed to embrace. Instead, I saw how my book-loving mother who is rarely found without a book far from her face, would cook for the family from real food every day. She didn’t do it because she thought it made her more of a woman or that it was her role to fill in the household. She did it because she had kids who needed to learn how to eat. She herself needed to eat. It was a basic human act to feed herself and to show her children the importance of learning how to feed themselves. It wasn’t the best food ever, but it was good, wholesome food, which is all it needs to be.

As a society I think we’ve become far too accustomed to simply eating convenience food, eating out and letting someone else do it for us. By no means do I think everyone has to enjoy the act of cooking anymore than they enjoy weeding gardens, mowing lawns, washing laundry or scrubbing toilets. To each their own, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all have some knowledge in the kitchen and the ability to put food on the dinner table (or how to care for our property and keep our bathrooms clean).

In short, I can sympathize with women who don’t love cooking and don’t judge them for it, but I have more respect for women who cook not because they believe it to be their assigned gender role, but because they want to eat themselves and teach their children the same. After all, when I invite my kids into the kitchen to cook with me, I invite all four boys and girls rather than sending my boys out to play in the mud. I would hope that if they have an apartment to themselves they can manage to cook dinner for themselves, boil pasta, roast a chicken, make a pot of oatmeal for the morning. Everyone needs to eat to live, even when we’d rather do something else.