By Maddy Bergey
Ever since I can remember, I have indulged in my grandma’s cooking. This came from a place of being a hungry child whose days at her grandparents’ revolved around holding a spelling bee, watching “Days Of Our Lives”, sketching runway-worthy outfits, and especially admiring Grandma’s large collection of cookbooks. These cookbooks were planned, created, and published by important women in her life.
Now, eating together, reading recipes, and watching the prominent females in my life prepare a meal comes from a more heartfelt place. As I’ve been raised by so many amazing females, I have quickly realized that eating together is in fact, feminist art, which is bold, raw, and powerful.
Feminism: the radical belief that we are equal. It is a movement that seeks to destroy patriarchy, misogyny, and other structural inequalities by which humans have previously lived. It’s a movement that seeks to liberate women and all of society. In order to reach an equilibrium of an ever-present imbalance of male domination, feminism requires a movement of its own. Although, sadly, the terms feminist or feminism have been tools in a marketing tactic; the terms have been a convenient way for people to say they are feminists, while consequently not understanding the terms and all that they encompass.
As women, and feminists, we aren’t fighting for equality with men who are victims of violence, mental illness, poverty, and discrimination, but descendents of men who founded this country — wealthy white men. We demand equality amongst the men who are successful.
Early last year, my sister took me to an event where local artists displayed their handmade art. Her dearest and most treasured purchase was a kitchen towel which prominently displayed the saying “eating together is feminist art.” At the time, I was confused about the meaning this held. But I knew that my sister, who is also an artist, held this topic dear. She was excited about the creation and had always spoken about the importance of standing with your sisters in sisterhood. I’m not talking about the blood-related, womb-sharing humans; I’m talking about the fellow females in your life and community.
In the early 1800s, when women were deprived of nearly all rights, preparing a meal together and eating together were ways that women could assert their minimal power and creatively express themselves. Not only the wives of war-bound men, but also the African American women who worked endless hours in southern gardens found their places with their culinary prowess. Although some believed women’s places in society were to be among the dustpans, sewing machines, and raising of the children, cooking was never praised or recognized, as it was a sign of the ever-present patriarchal oppression.
The world we currently live in conforms to a set model of using power, not for the benefit of all, but for taking advantage of others. This is often seen in society when men assert power over women, feeling like it is the woman’s role to allow it to happen and stay silent. It is in moments like this that the feminist movement is crucial — vital — in order to see an ever-progressing change in society.
Through countless literature studies done by remarkable authors, the role of women in cuisine has become apparent. Food is no longer being related to merely nutritionists and daily caloric consumption, but it is now also being related to women’s rights and feminism.
I feel compelled to share about forms of feminist art, especially through food, as preparing meals is one of the main ways I have bonded with the most important women in my life.
As a woman, I stand with you — all my fellow sisters of color, trans sisters, and anybody in between — who are creating scrumptious meals served on silver platters and fancy China. And the next time you nourish your body alongside the people you love, remember that cookbooks are feminist literature, eating together is feminist art, and feminism is for everybody.
Maddy Bergey is a student at Fillmore Central High School. She is one of nine area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 22nd year.