And yet, today, a growing chorus of voices argues that to be proper environmentalists and nurturing parents, each night should involve a home-cooked meal of fresh, organic, unprocessed ingredients. "We're doing so little home cooking now," food guru Michael Pollan says, "the family meal is truly endangered."5 Chastising the typical household for spending a mere 27 minutes a day preparing food, Pollan champions increasingly time-consuming methods of food production in defense of the allegedly life-enriching experience of cooking he fears is rapidly being lost.6The juxtaposition is jarring, if not much remarked upon. At a moment in our history when increasing numbers of women have liberated themselves from many of the demands of unpaid domestic labor, prominent environmental thinkers are advocating a return to the very domestic labor that stubbornly remains the domain of women.For women of lower socioeconomic status, the demands of a time-intensive, low-technology approach to food preparation are even more onerous. In a critique of this return-to-the-kitchen narrative, authors Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton describe interviews they conducted with mothers from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups, whose experiences could not have been more unlike the idealized vision offered up by Pollan--in which the cook finds herself "in that sweet spot where the frontier between work and play disappears in a cloud of bread flour or fragrant steam rising from a boiling kettle of wort."7 Rather, they were juggling tight schedules, picky children, and the cost of fresh ingredients.4
For the women interviewed by Bowen and her colleagues, shopping and cooking occasionally added joy but just as often added stress, burdens, and trade-offs. Ironically, the practices advocated by Pollan, Mark Bittman,23 and other popular food and lifestyle gurus in the name of sustainability and a rich and fulfilling home life turn out to be practical only for women who have benefited the most from industrial society.But the demands that contemporary environmental ethics place upon women do not end with Pollanesque gatherings around the family table. Young mothers are told to forgo processed baby food, relying as it does on far-flung commodity chains and nonlocal ingredients. Instead, they should make their own,24 reject formula in favor of breastfeeding,25 and replace disposable diapers with cloth.26 All, women are told, are necessary to raise healthy babies on a healthy planet. Each prescription combines claims of environmental benefit, however minor (given the water- and chemical-intensive processes associated with producing and reusing cloth diapers, for instance, they are only marginally better for the environment), with increased domestic demands.Upon leaving the home, women face another series of charges from lifestyle greens. The choice to ride a bike instead of drive,27 for instance, isn't so simple for women disproportionately tasked with shopping and transporting children from place to place.28 Little wonder that women ride bicycles as transportation at less than one-third the rate of men.29In these and a variety of other ways, green ideology tells women that tasks that can be automated should be rejected in the name of processes that are closer to nature, without any recognition of the broader social and structural context in which these activities occur. Women perform the bulk of unpaid labor while being beseeched to perform that labor in ways that are more difficult and time-intensive and bring at best minor benefits to the environment or the well-being of their families. The "natural is better" formula and the romanticization of domesticity as untainted by capitalism allow the larger systems in which women and the environment are embedded to escape scrutiny.
The glorification of nature and farming and the romanticizing of the home, domestic life, and the woman at the center of it are ultimately nostalgias that cover up the brutality of rural life and drudgery of domestic labor in a perfume of freshly cut hay and caramelizing onions. While the new domestics advocating home brewing, fermenting kombucha, and churning butter are likely aware of their irony in an era of unprecedented technological progress, this nostalgia does little to further the goals of middle- and lower-class women in the developed world.
A survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 came to the result that approximately 43 percent of men did food preparation or cleanup on any given day, compared with approximately 70 percent of women. In addition, 20 percent of men did housekeeping chores (including cleaning and laundry) on any given day, compared to approximately 50 percent of women.
This isn't even a new phenomenon. Women on communes in the 60s, back to the land pioneers of the 'love mother earth' ethos, were expected to engage in many hours of daily labour growing, gathering, processing and preparing food. Men who prepared any food at all usually limited themselves to breadmaking, which for some reason was culturally perceived as more manly.
There are now plenty of men who are a lot more sharing of household chores and child care, but as you can see, even before you add in environmental guilt trips:QuoteA survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 came to the result that approximately 43 percent of men did food preparation or cleanup on any given day, compared with approximately 70 percent of women. In addition, 20 percent of men did housekeeping chores (including cleaning and laundry) on any given day, compared to approximately 50 percent of women.
Speaking as a man,