Rise of the 'femivores': An activist woman's place is in the kitchen

Is the feminist movement to blame for our expanding waistline?

In her book “Homeward Bound,” excerpted on Salon, author Emily Matchar points to food writers and experts who’ve pinned the problem on feminism. In driving women out of the kitchen and into the office in the 1970s, they contend, women no longer had as much time to cook, so the convenience of pre-made junk, packaged goods and fast food restaurants won out. Fast forward to present day: Obesity has reached epidemic levels and its related diseases, such as diabetes and heart diseases, are killing people.

So it’s all Betty Friedan’s fault?

Of course not! Matchar agrees that such claims make a ridiculous leap. Obviously, there are a number of factors at play, including President Nixon’s long-lasting contribution. Not to mention, men are just as able to cook for a family as women are, and it’s preposterous anyone would suggest otherwise.

But in recent years, we’ve seen a movement of women rejecting career paths in favor of becoming stay-at-home moms, or SAHM as many like to be called. The Times covered the trend in 2010, and it was the topic of a recent New York magazine cover story. Feminism, many SAHMs argue, gives them that choice.

What’s interesting is that this return to the homestead has dovetailed with the rise of foodie culture. In her book, Matchar sheds light on “femivores,” a term coined by Peggy Orenstein to describe SAHMs dedicated to sustainable eating. These women, writes Matchar, are socially active, progressive women attempting to affect change -- from how food is farmed to decreasing food production’s impact on the environment -- by actively choosing what to feed their families. Forget KFC with honey sauce; now there’s time to cultivate backyard chicken coops and beehives.

“These women are part of our country’s burgeoning new food culture, a culture that places an immense amount of faith in the idea of food as a solution for a variety of social ills, from childhood obesity to global warming to broken families to corporate greed,” explains Matchar.

I love the concept, and I stand with these women. Though I don’t have kids, I do have a dog, and like me, he eats only farm-to-table fare. But the idea of the “femivore” also makes me bristle because it leaves out men who have also embraced the foodie culture and taken sustainability into their own hands. And that too has dovetailed with the influx of stay-at-home dads.


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