I have friends visiting tomorrow and was browsing one of my cookbooks for last-minute inspiration for a meal before scooting to the farmer’s market, when the “Manwich” caught my eye. The dish is described as “a sure-fire way to please your man, or anyone with a healthy appetite“. All my friends have healthy appetites, but I’m not sure how much they would enjoy something called the Manwich.
Now, you ask yourself why I keep such a 50s Stepford Wifes’ bible as a reference for anything, but the book in question is actually not that bad – it’s a compilation of Australia-inspired weekend-brunch deals with some nice twists (such as gender stereotypes, ha ha), and as the Manwich-description gives out, it is written by a woman, Katie Quinn Davies. The book is called What Katie Ate at the Weekend in case you’re interested in gender-segregating your sandwiches in the future.*
First I was actually mildly amused by the Manwich, but then my irritation kept building up, and in the end I was no longer sure why. A thought kept coming back to my mind: Should I really care so much about some silly stuff in an Australian cookbook? Should I not just chillax, as I’m sure the Australians do, and not go into a feminist rage about a sandwich recipe?
This is the tricky part of feminism, I kept thinking as I was fuming through the stalls at the market. Where do you draw the line? Can you cherry-pick, or is it absolutely interdit to turn a blind eye to nonsense like Manwiches made to please your man? By cherry-picking I mean ignoring the small stuff and concentrating on issues like women’s right to abortion and such. Many will say that life’s too short to worry about everything that smacks of sexism and gender stereotyping. Many, but not Laura Bates.
Her project Everyday Sexism from a few years back was about collecting people’s experiences of sexism they had faced in their everyday lives. Bates put the stories together in a book, and was promptly criticised for being a massive big negative party-pooper with absolutely no sense of humour. Misogynation is her latest book, a collection of her essays on the topic of everyday sexism.
These are the girls that I love best,
Many times I've sucked their breasts.
Fuck her standing, fuck her lying,
If she had wings, I'd fuck her flying.
Now she's dead, but not forgotten,
Dig her up and fuck her rotten.
Freshers at University of Nottingham were filmed chanting the above lines during their fresher’s week. Is this Bates again focusing her energies on the negative or actually pointing out something that should not be? Can no-one enjoy a drunken banter anymore without evil feminists sucking the will to live? Or do the female students in fact have the right to demand not to be greeted with “No means yes! Yes means anal!” -chants by male students on campus?
An innocent suggestion to make a Manwich to please your man might feel like a far cry from rape-chants on campuses, but in the end it is about the same thing – how much is it OK to tolerate sexism and gender stereotyping. What Bates attempts to reveal in Misogynation is the breadth of sexism and how systemic, ingrained and ignored it is.
So no, I don’t think feminist cherry-picking is an option we should entertain. Often it’s enough just to be aware, and maybe bring these things up in discussions (which in 99% of the cases is likely to massively backfire along the lines of “There are so many bigger and more important issues in the world, you derailed loon! We are on the verge of a trade war against the USA! How does that measure against a sandwich recipe????”). And no, I do not have a recipe for righting this wrong. Except maybe by not supporting companies whose marketing is blatantly sexist and/or instills gender stereotypes on small kids (or adults, for that matter). And possibly by not preparing a Manwich just to please a guy.**
I decided to go for fish tomorrow.
*Many of the recipes in What Katie Ate are actually good, the problem I have is the conversational style (the author is also a blogger, which is probably where it is coming from), which means that each dish is introduced with a little prelude. Like her potato gratin: “Okay, this is not going to get you into those skinny jeans anytime soon, but it’s out-of-this-world good“. In what world is this necessary???
**I’m not saying you should not be preparing food for a man. But you know what I mean.