I’m feminist, I bake and you should listen the fuck up, goddamn it.
It seems some of you think women’s lives are wasted on baking, and honestly, fuck you. Fuck you for undervaluing my labour in the home, and fuck you for not fighting structural inequality that keeps women in the kitchen.
Yes, I bake. I bake when I don’t know what to do, I bake when I want to treat my son. I bake because sometimes there’s nothing else I have the time and capability to do between laundry and school runs that leave me with 90 minutes spare.
I bake because I’m a single parent and no one else does the cooking except me.
I bake once a week, and during that time I think of nothing else except the recipe. I concentrate on the ingredients, on the smells, on the process. I don’t think about politics. For that little piece of time I don’t think about if I could be doing something better with my life. I don’t even eat the fucking results, because frankly, I’m all too well aware of my blood pressure and society’s shitty judgements about fat women.
I bake because I can’t justify spending $15 on a store-bought cake.
Sometimes I bake just to fill your awful crappy stereotypes, so you’ll think: “Look, that’s how motherhood is supposed to be done,” and leave me the goddamn fuck alone with your moralising judgements on my body, my child, my unmarried single mother status.
I always make sure to take a photo of my cupcakes to post on social media, because despite all my work on things other than food preparation, there’s nothing that gets a bigger positive response from the public than home cooked food – and I say that as an Amnesty Award winning journo.
Baking, like all housework, is priceless and unpaid. There’s nothing you could pay me that’s enough remuneration for running to the supermarket, hours spent slaving over an oven, burning my hand on a fucking hot tin, slicing my fingers open while easing cupcakes out of a tray.
Last Friday I baked for my mother. My aunt is dying and my mother spent the day at the hospital watching her sister wavering in and out of consciousness. We’ve lost a lot of family to death in the last few years, and there’s a fragility that comes with loss. There’s nothing good enough to say that makes up for the process of burying so many family members. And so I bake. Because we don’t have ritual, because we don’t have religion, because we are the unwashed lower class, and only food truly fills the hole.
My commitment to house work is a blood spell written in sweaty labour and failed hopes of pandering to society’s goddamn awful ridiculous expectations. Every part of my work in baking is an act of love and role play, that bucks my natural inclination to say “fuck motherhood” and spend the afternoon drinking gin and tonic in a bar.
And when I’ve finished baking and my darling six year old child is in bed, I go pop on a lovely slasher or zombie flick, and glower in the darkness about my goddamn wasted talent, about how I’d love to be invited on your fucking panel or show or maybe invited to write a book, or hell – maybe write a thesis or two, go out for the night, and do anything but try to fulfil everyone’s expectations but my own for one fucking moment.
But you don’t invite frumpy, single mothers with young children onto your goddamn fucking panels on feminism, do you?
And so I’ll say it: the biggest act of betrayal to feminist mothers are the self-identifying supposed feminists who mock and devalue women’s labour in the home.
“Oh it’s such a waste,” they say, and forget to mention no one is offering to do the dishes or provide reimbursement for unpaid labour.
Feminist debate – particularly here in Melbourne – blurs into some patronising, holier-than-thou monologue by a never-ending panel of childless women (or women whose children are old enough to care for themselves for two hours without burning the house down.)
Motherhood stereotypes are enforced by policies that police us out of the public realm and back into the home.
Motherhood is the rudest awakening for a young feminist:
“We don’t have maternity leave.”
“We don’t have childcare places available at this uni…”
“We don’t have council kindergarten spots available this term…”
“Your role before you had kids was casual, it’s no longer available.”
“Childcare finishes at 6:30pm…”
“Our shifts are 24/7 and change rotation each week with two days notice.”
“Perhaps you should just focus on parenting?”
And you’re left holding a dirty nappy in one hand, a HECS debt in the other, inflamed mastitis in your tits, no job, no childcare, no feminist posse and raging sleep deprivation, while some asshole alcoholic know-all – who never went to uni and whose only qualification is ego and a big mouth – tells you on Facebook or Twitter why he’s more entitled than you to a place on a panel; a job; and an opinion on everything, including your mothering skills.
Or worse: some self-declared Silicon Valley rich-list feminist writes a book claiming if she could do it, anyone can do it, you just have to lean in, lean in, lean in and feed the myth of exceptionalism to the masses.
Society tells girls they can either be super-starlets or mothers. And once you’re a mother, you’re never supposed to be edgy again. Hell, I know mothers who pretend they’re not mothers, just so assholes won’t make assumptions about their values when they exercise free choice.
Once upon a time I took my 3 year old son to a rally, and he cried, as toddlers are prone to do at 3:30pm at nap time. And the girl marching next to me, the girl with the feminist raised fist symbol tattooed on her arm, leaned right in and whispered: “It’s ok to go. You can take him home.” She didn’t offer to walk the pram, or bounce my tired toddler on her knee. No. She gave me the offer to leave.
Women don’t lose themselves in motherhood; society loses them. Feminism loses the voices of women who become mothers.
Suddenly it’s not polite, it’s not nice to be anything but the stereotype of a goddamn mummy who bakes cupcakes. Suddenly you stop talking about the old days when you snorted lines in a bathroom, or that night you went home with two guys. Or the six months you spent following festivals around the country.
You’re supposed to stop being fun and start being responsible, and mostly all the parts of you that are still an immature dickhead get awkwardly tucked away from public view.
But god help you if you want to be a bad mother by society’s standards (but still raise an awesomely well-adjusted child, of course.) Prepare for the emotional fucking labour of having your every move second guessed and criticised and learning the hard way, with disapproving looks the first time your spawn gets nappy rash (yes, that thing all small children get a few times.)
Every move you make gets criticised. Motherhood is a process of being ground down.
But heck, what do I know, maybe you’re going to lean in, fight back against the assholery that says you can’t have it all? Experience suggests if you start a new job, just watch how fast they criticise you for having to leave to pick the little darling from childcare at 6pm.
Plan to be a public identity on tv or radio? Sure, but who’s minding the kid? And say one word out of place, be caught smoking one goddamn joint and your character is binned by every critic in the nation.
Maybe you play it straight, plan to use all your free time (hah!) as a mother to write a best seller? Good luck with that. A million distractions and then, even if you succeed the media will still refer to you as “a mum.” No name, just “a mum.”
Even if you end up dead in a ditch, you can be sure the media won’t call you by your name, just “Beloved Mum Found Dead In Ditch.” You become a nobody by society’s standards once you take on the role of motherhood. Seen and not heard, just out back in the kitchen.
Status quo expectations subsume motherhood into the enforcement of a singular identity and role, over-riding all other achievements.
“Mummy dearest.” Fuck that.
Mocking the work of women in the home doesn’t help women complete the labour they’re left with each day after the great feminist debate goes home to bed. It doesn’t change the structural inequality, the lack of support, failure of financial reimbursement and undervalued social status.
There’s a reason why mothers at funerals and family events clump off together to the kitchen, to help make the tea and slice cucumber sandwiches: you’re not offering to help, and you’ve left us with little else. Not our self respect, not our separate identities from motherhood, not jobs or places in the dialogue. Only free labour and service to our families and offspring.
To which I say: fuck you. I’d spit in your cupcakes.