Are Cookbooks Sexist?

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“Stereotypes” from Hyrrs – Festive Hymns Made Feminist by Goldstein. Released: 2017

Sexism is generally described as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex“.  Synonyms include chauvinism and bias.  So, of all the venues to find incidences of sexism, cookbooks would not generally come to mind for most people. However, in my cookbook collection I have several cookbooks, which I would deem “sexist” in one fashion or another.  The earliest one dates to 1925 and features some interesting observations about the male sex!

“Feed the Brute!” by Marjorie Swift, 1925

In previous posts, I have often referred to my favourite cookbook in my collection:  “Feed the Brute!“, written by Marjorie Swift in 1925 and published in London.  In her introduction, the author acknowledges that”the brute” works very hard to support his family, and “…in connection with culinary affairs at least, the most important member of the household“.

 

Concerning the poor housewife, who slaves over a meal to serve “the brute”, Swift comments on the notion of appreciation.  According to her, the “average” man “…disapproves and leaves one in no doubt as to the depth of his disapproval, he appreciates – and says nothing“. Ain’t it the truth.  (Is that a sexist comment?)

“I’m not cooking….I’m managing you!” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com)

One of her most eloquent comments once again concerns the male sex.  She notes that “The well-fed man is a happy man – and a very easily “managed” one too.  And since we women know that to maintain harmony every man however clever, however efficient, however charming, must be “managed,” let us feed him well first and manage him afterwards.”

Does this typify the”brute” that Marjorie Swift writes about? (Photo Credit: http://www.bigstockphoto.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concluding her introduction to the book, Swift tells women to “Feed the Brute!” in order to create and maintain happiness of home…” Geez.  What a woman has to do to pacify the brute.

In the book, “Pre-Hispanic Cooking” (Cocina Prehispanica), by Ana M. de Benitez, first published in 1974 and translated into English by Mary Williams de Varela, there is a brief paragraph in the introduction, titled “Cooks” (Guisanderas).  At the end of the paragraph is a quote:

A woman who is not good at her duties is tiresome and annoying for she cooks badly, is dirty and swinish, greedy and sweet-toothed and cooks tortillas badly, and her dishes are burnt or salty or sour, and she is completely vulgar and coarse”(Tlaloc (Cod. Vaticano, A)

Whew!

This burned tortilla was likely the work of a dirty, swinish, greedy and sweet-toothed woman. (Photo Credit: http://www.nivens.me.com)

“Pre-Hispanic Cooking”, by Ana M. De Benitez, 1974

 

 

 

Is this an example of being “sweet-toothed”? (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.com) (edited by the author)

“….dirty and swinish…” (Photo Credit: http://www.american minipig association.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast forward to the 60’s and the 70’s.  Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry penned “The How to Keep Him (After You’ve Caught Him) Cookbook“, noted as “An irreverent and affectionate guide to the well-stuffed spouse”.  In their introduction, the authors note that “It’s true that men are much maligned, and at times rightfully so, as thoughtless, feckless creatures“.

“You’re nothing but a feckless creature” (Photo Credit: http://www.timescolonist.com)

“The How To Keep Him (After You’ve Caught Him) Cookbook, by Jinx Kragen and Judy Perry, 1968

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further, they comment that “Honestly.  What he does care about is what goes into his stomach, that you still look like the girl for whom he gave up his precious bachelor days and that you don’t greet him at the gate with an inventory of domestic difficulties”  No sexism here.  Just truth, right?

In 1974, Cory Kilvert wrote “The Male Chauvinist’s Cookbook” and gets right at it in his introduction.  “When you step into the kitchen to compliment the chef, whom do you find yourself addressing?  A woman?  Certainly not.  You find a man, a chef.  These two words are synonymous.  Cooks, on the other hand, are women, and this title never had – nor will ever have – the prestige or “panache” as chef“.  Tell that to Cat Cora or Alex Guarnaschelli!  Chapters include “Appetizers Guaranteed to Appetize Her“, “A Loaf of Bread, a Jug of Wine, and Pow!”and “The Morning After“.

“The Male Chauvinist’s Cookbook”, by Cory Kilvert, 1974

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the cover of vintage 1972 “How to Boil Water”, by Betty Jane Donahoe.  Note the position of the woman’s left pinky stuck in the gentleman’s ear.  Ick.

“Well, dear.  You did it.  You learned how to boil water!” (Photo Credit: http://www.lib.msu.edu)

 

 

More recently, there has been a lot of flack on the internet for cover photos on some of the “Instant Pot” series of cookbooks.  Judge for yourself.

“Look, dear…here is how to slice a pepper!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geez. This poor, wimpy, weak female can’t even open a bottle of ketchup? (Photo Credit: http://www.businessinsider.com)

“I’ll do this myself.  Women shouldn’t handle knives”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, finally, two pithy quotes:

The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” (Pat Robertson)

If a man is talking in the forest, and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong?” ( Jenny Weber)

No comment (Photo Credit: http://www.amazon.com)


My EatYourBooks cookbook collection

 

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
This entry was posted in Collections, Cookbooks, Cooking, Cooking and Social History, Food Trends, Guinness World Records, New Mexico, Uncategorized, Vintage Cookbooks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are Cookbooks Sexist?

  1. Thank you. Although there has been some progress (I think!), “sexism” never seems to go away!

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