Harriet Walker: Feminism didn't make us fatter

Share
Related Topics

In the great evolutionary scale of blame, women and fat people pretty much vie for pole position. There isn't much that can't be laid at the feet of the ladies and the layabouts. Imagine, then, the extent to which blame culture has eaten itself with the recent declaration that fat people are women's fault. In her latest book Kitchenella, food writer Rose Prince attributes our current obesity epidemic to the women who left their stoves 40 years ago to make something beyond someone else's dinner. In other words, feminists created fatties.

Quite aside from the bizarre apportioning of blame for a physical state that our society is notoriously blubbery about as it is (So-and-so's too thin, how gruesome! Now she's too fat, how repellent!), there's something very odd about fingering an overwhelmingly positive social movement for a rather specious social "problem".

Fat is a fact of modern life: you might just as well blame it on the industrialists for making cars and televisions available and affordable; or you could attribute it to video games taking over from outdoor sports; or it's the fault of soft furnishings merchants, for making us sit in ever comfier chairs. All of these things, I might point out, have been created, popularised and purveyed, for the most part, by men.

Prince's argument – that healthy eating was scratched off the menu when women forsook their dining rooms for desks, and that's when the rot set in – relies on the inexplicably stubborn consideration that the past half century occurred in a bubble that wasn't punctured by any other social developments.

Convenience food, for example, did not come about because every kitchen in the land was suddenly devoid of a feminine presence and no one could figure out how to work the oven. It was marketed first and foremost to housewives. Bad food – that is, food that makes us fat – was born in the Fifties, when women were rarely anywhere but in front of the cooker. The Feminine Mystique wasn't a call to distract women from creating happy and healthy families; it was an alarum against the sinister creation of a family myth that left men, women and children automata in their own homes.

By the time women had even awoken to the fact that there were options beyond the Aga, convenience food had saturated consumer markets across the world. That is what makes us fat – the culture of a quick meal with no washing-up, our constant search for the easiest solution to all things culinary as well as calisthenic, our reliance on food that resembles less and less its primal, natural state.

That isn't because of women, it's because our latter-day tastebuds are jazzed up on synthetics and sugars – and that was a government-advised strategy during the war. It makes us needy and pliable (not to mention a bit tubs), just like a wobbly-lipped and downtrodden Fifties housewife.

Prince's logic is further evidence of the remarkable and oft-peddled belief that modern culture is still staggering around the edges of the crater that the women's movement left at the heart of society. That we're still blearily rubbing our eyes and wondering what the hell just happened to us. We're not: we're fine. We're all better off thanks to feminism – men included. From better education all round, to equal and minimum wages for everyone, to representation and tolerance of minority cultures and the pleasant normality that exists between genders when one of them is not subjugated (for this, read "flirting at the pub"), we have all benefited from that strike away from the stove. Anyone who considers feminism at fault for anything might want to try renouncing everything it won for us, and then reconsider.

And it isn't constructive to blame an increasingly obese population on any specific thing; any compulsive over-eater will tell you that guilt gets you nowhere but further into the cookie jar. Let's leave blame out of it and have a cup of tea, shall we? With skimmed milk and no biscuits, of course.

h.walker@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn