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The Mail: Has it really printed this?

September 20, 2010

***Caution Advised*** Contains multiple links to The Mail Online

The Femail section (which seems to be intrinsically and seamlessly linked to the TV and Showbiz section) of The Mail Online is a dark and subversive place.  Some of the features published today include, but are not limited to;

Wearing glasses makes you look up to three years older
Does drinking lots of water banish wrinkles (with added advertorial for magical Willow Water)?
An advertorial for an iphone fashion app
A piece about what Femail calls a ‘plus size model’ including ‘spare tyre’ in the headline and neatly juxtaposed by a link to a story called ‘Love handles?  A cool new way to freeze off your flabby bits.

Glancing at the sidebar of the site reveals a long list of vacuous showbiz stories and attacks on people’s appearance.  As part of the target audience for this junk, I protest.  There’s plenty there to insult the intelligence, but the award for the most astonishingly crass and backwards piece of the day must surely go to ‘Feminism: Has it killed the art of home cooking?

Rarely have I seen such regressive, patronising writing.  Written by Rose Prince – whose latest Tweet reads, “The Daily Mail is running an article about my new book Kitchenella – sparking plenty of debate about women in the kitchen” – it manages to combine blaming feminism for fast food and childhood obesity with a stunning disregard for any male contribution in the kitchen.  Judging by the Tweet, this seems to be a calculated move designed to stir up controversy and improve sales of her new book, but that could just be my cynical personality talking.

The opening paragraphs wax lyrical about ‘feminine food’, and include such phrases as; ‘The sight of your mother cooking’, ‘nurturing cookery’, ‘my mothers hands’, and ‘food ancestry’. Rose goes on to say:

[When I cook now, there is a busy frequency in my head: the voices of the women who taught me to cook — my mother included.

Their secrets are at the heart of good suppers even now. Thanks to the indelible, delicious influence of these women, I left home understanding how to save money and time, and how to ask a butcher for the right cut of meat.

But, back in those early days as I scraped at those sweet lacy bits that stick to the side of a dish of shepherd’s pie, I had no idea that this kind of nurturing cookery was endangered — or that its assassins would be none other than women themselves.]

Well, that seems a bit melodramatic, but this is The Mail so I suppose it’s to be expected.  How does Rose back it up?

[When the feminist voices of the Sixties made home cooking into a symbol of drudgery, they no doubt had the best intentions. Equality in the workplace was a noble cause and a degree of sexual revolution was necessary.

Domestic cooking was chucked aside as an irrelevance, an icon of unfairness to women — which allowed a very eager food industry to leap forward with the convenience-food solution.]

From my brief sojourn on the web regarding this particular angle, it looks like there are some rumblings elsewhere about the alleged correlation between feminism and convenience food.

“Feminism is a very significant factor in the trashing of the American body,” says The Thinking Housewife, adding, “The fact is, the absence of women from the home is making themselves and their families ill.”

Women’s View on News says, “Aha, and all along I thought it was global capitalism that was to blame,” whilst the Word IQ online dictionary definition of convenience food includes this comment:

[Although many point to the Feminist movement, unchaining women from the kitchen, as the motivation for the development of these products, it is more likely that urbanization, industrialization, and a reaction to feed the post war population explosion after World War II was the true cause.]

A look through the food facts on the History Cookbook section of the Cook It! website, an excellent resource for children, (and me) reveals that people were concerned about convenience food long before feminism was in the picture.  Enough of this, then.  Let’s move on to the next bold claim made in The Mail story.

[Yes, it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.]

Blimey, Rose, got any scientific facts to back that up, or is it pure conjecture?  So, feminism is entirely to blame for an epidemic of childhood obesity.  Nothing to do with this, then:

[Participation in sports has been dropping since the mid-Nineties, especially among boys —   although this has not been helped by the great sell-off of school playing fields.]

Ah, it’s not just feminism to blame after all.  *Sigh* There are many causes of obesity, as explained by the NHS Obesity Observatory and by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (US).  Trying to condense it down to feminism and a lack of school playing fields is just absurd.

After a few statistics are presented, without proper citation,  Rose goes on to say, “Women possess a greater nurturing instinct than men, yet now find themselves trying to do the feeding part without our great-grandmother skills.” This is an opinion, and an insulting one at that.

Next, Rose complains about cookery shows not being very nice any more.  She adds that there are, “a growing number of men adopting a nurturing style of cookery – but the stereotypes remain recognisable.”

I would suggest that attitudes like the one in this article don’t help as far as breaking down stereotypes goes, and the sentence comes across as a little confused given that previously Rose said women had a greater nurturing instinct than men (a stereotypical view in itself).

Ultimately, this whole piece, which slots neatly into The Mail’s narrative of the sort of family it would like everyone to belong to – husband, wife, children – is a huge advert for Rose’s new book, as noted at the beginning of this blog, and as evidenced by the last few paragraphs of the article, which read like something badly written by an advertising agency.  I really don’t know how Rose has the sheer gall to accuse Delia Smith of selling out to the supermarkets (which she does both on a photo caption and in the text), having just sold herself to The Mail whilst selling women down the river.

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