I've already alluded to the question at hand, which is, in short: why does it not offend my stubborn feminism to bake for my menfolk? Wow, that was a fun sentence to say. More precisely, I have a definite tendency when dating or interested in someone of the male persuasion to start showering him with homemade desserts. Birthday cakes, personal plates of cookies, slices of pie or squares of brownie carefully saved if the object of my attention isn't present when I'm baking for general company, that kind of thing. Lisa and I, both women with little inclination to embrace domestic servitude or normative femininity in general, differ wildly on the desirability of this behavior. She can't stomach it -- too wifely -- while I not only stomach it but engage in it with glee and consistency. So what the fuck?
It comes down to this: I don't see baking in the light of gender expectations. It holds a fairly prominent place on the list of things considered "women's work" by people I'd like to punch, and yet, that fact makes up precisely zero percent of the reason I do it. I do it for personal gratification: I have an out-of-control sweet tooth and a specific personal obsession with cookies, and being vegan I can't rely on the rest of the world to provide me with palatable sweets. If I want cookies, by god, I'm going to make some. No way am I going to go without cake just because some asshole approves of me making it.
I also do it because, frankly, I am fucking amazing at it. I know this. It's one of the few things about which I have no modesty and no self-doubt. I can outbake any amateur baker I've ever met and a few professional ones to boot. I am a goddamned dessert genius, and like arrogant geniuses the world over, regardless of medium, I display my work because I want people to admire it and lionize me. (I put out plates of cookies in my house with signs saying things like, "eat and marvel, motherfuckers".)
I've been contemplating the possibility that this particular idea comes from my observation in early childhood of my mother's life as a stay-at-home mom, and I think it's not beyond plausible. My mother isn't really your self-effacing wallflower; she's an ambitious woman whose education and salary have conspicuously exceeded my dad's for over a decade at this point. She decided when she had Katie and me to spend a few years with us away from school and work, but here's the thing. I really don't remember my mother's home life being one of domestic drudgery. Between my parents, my dad is the one who's into household tidying. I don't doubt my mom did a ton of it when I was a kid, but it didn't make an impression on me. The things that did make an impression on me were always works of genius: art projects (both her own and the ones she made up for my sister and me), massive house redecoration efforts, sewing and crafts projects, and, yes, baking. I'm pretty sure she wasn't slaving over a hot stove because someone told her she should; she was damn well making that cake because she loved it and she had the touch. And if she, at 30, with a husband and two kids, could bake chocolate cakes of pure triumphant ego, then I, 25 and intent on remaining unmarried and childless for some time yet, can surely do the same.
And now back to what is probably the most salient reason I bake. I do it because I have an agenda: most of the world doesn't know that delicious vegan desserts that are actually horribly sugary and terrible for you even exist, and in their ignorance they will never willingly convert to eating vegan. I want them all to convert, hence I want them to know what they can have as vegans. There's not much dramatic effect to be gotten by offering people salads; most people know those are vegan and aren't too wowed by them. But you taste a vegan cookie that's just like your grandmother's cookies or even better, and your opinion of the workability of the vegan diet will change radically.
All of this explains why I bake for the general populace without any feeling that I'm buying into the traditional role oppression of my gender, but I acknowledge that it doesn't necessarily address my baking pointedly at boys I find interesting. I suppose it's worth mentioning here that I do occasionally bake pointedly at girls who are likewise interesting, but since most of those interests have stalled out in the "hopeless and horribly self-sabotaging crush" stage, opportunities have been somewhat limited. Still, I shall wave my flag of gender equity no matter how tiny.
But if you think about it, a love interest of either gender has more reason than anyone else to prompt baking for the second and third reasons mentioned. If I'm infatuated with someone, I want that person to be infatuated with me as well. Infatuation being somewhat hard to define, I'll generally take awed or at least strenuously impressed as a good equivalent. By the logic of my own personal universe in which no one ever fails to want dessert, baking is a surefire way to display my stunning brilliance. And where my agenda is concerned, well, dietary disparity can be tricky in a relationship. Easier for everyone's conscience if all parties eschew the same foods. But people who are completely enthralling in all other ways and already vegan are somewhat hard to find, and if one happens to find just such an enthralling nonvegan, what is one to do but subtly highlight the appeal of conversion?
If I thought it common for anyone to ascribe unselfish motives to my actions, I'd be worried that this post might disillusion people who were previously sitting around thinking admiringly about how thoughtful I am. But I'm kind of not, and I think everyone knows that already. So it shouldn't come as much shock that my seemingly generous distribution of baked goods is really a combination of self-service, ego-stroking, and manipulation of others. Last time I checked, those things weren't prominently featured on the list of Appropriate Qualities For The Little Ladies.Posted by dianna at February 28, 2007 08:26 PM