Is Baking a Feminist Act?

As a marketer, I’m always talking about the great programs, activities and challenges that Girl Guides undertake in the hopes of counteracting the stereotype that Guiding is just about cookies, camping and crafts.

But I’m also a baker, a serious cake carving, fondant covering and recipe testing home baker.  My quest to create the perfect mandarin orange crème brûlée is unending. So when I read the following quote by British cookbook author Nigella Lawson’s it got me thinking, can cooking, baking and crafts – so called “girly” activities that Guiding is sometimes criticized for – be empowering activities?

“Baking is the less applauded of the cooking arts, whereas restaurants are a male province to be celebrated. There’s something intrinsically misogynistic about decrying a tradition because it has always been female. I’m not being entirely facetious when I say it’s a feminist tract. For me cooking is an act of independence. I don’t feel entirely comfortable handing over the means of sustenance and survival to someone else. It’s empowering.” Empowerment through cupcakes!” 

– British cookbook author Nigella Lawson, speaking at the
Hay Festival in Wales

Journalist, Lagusta Yearwood  of the Guardian newspaper thinks so saying

“If we are working toward a society in which women are valued equally with men, it’s not enough to champion what I (here in New York) call the “Hillary Clinton route”: women accessing careers that have historically been the provenance of men. Of course, this needs to be done – there are glass ceilings to smash and equal wages to fight for aplenty – but we need to do the opposite, too: we need to champion what has traditionally been devalued as “women’s work” and respect it for what it is – work. And valuable.”

This year units across the country have taken up the challenge of our National Service Project: Empowering Girls by contributing to their communities in myriad of ways but so far no baking. Anyone out there up for the challenge of empowerment through cupcakes?

By Nisha, GGC Staff

Have a comment? We’d love to hear from you.

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8 Responses to Is Baking a Feminist Act?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think cooking and baking are a fact of life. If you aren’t doing it yourself, you are relying on someone else or eating all your meals out. I think these are great skills for anyone that has any interest at all about food, health and being aware or in control of what they are eating. Starting kids young allows them to make healthy choices and creates some feeling of accomplishment and self-sufficiency. As for “Empowerment through cupcakes” that is a cute slogan but perhaps we can jump on the slightly healthier band wagon and find an alternative such as “Empowerment through cookies”… who doesn’t like a good homemade oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookie?… lots more options and right up the Girl Guide alley!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Lets learn from the toddlers and pre-schoolers – get any group of kids together and they love to pour, mix and measure – boys or girls…it only becomes feminist when we say it is! Boy bakers come forth and celebrate your cupcakes!

  3. Norine from Hamilton says:

    We have so many art forms that are recognized in our program. Baking is an art as well and is recognized in the Guide program and I’m sure in the others as well. I am a Guide Guider and support my unit exploring ALL interests. I personally love cooking and baking. I happen to share these activities with my unit, with other units and with other Guiders which is very rewarding to me. I also share my love of cooking with my husband and have some of our most enjoyable times while trying new recipes or food from other cultures.

    I think anything that you learn to do well is empowering. If you can learn to do something well that brings joy to many others, such as baking a great pie, or a beautiful cake can do, that is a huge sense of accomplishment. Why not teach our girls to do things that give them the opportunity to feel good about themselves and what they can do, regardless of what “gender” may be attached to the activity.

  4. Lisa says:

    A recipe for empowerment:
    Start with a group of enthusiastic girls. Allow them to decide what they want to do and how to go about it. Add guidance and trust. Result: Success!

    Back in the fall of 2009, no-one had any idea how empowering a day of baking would be. Members of the 40th Orleans Pathfinders and the 1st Orleans Rangers were discussing ideas for giving service. At the same time, thoughts of Christmas were beginning to form in the back of everyones’ minds. They learned that there is a significant homeless population in their city. After some research, they discovered that there are several programs and facilities that provide basic meals to those in need; but sadly, even at Christmas, these facilities are unable to offer more than basic sustenance to their clients. The girls decided they wanted to do something to show this group of people that they had not been forgotten, and that they are special too.

    Ingredients and recipes were gathered; a facility was found; and the 1st Annual Bakefest was born. Girls worked in self-organized groups to measure, mix, stir, form, bake and decorate the most wonderful goodies. Once cooled, the aromatic treats were boxed up, in preparation for transport. After all the planning, collecting, lifting, sifting and washing up, 1200 cookies and squares were delivered to the Ottawa Mission. These treats were made with care and kindness, and with the sole purpose of bringing a small amount of happiness to others.

    All of the members, whether Pathfinder, Ranger or Guider, were overwhelmed by the sense of accomplishment. They realized that because of their own decision and action, they were empowered to make a difference in the lives of many. This realization inspired them to share their success and to begin planning for the following year. In 2010, the two units were joined by another, and together they produced over 2000 tasty treats for the patrons of the Ottawa Mission.

    Everyone in the 40th and 50th Orleans Pathfinders and the 1st Orleans Rangers is looking forward to combining their efforts for their 3rd Annual Bakefest. Girls can and do make a difference. Empowerment through cookies? Definitely!

    1st Orleans Rangers

  5. Allison Graham says:

    I don’t know that baking is inherently feminist, but it’s such a basic life skill. It requires math skills and a basic understanding of kitchen chemistry (ie, why leaving out the baking powder is not a good idea). I wanted to do a baking project with my sparks last year, but they were just TOO crazy and too many of them (we had a group of 22 girls, directly after school, who were just wired, we spent most of the year outside). I’d love to do a simple baking project with a new and smaller group of Sparks this year! Even no-bake cookies are easy to do! 😀

  6. Laura says:

    Nisha, I think you hit the nail on the head. Girl Greatness is about taking the girl from where she is and mentoring her to where she wants to go! If it is prime time bake off or the Bench in our Judicial system as a Judge, let’s celebrate what’s right about being a girl and challenge the girls to pursue the diversity we can achieve in this world!

  7. Absolutely it can be empowering! Anything that a girl (or boy) can try, learn, have failures, try again, be successful and see the fruits (or cakes) of their labour is empowering. To be able to look, touch, taste something you made and others enjoy gives the girl pride in herself and her accomplishments. Not to mention it doesn’t hurt the math & science skills either:) As it stands in our house my son is the one who loves baking. My daughter usually likes to join in but it is not to her interests as she isn’t much of a sweets eater. She still takes pride in her accomplishments though and is quick to offer her goodies to others.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am feminist and I bake, therefore, at my house anyway, baking is indeed a feminist act!

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