No thanks, Joan Oster, or Why I Resist the Kitchen

I’m a second-hand store junkie.  I adore flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores.  One of the things I picked up on my last shopping spree was a cookbook in mint condition.  It is specifically for the Osterizer (the 8-speed push-button model) and has a copyright date of 1965, just a few years before I made my way into this world.  The cover, which makes me wince each time I look at it (although she is quite perfect looking, but isn’t this the point?), is a woman with red lips, heavily lined eyes, plucked brows, her dark hair slicked back.  She wears a very prim white dress with pink stripes and a perfectly flat pink bow.  Her nails are painted the same pink, and she holds an Osterizer (which is a blender for those who rarely set foot in the kitchen).  I think she has chopped up some carrots for the stew she is making…  But what gets me and sheds some light on my own aversion to the kitchen is the letter in the very front of the cookbook, from Joan Oster herself of the Home Economics Department of the John Oster Manufacturing Company, “Let your Osterizer introduce itself . . . keep it conveniently on the kitchen countertop and use it throughout the day for better meals, beverages and snacks.”  (Please note, the italics are not mine – they are Joan’s.) 

Why does this letter make me so angry?  Initially, it’s the tone – the demand from Joan Oster that we (as women) use our Osterizer so much that its motor burns up and we have to buy another (this makes John Oster happy).  Apparently the Osterizer can be used for every single meal we make.   The recipes include such things as Shrimp Mold Deluxe, Pea and Curry, Maraschino Chocolate Cake, and Deep Sea Loaf.  I have to admit not only have I never made any of these, I also do not plan to.  So that leads me back to my bitchy attitude and resistance to being in the kitchen.  It’s certainly not that I do not want my family to have healthy meals.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Both my kiddos love salad, they wince at fast food more than once or twice a month, and they drink water!  The reason for these achievements is due to the parenting they’ve been provided.  So it’s not that I’m a delinquent mother.  It’s this:  I resent the expectation.  And from where does the expectation arise?  Not from my family, but silently, from society.  Yes, we’ve made great strides as women in society.  To many of you reading this, my dear women friends who were brave and had the moxie to resist and change things, I send my heartfelt thanks.  But we aren’t done yet.  Just last week, a colleague came to me and told me how his wife, a minister, was recently let go from serving her church, because she is a WOMAN.  Her husband (also a pastor) responded by delivering an Easter sermon which reminded his own congregation that the first two to see Christ after he had risen happened to be women.  Society could use more and more reminders of things such as this.

What is interesting, and infuriating, about prejudice and discrimination is that even when it is officially outlawed, it does not disappear.  Just read Karen Armstrong and you will understand why an underdeveloped country cannot be modernized in simply a matter of years.  The same is true for discrimination.  In Brenda Allen’s Difference Matters, I read a chapter which dealt with gender discrimination. What floored me was that right in front of my own face is a function of how we still designate the status of women through our use of abbreviations:  Mrs., Miss, Ms.  In the UK and the US, Ms. is being used as the default more and more often, yet even so about every other survey or conference application I fill out still has the multiple abbreviations to select from.  What strikes me odd about this is we long ago dropped “master” for the unmarried or young male (a title which has a number of wildly negative connotations), but society has held onto the abbreviations for women.  Why is it necessary to designate marital status by an abbreviation before a name?  Quite simply, it’s not. 

What the Osterizer cookbook and Allen’s text tell me is that we still have a ways to go as women.   An April 2010 article in Time, “Why Do Women Still Earn Less than Men?”  states the following,  Women’s wages have increased just half a penny on the dollar for the past four decades. How much longer can it possibly take for equality to arrive?  All I can say to that question is Amen, when will it arrive?  But I also have to realize my own prejudice against the kitchen.  I shouldn’t be angry about cooking, because it’s not the act I’m angry about, it’s the silent and buried discrimination to which I’m reacting.  Just because discrimination is not overt, just because we’ve passed laws and made strides in the right direction, does not mean that the collective unconscious does not hold some resentful energy.  I am one of those who holds that negative energy and the key to releasing it is recognizing it and choosing to let go.

Since I feel so good about realizing that I do not really hate the kitchen or to cook, I may just try my hand at some Guacamole Dip.  Even though it’s listed in the Osterizer cookbook, this is one of those recipes I do not need a blender for – my fork works just fine.  ;.)

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3 thoughts on “No thanks, Joan Oster, or Why I Resist the Kitchen

  1. Great post, Rosemary.
    Imagine being a young woman at that time and the pressure to be the perfect wife, the housewife who was all things to her husband and children. Imagine when a girl’s only goal was meeting a man who was a “good provider” and getting married.
    The women’s rebellion accomplished much, but much has been chipped away that would make women more independent. Too many single women raising children alone and working to keep a roof over their heads.
    Now men expect their wives to contribute as much or more to the livelihood of the family and still she does the laundry, cooks the meals, cleans the house, buys groceries, and on and on.
    A few modern men accept the changes we hoped for, but still too many take advantage of a woman’s wanting to have a career.

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    • Glenda — you hit on one of the ironies of gaining “equal” rights — women did not relinquish the housekeeping/bill paying/shopping duties which they already were doing/expected to do. Instead, we gained the right to be hired for jobs typically reserved for men (still at lower pay) while tending to retain those other duties…it’s a huge balancing act that requires teamwork, to say the least. –thanks for reading.

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