Crimes against language: A guide to gendered food terms

Butch Bakery website screengrab for gendered food terms

Screengrab of the Butch Bakery website

We may have replaced stewardesses with flight attendants and firemen with firefighters, but that’s ok because food is getting its man on these days. It’s the “manification” of food? Not to be confused with that “mancession” we’re slogging through. So cute, you just want to pat him on the head. This slow creep of gender-specific, nonsense words, makes it easy to ignore the underlying gender politics because, well, it’s just that cute and hip and it’s all a little tongue-in-cheek (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). But I’d take a stewardess over a mancake any day of the week. At least with stewardess or fireman you know the score.

Ok, sure it’s convenient to throw around witty phrases that make the decisions in our lives seem hip and cool—a legitimate identity you can claim, rather than just something you happen to do. Labels are useful, yes. If I tell someone I’m a vegetarian (I’m not), they understand immediately that I don’t eat meat and won’t serve it to me. But does everything need a moniker? Or, since most of these words seem to first appear in media, is this just lazy journalism? Marketing run amok? You tell me. Read on for a gendered food guide to get you through your next cocktail party.

Mancakes

First of all, can I just point out that when women get their own prefix, it’s always some variant of mommy—sanctimommy (ok, that’s a suffix, but…), mompreneur, mommyblogger, momversation, and so on and so forth. So where’s the dadcession? No, no, it’s a mancession. Because even if you’ve been laid off, you’re still a Man. With Manly needs. Like for cupcakes. Ahem, mancakes.

Schott’s Vocab, in the New York Times, recently ran an item on mancakes, claiming that “Of course, nobody’s seriously suggesting baked goods are gendered.” Oh, but they are, they are. Else why do we need mancakes, replete with beer, whisky and bacon flavourings, covered in camouflage? By calling them mancakes instead of just a new flavour of cupcake, these bakeries are actually confirming that cupcakes are girly, even while claiming to be tongue-in-cheek. Would the gimmick work if we didn’t already suspect that the cupcake is an inherently feminine food? That beer and bacon are for men and sprinkles are for girls?

The trend seems to have started with New York’s Butch Bakery, whose owner, a former lawyer, felt that cupcakes needed a “masculine aesthetic.” By which he meant “We needed to butch it up.” That’s right, he said butch. You want to up your man-ness? Then head on over to the Butch Bakery.

Hegan

For those of you who feel a feminine sort of queasiness when it comes to eating animals, stomp out that dash of estrogen by reminding yourself that you’re a HEgan. Because vegans, apparently, are “very militant and angry.” And female. Angry, opinionated women? Yeah, wouldn’t want to be associated with them either. It’s ok boys, go get your hegan on with a smoothie and a yoga pose and you’ll be safe from those rampaging, v-is-for-vagina vegans. And no one will realize you’re turning into a pansy who’s in touch with his girlie side.

Gastrosexual

Move over metrosexual. All hail the rise of the gastrosexual. They’re men! They’re sexual! And they eat! And cook! Foodie, a word whose degrees of nauseousness have been dissected to death, is just not appropriate for the modern, urban, male who, gasp, likes eating and cooking. Unlike the rest of humanity, dontcha know?

Although, unlike other, more suspect monikers, a real company conducted real research to make this great discovery. They found some interesting stats about how cooking roles are changing, but instead of doing something legitimate with it, or using it as an opportunity for genuine dialogue about social change, they went straight to gastrosexual. Because what else would you do, faced with such findings?

Really, this is just more of the old “when women cook it’s a chore, when men do it, it’s a hobby and they deserve gratitude and praise” news. Can’t we just admit that some of us (men and women, both) like cooking and some of us don’t? Bah, humbug.

Femivore

And a special shout-out goes to the New York Times for their creative use of femivore. No, not one who eats females. It’s a woman who embraces the domestic ethos of the pioneering life—back-to-land, raising chickens, canning one’s own produce, and generally living a sustainable, off-the-grid, DIY, life. Get your housewife on without turning into a 1950s cardboard cutout. This was a “lifestyle” once known as just plain old farming. Or even just living. Or surviving. And while we can all applaud sustainable living, do we really need a special term for it? Kind of like foodie—used to be normal, but now it’s a lifestyle choice complete with special handle.

Writing about this “trend” for Bitch, Brittany Shoot asks, “Do any of y’all have grandmas who can’t quite figure out why young feminists romanticize canning or knitting? My grams, Charlotte and Bernice, are 85, and 92 next month, respectively, and frankly, they’re bewildered why hip young gals want to crochet for kicks. Bernice—the 92-year-old one—got her Master’s degree decades ago, put my grandpa through graduate school by teaching, and though she eventually stayed home with her own kids, I think she’d honestly be appalled if I chose to be a homemaker… What does bother me is the implication that something we found oppressive seventy-five or even fifty years ago is now suddenly empowering. Context shifts, no doubt, but aren’t we sort of screwing up our own progress by going back and forth on these things?”

If someone wants to live the back-to-the-land DIY life, go for it. But to call this a feminist project, as if to indicate that only this type of life is feminist sustainability, just turns it into glorified housekeeping for the rural set. You can’t really trade your heels for a chicken coop if you live in city. Sustainability can take many forms—it doesn’t have to become a personal lifestyle. If the only way we can find to blend feminism and sustainability is to leave the city, leave our paychecks and build ourselves a chicken coop, then we’re all in trouble. Sustainability, yes, but personally, I’m happy to spend my hard-earned cash buying my farm-fresh veggies from someone else, while living in my high-density neighbourhood, using public transit and buying food from the farmers’ market. Oh, and teaching my daughter a few things about women and equality. I guess that makes me a femivore too?

Equally grating is the notion that this particular form of sustainable living is somehow more morally correct than any number of other life choices. “What could be more vital, more gratifying, more morally defensible?” sayeth the Times. Oh, I don’t know. Saving lives, maybe. Teaching children to read. Fighting injustice.

(I don’t need to point out that the husband in this equation is neither manivore nor male-ivore nor hevore. He’s just a dude who farms.)

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