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Subversive Cooking in Liberal Feminism, 1963–1985

Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After

ISBN: 978-1-78635-054-1, eISBN: 978-1-78635-053-4

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 22 August 2016



This study examines liberal second-wave feminists’ writings about cooking. Most scholarship of liberal feminism has focused on the attempts to integrate women into previously male-dominated public spaces such as higher education, the professions, and political office. Less attention has been paid to how these feminists politicized feminized spaces such as the home. A longstanding tension between the housewife role and feminist identities has led many to theorize that feminists avoid or resent domestic tasks. However, I argue that some liberal feminists in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s suggested engaging with cooking in subversive ways that challenged patriarchal institutions and supported their political goals.


I analyze 148 articles about cooking in Ms. magazine between 1972 and 1985. I also analyze the copy and recipes within four community cookbooks published by liberal feminist organizations.


I find that liberal feminists suggested utilizing time- and labor-saving cooking methods, encouraged men to cook, and proposed that women make money from cooking. These three techniques challenged the traditional division of domestic labor, supported women’s involvement in the paid workplace, and increased women’s control of economic resources.


This study turns the opposition between feminism and feminized tasks on its head, showing that rather than avoiding cooking, some liberal feminists proposed ways of cooking that challenged patriarchal institutions. I show how subordinate populations can develop ways of subversively engaging with tasks that are typically seen as oppressive, using them in an attempt to advance their social position.




I would like to thank Mary Blair-Loy, Elizabeth Borland, Laura Rogers, Jennifer Nations, and my writing groups in both New York City and San Diego for their feedback on drafts of this chapter. This research was completed with the assistance of a dissertation grant from the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.


Williams, S.J. (2016), "Subversive Cooking in Liberal Feminism, 1963–1985", Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 265-286.



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