Those of you who have been following the blog will hopefully have seen that the all-singing all-dancing rebrand of the Hot Pink Apron website is all up and running, and the first few articles of this month’s issue are already online. It’s something I’m really proud to be part of and has already been amazing fun just in getting the first issue live. I’ve read all about Dana’s efforts in the kitchen and the trials and tribulations of being a mum of two small kids for the last couple of years with a certain envy – everything she cooks looks so damn tasty. If anyone knows how to make child-induced sleep deprivation look good, then it is definitely Dana.
That’s not the only reason I’m proud to be taking part in this project. As a kid, my mum was always keen for me and my siblings to learn to bake cake. If you can’t train your children to make and feed you delicious baked goodies as your own little kitchen slaves from an early age, then you are definitely doing it wrong. Whether out of some notions of gender equality or a three-cakes-are-better-than-two mentality, my little brother soon learned to be a baking pro alongside me and his twin sister. Whenever he had a yen for cake, my little bro always produced the lightest, fluffiest sponges, with far more patience than either of his sisters, and a natural talent for baking. Where my brother was a pro at victoria sponge, I excelled at muffins, and my sister surpassed us both with her skill at cookies and cake decorating. Needless to say, mum and dad were kept well stocked in cake through our childhood.
Presenting our baked goods to our parents one day, not for the first time dad praised little bro’s exceptionally light hand at cake and proudly told him, ‘All the best chefs are men’. Naturally argumentative and pedantic, and with the beginnings of feminism in mind, I objected to this. Granted, male athletes will usually run faster, jump higher and swim faster than their female counterparts. This is biological inevitability. But baking? I incredulously pointed out to dad that when asked what their favourite food is, most people will reply ‘so-and-so-meal, just how mum/nan does it’. Both my parents carefully explained that home cooking was good and all, but there really weren’t that many famous/celebrated female chefs. When things got competitive, men were just better at it. Ever impressionable, I swallowed this perceived truth (almost) whole, and for years believed it to be true that all the best chefs were men and my brother probably just had some natural advantage at sponge cake. Who knew?
As I got older I started to recognise something of a self-fulfilling prophecy about these statements. The ‘fact’ that all the best chefs are men is not driven by a meritocracy, where the women just fail to cut the mustard – we often just aren’t expected to try. If a woman does try to make her way in a “man’s” field, she can expect to be met with a whole lot more resistance. It’s worth pointing out that my parents are pretty liberal minded and told their daughters and sons alike that we could do anything we worked hard enough to achieve. Some gender stereotyping is so ingrained it doesn’t even feel like prejudice – just fact.
While rebranding Hot Pink Apron, a huge amount of time was piled into how to market ourselves as writers, and as a magazine as a whole. We are keen to use the magazine to connect together foodies from every walk of life, irrespective of gender. But nonetheless I’m very proud of the voice Hot Pink Apron gives us as ladies. We represent everything feminism wanted for its daughters – some of us are stay at home mums on a career break to raise kids, some are doing both. Some of us have full time jobs and no intention to have kids. We are marketing specialists, academics, musicians and mothers, and from behind a computer can tell the world that being women doesn’t stop us doing any of these things. We are all talented with food and nobody is shouting us down with cries of ‘don’t you ladies know the best chefs are men?!’.
The world of feminism has been revolutionised by the internet, where anyone (for better or worse) can carve a niche for themselves, and it is hard to censor them out. We are free to define ourselves the way we want ourselves to be seen, and we are free not to give a hoot whether we are doing what women are ‘supposed’ to be good at. My great-grandmother could never have imagined a great-granddaughter who went to university, got a job AND got married, and wrote for an online magazine, yet I am conspicuously doing all those things and so far, no one is showing any signs of stopping me. Feminism and the internet make an awesome, Hot Pink combination.