The Young and Disenchanted

“How about some chicken wings/Do you want some some fish and grits/I’ll hurry and go get it” – African Womanhood, Part II

Posted on: 18 December, 2009

At some point during my sophomore year of college, I stumbled across the book Colonize This!, a collection of essays written by women-of-colour feminists. Each essay is written from a different perspective – Indian American, Chicana, Muslim – but many share a recurring theme: how to reconcile their cultural identity with their feminist views. One essay that struck me in particular was written by a Nigerian woman. She discussed how, as a child, the role of cook/cleaner/wife-in-training defined her position as the only girl in her family, and how she rebelled against this imposed identity as a result of her exposure to feminist literature while studying in the USA. Now, I 100% sympathise with home-girl on this tip. If I had brothers and I had to watch their lazy asses play Nintendo 64 (holla!) while I washed all the motherfucking dishes, I would have become an only child by virtue of the cutlass there would have been some problems. But even without brothers, it was definitely emphasised when I was growing up (slash still today) that I would have to ensure that my domestic skills were up to par in order for me to “make a good wife.” I used to resent this pressure and told anyone who would listen (all three of them) that I would make my husband cook when I was married. Now that I am older and wiser I see that the words of my youth were unduly rash. Why? Well, for one thing, I’ve learned how to cook. And I LOVE it. Seriously: cooking is one of the most fabulous, sexy, empowering activities that I engage in on a regular basis. I think Nigella Lawson was the catalyst for the unleashing of my inner domestic goddess: I once analysed her cookbook for an English class and fell in love somewhere between Coca-Cola Ham and Deep Fried Mars Bars (which, despite sounding absolutely revolting, hold a strange power of fascination over me). Plus, she’s a total hottie. Besides the point: I have now embraced the wonders of domestication – something I thought would be accepted with open arms and empty stomachs by all. But apparently not.

A recent offer to make a sick male friend some soothing ginger cola was met with the reply that he did not want to “domesticate an educated woman” by subjecting me to the indignities of the kitchen. Now, I know that this came from a place of kindness. However, my outer inner proud African woman felt somewhat affronted (inner dialogue: “What, you don’t think I can make it?? My ginger cola-making skills aren’t good enough for you??? What in the hell do you mean by this????” – P.S. I never said my inner proud African woman, despite her wonderfulness, was altogether rational). On the one hand, it was lovely to have a man not want to take advantage of my cooking skills (ahem, African men I attend college with). On the other, I’d never thought that doing something domestic would be somehow be seen as compromising my status as an educated woman. My mother, who holds two degrees, doesn’t play with her skills in the kitchen (and especially her cake – mmmmm, I hope she’s making cakes for Christmas this year so that I can grow fat and merry :)). Both her domestic nature and her intellect work together to make her the wonderful woman that she is – one doesn’t necessarily contradict the other. First of all, cooking isn’t easy – there are plenty of women who can hold their own in a philosophical debate who cannot cook for shit. Anyone who can wield a knife, whisk and chicken breast without causing grievous bodily harm to themselves or others is a real OG. Chuuuuuuch. Secondly, I’m not certain that domestication is such a bad thing. I mean, if a motherfucker can’t cook, how are you going to eat? What if you’re chilling in a warzone in East Africa with your mercenary army, AK-47 in hand, no Chinese takeout spot in sight and just some goats at hand? (I’ve thought this out a little too well…) I mean, don’t get it twisted – this applies to women and men. Even though I will cook for my future husband, he had damn well take some classes at the Culinary Institute and be prepared to get busy with the Magic Mixer. Motherfucker, what if I come home late from work?? What are you gonna do, stare at the cooker in hope? Pause. I’m not with it.

I’m also not sure how I feel about the idea of domestication being an imposable concept. I think that there is plenty of power in being able to cook and clean: just imagine if your mother decided to not cook any more. My mother did something like this once. It was not a good look. Being a position of serving others does not necessarily equate to being subservient, I’m slowly realising. Not only is it an expression of love, like my girl Bimala says, it’s also a way of showing strength. Take it from someone who is making a regular gig of cooking dinner for 10 people just because – that shit takes MIGHT.

All I’m saying is: I don’t believe that my strong African womanhood is depleted by my puff-puff making skills (shout out to the Burundi meatballs) – rather, I believe they enhance it in all of its intellectual, political and slightly crazy glory.

Let me know how you feel in the comments.

P.S. Went back to my girl Jilly from Philly for the title – LOVES this song.

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7 Responses to "“How about some chicken wings/Do you want some some fish and grits/I’ll hurry and go get it” – African Womanhood, Part II"

k.. there is no way u cld convince me to try fried mars bars.. DISGUSTING.. lol.. but i do hv 2 say, cooking sure is not easy… and im glad u getting to know the contemporary african man.. :).. we heavenly..

P.S u still teaching me how to cook..

Lol, yes Anogie, I will teach you to cook something alongside L. when I get back.

Deep fried Mars Bars, yes. Nigella’s new Christmas programme, yes (possibly the only thing that would ever convert me to lesbainism), cooking for the love of it, yes.

Men who can cook, HOT.

You’ve nailed it 🙂

you volunteered to make him ginger coke so he was not imposing, a lot of people love to cook, me I only cook enough to survive so if I had a husband who liked to cook he could take over the duties and I’d handle the laundry (except for the ironing, I hate to iron)

If this means the end of the kitchen wars, I welcome it with jubilation. Their is a material concern here,however, regarding the question of women and kitchen skills. Women need to learn to cook so as to not become dependent on lousy, whimsical man. Most men can hardly boil an egg, so if she doesn’t know how to make herself she will really have to thank for salty, burnt eggs every morning. Beyond that,once women achieve substantial progress in social equality, this question will disappear on its own as it will lose relevance.

I must say though I find the comment of the man most striking? Why does he think women cooking is domestication. And yeah what is domestication? It sounds a terrible idea?

My dear Yusuf,

While I absolutely agree that women should learn how to cook, men also should so as not to become dependent on busy, militant women who may have a class to teach/children to get in line/a war to fight.

Regarding the man in question, I recommend asking him yourself. And as we discussed, domestication isn’t necessarily taming someone, like a wild horse… more like societal adjustment to the demands of the home. I’d call it a neccesary evil more than anything else.

cosign 100%.

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