I moved to Oak Park in September. I respect Oak Park’s progressive values, and am always encouraged by the inclusive and open-minded rhetoric that is prevalent throughout the community. This is why I was struck this week when I read “Debate on a Plate.”
There is no doubt that food and cooking have a strong emotional hold on many of us. Food connects us to culture, and speaking to someone about the food they love can be very revealing. But the Journal’s decision to highlight this topic in relation to the village president elections unsettled me, and I ultimately felt it was important to question the inclusion.
When for so long women have not been seen as capable leaders and have been relegated to the realm of the home — cooking, cleaning, child care (why these things, historically, have been considered “less important” is a conversation for another time!) — on the occasion of a rare all-female ticket, it seems unnecessarily demeaning to dedicate a full-page article to their favorite recipes. Even if this is something that would have been asked of male candidates, I still believe that while we, as a country (world), are still working toward more equal treatment of women, we should not simultaneously tie them to a stereotype by their apron strings.
I am not suggesting that the Journal does not think that these four candidates are capable. On the contrary! They are described as “intelligent, motivated, and thoughtful.” But if I may gently ask, shouldn’t this go without saying? Male candidates are not typically described in this way. The fact of the impulse to include these descriptions is symptomatic of a widespread and deep-seated bias (to which I too am often blind!). It reveals a belief that women need to be explicitly named as capable because they very well may be thought of as incapable and as inappropriately stepping out of their historically-seen place, the kitchen, where unfortunately, the article is putting them right back.
I truly write this out of respect, and invite a conversation not a battle (the world has enough of that).
Mary DeYoe, Oak Park