Below is something I actually wrote back in February but then didn’t post for fear of seeming silly for whining to the internet about my first world problems. But then I figured, why not? It’s just sitting here in my documents folder cluttering up my hard drive, I might as well post it anyway. It’s not really about cooking as such but it does shed a little light on my thought processes these past few months and why I’ve not been writing so much.
When I was reading a Branson Sanderson book the other day the female warrior character describes a silly young noblewoman as a “courtly fluffcake”. Given my love of baking and my mad obsession with all things soft and fluffy, this phrase made me laugh out loud and point out the passage to my husband. We had a good laugh and moved on, and now whenever I wear something particularly pink and frilly my husband calls me a fluffcake.
I have always thought of myself as someone who is interested in clothes but not in fashion. My tastes are eclectic and I mostly choose clothes based on whether or not they make me smile and don’t itch rather than whether they fit into a particular style bracket. I suppose you could call my current style vintage-steampunk-forest-nerd-princess but mostly I just wear whatever I please.
Which, more often that not, is something a little like this nice lady here.
I also enjoy cooking, sewing, flowers, kittens, glitter, scatter cushions and re-arranging the objects in my home into pleasing mise-en-scenès.
In addition to these interests I happen to be a highly-reserved individual who dislikes conflict and values manners. I worry about what others think of me, driving new places often makes me anxious and I have a tendency to giggle when I’m nervous.
Despite adages about not judging a book by its cover, we all do, all of the time. Like the rest of the human race I actually have diverse outfits, interests and personality traits that do not conform to gendered stereotypes, however somehow these get lost amongst the pom poms. I cannot count the number of times an acquaintance has expressed their surprise to me upon discovering that I have a rounded personality rather than interests that fit nicely into a pretty pink feminine box (with a ribbon on it). In a society that frequently associates femininity with weakness or vapidity this is not good news.
In fact, very little does seem to be good news at the moment (apart from this GIN NEWS that genuinely is excellent). Overall, it seems a scary time to be a woman. I have caught myself wondering what right I have to blog about food in the current political climate. Shouldn’t I simply be grateful that I have food when so many don’t and direct my energies towards something useful? Something like writing to my MP for instance rather than perpetuating the myth that the only thing a woman has to say is about cooking? I have even found myself dressing differently. Pulling out my sensible navy t-shirts and putting away the skirt with the ruffles. I worry now that I no longer have the leisure to be a fluffcake. I wonder if I should no longer conform to traditional expectations of women by wearing pink and writing about casseroles.
Certainly, it would make my life easier. My everyday interactions are the kind that the average five-year-old would probably relate to. I have been ignored, belittled, interrupted, told I am wrong and told my opinions do not matter. Over the years, I have been on the receiving end of more “mansplaining” than I care to recall. I am routinely patted on the head, smiled at patronisingly and spoken to in the kind of voice I use to address my cat.
Most often these experiences are with men but not always. From women, I have also been the subject of derision, exasperation, hurtful comments and frank bafflement at my choices in life.
I suppose you could say that I should start speaking up for myself and stop dressing like a child if I don’t want to be treated like one but I wish it were that simple. These attitudes prevail regardless of my sartorial choices and even so much as the colour of my hair seems sometimes enough to relegate me to the role of “silly blonde”.
The experiences of women the world over confirm that I am not alone in having my intelligence (or even, it sometimes seems, sentience) underestimated because of my feminine persona.
You see, at the end of the day, it is that neat little box that is the problem. We do so love to put people in them. That’s only human I suppose but it’s the source of so much hurt and misunderstanding in this world that we really ought to try to do better.
And this is why I have come to the conclusion that I have the right to be a fluffcake if that’s what I want to be. Why should I let what I wear be dictated by the opinion of strangers? Why obsess over “fixing” core aspects of my personality in order to earn the approval of others rather than simply accepting who I am? Since when did baking become synonymous with drooling idiocy anyway? I believe passionately that feminism is about inclusivity and that as a feminist I have a duty to continue to challenge those easy assumptions we make about people based upon initial impressions. Now more so than ever.
And the fluffcake in the book? It turned out that it was all an act to put people off their guard as she was actually a spy for the opposing army. She was a warrior after all.