Thursday, August 22, 2013

In response!

Yesterday my twitter feed (@Madyline) exploded slightly. I saw someone that I follow was being attacked for having an opinion about someone else's writing. I felt there was some ganging up going on, so I went in as back up, but I didn't go in until I'd read the blogpost concerned. (Which is this one, if you're interested. Redlightpolitics )

Now,  I read the post and the first time I read it, I didn't have a clue what the author was going on about.  I honestly thought she was making words up.

It is titled "Some thoughts about sexual normativity in food writing."

Normativity?  Is that even a word?  OED says yes. "establishing, relating to, or deriving from a standard or norm, especially of behaviour:"

However, more than this, the premise of the article is that the only people who write about their family life as part of their food writing are houses where a man and a woman are married and have children. This apparently, is called a heteronormative nuclear family narrative.  (Hmmmm.  I thought heteronormative was a made up word to, but I'll define that later!)

The writer, named Flavia, then bemoans the fact that The Pioneer Woman is exactly this type of person, where her cooking is good because it is useful for the family, and not because she's good at it on her own.

Flavia also points out that the chefs with publicity are male, and although the food bloggers are female, they have to present this image of nuclear family life in order to achieve fame and fortune.  Or as she puts it "It seems that, as in any other field where women need to be "kept in their places", heteronomativity and sexual politics come with the package."

Now, I could forgive the writer the use of words like "invisiblized" which the OED says is NOT a word, because I suspect that she is not from England.  Ignoring that kind of thing, we are left with a writer with an interesting concept, smothered by her overuse of technical vocabulary.

I said that the writer wrote "like a first year student showing off all the big words she knew."  The style of the writing isn't for me.   The message is obscured by the need to sound cleverer than anyone else.  The backlash that I got from that was amusing to say the least.  Anyone who knows me, or who reads here, will be fully aware that I do not take life too seriously.  I can't.  If I did, I'd end up in the local mental hospital, and that's not fair on everyone else who has supported me through so much.  No surrender, and so forth.  I was very lighthearted in my responses, because this was all on Twitter, and let's face it, it's 144 characters of my own opinion.

The trouble is, that unless I agreed with the writer, and applauded her, and said nothing bad about her, I was not allowed to have an opinion.  I didn't argue with what she said - if that was how she felt, it was how she felt.  I may or may not feel that she is wrong and that her whole premise smacks of wounded pride and therefore being the aggressor to ensure it doesn't happen again, but that's up to her.  Opinion is opinion.

In my opinion, her style of writing was jargon-crammed and heading towards jingoistic, and in effect, she lost part of her message with her need to use words that were only understood by the radical feminist movement.  It would be a bit like if I, in my job as a primary teacher, decided that because I hold a literacy degree (part of which was in feminist literature) decided to teach all of my 6/7yr olds at degree level.  Nobody would learn anything and the message would be lost.

Now, of the responses that I got, several were rude and condescending, of the "Oh, it's clearly gone over your head, stupid you" type.  Several were of the "How dare you say she's not a good writer, worship her as we all do" type, and one was someone who was willing to respond to a request for clarification with a useful, in context, example of the words.  Thankyou @Mhari _McAlpine.

This was what she said.  "Homophobia is an active dislike/fear; heteronormativity is a passive dismissal of the other."

I asked if that meant I was heteroambivalent, as to be honest, what people do in their own sex lives is entirely up to them.

She answered with Heteronormative is more about the assumption that people are attracted to the opposite sex.  A privileging of  heterosexuality over homosexuality, say assuming that a womans partner is a man.  Heteronormativity is the idea that only people who actively say "I am gay/bi" ect are not straight and it sets up an assumption that the proper way to do sexuality is heterosexuality and that anyone who isn't heterosexual is deviant."

That is a clear, concise, helpful definition, provided by someone being helpful, unlike anyone else involved, and indeed anyone else on Flavia's timeline, who took the idea that the writing was full of jargon as an opportunity to say that people like me were too stupid to read it.  (But then I got accused of insulting her, which I didn't, but whatever lol!)

So what do I think?  Well, I don't give a monkeys what anyone else does, who they fancy, if they don't do it, do it 19 times a day, do it with 7 partners, do it with 1, do it with boys or girls or a combination. (I draw the line at children and animals, obviously)  I care who *I* do it with, and why, and so on, because it's my business.  But since when did it become my business to know what anyone else was up to?  Since when is it anyone else's right to tell me what I have to think about when it comes to acknowledging that other people have sex in various combinations, that I have to appreciate the particular combination that they have, consider it, embrace it, grok it (10 points if you get the literary reference) and make a judgement about that person based upon it.  All I wanted was the recipe for Thousand Layer lasagne.

If I read a food blog, and I do read several, I do it because I want to know about the food.  I'm not desperately keen to know who they cooked it for, and I haven't been since I stopped reading weaning books for the Adorable Child.  I revived my interest in who it was cooked for when he was intolerant of dairy, because I needed recipes and people who had the same lifestyle as he did.  It had nothing to do with sex, and more to do with sick.  I suspect that some on Flavia's site would argue that I am ignoring the issue, and I am, because it isn't relevant to what I want to know.

Am I a feminist?  I don't know.  I don't think about it.  I've never felt oppressed.  I own my own home, I can do anything the average man can do.  Yesterday I finished clearing my own garden, using *shock horror* a saw! (I took a  couple of 20ft trees down, nothing major!) This was after using power tools to sand the rust from the poles for the bunks for my beloved camper van, and repainting them with smoothrite, and knowing which thinners to use to wash out the brush.  In the evening I cooked tea for us all, and then did some cross-stitching.  Perhaps I am all things lol!  I am proud of what some would dismiss as my skills at womens work, done because they needed doing and for the enrichment of my family.  I am proud of my more manly skills, done because they needed doing and for the enrichment of my family.  I am proud of the bits I did just for me.

As for being kept in my place, I don't feel that Jamie Oliver does that, nor does he use his family so to do.  Do I feel that Delia does that? Nope.  Nigella? Nope. Going right back as far as Fanny Craddock and as recently as Lisa Faulkner, I have not felt either repressed or emancipated by a female or male tv chef. (inadequate in a cooking sense, yes, but then I'm not a brilliant cook!)

I am saddened in some respects that I got caught in a twitter storm, but I appreciate what I have had the opportunity to think about.  Sometimes we all need to think a bit more, and ridicule a bit less if we want to get our point across.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so don't mock the spelling and I'll be back later to sort the layout!