HCCW: Cooking Up a Second Act: Narratives of Entrepreneurial Domesticity in a Post-Feminist Neoliberal Economy

Kimberly Nettles-Barcelon
Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies
UC Davis

Situated within post-feminist debates about women’s work within and outside the home, this project examines the rise of middle- and upper-middle class women food entrepreneurs. Drawing primarily on narratives appearing in mainstream women’s magazines (e.g. O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, MORE Magazine, The Martha Stewart Living Magazine, and Where Women Cook) and book-length culinary memoirs published within the last decade, this project explores how these women’s embrace of food work as both joyful expression of creativity and critique of still-dominant modalities of work and family engagements is represented as a sort of new women’s movement. Their celebratory tone belies the degree to which the individual choices of these women to “find themselves” through food work misses both the inequalities within food production and masks the larger economic crisis that often fuels reinvention. Critically and sadly, featuring this new “creative class” of women food workers does not make more visible the work of women of color and immigrant women often laboring in the very kitchens of the middle- and upper-middle class women food entrepreneurs whose stories receive glossy media coverage. The project seeks to illustrate the persistent tensions between feminism (as a knowledge project) and the divides of so-called productive/reproductive labor in the aftermath of the second wave of the feminist movement, and to examine how the debate in popular culture about the nature of women’s work has intensified as our economy both contracts and expands in critical areas.