Monday, December 19, 2011

So who's really slagging who?

They look so innocent.
Have you been following the whole bake sale kerfuffle?

First, you have to read Jennifer Steinhauer's story in the New York Times. If you don't have 7 minutes to spare, I'll offer a brief recap: People are bringing store-bought food to pot lucks and bake sales and Steinhauer is irritated:

"Nothing is quite as depressing as the modern bake sale, where amid the veritable celebration of poundcakes and misshapen cookies are the inevitable Ziploc bags filled with Oreos or perfectly formed bakery bought treats. In the countless sales I have attended over the years, I have been amazed by the number of packaged cookies, high-end cupcakes and impeccably round marzipan-covered confections that people plop down on the table, with no compunction, to be resold."

For the record, I think Steinhauer's tone could have been more diplomatic and I think that some of the people she quotes sound snotty. Moreover, I don't agree with her about pot lucks, another target of her disappointment. In my view, you can bring whatever you want to a pot luck, from a bucket of KFC to a homemade croquembouche, and everyone should say, thank you so much. With feeling. Acceptance and inclusiveness are hallmarks of the pot luck.

Bake sales are different. About bake sales, I wholeheartedly agree with Steinhauer. I don't think Oreos belong at a bake sale and I wouldn't buy them there. I'd rather just make a donation. I don't think anyone should ever be forced to contribute to a bake sale or guilted into it and if we can't drum up enough homemade treats from willing bakers, maybe we should scrap the tradition. I love a good bake sale and where's the fun when the merchandise is just repackaged from Ralph's? As Steinhauer puts it, "Look at it this way: You would not resell socks you bought at Macy’s on the art-sale crafts table. Respect the cookie!"

I saw nothing controversial about this statement.

Well, I am in a minority, at least if noise on the internet is an indicator. Over the last few days I've read many criticisms of Steinhauer's piece. The gist of most of them: she is scolding women who can't find time/can't afford/don't want to bake. And that her piece is sexist. Most critics have made lucid points even when I don't agree with them.

But in another category altogether are the vituperative Twitter and Facebook broadsides of the inimitable Ayelet Waldman, who went on a real tear after reading Steinhauer's essay. Some choice excerpts:

"This homemaker fetish is retrograde and anti-feminist and women like JENNIFER STEINHAUER are just PC, liberal Phyllis Schlaflys."


"When are these women going to figure out that this fetish for raising chickens and baking the perfect bundt cake is retrograde, oppressive, and nothing more than latter-day Phyllis Schlafley (sic) bullshit? You know what you don't have time for when you're obsessing over the candied lavender on your Christmas Cookies? Outrage over the political and economic crisis, that's what."


"Oh, I'm too busy baking and raising my own chickens for the fresh fresh eggs. I have no time to, um, work. Or be politically active."


But here's my favorite --  a real gem -- addressed to Steinhauer:

"Hey, you sanctimonious bitch, I have 4 kids, a fulltime job. I don't have time to bake cookies. Lucky you that you do."

It's not Jennifer Steinhauer who strikes me as the sanctimonious bitch.

First of all, I think Waldman needs to consistently spell "Schlafly" right if she's going to use that dated reference as often as she does. I know, it's a bear. But it just seems like good form for a chest-thumping "full-time job" writer to spell correctly in the same way that it's good form for a retro homemaking fetishist to, say, make the bed.

Second, I think it's hilarious that Waldman, a stay-at-home novelist who tweets endlessly about her weight, Devachan haircuts, and where she buys toilet paper (amazon), is sounding off self-righteously about her super-busy life to Jennifer Steinhauer. Jennifer Steinhauer! Who has 2 children, contributes to bake sales, writes a weekly column for Food52 and in her spare time covers Congress for the New York TimesYes, she really needs to get a life. Good one, Ayelet.

But what really impresses me about these tweets is how Waldman is not just going after Steinhauer's mildly controversial piece. She's going after all us twitty bundt cake bakers and candied lavender fans.

I lost sleep over this for reasons I didn't understand until I got up in the morning and realized I felt personally offended. Baking has now officially been dragged into the stupid Mommy Wars! Great. I don't judge people who do not bake. I hope this is abundantly clear in my blog and in my book and in person. I do not judge people even to the minor degree that Steinhauer does in her article. And Waldman is judging me -- for baking! Except "judging" is too polite a word. "Sliming" is better. Slimed by a professional mean girl for a totally innocuous hobby.

Since then, I've thought far too much about bake sales, baking, the hateful, pointless Mommy Wars and Ayelet Waldman. Herewith, once and for all and hopefully never again, my thoughts:

I've been a parent in the California public school system for 16 child years. Bake sales are few and far between, at least in our district. We are asked regularly for money, rarely for brownies. Would that the two were reversed! In any case, all solicitations are gender neutral so there's no reason women should feel they are being unfairly targeted for bake sale bondage. We're not. No one is ever forced to contribute and anyone can bake those cookies -- Dad, the kids, Mom. You can buy the cookies if you want, though it's sort of a bummer for the customer, at least when the customer is me.

Still, it's true, I have observed, that females do most of the baking and "manning" of the bake sale booth. I've worked the bake sale booth myself. I've brought cookies. My husband? Never.

And yet it doesn't seem terribly sexist or unjust because it is also true that after every school walkathon and fundraiser I've attended, it is men -- dads -- who spend the remainder of their Sunday afternoon picking up grimy half-eaten hamburgers and smashed cupcakes off the basketball court, dragging around Hefty bags, loading dumpsters. You know what I'd love to see? A pissy internet throwdown between downtrodden dads who set up chairs for the silent auction and cool, ballsy dads who tweet that they're too busy with their fulltime jobs and political activism. Maybe Michael Chabon could weigh in.

Honestly. Bake sale duty has taken about 2 hours per year, if that, out of my precious life.  My husband has spent many times that doing the various gross janitorial jobs the men get stuck with. I'd rather bake. Even if I didn't like to bake, I'd rather bake.

But I do like to bake. You don't? That's fine with me. My mom didn't bake unless she really had to, and when she did she used a mix. But baking is a little spot of grace in my life -- which isn't always full of grace. It's how I relax, a way I show affection and share. I truly like to bake for other people, including people who go to bake sales, and I expect nothing in return -- except, I suppose, a modicum of respect. I always thought it was a nice thing about me, the baking, something to value. I still do. So you can shove it, Ayelet Waldman. And you can shut up about the chickens, too.

50 comments:

  1. I just read this post out loud to my husband, and at the end, we applauded, then shouted, "She's so awesome!" and raised our fists in the air in victory.

    You are full of grace -- and vinegar -- and I think the world of you and your writing.

    I've never tasted your baking, but if it's half as good as your writing, your baked treats are worth every calorie!

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  2. Hear, hear! What a refreshingly reasonable and assertive (not aggressive!) argument. Thanks!

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  3. One of the greatest empowerments in this world is to be able to feed yourself and those you love with minimal corporate help. I think a woman who can do that is making a very positive feminist and political statement.

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  4. Wow. I was ignorant of The Great Bake Sale Controversy until now. The marketing appeal of a bake sale is to buy a cookie I can't buy at the supermarket. I see nothing wrong with the belief that bake sale offerings should be homemade.

    That second lady sounds like a bitter psycho. Baking makes me happy. How odd to pose it as a pastime of the privileged. Homemade goods are magic in that the sum is greater than the parts, and the parts are usually pretty cheap/things you've already got in the house. If you can find time to watch a tv show or two a week, you could bake, if you wanted to. If you don't want to, that's fine too. Odd. Very odd.

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  5. I thought the point of feminism is that we all get to CHOOSE what we want to do, that all options are open to us. If we want to bake, we bake. If we want to work (or have to work), we work and get paid equally. If we want to stay-at-home with children, we stay at home. Most of all, we SUPPORT every woman's choice.

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  6. Well said. My mom, too, has never been much of a cook much less a baker. You can even ask my daughter (who is 4) "honey, who cooks at DeeDee's house?" and her answer is "Papa." I think that we all know what it feels like to say yes to too many things, feeling slightly put upon and stressed about it. But I think the answer to this lies not in labeling the thing (and by extension those who enjoy such a thing) as odious but in simply learning to say no to those things that you find abominable. And then let it go.

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  7. I second Kristin.

    But I like baking, so obviously I don't know how things are supposed to work in the egalitarian, post-sexual revolution world. I see now that all women are equal, but some women are more equal than others.

    Which ones are more equal depends on whom you're talking to, I guess.

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  8. I love this post so much. Sounds like Ayalet Waldman needs to get her dosage adjusted. And is she all done worrying about the political and economic crisis, so therefore has free time for all this mud slinging and name calling?

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  9. i love what Kristin said- we're supposed to be able to CHOOSE what we do w/our lives, right? there aren't really assume male and female roles/occupations now, but how dare we CHOOSE to bake or do traditionally "female" things- or have lots of kids, another argument that gets tricky.

    anyway, LOVED this post- particularly the bit about the spelling! there's really no excuse for poor spelling, especially w/Google to check names, and honestly, spell check! ;)

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  10. Thank you for helping crystallize why Ayelet Waldman bugs me so much. Not that I've given her too much thought, but she's at least been someone I've read occasionally. She really is ridiculous.

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  11. I just bought your book last night. I love it! After I finished reading it (yes I read the entire thing in one evening), I started in on your blog.

    This is a great post. You made me laugh until I cried and perfectly described my sentiment on baking.

    Thanks for an enjoyable evening and morning.

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  12. I think the article was a bit out of line, but I agree with everything you've said here. I think the biggest issue I had with the original article was that it gave the same old mommy crowd a jumping off point to say, "if you don't have time to bake a few cookies you must not love your kids."

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  13. I guess I'll be the voice of dissent here.
    First, I think you too lightly dismiss the lopsided effect of bakesales, etc., on women. Stats show that women still do far more of the work when it comes to school and community-related events.
    Second, I applaud those women who choose to buy cookies rather than either 1) bail on their commitment to bring something; or 2) stay up until 2am just to satisfy those who prefer homemade (or to avoid being judged by those with Steinhauser's attitude). I've always been annoyed at the women who try to "do it all," making themselves and everyone else miserable in the process. Men generally don't make this mistake, and women should learn from their example.
    Third, why do you assume that homemade is better than store bought? Your homemade is, but mine probably isn't. The whole point of a bake sale is to sell stuff, and I'm guessing that my store bought cookies will sell out quicker than my homemade pumpkin bread (especially if the consumers are elementary school children).
    Just my 2 cents . . .

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  14. When people say they don't have time to do this or that, and then I hear them talking about some TV program, I feel compelled to point out that they have the time but are choosing to spend it on TV. Unless you are Hilary Clinton, you probably have time to churn out a few cookies. As for being criticized for enjoying baking, I find those people to be just another version of people who carp about women who don't stay home with their kids but have a job outside the home. It is not worth my time arguing with the liberals or conservatives, both of whom should just mind their own business(es). My husband is a very accomplished tailor (seamster?) and gets a similar sort of interference from people who think real men don't know how to sew. The very best thing about getting older is you stop caring what anyone else thinks and just live the way that suits you best.

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  15. Kudos to you dear lady. I just came across your blog on your NPR interview last week, and I'm now totally hooked.
    But really, feminism is about doing what makes you happy and fulfilled. I love all of the pretty, crafty, baking, gardening, chicken raising fun, but guess what? I'm bi and boyish barber, while my (male) fiancee is a baker, and even though we're insanely busy, things taste better when you make them yourself, so we do. Gender roles schmender roles.
    These sanctimonious people can eat it. Literally.
    Love you, keep doing what you do!
    http://leavemetomyprojects.blogspot.com/p/welcome.html

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  16. I just think it is odd that you would bring Oreos to a bake sale. Why not just give cash, would they not accept it? And how long does it take to mix up some tollhouse cookies and push them into a bar pan? I have three kids, all boys, two of whom are twins and this is the compromise I made for baking for sales or requests.

    What is annoying me and I should probably tell myself to get over it, is the request for bakery after the many concerts at my younger kids high school. The last time, I made the time to roll out Christmas shapes (OK the twins did most of the cookie stamping) but I iced each one and made two other kinds of cookies. There had to be 100 kids in the various choirs and there was my tray, two 2-liters of pop and almost nothing else. There was nothing left in about 30 seconds and this lovely repast was "hosted" by the senior class. As my kids are freshmen, I said "Why am I baking again?"

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  17. I do think bake sales should be bake sales and not buy sales. Similarly, if you go to someone's house for Thanksgiving, and especially if the host is a pastry chef, and you offer to bring pie, that pie should be home made. Otherwise, just offer to bring wine. I had a Thanksgiving guest bring two Costco pies to my feast. I had to bake my daughter a make-up pie later. Oh, and if you offer to bring a salad, bring the thing already assembled in a bowl. Do not show up with a bag of lettuce and a cucumber and bumble around the kitchen asking where your host keeps a cutting board and salad bowls and searching the fridge for bottled dressing.

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  18. Amen, Tipsy, amen.

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  19. Re: Amanda

    According to Nielsen, as of 2011, women between the ages of 18 and 49 (the prime bake sale demographic) watch an average of 150 hours of television per month (males of the same age watch less than 140 hours a month). That's nearly 5 hours of TV watching every day. Given that, I don't see why women, in order to bake something for a bake sale, would have to stay up until 2 a.m. to bake. Couldn't they just squeeze in an hour of baking somewhere during those 5 hours? Surely watching only 4 hours of TV per day is not too big of a sacrifice?

    And it's not like bake sales are a weekly occurrence. Maybe once, twice a year at most? Is that really a sacrifice, even for working mothers with full-time jobs? Does spending 1 to 2 hours a year baking for a bake sale really qualify as "trying to do it all"?

    Bake sales are traditionally all about homemade goods. It not only shows more personal effort in helping to make a fund-raising event successful, it's also more thrifty -- as our own Tipsy BAKER has proven. Yeah, your cookies may look (and taste) less professional than a bakery's, but who wants perfect bakery-made cookies at a bake sale? That goes against the whole notion of bake sales. And why for god's sake would you "applaud" someone -- woman or man -- for bringing a package of Oreos to a bake sale? It's hardly heroic.

    Too many traditions are being diluted and dumbed down through commercialization. It's depressing to think that bake sales are losing their original purpose and charm all because people are just too "busy."

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  20. Judging others - why is it such a thrill, not just in the media, but in our workplaces and neighborhoods? I loved your post and share your frustration. And I believe that those who judge publicly deserve to have their own choices scrutinized.

    And the guy that said women watch 150 hours of TV a month and so we could easily get off our butts and make cookies - really? This is your contribution?

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  21. This is the first time I've ever heard of your blog, but already I love you SO MUCH!!

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  22. It always frustrates me when folks think that domestic pursuits and interest/participation/concern in economics/politics/world events are mutually exclusive.

    Why can't we enjoy keeping a nice home, cooking for our family and friends, sewing, baking AND discuss politics, be cognizant of the world around us, and hold a full-time job (it's even called a career for some of us)?

    I've had two careers in my life. The first was for a large company where I made bucket-loads of money and traveled at least 70% of the time. When my husband and I decided to start a family, I didn't want to travel that much so I quit and started working part-time in the evening at our local library. I was home with our kids during the day, my husband had the evening shift.

    That part-time gig at the library soon became my second career. I've finished my second Master's degree and am back to working full-time now that my kids are in school.

    Should I have my feminist card stripped? Some may think so. But, for me and my family, this was a perfect solution and is what I WANTED to do.

    And, oh yes, all this time, I've managed to cook, bake, clean, sew, knit, AND remain aware of and involved in what's going on in the world around me.

    I look to the likes of Julia Child as inspiration. After all, she was a great cook/chef, but she also worked for the OSS in WWII. Also? I don't think she would have taken Oreos to a bake sale.

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  23. My school district only allows home made treats into the building if the person making them has a food handler's license. The policy makes me sad for so many reasons not least of which is the fundraising power and community building of a bake sale. Instead, our children are out there hawking some corporation's buckets of pre-made cookie and brownie dough. Ugh.

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  24. re: Karen

    >> And the guy that said women watch 150 hours of TV a month and so we could easily get off our butts and make cookies - really? This is your contribution?>

    I'm the guy, and yes, really, that was my contribution. I was responding to a poster who made it sound like baking cookies once or twice a year was akin to domestic slavery.

    My half-serious point about the 5 hours of TV watching per day (and I pointed out that men watch about as much) was that I find it mind-boggling that setting aside an hour or two *a year* to help contribute to a fundraiser could be considered a great sacrifice of time or effort for anyone -- man or a woman.

    The snarky bit about "get off our butts" is your own defensive interpretation.

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  25. Wow, way to step in it at Christmas!
    I have done both. When I can, I love to bake for Bake Sales, and the Nutella cupcakes suggested by Food52 are excellent for the occasion.
    I have also sent Oreos in cute baggies because for some kids, whose parents rarely buy Oreos (my kids would be included in this category), it is a huge hit. If timing is tough for me, and I can buy a $3 box of Oreos and a $1 box of baggies and the library/school can sell them for fifty cents a bag and make $15, that is an excellent return on investment for all involved. I do feel guilty when it's all my foodie friends' kids buying the Oreos, but such is life.
    We have also been involved in a school similar to Anonymous', where due to allergies, only store baked treats with ingredient lists are allowed. That makes me sad too, but after the allergy list in my son's first grade class (including, but not limited to, chocolate, dairy, eggs, shellfish, shiitake mushrooms, and ranch dressing--separate from dairy), I understood.
    It's a big world out there. It's hard to know where folks are coming from. And even those of us who bring Oreos--ESPECIALLY those of us who bring Oreos--are thrilled and grateful for those who bake.
    Merry Christmas, TB.

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  26. Friends from CA texted last night to tell me they had seen my Tweet and I was so "hilarious." I was flattered. But what Tweet I asked? Um, the one about my friend's piece on the bake sale! She read it aloud to him and they laughed and laughed. So in fact, YOU are hilarious and I was just the conduit. Pleased to be though...

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  27. I was raised by a single mom, 3 kids, barely any support once the man decided responsibilty was too much and who also worked 60+ hours most week. Not only did she manage to contribute to many a bake sale, with homemade treats, but most of my friends wanted to be at my house for all the goodies she was so well known for (or the lack of parental supervision, still trying to figure that out...). She was also often found setting out the chairs and lugging the trash at those events, making up for the lack of man contribution. With 3 of my own, I still look back and wonder how in the heck she did it all. She loved her family and her community more than life itself.

    I think if cooking is what brings you joy and you can consider it a minute to yourself, rather than a chore, then bake sales are not that big of a deal. If tucking yourself away in a corner on a laptop, posting ridiculous comments and ignoring the rest of the world is your way to get a minute to yourself, then don't be mad when the rest of the world complains.

    I found this blog looking for a Christmas gift for a foodie and found the book and the blog, linking to the NYT article. I will be forwarding this to my mother who will no doubt get a kick out of it. She would be appalled and likely disown us if we wouldn't take an hour out of our time (at MOST) to contribute to our various communities when asked. EVen at once a month, if I can find time for all the other crap I do, it wouldn't be too much.

    To the reader who will send Oreo's in a bag *gasp*, try making Oreo balls sometime...the kids will love you double for it.

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  28. OMG, oreo balls ARE life changing...and while I like to cook and bake, I really don't like bakery, so if I'm saying that you know these have to be good.

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  29. Is there a particular recipe for oreo balls that you recommend? I think we're going to make this one: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Candy/OreoTruffleBalls.htm

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  30. That's the same recipe I have used, except you can also roll in melted white chocolate, which is also good. And you also need to use a standard size food processor for the mixing process, it does not work as well in the blender.

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  31. I just bought your book for my husband for Christmas, found reference to your blog inside and checked it out. Love this article. I have been a stay at home mom for many years, bake and cook from scratch, yes, raised chickens and prefer my career as a homemaker over any other. I recently started working full time while my husband returns to school and I certainly have more understanding for the full time working moms who don't do it all from scratch. I appreciate your comments on this subject, couldn't agree more. Women have been told for years that staying at home keeps them down and is anti-feminist. What baloney! If a woman wants to work outside the home go for it, but I'll take the freedom and joy of staying at home over being chained to a desk and being told when I can take my coffee break any day.As for baking being sexist, my husband bakes and is good enough that at the potlucks people ask what he brought and make a beeline for it. It's always the first thing gone. Neither of us would ever entertain the thought of taking store bought food to a bake sale.

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  32. I'm a surgeon and Associate Professor at a teaching hospital - and I love to bake & share the goodies! The concept that this is anti-feminist just because it is traditionally female is ridiculous - like throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I worked hard to get where I am in a very male dominated field; I see no incongruity here.

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  33. Wonderful post, Jennifer. I just received your book for Christmas (it was on my list!), and this was my first visit to your blog. I'm so happy I found you. I always enjoyed your work for EW.

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  34. 1) I've been in the public school system for 4 years and have never been asked to contribute to a bake sale.

    2) Good thing because I didn't know that you couldn't bring packaged goods.

    3) I did participate in a church cookie exchange and discovered that you're not really supposed to bring cookies made from the frozen dough kids sell door to door. (What else am I supposed to do with the dough then?!) I guess I cheated the people who took my cookies.

    4) Despite my general cluelessness regarding baking social norms, I *did* feel guilty regarding a project my daughter had in kindergarten. Her teacher asked us to send in family recipes to be compiled into a class cookbook. I submitted my grandmother's Chinese potsticker recipe. A week later, the teacher announced a party where we were supposed to make the food and bring it to class. There was no way that I had time to hand fold enough potstickers for 30 kids and have them pan fried/steamed by 8am. So I bought frozen potstickers from Trader Joe's. I did feel guilty though, especially when some of the volunteer Moms told me how good they were.

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  35. The REAL feminist stance is that the onus should not be on the mother to participate in bake sales. It should be a great way for parents of any gender who love to bake to contribute. Non-bakers, save your energy for another activity or else make a cash donation. Do not sully the bake sale table with your hastily unwrapped storebought wares.

    Waldman is guilty of a subtle but insidious and common form of sexism here...dismissing something as of no value because it is coded as a female activity in our society.

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  36. I agree with most of the comments here, especially the ones that say live and let live. I've done most every combination of single, married, with and without kids, working outside the home or not. Some days I know I wouldn't have it in me to bake - other days, I'd be sending cream napoleons. Does not strictly depend on the level of paid work but on a variety of things. Thank God my kids are old enough now to turn out a batch of cookies themselves.

    But mostly I just wanted to say hi Tipsy from sunny New Zealand. I have spent the the last two days recovering from a cold and catching up on the last three years of your splendid blog and got to that sad place where there is no 'newer post' link. But at last I feel like I can join in the conversation :)

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  37. Tips, thanks for writing so candidly about this. I for one have struggled internally with sometimes feeling that I have "let down" my gender by choosing to stop working and start cooking ... and that's nothing compared to the "disappointment vibes" or just plain looks of disgust I get from others re: my decision (including family members, believe it or not).

    Like you, cooking gives me something -- peace, a creative outlet, whatever -- that working didn't. "Spot of grace" was simply spot on -- do you mind if I make it my mantra?

    Keep up the good work!

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  38. OH my. Do people really assume that the bake sale stuff has to be baked by "Mom", and that the only acceptable things provided need to be home baked? Personally I could care less what you provide- the idea behind the sale (generally speaking) is to raise funds for a worthy cause. Breaking it down into gender roles and homemade vs store bought is pointless. I would be looking for homemade treats, but I know other parents that would prefer the store bought type. Whatever floats your boat! I had not heard of the The Great Bake Sale Controversy until I stumbled upon your blog- thank you so much for defending the bakers!

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  39. Sure, the post is great and your perspective is right on, but it's your use of "vituperative" that really deserves props. :-)

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  40. I had a boyfriend in high school who’s mom was a full time corporate lawyer and she always had fresh baked cookies in the house. Contrast that with my own mom who didn’t work and never baked. In my experience baking is not about time its about enjoyment, if you enjoy baking you find time to do it.

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  41. I feel so sorry for people who can't cook or who think that preparing food at home is a waste of time. Cooking is essential to health. It is simply not possible to subsist on a diet of takeout, rotisserie chicken, frozen dinners, and processed food and expect to live in a vibrant, energetic body.
    To me, baking is the edible intersection of art, science, and love. I'm usually quite a fan of Ayelet's but she got it wrong this time.

    Respect the cookie!

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  42. I think you strike the right tone in your response, though I disagree about bake sales. Along with potlucks I think we should just thank everyone for contributing what they can at any given time. As far as the other two authors and some of the comments go, yikes. Judgy McJudgerson and family in the house. When I feel superior to someone I remind myself I have NO idea what there life is like or what they are going through. Like watching TV automatically means a woman(person) is lazy or wasting time? Like bringing store bought cookies means someone doesn't care about their kids or isn't trying hard enough? I've been through some horrendously difficult times in my life, times when holding myself and my family together was about all I could manage. I took shortcuts. Bringing store bought cookies isn't the shortcut I took, because I like to bake, but I took other short cuts. Now I make candied lavender to decorate my cookies (or some domestic equivalent) but that also doesn't mean I don't contribute to society (I happen to run my own business as a media consultant for organizations working to address the political and economic crisis--take THAT Ayelet Waldman). Canning, making my own yogurt, tending my garden, and uber-domesticity centers me after days of soul wrenching political trench warfare.
    My point is, I know some folks make their living judging, and for the rest of us it sometimes helps placate our own sense of "not good enough" but we really cannot know what is going on in another persons life. Judging them for bringing oreos to a bake sale, or for bringing home made thumbprint cookies topped with jam they made from the berries they picked and canned this summer--its pointless. And frankly, my heart breaks when I see the oreos. That parent (I've seen kids buy the cookies too when a parent is too dysfunctional to manage) wanted to contribute to their child's school bake sale. I guarantee you there is a good chance someone bringing oreos couldn't afford the bakery treats. Don't you think they KNOW you are judging them? Don't you think they worry about their child feeling not good enough?? Wouldn't it be better if we just said "thank you so much for taking the time to contribute to this effort to raise money for you child's school" to everyone who contributes, regardless of whether WE think it's adequate.

    (also, PS. got your book for Christmas--I bought it for myself!--read it cover to cover. Already made the yogurt and the bread. <3)

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  43. I don't get sucked into the bakesale madness very often, and I'm a dedicated baker. But my kids (being gluten-free) can't have most of the stuff being offered. Conversely, GF baked goods aren't exactly "in demand" with the non-GF crowd. So... there you are.

    Whether it's Oreos or Sprinkles cupcakes... it just seems to go against the grain.

    What I DON'T get is why people have such trouble saying, "Can't help with this one, catch me next time." Not EVERYBODY needs to contribute to EVERY fundraiser/activity/etc. If it's not your bag, it's not your bag.

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  44. ok, it is 11:15 at night, I get to make pizza shells for my loving family now (as I have been cruising facebook since 10:45 and avoiding my responsibilities) and the pizza shells have to be made and cooked now since I won't be home until after 6 tomorrow so my dear loving Mr. P gets to make the pizzas. he is asleep now, as are the kids, as our lives are all skew jiff - and there is Never Ever ever any resentment in this house when baking happens. but right now I am feeling a bit grumpy about procrastination! ;-)

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  45. I may be alone in my thinking, but I don't think that the real issue is bake sales. Waldman strikes me as one of those girls from junior high who would trash talk another girl because she really felt insecure about herself. I think that this woman's real issue is that she feels like she doesn't measure up to some standard in her own mind and so takes it out on those that she feels are "outperforming" her in some way. Which is really quite sad.

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  46. Love it!! I don't have kids yet but I do bake & have chickens. When I do have kids, I will still bake & have a multitude of pets. Yes, it will be busy, yes my priorities are bound to change as a Mom, but REALLY?? Perhaps that author needs to brush up on her time management skills. I wouldn't buy Oreo's at a bake sale! You might as well just ask for donations, I give heartily when we can afford to to all the boy/girl scouts in our area & volunteer with a bunch of groups as well. Maybe as a feminist I just don't have time for her bullcrap- people insisting it can't be done shouldn't interrupt those doing the impossible!!!

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  47. No matter whose side your on, it's always so sad to see people wasting precious energy on making themselves feel superior to someone else. Some women bake cookies, others attend rallies, many do both. It's so pointless to fight over who is better than who. Plus, it really frustrates me to see women who enjoy doing stereotypically female things get raked over the coals for being un-feminist. As a woman I'm expected to ovulate, and I do. I guess that makes me a bad feminist too. So silly.

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  48. Yes!! You absolutely rock. I got into a big Facebook kerfuffle over this with a friend who is a huge Waldman fan (as for me, I totally got where Steinhauer was coming from...including on potlucks, where I respectfully disagree with you).

    Thanks for an excellent post on this! :)

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  49. Thank you for this post! I read this article in the NYT and just assumed that it sparked a firestorm of protest but hadn't followed up on it. This is a great response - I love to bake too, and can't stand that my hobby is being dragged into the Mommy wars either. Love your blog! (new reader) -Gail

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  50. We don't have the concept of bake sales in Germany but being a 29 year old with hobbies like preserving, baking, gardening and animals I know what you mean.I'm not from a very political family (not that we don't have interest but we don't really participate) and what my father, a tree nursery man, tought me , was that our take on making the world a better place is to plant not only an apple tree but an apple orchard when the world goes down tomorrow. My political statement is preserving old time knowledge and I think cooking , baking and feeding your family goes with that, too. It's not interfering with feminism, it's not reactive it's a way to show love and have fun and try something new.
    Greetings, Susanne

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