The Washington Post Asks: Does ‘Girl Dinner’ Portend ‘The End of the Patriarchy?’

News & Politics

The Washington Post is so “progressive” that even the Food section has to channel a feminist message. Social media sites have spotlighted something they call “Girl Dinner,” which is more like “girl snacks,” pictures of grapes and cheese and bread, something you eat when no one else is around. There’s nothing wrong with a woman enjoying solitude with whatever she wants to munch.

But Post writer Emily Heil went out and located experts to shift the narrative into abortion and male chauvinism. The headline was “Is Girl Dinner a simple nosh or the end of the patriarchy?”

Emily Contois, a media studies professor at the University of Tulsa who studies food and gender, likes the pure idea of Girl Dinner — that women can be freed by the expectation of society to nurture and provide for others, that they can enjoy the kind of self-indulgent “you do you” eating that men have long felt entitled to. “Especially in the early videos, there’s this lovely connection among women, this sort of like happy, open-mouthed grin of recognition and understanding a sort of camaraderie,” she says.

But the term might not be as innocent as it seems, she says — after all, we’re not living in the utopia of Greta Gerwig’s Barbieland. “Outside the patriarchy, ‘girl’ isn’t diminutive or derisive or condescending — ‘girl’ is complete and wonderful and fulfilled on her own terms,” Contois says. “But we are not in that place, right? Like, we are in a moment where in the United States women have fewer rights over their bodies than they’ve had for a really long time.

Does everything have to be “gendered”? Can’t a plate of grapes and cheese be gender-neutral? 

Contois wrote a book in 2020 titled Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture. You get more of the same in the Amazon reviews:

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A sharp-as-hell dissection of how cultural notions of masculinity and femininity are weaponized in the kitchen, the grocery store, the dinner table, and everywhere else. Fascinating, mordant, enraging, illuminating.”— Helen Rosner’s “Great Food-ish Nonfiction 2020”

“As a survey of a generation worth of food marketing and messaging, the book offers a useful overview of how corporations package food, identity, and gender norms for consumption. Perhaps even more valuable, and hopeful, is the closing section, ‘Dude, What Happened?’ which explores how the election of Donald Trump, the MeToo movement, and the pandemic have caused many of the companies with the most egregiously gendered approaches to food to seek more neutral, inclusive territory.” — Civil Eats

Some of this dialogue is amusing. Someone wanted to start the term “Husband Meal,” like “A grocery-store rotisserie chicken over the sink.” I can put away a couple of drumsticks over the sink, and save the white meat for….the “girl dinner.” Or the “wife meal.”

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