Holiday cookies aren’t a symbol of the patriarchy
You can tell a lot about someone by how they eat their gingerbread figures. Some torture them in warm milk, others dismember them, leaving only the head and torso, and others see them as a representation of the patriarchy.
Australia’s Organic Food & Wine Deli, in Melbourne, Australia has been in the news as of late with their “organic genderless gingerbread figures” which also happen to be vegan. Many news reports have been asking if this is, perhaps, the most politically correct cookie ever.
Although presented in the media as being one solitary issue, this story demonstrates two distinct concerns, one more pressing than the other.
First, as ridiculed by some, these cookies are both organic and vegan. As reported in The Independent on Oct. 21, “they are organic and vegan too, so this is really a cookie you can eat with peace of mind that its deliciousness is coming at a cost to no-one.” Trivializing such issues is disrespectful and potentially dangerous.
As pointed out by Concordia film studies major and vegan Kristi Kouchakji: “It’s not just about catering to political or ethical vegans, it’s also about accessibility for people with intolerances, allergies, or who keep Kosher.” She further points to personal experience of the children of friends who may “go into anaphylactic shock if they eat eggs.”
Kouchakji in not alone in these concerns. It should be noted that Concordia student-run organizations, such as The Hive Co-op and Café X, carry vegan foods.
It is perhaps the second aspect of this story that is most jarring. Store owner, Jeanette Taylor, has gone on record with The Herald Sun as stating that “it’s just a bit of fun and it’s more about not offending people by writing man”. Although presented as lighthearted, Taylor’s concern about offending a potential client is somewhat bizarre.
Anyone who has worked in retail for a long enough period of time will attest to the fact that it is impossible to please 100 per cent of customers. Undoubtedly, the naming of the product is due to a complaint or conversation where the “gender” of the gingerbread cookie, or similar item was discussed. However, this is ridiculous.
It should be acknowledged that the patriarchy does cause significant harm to both men and women. An example of this is the difference in pay earned in jobs traditionally held by women as opposed those held by men—an issue of concern in Quebec to this day. Further examples of the patriarchy at work may be seen in the social codification of gender norms, the instances of sexual violence towards women, and a variety of social injustices throughout time and cultures.
These larger issues should be addressed and worked on. Although an argument can be made that gingerbread men reinforce these problems, it would be difficult to make.
People are not that serious about gingerbread men. If they were, the fact that one is eating a representation of a human being would be problematic in itself.
Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, grab a glass of milk, and have a cookie.
If the gingerbread man is the embodiment of the patriarchy there is only one solution to it: bite its head off.