Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had my mother, father, grandparents, and pretty much everyone in my life tell me that I need to learn how to cook. They told me to help them cook dinner, set the table in a proper manner, and clean up after the meal. Since I was young, I didn’t really have a choice but to do everything they said. However, I did everything with an eyeroll and a sigh of boredom. After a few family dinners of me stirring pots and placing plates strategically on the table, I noticed that my older brother Jordan didn’t have to help out at all. He was always just sitting with my dad and grandfather watching whatever was on TV while the women of the family worked away in the kitchen. Every now and then I would be sent to my dad to ask him to reach something from a high shelf, but other than that he didn’t do much to help make the dinner he was about to eat. I didn’t catch onto this for a few years, until I finally asked my mom why Jordan never had to help. Her response has stuck with me since I heard the words come out of her mouth: “Because he’s a boy, and you’re a girl. He does the boy things, and you do the girl things.”
That answer didn’t sit well with me. I remember being annoyed, and confused. I didn’t understand why cooking and cleaning were girl things, and what even qualified as boy things. From what I could tell, being a boy meant sitting on the couch until a female voice called out, “Dinner!” Then you moved over to the table. When I questioned her, my mom told me that Jordan would mow the lawn and shovel the snow when he was old enough, but right now I need to learn how to cook so I can feed my future husband and kids. Just writing this right now makes me want to call my mom and play her ***Flawless by Beyonce. Before, when I was told to help make dinner, I would blindly oblige and do whatever I was told to do. But now that I knew that I was being told to do so in order to feed the hypothetical future family I didn’t even want, there was no way I was partaking in that. Since then, the idea of being a mom-in-training irked me to my very core. Every time someone in my family suggested that I wouldn’t be able to find a husband without the ability of following a recipe, I shrugged and said that I would live a single life in a big home with a chef preparing my meals for me.
Now that I’m older, and understand how the world works better, I severely question the motive behind telling me that my role as a female is to clean the house, do the laundry, and make the meals. They never once told me that I need to learn to cook and clean so that I can be a functioning adult. No, they decided the best motivation would be telling me that if I don’t learn now, I will never find a man to marry me. The role of a woman in a household has changed drastically since my parents were kids. Back then, the mom made sure she had a drink ready for her husband when he finished work, and dinner was a mere 15 minutes away. I understand that this is how they were raised, and the ideas in their heads are ones that have been explicitly laid out to them for ever since they were young. But it shocks me that anyone would want to relay this message to young girls in today’s day and age. And it’s not just my family (I hope not, at least). Look at what toys are marketed to girls and what is marketed to boys: boys get monster trucks and remote control helicopters; girls get plastic kitchens and fake ovens.
From such a young age, girls are being told to get into the kitchen, learn how to cook, and get ready for a life of preparing meals for your husband and kids. But it’s time to show them that it’s okay to not like cooking, or not want a husband, or to be their own independent girl and woman instead of someone’s unpaid chef. We need our girls to realize that they are more than their gender, their race, their weight, and their ability to throw together a meal. They are a human being with an exponential amount of potential bursting at the seam. Raise the girls to know that they will find happiness, success, and love even if they can just barely make Kraft Dinner without burning it.
Hannah Schaffrath is a first year Public Relations student studying at Humber College in Toronto.