Monday, March 21, 2016

On Bake Sales

So I'm finally a Cranky Cantabridgian.  Ok, so I don't really live in Cambridge, though I can see it from my house.  My crossover into true crankdom occurred yesterday, when my boys asked me to participate in a fund-raising Bake Sale for team sweat-shirts.

I don't mind baking, giving my time and resources when it's for someone who will appreciate it.  I bake bread weekly, and I bake other things like cookies, soft pretzels, pies, cakes, and brownies at least a dozen times a year for my family and friends.  But a Bake Sale is considered a "fund-raiser" because of the implication that $1 per brownie represents free money to those holding the sale.  It's only free money, though, if you don't pay attention.

Bake Sales, I told my kids are anti-feminist and illogical.  Here is why:

1. It's how they used to oppress us.  This is analogous to why some Orthodox parents get the heebie-jeebies about Jewish kids celebrating Halloween or even St.Valentine's Day ("it used to be the occasion for a pogrom!").  I have to admit that the dark-house cowering on October 31st, afraid of petty vandalism, gives modern relevance to their point of view.

During second-wave feminism, advocates for stay-at-home-motherhood were known for judging employed women by whether their volunteer contributions were home-made, beautiful, etc. - in short, whether the cookies, as proxies for mothering, were up to par.  I offered to buy Oreos for the event, but my kids seemed to think that only home-made items would be acceptable.  And that's why it's oppressive.

2. The idea of bringing in "free" baked goods devalues what I spend on ingredients.  In our home, we try to buy high quality food, including good vanilla extract, high-end chocolate, and so forth.  I'm unwilling either to consider this food disposable, or to support agro-industry buying inferior products for a volunteer project.

3. The idea of bringing in "free" baked goods devalues my time.  When I do freelance work, I am paid between $100-$200 per hour.  If someone wants to cut into my family time, I would require even a higher hourly wage.  This raises the labor cost of a pan of brownies somewhere into the range of the price of a medium-good bottle of Scotch.  Can you imagine requesting that each kid bring in a $150 bottle of Scotch for a fund-raiser?  I understand the class implications of this objection - but everyone involved in the story is of the same socioeconomic group.

4. No one needs more baked goods.  There's already enough fat-shaming in this world, so I won't belabor the point, but the intended Bake Sale customers have access to plenty of other, healthier calories in their lives.

This topic reminds me tangentially of when I was part of a discussion about "reasons to breastfeed" on a mothering listserv years ago.  There are many reasons to breastfeed babies, and I nursed each of mine until age 3yo.  However, it is an anti-woman claim that "breastfeeding is free".  Breastfeeding is expensive in time and energy and effort - and the choice to breastfeed should be acknowledged as choosing to pay a high price for something very worthwhile.

Let me close in gratitude that I do live close to Cambridge, in a community where we can discuss and ponder issues of whether brownies are appropriate.  I read a set of incredibly disturbing articles in the New York Times about how ISIS/ISIL/Daesh is encouraging the violent sexual abuse of women.  I can't do much except publicize that this is happening, and hope very much that our national and global leadership can put a halt to this kind of oppression, wherever it occurs in the world.

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