Am I the only that finds it a bit ironic that the restaurant that has been criticized as the culinary culprit in the breakdown of the American family has returned to traditional gender roles in their advertisements? Or at least traditional gender expectations? Yes, McDonalds has been pointed out in the lineup as being many families' route, or rather escape, from having home-cooked meals around the dinner table as stable, nuclear family ought to be doing. I do not mean to single out McDonalds as if those who run the company orchestrated this phenomenon by themselves. But given the general ratchet effect that has taken effect in the number of activities we cram into a single, 24 hour period and changing expectations of members of society as whole, fast food restaurants in general have been seen as enablers of this decline. And when you're the biggest and baddest bully of them all, you tend to take the rap more so than the others.
So what is this post about? Well, my apple pie wrapper pictured above. The apple pie has been a staple and trademark American food since the days of our grandparents. You may recall the old saying, "As American as apple pie." Though mostly a white, middle class story, it did not stay within this demographic group alone. It was not only a gastronomic creation; it was a symbol of American domestic life for many years, both here and abroad. Many home economics books of yore typically employed different depictions of the apple pie on their covers while inside they outlined how women ought to fill their roles of wife, mother, and homebody. I took my favorite oldest niece (our running joke as I only have two nieces and she's the oldest. Get it? Good) to McDonald's for lunch when I was in Miami. We both got apple pies and I saw the wrapper. And I was like, wow. Seriously. "Mommy didn't have time." Really. Kind of pissed me off: I'm not lovin' it.
The kitchen, even in the advertisement for the quintessential fast food restaurant, remains the woman's domain. In fact, one may can interpret the reading as sanctioning women for bring to busy. Though some conservatives, as I say above, demonized these restaurants for allowing women to spend even less time at home, and especially in the kitchen, McDonalds and traditionalists seem to be of one mind. McDonald's has not gone as far as the old saying, "A woman's place is to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen," but the general picture, I argue, is still there.
As a practical matter, it takes time to bake an apple pie when you do it right. But, as this advertisement suggests, let's put a child and/or husband not having solely one on mommy.
This post is not meant to be particularly earth-shattering. Rather, it fits with my general thinking about how reified our thinking about gender roles and expectations are and how best are we to continue moving forward in contesting, blurring, and crossing these boundaries. Personally, I feel that there is still much work to be done. However, I know that this is preaching to the choir members who also serve on the usher board on alternative Sundays and volunteer for the Sheppard's care ministry (to use and extend that old adage). In commenting on my post "How Not So Far We've Come: (Still) "Doing Gender"" where I discuss the gendered picture on baby changing stations in bathrooms, one of our more insightful readers said that things will change only when men start to care. I partially agree with her. I think that things will change when both men and women no longer take pictures, phrases, or depictions like these for granted.