I grew up in the south. Chicken, pork chops, greens, macaroni and cheese, corn pudding, yams and hot-water cornbread were common dishes served in a southern home for Sunday dinner. And making a delectable homemade chess pie or peach cobbler for dessert would guarantee you a house full of family and friends.

Back in the day, women were expected to know how to cook. This philosophy is not only reserved to southerners, as it is an American view held by many. But growing up Black and female in the south was a sure fire way for men and women to expect you to know how to throw down. People assume southern women have accompanied their mothers, aunts and grandmothers in the kitchen since a child. Cooking, as a woman, is your duty. So society says.

Gender roles have shifted, however. Some women hold high-power careers while men stay at home with the children. Other couples have abandoned traditional marriage and nuclear families altogether. Dining out several nights a week is a popular trend among professional women who’d rather be constructing a marketing plan than cooking. Yet ever so often someone sparks a debate by implying “real women know how to cook.”

We can thank social media for exposing us to the over sharing of personal information. I have witnessed women brag about not knowing how to cook. And some of them take pride in being modern women who went on to obtain degrees (plural!) instead of learning to bake. I’ve also been no stranger to bearing witness to full-blown debates between women who could cook versus the women who couldn’t.

Be prepared for criticism if you’re a woman who can’t cook. Older women will school the younger ones on the importance of knowing how to cook for a man.

It makes no difference to me one way or the other what another woman does or doesn’t do in her kitchen. But I am curious as to if heteronormative gender roles will always be the norm. Will men always be expected to know how to change a tire, mow the grass, and fix a clogged sink? And will women always be expected to cook well- regularly, clean and do majority of the child rearing?

All heteronormative roles are not bad per se. But perhaps we need to start redefining gender roles. People who operate outside of the realms of those roles are typically met with criticism. (Cue the J. Crew ad where a mom painted her son’s toes.)

I cook, often. I don’t enjoy cooking. If given the choice of cooking or reading a book, the latter will win every time. When I didn’t cook I had no trouble dating or being in committed relationships. (My southern boyfriends could throw down!) Women on the other hand, insulted me to no end because I didn’t want to slave in the kitchen for a man.

Here’s the thing: some of the traditions of our mothers and grandmothers have changed. Women’s “position” no longer consists of cooking three meals a day, doing laundry and cleaning every day. It’s ok if a woman doesn’t know how to cook.

I won’t go as far as suggesting a woman never learn how to cook. All humans, men and women, should know how to feed themselves without having to order takeout. But can we please stop telling women they have to learn to cook for a man? Not every thing we do is for men’s pleasure or benefit.

Knowing how to cook does not make you any more of a woman. Women, please stop thinking you have to change who you are to appease a man. If you want to learn how to do something, by all means learn. But if you don’t, find somebody that is ok with you just the way you are. What a woman does or doesn’t cook for Sunday dinner doesn’t define her. What’s in her head and in heart is what does.

Should heteronormative gender roles remain the same? What’s the benefit in redefining heteronormative roles? Is it possible to reach a point where women aren’t expected to be homemakers?

Speak on it!

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  • Africangirl

    I read this and I had to comment. Everyone should know how to fix themseleves a meal regardless of gender..you are what you feed yourself..yes we have the choice of eating every meal out but it is always better to know what is in your food and how your kitchen looks like when you cook it(you should see some of these fast food kitchens..ick if you knew how some of those kitchens looked like you wouldn’t eat..but I digress)

    With that being said within marriages there is something to be said about clearly defined gender roles. Living black and white in marriage works. my mom once said to me that marriage is at worst 80/20 and at best 60/40, when both partners are working. There was a previous comment earlier talking about homemaker’s. That is a womans role. so as far as cooking go it’s not about cooking for “your man” it’s about cooking for your family. You set the pace as to what your family with be partaking of at meals. My mom said if you and your husband are both working you got as a woman got to put in one step further as a wife and keep the house as well. I didn’t see this as fair but as I get older I see the merit about this. I have spoken to woman who have been married 30, 40, 50 years (my mom being one of them) and they say it’s not about being a top chef or the best maid it’s about keeping a home. I think they might know what they are talking about. The divorce rate keeps rising because we keep saying that roles don’t matter anymore don’t they?

    • Drie

      I AGREE!.. i feel like soo many people drift awat from gender roles or regard them as unimportant due to many factors, but I think that this mind set is in a way deterriorating our society and marriage. Don’t get me wrong, im not saying that women have to be homemakers or house wives, but as a woman it should be your duty to unsure that the household needs are being met, that just how it is.. not just by cooking, because I believe it to be wonderfull if a man can cook, but a woman should at least be able to magnage a home, even if it means hiring a cook and a housekeeper, just know what your home and your family needs.

    • Fredjones

      Amen!!

  • Mar

    Theres a lot more old-fashioned people here. I’m sorry… whether I know how to cook a meal or not, i just dont like to. Eating at home is boring. And some of yall seem to have eating out confused with fast food. I PREFER not to cook, I can if i have to. But the latter is usually last resort for me. I’d rather go out and enjoy the social aspect and ambience of going out to dinner/ lunch. As I said before, my real dad and my step dad were chefs… so the bar for at home cooking is very high. Im not a chef, and dont care to be. But I can hire one when I have a family, so why not? Thats effectively, nutritiously, feeding my family in my OWN home. I don’t feel like cooking is the main/only way I will help provide for a family. My worth as a being does not rest on my desire or ability to cook. There are PLENTY of other ways that I can show a man that he is THE MAN of the house and my king. Being a housewife does not ensure a marriage will work. I know plenty of former housewives that are now divorcees.

    • Jinx Moneypenny

      LMAO girl I feel the same way. I really don’t like it like that, at all. But that’s fine, because at the very least I know how to, and if my s/o doesn’t feel like doing so sometimes, I can definitely pick up where he left off.

      Better him than me, since he LOVES to cook.

    • Fredjones

      This attitude is why black families are in a health crisis right now..

  • Well somebody better know how to. Have a friend who married a military career woman, cant cook to save her life, but she can damn sure cook to take someone’s life. Damn lasagna was confiscated by the government and sent to Area 51. They eat fast food all the time which has caused weight gain and thus cost her some promotions. I’d say for him to learn but he is damn near blind, I can just see him grabbing a bottle of baking soda thinking its garlic salt. If you cant cook your just sorry period, male or female. Who does what is between the couple and no one else.

  • “Cooking is a woman’s job”?

    Only until very recently was this the way that it was. A man would come home from a hard day’s work and have dinner waiting for him. Now, women are also coming home from a hard day’s work and don’t have to cook at all. It’s a very good thing because everyone deserves to have a choice in how they want to spend their lives. Plus, men in the kitchen are being embraced in ways that wasn’t happening just a few decades ago.

    However, a man reserves every right… EVERY right, to not marry a woman who does not know how to cook. That’s his decision. Why does it have to amount to him being insecure?

    That’s like telling a woman that she’s insecure for not wanting to marry a man that doesn’t know how to protect her. It’s a silly response with hardly a foundation to stand on.