The Atlantic’s annals of feminist victimology: Now, it’s “sexist” kitchen counters
From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:
A typical misogynist kitchen design: keeping women chained to the Viking stove
“Today’s kitchens may have more machines, but they remain abuzz with structured and artificial femininity, from aprons to pink KitchenAids. Everything matches, even the woman, whose body the kitchen has been designed to fit—albeit inaccurately—since almost a century ago, when engineers measured thousands of women to try to make housework more comfortable.
“Over the last 100 years, kitchens have grown, walls have fallen, and appliances have multiplied, but the kitchen protagonist—a woman, standardized—has stayed the same. So has the height of the countertops, sink, and oven.
“Until the 1930s, kitchen-surface heights, like clothing, varied as people did, with kitchens and clothes matching the women in them, rather than the other way around. Engineers even sought to bring precision to the task. Kitchen work would be less back-breaking, they said, if the counters and sinks were the right height for the women using them.”
But of course, since those engineers were mostly men, when they standardized the height of kitchen counters, they picked a standard–36 inches–that, at least according to Arndt, was too high for most women!
“That didn’t bode well for the woman for whom this new, uniformly-sized kitchen was being designed and made. The sink was the first kitchen object to be standardized. It became part of the continuous countertop—a single height dipping or lifting for no appliance, a look that fell in line perfectly with modernism’s minimalist lines. Everything else rose to meet the sink—the counters, the stove, the cabinets all converged at 36 inches above the floor, writes Leslie Land in her study of modernism and kitchens. That was much too high for the 5-foot-3 average-height woman of the time (and too high even for today’s average 5-foot-4 American woman).”
Aren’t men awful? They’re always doing stuff like that.
“The solution, then, must be the opposite of uniformity: customization. The best way to fit everyone, like the best way to make kitchens more comfortable, is to make objects tailored to individual bodies, rather than tailored to the idea of an individual body. Perhaps we should follow the DIY craze, with its jam-making and pickling, its hand-knitted sweaters and backyard-raised chickens; perhaps we should travel back in time 100 years, moving perversely against the expansion of women’s rights (but keeping those rights all the same), to a time when each kitchen was made for the person within it and each shirt for the person inside.”
Yes, let’s make kitchens so expensive that only a writer for the Atlantic could afford one!
Read the whole thing here.
Posted by Charlotte Allen