gender, Random Wonderfulness

Why I Support Render, Feminist Food Writing & Activism

As its website states, Render: Feminist Food & Culture Quarterly works in every issue “to spotlight all the badass women who are making waves within the persistently male-dominated food industry.” These efforts “to smash the patriarchy in the food industry” are important for all of us, as readers, thinkers, and eaters.

It’s why I renewed my subscription and contributed to Render’s Kickstarter, which ends on May 4. I’m not part of the Render team, but as pledges currently fall short of their goal, I wanted to offer these few words of support, because these issues have been top of mind for me lately.

Render Year 1

A vivid rendering of the journal’s first year of issues. Photo from Render Kickstarter page.

In our course, “Food and Gender in U.S. Popular Culture,” my students and I have discussed and pondered, sighed and screamed about not only the continual under-representation of women in the food industry and the media that covers it, but also about how the icon of the celebrity chef — constructed as white, male, and straight — is a cultural figure that by its very nature subordinates every other identity within the industry.

This particular construction of the celebrity chef is why we continue to ask, “Why are there no great female chefs?” and “Where are the female gods of food?” It’s why incidences of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are not just prevalent, but a cultural norm in many restaurants, in the front and back of the house.

Furthermore, the construction and constant repetition of “the celebrity chef” as white, male, and straight not only affects the status and opportunities of female chefs, but fuels and sustains the subornation of everyone in the industry — especially workers lower on the restaurant labor hierarchy, where their experiences are shaped by not only gender, but also race, ethnicity, citizenship status, sexuality, and social class. These discussions about the world’s greatest chefs and the role of women are in a direct (but less discussed) conversation with, for example, Teófilo Reyes, Chris Benner, and Saru Jayaraman’s call to “end Jim Crow in America’s restaurants.”

Render is one of the most productive and revolutionary sites for these discussions, stories, and potential paths to a more just food industry. If that’s not enough to make you immediately subscribe and support their Kickstarter underway, here are four more reasons:

They print citations. Render’s content not only draws from experience, interviews, ethnography, and authors’ imagination, but also from rich secondary literatures. And they cite them. And I love it.

Their art is on point. Even in an age when printing journals and periodocals is increasingly cost prohibitive and rare, every issue of Render has been full of witty typography, illustrations, photography, and art. I’m still seriously considering framing the cover of the first issue — and the recent sneak preview of issue #5 on history inspires similar feelings.

Render Cover 5

A sneak peak of Issue #5: HISTORY.

They pay their contributors. While unable to in their first year of publication, Render has made the commitment to pay contributors, yet another way that the editorial team puts their money where their mouth is.

Issue #5 looks and sounds incredible. Here’s a sneak peak from the editors:

The HISTORY issue will feature interviews with Momofuku’s Beverage Director Jordan Salcito, and Portland, OR Pastry Chef Eve Kuttemann, of Trifecta Tavern and the Sage Hen Dessert Pop-Up. This issue will also include feature-length articles about Lydia Marie Child, a cookbook author and abolitionist; Lillian Tingle, a revolutionary home economics teacher who helped change Portland’s food industry forever; and Ida Freund, a science professor who taught the periodic table of the elements with the power of baked goods. Our cover story, Feed Us, FLOTUS!, digs into the food legacies of our current and former First Ladies, including Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and Jackie Kennedy. Recipes are included, of course!

I hope you’ll join me in supporting feminist food writing and activism.