It occurred to me a few weeks ago after a discussion based on a pro-GMO post Kavin wrote for Grounded Parents. Bring up reproductive rights and liberals shake their heads and remark on the incredible cognitive dissonance of the Religious Right. Sure, the Right is “small government” in theory, but it’s about sex, liberals shrug. It’s about policing women’s bodies and an obsessive desire to control what happens in people’s bedrooms. It’s a complete fear and denial of scientific data in favor of emotionally overblown gut reaction.
Then you bring up GMOs. Or locally sourced meat. Or whatever diet is trendy that week.
Food, and how to eat it as “responsibly” as possible, with a particular focus on “where it comes from,” has become the hot-button topic of white liberals. Witness the euphoria surrounding the dawn of food trucks. Witness the Locavore movement. Witness the spot-on “Local Chicken” sketch on Portlandia––those of us who live in “progressive cities,” like my own Madison, laugh at this parody because we’ve heard similar exchanges so many times.
Listening to the timbre of the conversations at the Dane County Farmers Market, one of the largest in the country, you’d think the topic was vaccination or Gaza. “What exactly is in this scone?” “Are your emus happy? How much space do they have to roam free?” “When you say ‘flour’ on the label, what kind of flour is that?”
Yet food pantries remain full of the same canned pumpkin and expired boxed meals they always have. Obese people are shamed and told what to eat, while people deemed skinny enough to have an eating disorder are also shamed for not taking care of their “health.” There is a serious disconnect here that should tell anyone who’s paying attention that this is not about justice or health in any form––it is about vanity.
When asking the server how the animal being served was prepared, no one seems to wonder whether that server has basic health insurance or whether that server is affected by the fact that the restaurant industry has one of the highest rates of sexual harassment and lowest rates of pay. When waxing poetic about the “salt of the Earth” farmers from which they buy their unpasteurized milk, no one seems to worry that an estimated 10 percent of American farm workers are children. When pearl-clutching over the things we “don’t know” about GMOs, as Kavin pointed out, no one seems to be concerned about their presence in groceries found at Price Rite––only products sold at Whole Foods.
If you are not as concerned about the people handing you your food in the restaurant as you are about the pigs on the farm where it was grown, your approach is classist. If you are more concerned about the availability of food trucks in the neighboring town than whether its residents actually want them (thanks to my dear friend Tina for setting me straight on this one), or if you buy things like this (thanks to Heina for that find), your approach is imperialist. If you start telling someone all about your new trendy diet or asking them about theirs without knowing if they have an eating disorder that may be triggered by your prattle, your approach is ableist. If you tsk-tsk at people who are overweight for what they are eating and claim you’re concerned about their health, yet you’re not actively campaigning to make healthy food more accessible and affordable, your approach is sickening and I don’t want you in my activism.
I want the Religious Right out of my bedroom and the White Liberal Food Police out of my kitchen. Is that so much to ask?