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Women's experiences of knowledge sharing, empowerment, and connection through domestic cooking Way, Keenan


This study critically analyzes how and why women’s work in the home matters, and how women make sense and meaning of their domestic identities. Feminist discourse has often favoured the public sphere as a site of inquiry, overlooking the value of the private sphere and resulting in a tension between ‘the feminist’ and ‘the housewife.’ This research explores the ways that women have negotiated their domestic identities in the spaces between, and how domestic work can foster empowerment and community for women. This study uses feminist research and analysis methods to give insight into women’s relationship to domesticity, exploring and acknowledging the value of domestic work. To honour the subjective realities and narratives of the participants, data was gathered from three qualitative sources: participant observation through online cooking sessions, semi-structured interviews, and participant documentation. Analysis methods included content, narrative, and discourse analysis to generate meaning for the study. The focus of this study is on domestic foodwork, reflective of women’s responsibility for planning, procuring, preparing, and managing the tasks of feeding the family. The results indicate that domesticity is experienced differently throughout a woman’s life, and that domestic work is inherently relational. The emotional labour of domestic foodwork was identified as the most difficult and stressful element of the task, and despite feeling the burden of responsibility for domestic foodwork, the women in this study are invested in their domestic identities, for the key role they play in sustaining familial relationships. Additionally, the kitchen is indicated as an important space of connection and empowerment for the participants, and should be noted as a valid site of inquiry. To deny the value of domestic skills dismisses the transformative potential of everyday spaces and acts. Essentializing as ‘women’s work’ the caring and relational tasks that women do through work in the home sustains the gendered division of labour, and limits the expectation that men participate in both domestic work and emotional labour to an equal degree. Domestic skills, especially the associated emotional labour tasks, should be understood as a learned knowledge system that everyone can participate in.

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