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A Dinner Table: Eggs

MC's picture


At the beginning of this class we were shown The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, an art display immortalizing women Chicago thought were the most influential to the feminist movement. I felt there were many problems with this kind of depiction, but after reading Three Guineas I felt an even greater negative reaction to it. Chicago's Woolfe plate made Virginia Woolfe seem like the climax of a great tradition of feminist thought- not an evolution in the scientific sense of the word, but a slow build up to a lauded, supposed-perfect feminist. And not just any kind of feminist, but a feminist explicitly defined by and given such status by her [white] ciswoman body. This hardly felt appropriate to me. Virginia Woolfe's writings exclude more than they embrace, and attempt to instruct women what they should do with themselves (to be what, precisely?) in a way that can be especially harmful. Why should she remain such an iconic representation of feminism when feminism as a movement, as a word, as a lifestyle and perception has moved beyond what she imagined or, maybe more importanty, deemed appropriate? There are, however, pieces of Three Guineas that I believe can still be found useful. So what is Virginia Woolfe now? Who is she meant to be to us?

I've thought about that, and I've come up with my own imagining of The Dinner Party. I consider this an initial draft of what it will become, and have many ideas for its next incarnations.

Feminism is food, not a table setting. Feminists (perhaps even you, you'd certainly be welcome) come to sit around a table and eat the knowledge and traditions to be had. Media is consumed, considered, critiqued, and transformed into whatever is needed. Others' ideas fuel the creation of your own. 


Some time ago we were given a carton of eggs. They were a terrific boon at the time because we happened to be running low, and for a very long time we were happy to just have the eggs around, as though their presence would mean we would not spontaneously run out of anything else. But then they started to get old. They rotted in places. Their yolk turned repulsive, but we still held on to them. We kept assuring ourselves that these eggs would never really go bad, no matter how upsetting they were to look at, because they were special. They came when we needed them. 

They went bad though, right when we needed eggs. We broke them open anyway, just to check (for old time's sake), and by some strange miracle the very last egg had an edible looking yellow yolk.

It still looked pretty disgusting, though. 


We set out dinner for that night, and some parts guilt and stubbornness made us set out the egg too. It was a way for us to acknowledge our ridiculous attachment to a carton of eggs that should have been composted and used to grow something fresher a while ago, and it was also a nod to the palatable bits we can find in otherwise unsavory spaces.

We kept it towards the back of the table though, behind the far more appetizing gourmet cheeses and biscuits. 


In the future I would love to add different media besides printed books to the dinner table, and also add a greater variety of books. 


Anne Dalke's picture

Means to an end?

I'm smiling broadly as I scroll (and go back and scroll again) through your series of alternate representations.

"Feminism is food, not a table setting."

I smile, too, @ your representation of some of the classic texts of feminism as eggs that have gone bad…useful food @ one time, nourishing food, but food that is no longer edible, that no longer nourishes.

And I smile, imagining what the food is that contemporary feminists need, to feed them, to enable them to do the activist work in the world they feel called to do.

I like very much your final suggestion that  further incarnations of your feast will feature "different media besides printed books." And/but perhaps they should feature some"thing" other than "media," other than artistic representation? Some act, perhaps? Multiple different acts?

What might it look like, if the food were used, not just to look appetizing on the table, not just to nourish us, but to give us energy to change the world?

What if feminism were not "just" food, but that which food enables…? If the food were means to….?

What further end? (for which see Kant, via Spivak.....)