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Here’s some background/showing off: I met Nigella once at a swanky party for top feminists. To this day no one knows why I was there. (Most likely explanation: admin error.) She was the most famous person there. Everyone in the room wanted to be near her and so I, obviously, was too scared to muscle in (remember, the room was full of top feminists – har-de-har). But when I saw her getting ready to leave I decided to go for it.

See, I wanted to tell Nigella something. I wanted to tell her that I didn’t think she was given enough credit for her radical ideas.

Nigella might not seem radical with her baking and domestic goddessing. She could be the figure head of cupcake feminism. The kind of feminism that is all gets accused of being about wearing aprons, which doesn’t, repeat doesn’t, fight patriarchy. (It doesn’t actually stop you fighting patriarchy either, funny things aprons, they’re actually relatively useless for both destroying and creating feminism – Victoria sponges on the other hand….)

But, hmm, what is Nigella actually up to in the fairy-lit kitchen? If you actually watch Nigella’s shows, you’ll find she rarely, if ever, frames her cooking as being for the benefit of men. It’s for her kids or for her friends, or, most often, for herself. And that’s why Nigella is radical. Because she puts her own greed – her own pleasure – front and centre of her whole everything.

Broadly, women aren’t meant to focus on their own pleasure, they’re meant to provide pleasure for other people. They’re certainly not meant to do what Nigella does. Rushing in from work and cooking up a happy-making bowl of pasta for themselves then scoffing it.

So it’s no surprise that – with this sort of agenda going on – the media tries again and again to make Nigella into something that makes more sense to its clodding, plodding sensibilities: a saucy sexpot. When she no more sexualises herself than any other good looking TV chef: think Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White. (For your own safety I’d advise not thinking about James Martin in this context. Or any context.)

Relentlessly the media try and make Nigella into something to be consumed. Masking Nigella’s radical agenda. Women can consume. Women can focus on their own pleasure. Women can behave as if they had inner lives, private experiences, souls of their very own.

Which is what I told her. Sort of stupidly and bashfully. She seemed pleased. And as she’d just been accosted by a fat ginger desperate to get some approval for a half-baked theory, that makes her an angel.

But what I told her is true. She is, she’s radical. Radical for talking about her own greediness. And who knew it would be possible to launch an empire from something so taboo? But Nigella gets away with it, because she wraps it up in pastry and pastel cardigans. Here, femininity can be a useful stealth tool to get radical thinking into the mainstream, so long as it doesn’t end up buried under the marabou.

Nigella, for making the concept of greedily making yourself a crumble in a teacup just ‘cause YOLO, who dedicated a chapter of a book to nothing but chocolate cakes and who spent the outro of every show raiding the fridge in pyjamas because yum, I am on your side. Forever.

{Image note: I love this picture of Nigella. It’s one of my favourite pictures of any celebrity ever. I miss attributed it earlier, it’s actually from Stylist – apols for that. I’ve used it because I think it illustrates my point really well. At lot of people pegged this image as super-sexual when it came out.}

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3 thoughts on “Why Nigella is radical.

  1. You may not care what I think, but I love this blog post! It’s perfect in every way. Thank you for writing it!

You'd be amazed how little I care what you think

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