As the time for spring cleaning sweeps its way in, so do the calls of racism and sexism from college professors start to roll in. However, this time around the target of such claims is just a little bit odd: your pantry.
A recent trend across the social media platform TikTok has started to go viral in which the users promote and share their very well-organized pantry closets and refrigerators. However, Jenna Drenten, a marketing professor out of Loyola University Chicago, expressed in a recent piece within The Conversations in which she heavily criticized the new trend which she has started to call “pantry porn” for its role in glamorizing and stylizing home organization. Drenten then stated that this trend was very similar to the desire for niceness, which she stated is entirely rooted in sexism and extreme racism.
“In today’s consumer culture, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ isn’t just a mantra; it’s big business. Nowhere is this more evident than the kitchen pantry,” exclaimed Drenten. “As someone who studies digital consumer culture, I’ve noticed an uptick in glamorized, stylized and fully stocked pantries on TikTok and Instagram, giving rise to a content genre I dub ‘pantry porn.’”
Drenten expressed in the article just how pantries came about as a status symbol back in the 1800s, all before becoming a bit more commonplace throughout middle-class homes throughout the 20th century, all prior to becoming ubiquitous in modern times. She went on to state that modern celebrity culture has once again made the pantry a symbol of status, while social media influencers have also come together to bring the status symbol back down to the masses.
To go along with all of this, “pantry porn” seems to stem from the early viral sensation from social media known as “food porn,” which is highly glamorized and filters pictures of the cooking of or eating of food.
Having laid out the scenario in which the pantry is regarded as a status symbol, the professor went further. “Storing spices in coordinated glass jars and color coordinating dozens of sprinkles containers may seem trivial,” she exclaimed. “But tidiness is tangled up with status, and messiness is loaded with assumptions about personal responsibility and respectability. Cleanliness has historically been used as a cultural gatekeeping mechanism to reinforce status distinctions based on a vague understanding of ‘niceness’: nice people, with nice yards, in nice houses, make for nice neighborhoods.”
“What lies beneath the surface of this anti-messiness, pro-niceness stance is a history of classist, racist and sexist social structures,” she finished off. “In my research, influencers who produce pantry porn are predominantly white women who demonstrate what it looks like to maintain a ‘nice’ home by creating a new status symbol: the perfectly organized, fully stocked pantry.”
Drenten went on to claim that this trend does nothing but reinforce the sexist tropes about the domestic housewife as a feminine ideal. “Magazines like Good Housekeeping were once the brokers of idealized domestic work,” she stated. “Now online pantry porn sets the aspirational standard for becoming an ideal mom, ideal wife and ideal woman. This grew out of a shift toward an intensive mothering ideology that equates being a good mom with time-intensive, labor-intensive, financially expensive care work.”
“Sure, all of those baskets and bins serve a functional purpose in the home: seeing what you need, when you need it,” she admitted. “But the social pressure to curate a perfect pantry might make some women work overtime. Pantry porn, as a status symbol, relies on the promise of making daily domestic work easier. But if women are largely responsible for the work required to maintain the perfectly organized pantry, it’s critical to ask: easier for whom?”