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Your Organized Pantry Is Rooted In Racism And Sexism, Says College Professor

It’s almost spring cleaning time, but according to one college professor, cleaning your pantry is racist and sexist. A viral TikTok trend ha...

It’s almost spring cleaning time, but according to one college professor, cleaning your pantry is racist and sexist.

A viral TikTok trend has emerged where users share their well-organized refrigerators and pantry closets. But Loyola University Chicago marketing professor Jenna Drenten wrote in The Conversation criticizing the trend, which she dubbed “pantry porn,” for glamorizing and stylizing home organization. Drenten then said that the trend was similar to the desire for niceness, which was rooted in racism and sexism.

“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,” Drenten wrote. “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 wrote about how pantries emerged as a status symbol in the 1800s, then became more common in middle-class homes in the 20th century, before becoming ubiquitous in modern times. She then said that modern celebrity culture has made the pantry a status symbol once again, while social media influencers have also stepped in to bring the status symbol back down to the masses.

Furthermore, “pantry porn” stems from the early social media phenomenon of “food porn,” highly glamorized pictures of cooking and eating food.

Having established the pantry as a status symbol, Drenten goes further. “Storing spices in coordinated glass jars and color coordinating dozens of sprinkles containers may seem trivial,” she said. “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 concluded. “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 also claimed that the trend reinforces sexist tropes about the domestic housewife as a feminine ideal. “Magazines like Good Housekeeping were once the brokers of idealized domestic work,” she wrote. “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 added. “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?”

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