Woman reading in kitchen
Photo: Valueline/Thinkstock
In this fast-paced, economically shifting world, traditional gender roles have changed forever. Now, a woman can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let her husband forget he's a man if he makes the decision to stay at home and raise the children. Elizabeth Lesser explains the importance of Kitchen Wisdom.
Recently, voters in northeastern Ohio received a flier in the mail with a line straight out of the 1950s: "Let's take Betty Sutton out of the House and send her back to the kitchen." The House the flier was referring to was the U.S. House of Representatives.

Betty Sutton has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007; sits on the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce; serves on the Subcommittee on Health, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations; and before becoming a congresswoman, she was a labor lawyer and a state senator. Nowhere in her biography do I read anything about her being a cook, so banishing her to the kitchen doesn't really sound like a good idea.

Rep. Sutton called the flier (funded by her opponent, multimillionaire Tom Ganley) "an insult to all women regardless of whether they work within the home raising families and managing households or work beyond the home, providing for themselves and others." I agree with Rep. Sutton; the line about sending her back to the kitchen is offensive to women. But I think it is even more offensive to kitchens, and to what I call Kitchen Wisdom.

By Kitchen Wisdom, I don't mean cooking and cleaning only (although I do think if you dissected a brain, you'd find those skills in an area somewhere between higher mathematics and rhetorical debate.) Kitchen Wisdom is a high art, a spiritual path, and a human necessity. It is the genius that many women have honed over centuries—emotional intelligence, psychological insight and social conscience. It's a witches' brew of qualities and aptitudes like compassionate listening, communicating instead of grandstanding, and cooperating instead of battling. It shows up in well-loved and responsible children, acts of neighborly kindness, beautiful spaces and comforting places.

The new kind of role reversal

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