There was a time when cleanliness was viewed as “next to godliness.” That clearly has changed. It is now apparently next to white supremacy. While it would be impossible to discuss all of the wacky scholarship being published today, Loyola (Chicago) Professor Jenna Drenten is a standout with a new theory that “cleanliness” is a “cultural gatekeeping mechanism” with “racist,” “sexist” and “classist” roots. It turns out that the sweet spice rack that your kid brought back from shop is actually a stratified, structural vehicle for white supremacy and male dominance . . . unless you keep it messy. Otherwise, you are pushing racist, sexist “pantry porn.”
Professor Drenten has struck out at a social media trend of posting videos showing off different ways to organize pantries. Where many see neatness, Drenten sees racism and sexism. She notes that these video creators, “predominantly white women,” have created “a new status symbol” to replace the old one of “nice houses,” “nice yards” and “nice neighborhoods.” She wrote:
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 warns others not to fall for “pantry porn”:
Magazines like Good Housekeeping were once the brokers of idealized domestic work. 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.
Pantry maintenance is a new area of racism and sexism for Professor Drenten. Before she went after domestic Bull Connors, she blew the whistle on video gaming with papers on “Video Gaming as a Gendered Pursuit” and “More Gamer, Less Girl: Gendered Boundaries, Tokenism, and the Cultural Persistence of Masculine Dominance.”