Thoughts on 300 Sandwiches

Earlier today, my friend linked me to a BuzzFeed article with the headline: This Woman Can’t Get Married Until She Makes Her Boyfriend 300 Sandwiches. Apparently, Stephanie Smith, who works at the New York Post, claims she is “124 sandwiches away from an engagement ring.” The Post article reads:

My boyfriend, Eric, is the gourmet cook in our relationship, but he’d always want me to make him a sandwich.

Each morning, he would ask, “Honey, how long you have been awake?”

“About 15 minutes,” I’d reply.

“You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?”

To him, sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex. “Sandwiches are love,” he says. “Especially when you make them. You can’t get a sandwich with love from the deli.”

Now, I’m all too aware that feminists are often dismissed by rude remarks like “Shut up and make me a sandwich.” That alone made me initially dumbfounded and yes, insulted by the strange social contract displayed here. Heck, I even wrote a book titled Make Your Own Sandwich, which centers on modern day feminism and includes themes of self-agency in regard to our gender roles, what’s expected of us and whether or not we choose to fulfill them.

I initially posted a knee-jerk reaction to the 300 sandwiches post on Twitter, as I found it very dumb — what kind of power-hungry guy won’t marry his girlfriend until she makes him 300 sandwiches? It’s a silly ultimatum, especially when the concept of sandwich-making for your significant other has become the vestibule of a relationship rife with gender inequalities and forced domesticity.

Indeed, the controversial article is going viral. It sparked a trending Twitter hashtag, #300feministsandwiches. One writer livetweeted while she read the blog. Many, many more weighed in:

Woof.

We certainly don’t need to shame people who choose to be submissive in their relationships, and making food for someone else is not inherently reinforcing a flawed, gendered power dynamic — even if sandwich-making is  generally the brunt of an anti-feminist, “shut-up-and-get-back-in-the-kitchen” type of joke. I personally make food for my boyfriend, and he makes food for me. I think we can all agree that the main issue here is whether or not this woman is being, yanno, forced to make these sandwiches, which is something that’s hard to discern. It does seem that this couple has determined the engagement ring will be her “prize” for performing such a service — which is pretty messed up. Her blog’s Twitter bio states it pretty explicitly: I have to make 300 sandwiches before my boyfriend proposes. Follow me as I hit the kitchen. 

The whole thing could be evidence of this relationship’s flawed power dynamic. It certainly harks back to a time when sandwich- and homemaking were seen as a woman’s only value. Or it could just be an innocent attempt to get the world to appreciate the art of sandwich-making (they do look really tasty), or a marketing ploy for Smith’s cookbook (probably). If nothing else, it’s sparked a decidedly important conversation about the power dynamics of modern relationships, how we choose to display our love, and why we need to be careful not to police other people’s choices. It’s a conversation worth having, and if nothing else, it’s made me pretty damn hungry.

Advertisements