Here’s Why Ina Garten Chose Not To Have Kids
For all the times The Onion has knocked me out with its ability to thread the needle of the everyday absurd, there’s no headline that’s stuck with me more than this one from 2014: “Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show.” I mean, that’s all of us, no? You really need to look no further than what must be a staggering number of self-identified feminists that, for whatever reason, keep tuning into The Bachelor (this feminist included), but I suspect it’s some mixture of exhaustion laced with self-loathing. Because the feminist revolution requires a shit ton of hard work and goddamn if it isn’t exhausting AF.
There are mansplainers to shut down and privilege to check; there’s a gender pay gap to narrow, companies to run, and political offices to pursue. There are relationship dynamics to level, fellow marginalized communities that need our support, and a whole ‘nother generation of feminists to bring up, all while asking ourselves endless questions about how we can be better, more intersectional feminists. And much as we all may be feeling more motivated than ever in recent months, there are pockets of time when all you really want to do is stop thinking about feminism for literally thirty minutes while you watch some TV show that you could most definitely find problematic if you really put your feminist brain to it.
Which brings us to Ina Garten, a.k.a The Barefoot Contessa, a.k.a the domestic goddess whose popular TV show largely revolves around cooking food for her husband. On the surface, it’s almost everything we’ve trained ourselves to question: A well-to-do white woman who is constantly waiting for her husband to get home from his job as a professor at Yale so she can welcome him with a warm meal and a cold drink. Her concerns often revolve around issues like whether the brown butter she’s prepping has become overly brown or not, and for all the years we’ve spent questioning the idea of women serving in the “barefoot and pregnant” role, the name of her TV show seems to evoke that unabashedly (though it’s technically named after a film whose movie poster proclaims it to be about “The World’s Most Beautiful Animal!” played by Ava Gardner).
And yet there’s something so soothingly pleasant about Ina, and something so genuinely sweet about her marriage to Jeffrey, that it can weirdly feel like just what you need when the fight for equality overwhelms. Yeah, there’s probably a lot to unpack there, but her appeal reaches even the most prominent feminists, her persona and recipes serving as a through-the-TV-screen embrace when the world feels impossible. As writer, critic, Twitter queen and hardcore Ina fan Roxane Gay put it in discussion with Lena Dunham: “Whenever a woman is unapologetic about her life, I just wanna hug her. And also, her shirts.”
It came as something of a surprise to many, then, when Ina discussed with Katie Couric on her podcast last week her and Jeffrey’s decision early on in their marriage (at ages 20 and 22, respectively, in 1968) not to have children. “I really felt, I feel, that I would have never been able to have the life I’ve had,” she told Couric. “So it’s a choice and that was the choice I made. … I never felt judged by it—maybe people did [judge me], but I didn’t notice.”
In other words, she chose her career and her husband over kids. And while her life in the Hamptons may be portrayed as the bastion of domestic tranquility, that level of success doesn’t come without a mountain range of hard work behind you; Ina did what she felt she had to do in order to pursue the life she wanted, despite the seemingly traditional composition of her lifestyle and the expectations that come with it. That level of comfort with oneself and autonomy from automatically subscribing to the status quo is something we can all keep in mind as we face society’s never-ending judgements about women’s reproductive decisions. In the meantime, here is a recipe for some really fucking delicious scallops that never let me down, even when I let myself down. Thanks, Ina.