The melee started, it seems, with a meme. The photo was of an innocuous scene, one that many are anticipating this Memorial Day weekend: hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill. It was the caption that set everything off.
It read: “Soooo you are at a barbecue. Your man is hungry. He lets you know he is hungry, but you are not the kind of woman to go around fixing plates for a man, so you ignore him. A random woman hears this and says, ‘I will fix his plate.’ She sashays away and comes back with a plate for your man. Do you have any problems with this?”
The answer should have been simple: Yes, this is a problem. One, why is a hungry, fully functional grown man acting incapable of fixing his own plate? Two, why is he acting like his plate is his woman’s job to tend to? Three, who is this crazy woman who doesn’t know him or me from Adam and Eve, who takes it upon herself to do something as intimate as fix his plate?
Maybe the conversation started off civil, but by the time I stumbled into it, all hell had broken loose. In 2015, social media devolved into a full-fledged debate over whether it was a woman’s duty to fix her man a plate. … And a surprising number of the answers were “yes.”
Black women’s new mandatory requirements: Stay black. Die. Fix a man’s plate.
Much like the alleged mommy wars over whether it’s better for a mom to stay home or work, the plate war fixated on the same shaming. Women who fixed plates were anointing themselves better than women who did not. They declared those non-plate-fixin’ women would be single forever or, if married, divorced soon. So the logic (and meme) went: If you don’t fix his plate, another woman will. Food—and not just making it but serving it, too—was being upheld as the way to a man’s stomach and heart.
Women who didn’t fix plates derided those who did as “weak” and still in the Stone Age before the feminist movement of the ’70s.
Personally, I don’t mind fixing my husband’s plate. Sometimes.
I don’t do so out of some archaic sense of womanly or wifely duty; it’s not a big deal and it’s usually just convenient. The food is in the kitchen. The kitchen has the plates. If I’m in the place with the food and the plates, and I’m headed to the place with the chairs and the table where we eat and I’m making my own plate, then yeah, I make him one, too, and carry two plates out to said table. I don’t really think about it. One of the reasons I don’t is that if my husband is in the kitchen under similar circumstances, he will do the same thing.
When it’s not so convenient to fix a plate—like, say, we’re visiting friends or relatives or some such—I’ll ask my husband, “Hey, you want me to fix your plate?” Yes, he’s a grown man who can do it himself, but sometimes he likes his ego stroked—and yeah, when I do it in these circumstances, that’s exactly what fixing his plate is about: his ego.
He usually says no if we’re visiting my parents, because my mother looks at me like I’m crazy. (I wasn’t raised to fix a plate.) That, and my husband really likes my mother’s cooking, and he wants to overload his plate.
With the friends, he typically says yes. His friends tease us with, “Awww! Look at the happy couple!” I roll my eyes. He smirks. That’s his ego. He says “Thank you” when I hand him the plate. That’s his manners. When my glass runs low at any point in the evening, he’ll appear with a full one. That’s reciprocity. It’s why I don’t mind stroking his ego from time to time.
But that’s just me and mines. If you fix a plate for your jump-off/man/husband/whatever, great for you and God bless. But shoving plate fixin’ as a duty on other women?
And what’s worse is self-righteous women acting as if they’re better than another woman for, really, being subservient to a man. Seriously? If you didn’t buy or cook the food that another woman may or may not serve, then your opinion on whether or not she should put it on a plate that she hands to a man is completely irrelevant. Completely. Just be thankful you have food on your stove over which to have this silly debate and stay out of other folks’ kitchens.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. Follow her on Twitter.