Organized Pantries Are ‘Racist and Sexist,’ Says Loyola Professor
Organizing and styling your food pantry is an act rooted in classist, racist, and sexist social structures, according to one Chicago professor. A new internet trend of people showing off their kitchen storage has Loyola professor Dr. Jenna Drenten outraged over its bigoted “anti-messiness” stance. The trend, referred to as “Pantry Porn,” has gone viral on TikTok.
“Storing spices in coordinated glass jars and color-coordinating dozens of sprinkles containers may seem trivial. But tidiness is tangled up with status, and messiness is loaded with assumptions about personal responsibility and respectability,” the professor wrote. Her comments were published in the Los Angeles Times.
“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.”
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Drenten is an associate professor of marketing at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University. Her biography on Loyola’s website says she specializes in “digital consumer culture,” including “monetization, gender, and identity.”
She cites several academic studies in her editorial, connecting “whiteness” -a term used by Critical Race Theorists to describe American systemic racism–to cleanliness and niceness.
“What lies beneath the surface of this anti-messiness, pro-niceness stance is a history of classist, racist and sexist social structures.”
In her editorial, Drenton claims to have done extensive research on the subject and says that pantry porn influencers are “predominantly white women who demonstrate what it looks like to maintain a ‘nice’ home by creating a new status symbol: the perfectly organized, fully stocked pantry.” The professor argued that the trend was sparked by the supply chain crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic when hoarding food became a “symbol of resilience for those with the money and space to do so.”
But according to the professor’s research, pantry porn is not only a racist trend but also misogynistic.
“The social pressure to curate a perfect pantry might make some women work overtime,” Drenton writes.
“They can’t just shove store-bought boxes of snacks into a cupboard; they must neatly place the grab-and-go snacks into a fully stocked pantry that rivals a boutique corner store… if women are largely responsible for the work required to maintain the perfectly organized pantry, it’s critical to ask: easier for whom?”
According to a 2019 National Association of Home Builders report, 85 percent of new large homes feature a walk-in pantry. Drenten credits the Kardashian-Jenner family and Real Housewives star Yolanda Hadid with popularizing the trend.
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Shortly after Drenten’s comments were published, the Los Angeles Times posted several letters to the editor collectively titled Don’t Overthink Tidiness.
“Is the author asserting that poor people of color are dirty and messy?” reader Priscilla Benson asked. “If Drenten wants to dump her groceries in a pile on the floor and paw through it to find what she needs, let her. But kindly don’t criticize those of us who find that method a waste of time.”
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