Parenting Magazine: Table Manners Are Racist

An article in Today’s Parent, a Canadian parenting magazine, claims that table manners are “dripping with the control and shame of colonization.”

Writing in Today’s Parent, Joshna Maharaj, a self-described “chef, speaker & activist, taste chaser, teacher, and new author and podcaster,” claims that table manners are “actually kind of racist.”

She describes a conversation she had with a friend, who’s niece was reprimanded at nursery for eating rice with her fingers, and told she needed to work on her table manners. Maharaj “immediately felt a rush of anger” bubble up inside her, because suggesting that “eating food with your hands is an unmannered way to eat is a real problem… because it is dripping with the control and shame of colonization”:

Suggesting that a child who eats with her hands has no manners is an echo of European colonial powers looking to tame the wildness out of the people they controlled. These European table manners were imposed on conquered people in an attempt to “civilize” them. It’s a damaging message about right and wrong ways to do things. It positions the technique as superior and the people who practise it as setters of the standard, leaving those with a different approach to eating with a status of inferiority. The idea of a single standard of acceptable table manners is just one of a host of strategies used to grow and promote racism. It’s a subtle message but one that is reinforced three times a day, every day, which makes it quite powerful.

She goes on to argue that it is “essential” for a country “as multicultural as Canada,” to embrace a wide diversity of eating habits:

We shouldn’t be teaching kids that they’re not supposed to eat with their hands at all or that eating with cutlery is a more refined or sophisticated way to eat. Different people eat their food in different ways… The message we need to send to our kids is that there are many different ways to eat food and that they’re all worthy of respect and acknowledgement. We need to show them that good manners can look quite different from table to table, particularly here in Canada.

The article was widely mocked online, and Today’s Parent even had to hide some replies to their tweet because of how silly they looked. Some of these hidden tweets are posted below.

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