Letter from the Editors
The MILK issue
Like the cow, we’re over the moon to bring you our first issue, MILK.
Back in September, when we were brainstorming ideas for the first issue, milk was one of the first themes to come up. We can’t recall what first brought it to mind, but once it got there, it wedged itself in, and we couldn’t imagine starting off with anything but. It was a far more efficient editorial meeting than I think either of us expected.
Why milk, you may ask? Because the role that milk plays in our lives almost belies encapsulation: it is at once a nutrient-dense emulsion, a bodily fluid, a source of calcium, a political signifier, a religious marker, and a global commodity. Milk is used to usher in people who are like us, and separate people who are like them; it justifies hierarchies within and between human and animal, it nourishes life and it inflicts pain. Milk speaks to the past and the present, the permeability of progress and regression, to the dark edges of history and to promises of a shinier future.
Women in particular are bound to the liquid through the breast, the bottle, and the shopping cart. In applying a feminist perspective to milk, we can see the often hidden ways that it has shaped and placed us as individuals, societies, nations, and as a whole. It is our hope that these insights will unite us in yearning for, arguing over, and working towards a fairer world, where milk is not the architect of any living being’s oppression.
A feminist perspective on milk, of course, attends to many confronting, sometimes seemingly contradictory, questions. What does it mean to love an animal while being the master of its pain? (In an exploitative capitalist system, who is the master, really?) Who wins and who loses in the transition toward a different kind of dairy industry, one built not on mammalian breasts but on moneyed, women-led biotech? How can milk ascribe and reify normative versions of femininity while simultaneously evidencing the “supremacy” of cisgender white males? Why are we so afraid of what milk, animal or alternative, can do to our and others’ bodies? How did cheesemaking go from being pastoral “women’s work” to a large-scale, male-dominated industry? These are some of the issues that MILK attempts to explore, through the talented voices of our first writers: Apoorva Sripathi, Adhiambo Edith Magak, Ingrid L. Taylor, Lauren Gitlin, Julia Norza, and McKenzie Schwark. We also have three pieces by yours truly: by Isabela here and here and by Zoë here (with her brilliant illustrations featuring throughout the issue).
A few weeks ago, we were blessed by a brilliant — essential, even — essay by Astra and Sunuaura Taylor, Our Animals, Ourselves: The Socialist Feminist Case for Animal Liberation. It aptly notes how milk is both a noun and a “verb that means to exploit for profit.” We hope you will make your way through our MILK issue with both of these definitions in mind. MILK should guide you in thinking about the systemic forces and individual choices that shape our relationship to milk, and how we can work to manifest a feminist milk paradigm.
This is just the start for Feminist Food Journal, and we’re forever indebted to everyone who has shown us their support so far. We’re looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us. We’ve moved to Substack, and while this issue is available for free, full access to our future issues — along with a monthly newsletter, invitations to community-only events, and access to exclusive behind-the-scenes clips — can be yours for US$5 per month or US$45 per year. This will allow us to keep publishing, and keep paying our writers fairly.
WAR, our second issue, will be coming out in May 2022. We’ll be opening our call for pitches very soon. In the meantime, please let us know what you thought about MILK — or what MILK made you think about. You can find us at email@example.com, on all the requisite social channels, or quite frankly, sleeping in for the next few weeks before we get ready (with unbridled joy) to do it all over again.