In recent years, the TikTok fad of displaying flawlessly organized and elegantly arranged kitchen pantries has become a social media craze. In the opinion of a Chicago professor, this practice, which reflects classist, racist, and sexist societal institutions, has deeper historical origins.
Associate Professor of Marketing at Loyola University, Jenna Drenten, has performed research on “pantry porn.”
This is a term she coined to describe the abundance of social media videos in which women display their fully stocked kitchens and carefully organized household goods.
Formerly, minimalism indicated an anti-consumption mentality that supported using and purchasing less; now, the “new minimalism” means “more is more,” so long as it is neither messy nor cluttered.
What’s behind all of those “restock, refill, reset” videos on TikTok & IG reels?
My latest article for @ConversationUS discusses my research on “pantry porn” & how the perfectly organized kitchen has become a new status symbol.https://t.co/cmARt2ipyk
— Jenna Drenten, PhD (@jennadrenten) March 14, 2023
Drenten feels that cleanliness has been utilized as a cultural gatekeeper to promote social disparities based on a nebulous conception of “niceness.” She argues cleanliness relates to a person’s position and their untidiness typically leads to conclusions about their responsibility and respectability.
She dates the butler’s pantry to the late 1800s, claiming it was an architectural touchstone for the affluent.
Drenten says the little nook situated between the kitchen and dining hall was a status symbol – a place to conceal both the food and the individuals who produced it.
You'll be unsurprised to learn that @jennadrenten is a woke white woman with pronouns in her bio. These lunatics need therapy. https://t.co/Y2NEWzgYKo
— Patrick (@PMC713) March 16, 2023
The popular videos of perfectly labeled and symmetrically positioned supply boxes, ingredient jars, and shelves, according to Drenten, are predominantly generated by white women.
They serve as a “new status signal” for maintaining a “beautiful” well-kept house. She claims this fascination with “pantry porn” defines the ideal mother, wife, and woman in society.
She claims as a status symbol, pantry porn rests on the promise of making regular housework simpler, according to Drenten. Whereas, if women are primarily responsible for maintaining a perfectly organized pantry, the question must be asked: simpler for whom?
In addition, Drenten observes the need for pantry organization has increased during the COVID-19 epidemic when supply chain bottlenecks have led to the stockpiling of food.
Those with the means and the capacity to do so have adopted stockpiling as a sign of resilience. Others say the emphasis on pantry organization is a sign of luxury, as not everyone can afford to stock up on goods.
Drenten attributes the transformation of the pantry into a “modern-day status symbol” to the Kardashian-Jenners, Hadids, and other social media influencers.
She observes that these celebrity influencers have defined what it entails to have a well-stocked kitchen, which has become a sign of social prestige.
In addition, according to a 2019 survey, 85% of big new houses built in the United States now include a walk-in pantry, which is the most desired kitchen feature among new purchasers.
The preoccupation with “pantry porn” is, however, not without debate. Opponents contend that it imposes excessive demands on women, especially those who are already overburdened with household duties.