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The Entry of Males and Machines in the Kitchen: A Social History of the Microwave Oven in Finland

Timo Myllyntaus
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Vol. 16, Special Issue: Technology in Everyday Life (2010), pp. 226-243
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23791384
Page Count: 18
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Entry of Males and Machines in the Kitchen: A Social History of the Microwave Oven in Finland
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Abstract

Until the mid-20th century, women took care of most household chores in Finland as well as in other European countries. The introduction of the vacuum cleaner to Finland in the 1950s raised hopes that this technical device and other mechanization would lead to more equal division of labour in everyday domestic tasks. Nevertheless, cooking was remained in the sphere of women for at least two more decades before gradual change began. Has the situation markedly altered today? This is the main question of this paper, and its hypothesis is that causes behind the change that has occurred are various social and technological factors and not necessarily predictive. Since the 1950s, the number of various household appliances has increased in Finnish homes and made housework more technical. The article claims that there has been one crucial appliance, the microwave oven, that particularly caused great change in Finnish cooking culture. The simplicity of the microwave oven opened the door to its use by all members of society, young and old. The microwave oven made it easier for married women to feed their children properly in the evenings and to continue at income-producing work outside the home. At the same time, it changed family eating habits. In international terms, the 'microwave revolution' of the 1970s and 1980s was exceptionally quick and comprehensive in Finland. For the past two decades, almost every Finnish household has had a microwave oven. For thousands of children and young adults, microwave 'cooking' is the most common way to prepare a meal at home, and consequently, in per capita terms, Finnish consumption of prefabricated factory food is among the highest in the world. In post-war Finland, the change in gender roles has been significant. How has technology affected this development? How profoundly have such technological novelties as the microwave oven altered food culture in Finland? These are among the major questions dealt with in this article, examined through the case study of the microwave oven.

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