Stirring the Pot
BY Brandon Voss
August 07 2009 12:00 AM ET
Julia Child, later in her life, spoke beautifully at a 1988 AIDS benefit sponsored by the American Food and Wine Institute. But Laura Shapiro's 2007 biography, which referenced many of Julia's own letters, brought to light her previous love-hate relationship with the gay community. Sure they were buying her books and watching her shows, but she was afraid of gay men taking over the cooking industry and making the profession less attractive to straight men. She expressed pity for lesbians and called gay men "fags," "homovipers," and "pansies." Now here we are discussing a film celebrating her life and work. Should we forgive and forget her arguably harmless homophobia simply because it was another time and, well, because she's deceased?That's an interesting question that I couldn't possibly answer for you, but Julia was wrong about many things. When Meryl was very seriously involved in stopping the spraying of apples with Alar in the '80s, she wrote to Julia Child, hoping that Julia would support the cause because that would've meant a huge amount. Julia wrote her a very snippy letter back, saying that she didn't care about or believe in that. To her the whole organic food thing was just not even worth bothering with. But she changed her mind about that and admitted she had been wrong. One of the good things about Julia is that she did know that she had been wrong about things, and I know she knew she was wrong about her homophobia. It's an interesting question of how we judge people whose politics we find reprehensible. There are people who still don't forgive Thomas Jefferson for having slaves. I believe that Julia Child was homophobic out of ignorance, but she became very good friends with lots of the gay men in the food business and forgave them all for being in the food business. It was a business that was not necessarily welcoming to newcomers, but everyone fell in love with her in a big way, and many of them were gay. Her career was launched by Craig Claiborne at The New York Times , and she was practically adopted by James Beard.
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