In Defense of the Word MILF: The Author of The MILF Diet Responds

Photo Courtesy: Simon & Schuster Digital Catalog

I am nothing if not opinionated.  And though I don’t always use this space as a forum to share everything I think, occasionally I can be a touch vehement about particular topics. One such moment was just last week when I wrote, “The MILF Diet: Why Using the term MILF to Sell ANYTHING is a Bad Idea”.

I had received an email pitch about a new health/diet book targeted at women and quiet honestly, I found the title and accompanying pitch offensive.  I’m not typically easily offended.  That being said, I replied to the email to explain why I wasn’t in love, I posted about it on my Facebook page and I wrote a post about it here.  All of it generated dialogue – much of which fell into the same category as my thoughts: that the term MILF didn’t carry a positive connotation.

Now, admittedly, you could argue that this means I know my audience and/or that my audience is of a like mindset.  Clearly not everyone finds the term less than savory.  Especially, the author, Jessica Porter.  I wondered aloud in some of my comments whether or not she had been the one to choose the title and I also wondered how she truly felt about the term.

I now know.  This morning I received a letter from her that she requested I share with you.  This letter is in response to not only my post, but the dialogue generated as a result of that post.  I am sharing her letter in its entirety here with one edit: I have starred the expletive she used as I have never put ‘adult language’ on Extraordinary Mommy.  Though I have sworn in my lifetime, I have not allowed that language to have a place here on the site.

I hope that you will read Jessica’s letter with an open mind.  I hope you will then tell me if her words sway your opinion of the title of the book (if, in fact, you didn’t love it to begin with). I have the utmost respect for her for a) reaching out to me so respectfully, b) for standing behind her work  and c) for articulating her stance so clearly.

Dear Danielle,

I’d like to take this opportunity to weigh in on this important–and passionate–conversation regarding The MILF Diet, because, well… I wrote it.

First of all, I just want to thank everyone for their comments.  I knew, when I decided on the title, that it would hit some nerves—and I totally understand that.  However, it was never my intention to cause deep or lasting offense.  I was brought up by a single—and proudly feminist–mom of the 70s, took lots of Women’s Studies courses in college, and I’d like to think that I am as sensitive as anyone to the very fine line that the word “MILF” walks; I recognize that it originated in pornography, and objectifies women–no doubt.

However, like other politically incorrect words have been co-opted, or re-purposed, over time by the groups they describe, I have also found that many, many women I have met over the last ten years have actually liked the term.  Yes, it’s naughty, but I believe that’s part of its appeal.  It has been used in mainstream media quite a bit over the last few years—on the sitcoms Weeds, and30 Rock, both shows with strong female protagonists who employ it with a wink.  Because it is an acronym, it seems to me to have found a positive meaning all its own—beyond the four words that form it—and is often taken as a simple, sassy, compliment for an attractive older women.  It’s even bandied about between women.

All that said, its cultural currency is not enough to defend its use as a book title.  I would never have written a book about healthy food and just slapped “MILF” on the cover as a simple hook. The MILF Diet is actually an approach to food that is specifically designed for women, in order to support our natural feminine energy.  You see, I believe (and I’m going to get all Women’s Studies classes here) that the term “MILF” actually reunites two very important parts of a woman—our maternity (we love, we care, we give), and our sexuality (we make love, we desire, and yes, we sometimes “f**k” and want to be “f**ked”).

On this note, I gave the book this title because, after 20+ years of eating whole, natural foods, I looked around me and the women I knew who had eaten the same way were deeply comfortable in their own bodies, were aging almost imperceptibly, and had healthy and relaxed relationships to their sexual selves.  I interviewed these women, asking all about their life experiences, and delved into their kitchens to discover their practical secrets.  They–and I–really do believe that eating whole, natural, foods has the power to heal us on the most profound levels.

And for me, good nutrition has always been integral to one’s relationship to one’s self, and is a fundamental aspect of self-care, so I agree with you completely, Danielle, that we should take care of ourselves for OURSELVES. That’s paramount. But–and I am definitely going to generalize here–I think that even the most confident, independent woman probably doesn’t hate the idea of being perceived as attractive to men—be they husbands or strangers on the sidewalk—as she ages. And sometimes she just wants to get laid! Let’s not fool ourselves in thinking that vanity has no claim on us.  In fact, current neuroscience makes the argument that a little vanity is part of the deepest wiring of the female brain… We have to keep it in check, sure, but to deny it is just not something I’m interested in. Wanting to feel attractive to the opposite sex doesn’t define me, but it’s still a part of who I am. The MILF Diet is trying to work with this reality, but it’s not seeking to undermine anyone’s self–confidence. Just the opposite.

So, in response to your criticism, I’ll say that I really am grateful for this feedback. I respect all your readers’ rights to their opinions. Some will have no interest in reclaiming the word “MILF”, I know. Some will be stalled in their tracks by the title, but I hope that some of you might actually look beyond the book’s cover because, from the first page, I confront the politics of the term “MILF”, and co-opt it for our purposes in a way that I hope is both sensitive and lighthearted.

Again, I’m extremely grateful that it has stirred up a vigorous conversation among passionate women about who we are, how we feel about ourselves, and how we are perceived.  That would make my late mother rejoice, and is exactly why I wrote the book. The MILF Diet is not—I repeat NOT— about a gaining or keeping a man’s approval; it is a shameless embrace of all things female: our bodies, our brains, our spirit and our sexuality  as perceived and experienced by US.  Does the word “MILF” help in getting these conversations going better than something like “How to Stay Attractive, Powerful and Healthy as You Age?”  I hope so! Let’s keep talking…

Thank you all for your time and attention,

Jessica Porter

Thank you, Jessica, for taking the time to reach out.  I will agree with you on a few points: yes –  I do think even confident, independent women don’t hate the idea of being attractive, yes – I will confess to allowing vanity to having a claim on me – I would be lying if I said otherwise , yes – this has stirred up a vigorous conversation and YES – I want nothing more than to feel attractive, powerful and healthy as I age.  So, while I can’t say you have convinced me that the acronym MILF represents all of this and more (I still struggle to embrace it), I do respect your version of it AND your passionate defense has swayed me to be curious about the content of your book. I realize you could have caved, back peddled, fearful of the controversy and muddied the waters with a wishy-washy reply. Good luck to you.

Now friends, your thoughts?

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  • http://twitter.com/Anne_Hogan Anne Hogan

    I’m still not buying what she’s selling. I have never met a woman I respect who likes that term – just because some of the Real Housewives have embraced it doesn’t mean it’s something I want to hear bandied about in what honestly comes off as a pseudo-intellectual attempt to sell books. I still say it’s about shock factor and marketing. That word doesn’t now and never will represent the kind of woman I want to be, or the kind of woman I want to look up to and emulate.

  • Danielle Smith

    Anne – I completely respect that. It is not a term I like, nor have I ever. I would prefer it not be used as I walk by. And for the record, I don’t and haven’t watched the Real Housewives either :) But I will say, I do respect Jessica for responding. And for doing so respectfully. That says something to me about her character. She could have been defensive or snide – it might not have helped her cause, but I have seen it happen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leah.segedie Leah Segedie

    I’m not offended by the term when it’s directed at me. Yes, it’s vanity. And that’s because I spent most of my life overweight and no one ever called me sexy, and then I lost weight and all of a sudden, I was getting called MILF. So sometimes it’s nice to hear. Not all the time cause that would get annoying, but I see it as them recognizing that 1. I’m a mom and 2. I’m still sexy. Also, I grew up around boys so I’m more tolerant of their bullshit than others. I had to be that way to survive. And I don’t consider myself a feminist, but I’m not afraid of speaking my mind either.

    Last year I blew my top when the CEO of Anytime Fitness wrote a diet book that said “Money is allergic to fat people”…and I was like REALLY? Why are you offending your target audience? That wasn’t smart and that book was an utter failure because of exactly I said…”fat” people were offended and they didn’t buy it. The term MILF is different because I think it’s gone beyond what it’s original intent was. She’s right. It’s kinda morphed into popular culture where as women we can hijack the word and make it a more positive thing. Which is what I think has happened. I see women wearing shirts that say MILF…I don’t see women wearing shirts that say FAT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jen.singer Jen Singer

    It’s a ploy to get press to sell books. That’s about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leah.segedie Leah Segedie

    Everything is a ploy to sell books. I agree. But I haven’t actually READ the book so I couldn’t tell you if it’s any good or not.

  • http://www.globetrottinginheels.com/ Elisa

    I am sorry, but I think she is a bit full of it. I am by no means a prude, but she cannot tell me that the term MILF is about uniting being a mother with being a sexual being as if we are all sitting here doing yoga and being thankful for our inner goddess. That is disingenuous and I don’t buy it for a second.

    MILF is a terms that reduces a woman to a sexual object – what it says is “she may have popped a couple of shorties but she is hot enough that I would f**k her.” As much as I appreciate being appreciated, I don’t find that a flattering sentiment. In fact, i find it kind of revolting. Using that term in connection to a diet is, to me, a cheap attempt to appeal to those poor insecure souls who want to look good to be liked by others, no matter who those others are.

    I am not the queen of high self-esteem, and I am no stranger to diets, but this… I frankly find it despicable. If she really wanted to help women she would be keeping a blog or something and offering free advice before she even considered writing a book, especially one that uses such a cheap ploy for attention as its title.

  • niri

    I see her points but it has never been my intention to be a MILF type of person. And yes I had to search what that meant because I did not know

  • Danielle Smith

    Niri – I have never wanted to be a ‘MILF’ either. And I love you for looking it up. :)

  • Beth

    She does have a terrific blog, full of great recipes and ideas: http://www.hipchicksmacrobiotics.com

  • Tress Ahles

    I know the author personally (we worked together at the Kushi Institute), and have great respect for her and her work. I loved her previous book, and felt it brought the joy and power of macrobiotics to many people who didn’t hang out in co-ops and alternative book stores. In that book, she gave terrific, easy to follow advice and recipes for life long health. I highly, highly recommend it.

    I was saddened by her choice of title for her second book. At first glance, I thought she had sold out for an attention catching title. I do find the term MILF offensive. I have NO interest in ‘re-purposing’ it. Yes, I want to be attractive to my husband and other men. And yes, I exercise and eat healthfully for myself, and for a more ‘beautiful body’, and yes, I love sex, even rough sex that can be defined as f******. But, here’s the botton line for me, I would NEVER want either of my children to hear someone desribe me as a MILF and then explain the exact meaning of the words in the acronym (and believe me, my 8 year old son would ask). Nor, do I EVER, EVER, want to daughter thinking to herself, “When I grow up and have babies, I hope I’ll be a MILF”. I think if Jessica had children, a daughter in particular, she may have not choosen this title. I believe that langauge, and word choice has a deep effect on our pyschology and behavior. I do not see embracing MILF as any kind of step forward for women or society. Unfortunately, I think she will turn off as many potential customers and she might attract with this title, which is a shame, because I whole-heartedly believe that macrobiotics is a true path to stunning health and well-being.

  • Danielle Smith

    Tress~ I really appreciate you writing. As I read your first sentence I was thinking your response was going to be something else entirely.

    For me, I think you have captured the essence of my objection in your second paragraph. I too, want to be healthy and beautiful. I want to feel sexy. I want my husband to find me attractive and sexy. But I don’t want to be objectified and I most certainly don’t want my daughter to ever feel that way. My daughter is 8 – going on 9…. and I cringe at the very idea of explaining that acronym to her. (also considering there is so much she doesn’t yet know).

    It sounds as though her book has some extremely valuable advice, but it will be lost on many with the title…

  • http://www.deadwildroses.wordpress.com The Arbourist

    I was listening to the interview on CBC and was appalled that the issue of whether the term MILF was inappropriate or not.

    In this patriarchal society women are primarily evaluated on one characteristic, their fuckability. As members of the sex class they are constantly objectified and shepherded into harmful practices and rituals that are meant to appease the male gaze. It is unbelievable to even consider the term MILF to be anything but a misogynistic slur (see also the empowerful term “slut” as from slutwalks).

    I was brought up by a single—and proudly feminist–mom of the 70s, took
    lots of Women’s Studies courses in college, and I’d like to think that I
    am as sensitive as anyone to the very fine line that the word “MILF”
    walks;

    As if these “qualifications” make reinforcing misogyny any less horrendous.

    Thank you for defending women on Q, as always it is an uphill battle.

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  • Michelle Dalby

    I realize that as a plant based eater, and avid sports nutritionist, that I find Jessica Porter to be inspired by her sexuality regardless of what masculine culture has termed or phrased. It’s semantics, and brillantly evocative and provactive in a turn the pants around of the male degregation of the female persona inside and out.

    I almost find her book inspirationally philosphically inspired; we need to take the “emotions” out of the term and use our wise feminine minds to discern the true and wonderful intent of the book.

    No need to be defensive. I find it refreshing that Porter is willing to explore the negative term into a positive and empowering statement for women of all ages, race, orientation, and size.

    MD, L.S. L.P.T.

  • Michelle Dalby

    Additional information: since this is an “assigned” term, we as well as any other race, gender, culture, or orientation, are allowed to take any term coined to our sex as reassign it’s meaning.

    How powerless do your feel if you cannot take light of the reassignment and wonderfulness of how we were created, how beautiful we are all are in God’s or the Creator’s image, and shove it in the face of those who think we are creatures that are powerless, not worthy of equalitarianism, and plain want to use nutrition and feeling better inside and out as a way of creating empowerment; that is the irony and bestowment of anyone who uses “nigger,” “honkey,” etc… as a tongue and cheek way of turning the tables.

    It’s all in jest, but for for the betterment of out health and sex.

    MD

  • Michelle Dalby

    Good for you for having the bravery to be honest!

    I think that is the whole inspiration to accepting yourself and creating your own meaning of health and sexiness!

    MD- L.S. L. P.T.