Friday, July 2, 2010

Food plus gender? Sign me up!

Salon has an interesting piece today: “Men eat meat, women eat chocolate: How food gets gendered.” I encourage you to read it, then bring your love back here and talk about it with me. We already know what the headline points out: Certain foods are considered masculine (mmmmm, animal carcass), while others are feminine (gimme that candy bar, I’m PMSing). Of course, the heavy hand of marketing is everywhere we look, but what really captured my interest was this little factoid: In other countries, food is rarely gendered this way.

Call me a silly American, but I hadn’t ever really thought about that. The author, Riddhi Shah, points out that in Spain, men and women love chocolate equally, while in Egypt, no one really cares about chocolate at all, preferring salty snacks. (Egypt: Feel free to send me your chocolate.) In the UK, boys go for the sweet stuff, while girls are more partial to fruits and veggies. Come to think of it, our house is pretty much the same way. Red has a sweet tooth like none other, while I am pretty blasé about ice cream and candy. Geez, we are such iconoclasts, with our non-gendered, non-American food preferences!

What is really interesting is the ways in which this reflects US veganism. As Shah says, “[W]hile it seems possible that some food preferences could be put down to gender, it’s obvious that American culture has a way of exacerbating them.” US vegans are often written off as a bunch of educated white chicks, and many of us are. The movement has a homogeneity problem, and I am so grateful for those who are actively challenging this. (Sistah Vegan and Vegans of Color immediately spring to mind, as does The Discerning Brute.) It can’t be simply that men like meat, while women like tofu. (Because really? No one likes tofu in its natural state.) I wonder what the vegan demographics look like in other countries. We’re working against culture, not merely genetics, and that makes a huge difference.

Thoughts on gendered food on this Friday before a long weekend filled with gluttony and pyrotechnics in the name of US independence?*

*I once heard it referred to (by a Brit) as “Good Riddance to Ungrateful Colonists Day.” I enjoyed that.


  1. Sign me up, too!

    If I hear one more man say he can't be vegan because men are naturally hunters I'm going to scream. Oh wait, I usually do scream, so I'll just keep on keepin' on.

    Men didn't have a monopoly on hunting, and women didn't have a monopoly on gathering. In fact, most of us were simply gatherers with a side of scavenging....wait, why am I off on this tangent? One of my pet peeves is the completely debunked evo psych excuses for why men are how they are, women are how they are, and why we all must consume mass quantities of charred animal flesh or DIE. Anyway!

    In our household Cody definitely has the sweet tooth. I try to keep him in baked goods but boy can that man eat. He will plow through a loaf of banana bread before it even has time to cool. And while, yes, I am a chocolate lover, he is a chocolate worshiper. He makes the hunks I eat look minuscule.

    I think all of our gendered food stereotypes can be entirely contributed to marketing. Pure and simple capitalism, clogging people's arteries since 1885.

    And yes, veganism is okay for us ladies because it's kinda like a diet, right? But for men? Eeeew! Whenever I tell people I'm vegan, they are shocked, but recover fairly quickly. Then they always ask "But your husband isn't vegan, right?" When I say yes they clutch their pearls and scream. It is just too extreme for a man to forgo his dead animals, apparently.

    Yes, I'm so glad there are people breaking down the percieved notions of who is a vegan and who isn't a vegan. We really do come in all shapes, colors, ages, sizes, and genders. Great post, Shannon!

  2. Really interesting post, Shannon. Love the comic!

  3. Amazing post. I always find this subject highly interesting, also. I've never understood the 'grr Im awesome cause I kill things' mentality. One particular thing I have noticed in the past, in relation to what youre talking about, is the new (maybe its not new but its new to my generation) 'masculine-woman' idea. Not a *really* masculine woman but just masculine enough to almost be 'one of the boys' but still 'hot' and knows how to 'cook a steak'. Not only is it 'masculine' for men to eat meat but theres a certain stereotype of women who will absorb some of these masculine qualities to appear more attractive to this meat-eating he man prototype. Its like a new hybrid of an oppressed woman. I can't even count how many times Ive hear a woman eating a steak as a turn-on. Its very peculiar.

  4. What an interesting post. I'd never given this topic much thought. Even in the vegan world, I think there are some foods that boys favour, and other that girls turn to. For instance, I love salads, but my partner doesn't. He likes faux meat products, but I don't. This is just one of many examples.

  5. A good book to read about this is Carol J. Adams' The Sexual Politics of Meat.