Last week, I had the distinct pleasure to guest blog for Food Day 2012, a nationwide celebration and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, created by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The post appears on Food Day 2012’s blog and is republished below…
As the final Presidential debate concluded last week week, many issues occupied the minds of American voters, from the economy to foreign policy, education to job growth. Notably, women’s issues have been at the forefront throughout the campaign more than ever before. Most any reader of this post, however, likely works in a field in which women have long been a driving force—food.
In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. In food-related professions from dietetics (a career field made up of 97 percent women) to public health nutrition, food activism to food studies, women are powerfully represented. While representation may not directly translate into equitable power and pay, women consistently fight on the frontlines in the battle for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food for all. As food producers, consumers, and change-makers, women make their mark in the world of food.
There are a variety of explanations for women’s strong role in the study and work of food. For example, some point to women’s traditional responsibilities of child rearing and domestic labor, which make food women’s work. In addition, Warren Belasco contends that the study of food has long been held captive to the Victorian separation of male and female, public and private, again making food the work of women.
The assumption that food is women’s work has certainly led to conflict and dissatisfaction for some, but connection to food also affords a degree of matriarchal power, as women serve as gatekeepers of not only food consumption, but also family health. For this reason, public health interventions around the globe target women, promoting their good health and access to health care, as women are often in charge of monitoring and caring for family health needs.
While women play important roles in both the public and private worlds of food, Food Day effectively transcends gender and brings democratized attention to food issues. While the work and study of food may continue to be gendered, food is far more than a woman’s traditional labor. Rich in tradition and meaning, power and potential, food is a lens to study nearly every aspect of individual life and society, a vehicle for driving systemic and lasting change, and could very well be the key to a better, healthier, and more fulfilling life. As we bask in our post-Food Day glory, may our new knowledge, energy, and connections fuel us throughout the year to elevate the cause of food and all that it represents.