All posts filed under: gender

Why I Support Render, Feminist Food Writing & Activism

As its website states, Render: Feminist Food & Culture Quarterly works in every issue “to spotlight all the badass women who are making waves within the persistently male-dominated food industry.” These efforts “to smash the patriarchy in the food industry” are important for all of us, as readers, thinkers, and eaters. It’s why I renewed my subscription and contributed to Render’s Kickstarter, which ends on May 4. I’m not part of the Render team, but as pledges currently fall short of their goal, I wanted to offer these few words of support, because these issues have been top of mind for me lately. In our course, “Food and Gender in U.S. Popular Culture,” my students and I have discussed and pondered, sighed and screamed about not only the continual under-representation of women in the food industry and the media that covers it, but also about how the icon of the celebrity chef — constructed as white, male, and straight — is a cultural figure that by its very nature subordinates every other identity within the industry. This particular construction of the celebrity …

Helen Atwater: The First Lady of American Nutrition You’ve Never Heard Of

History often tells the tales of “first men,” but where are all the first women? When I wrote a post on the history of food guides, I came across one of the earliest resources, “How to Select Foods,” published in 1917 by Hunt and Atwater. I at first assumed that this Atwater was Wilbur Olin Atwater, the man so often called “The Father of American Nutrition,” but I was wrong. It was Helen Atwater and a little digging revealed that she was Wilbur Atwater’s daughter, who had grown up alongside his research and, as much as possible given the gender politics of her day, followed in his footsteps. As is too often the case with histories of male-dominated fields, Helen’s name, story, and contributions are relatively absent from accounts of the early days of American nutrition science. As I began researching, I was happy to find the work of Melissa Wilmarth—Assistant Professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at the University of Alabama, who wrote her masters thesis and an article in Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal on Helen Atwater—as well as many …

Food and Matriarchy in “Sons of Anarchy”

While Charlie Hunnam‘s handsome face and blonde locks are reason enough for anyone to be watching Sons of Anarchy with unwavering interest, after watching the first five seasons, I’m struck by the way that scenes of eating express the harmony or discontent of the motorcycle club (MC). As its members seek to protect the interests of their aptly named hometown of Charming, California, as well as their families and their MC brothers against drugs, violence, and general discord, three meals mark the club’s progress. Notably, the presence and absence of these meals reflect the changing power and influence of the family matriarch, Gemma Teller-Morrow (Katey Sagal). Spoiler alert: If you haven’t yet watched the show and think you might like to, I’d suggest getting up to speed before reading further. Family is a strong theme throughout Sons of Anarchy, as members of the club treat one another as brothers, willing to fight, kill, and die to protect one another and those dear to them. While these family-like ties grow apparent throughout the first episodes, they are also made …

Food & Chefs as Sexual Metaphor in Romance Novels

My days before starting at Brown are numbered, so while I’ve done some fun things (#rhodetripping) and productive things (proofreading chapters in the forthcoming Food Activism (Counihan and Siniscalchi, eds., 2014) and peer reviewing papers submitted to The Graduate Journal of Food Studies), when I’m not binging on Netflix, I’ve been reading perhaps more than my fair share of romance novels. The most recent of these saccharine literary indulgences employed a food theme. While there are literal connections between food and sex—from aphrodisiacs cooked up throughout history to food foreplay à la 9 1/2 Weeks or Tampopo (coincidentally the king of all food films in my opinion) or the entertaining comparisons put forth in Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: The Differences Explained with Food—food can also be used as a sensual metaphor and literary device. While employed far more successfully and with greater sophistication in other novels, such as Like Water for Chocolate or in this interesting analysis even in Alice in Wonderland, food is, at a minimum, a consistent literal and metaphorical sexual theme in Kate Perry’s All for You, which when I (perhaps foolishly) …

“Older Bird” Chick Flicks: Romance, Feminism, and Food for the Over-50 Crowd

What follows is a section from the paper, “Something’s Gotta Give in the Kitchen: Viewing Nancy Meyers’ Older Bird Chick Flicks through a Food Studies Lens.” Read another section from this paper in the post, “Transcending the Screen: Trophy Kitchens in Two Nancy Meyers’ Films.”  Called “Middle-Aged Chick Flicks” by Mimi Swartz and “older bird movies” by Cherry Potter, there is a recent trend of what Potter describes as “comedy dramas about the sexual awakening of middle-aged women.” A handful of film critics and scholars have considered this new genre. For example, Thane Peterson defines the older bird demographic as, “Affluent aging women who worry that they’ll never find romance — or even basic human respect — in our youth-obsessed society.” Margaret Tally offers her own analysis: What these recent ‘older bird’ films may also be reflecting, then, are the contemporary struggles to redefine what middle age might be for a generation who has lived through the women’s movement and the struggle to have children at a later age than earlier generations. Sexuality and motherhood become, …