Gender Politics in the Food Industry

Leslie Banco/Staff Writer

Smoothies are a delicious drink and fun to make, and are consumed by both men and women. However, smoothies are regarded with a kind of femininity that can only be attributed to women, versus a protein shake normally being attributed to mostly men consuming them.

Therefore, does that mean smoothies are feminine and protein shakes are masculine? Something so miniscule such as smoothies and protein shakes all tie in together to the larger picture–sexism in the food industry which coincides with a subconsciously reinforced patriarchal society.

It is interesting that the social norm today is that men go to the gym and are stereotyped mostly with protein shakes versus women who also consume protein shakes and go to the gym. Yet, smoothies are considered a feminine drink. This is all a total fallacy. The fact that we even have these gender roles and norms to limit what men and women can and cannot do is detrimental to say the least.

It is also a lie that men don’t drink smoothies or vegan smoothies as much as women, they do in fact. Tim Shieff, a well known world free running champion, is a frequent guest on Jamie Oliver’s drinks Youtube channel. Shieff creates his own vegan smoothie recipes and shows his viewers how to make it – he himself is a vegan.  In his most recent video, he creates a mango and coconut vegan smoothie, a great snack that anyone can enjoy

Shieff, not only drinks smoothies regularly, but also doesn’t consume any meat and is still one of the best athletes today. Who says you can’t be fit when going vegan anyway? And make no mistake there are numerous fit women out there who consume protein shakes as well and have popular fitness channels, blogs, ect.

Gender roles and beliefs not just in the food industry, but in every industry constrict and limit our views and does a disservice future generations.

With that being said,  you can’t assign a role to one specific gender and not have repercussions. In my experience there is still so much ingrained misogyny and bigotry instilled that stems from generations of patriarchal ideologies from both men and women. In the food industry, take for example British television personality Nigella Lawson–self proclaimed domestic goddess, a woman with exceptional domestic skills such as cooking and cleaning.

Lawson is seen as a feminist who has a strong voice in the food industry, however, is she really? In an exclusive interview with TIME, the interviewer asks Nigella why is it that even though women have traditionally been for many years the cooks, why is it considered a man’s profession? In response, Nigella states that it “suits men better” and supports the notion that women are supposed to carry out the role of raising children as opposed to men.

This statement only supports the gender role stereotypes that go against Lawson’s feminist views she claims to have. Instead of helping and empowering women she is indirectly reinforcing the values of a system that is outdated and does not work in today’s changing social climate where we see an emergence of working women and independence from men.

Her show on the food network, Nigella is featured in domestic spaces such as a kitchen. In fact, all of the women on the food network are featured in a domestic space versus male chefs such as Guy Fieri who travel in addition to being a restaurateur and tv personality.

Men are perceived as adventurers — brave, daring, and are not confined to the primary role of taking care of a family or rearing children. Fieri’s adventures are included in the shows “Guy Fieri’s Roadshow,” which showcases him traveling the country on a culinary tour: part cooking demo, part rock concert. He also has a show called “Drivers, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” where Fieri is seen traveling across the U.S., visiting some of the country’s most classic “greasy spoon” restaurants.

On the other side of the coin, it seems only natural for producers of the food network to have women such as Lawson and Ree Drummond with their own show, mostly targeted towards women because it coincides with their own personal beliefs that a woman’s role with food is only in domestic spaces –serving the family.

We also see in today’s workplace that those titles such as professional chef or cook are mostly reserved for men. There is a huge gender gap in the food industry when it comes to professional chefs, more men harbor those titles than do women. Does that mean because it comes naturally for women to cook in domestic spaces, they shouldn’t be named chefs?

According to an article in the “New York Times,” it states,“despite the fact that women make up the vast majority of home cooks, and despite four-plus decades of modern feminism, women still run just a small percentage of top kitchens in New York and elsewhere.”

Again, this all ties back to the gender roles being thrust upon us since birth, even in today’s seemingly progressive society. It is generally accepted that women usually have to take on the primary role of raising children, cooking, cleaning and if they do happen to work—they are likely to do twice the work in a household.

“A woman’s place is in the kitchen,” an old, well known quote that is continues to be upheld, albeit more subtly; however, despite this, women are still not given nearly as much credit, pay, nor the titles that they deserve for their efforts in the kitchen and instead those credits, and benefits are reserved for their male counterparts. The beliefs of society in this sense is paradoxical and ironic.

Despite the progression we have made, it’s still not nearly enough because of all the ingrained misogyny within cultures, conscious or unconscious.

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