Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After: Volume 22

Cover of Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After

Table of contents

(20 chapters)
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Access restricted
Purpose/approach

This introduction provides an overview of the themes and chapters of this volume.

Research implications

The chapters present original qualitative and quantitative research illustrating the complex relationship between gender and food. The need to understand the relationship intersectionally and in historical context is apparent and provisioning as caring emerges as a major theme.

Practical and social implications

Food is a human right yet it is not always and everywhere available and when it is not always humanly produced and healthful. The fact that food production and consumption is gendered cannot be ignored in the quest for feeding our planet.

Originality/value

The chapter and the volume are intended to illustrate some of the many ways that food and gender are related and to encourage gender scholars to continue to pay attention to food research.

Access restricted

Part I: Gender, Food and Social Change

Purpose

This longitudinal case study affords opportunistic infra-cross-cultural and gendered comparisons of foodways within the fourth-world Saami societies across four north-European nation-states and through two generations. The study centers on 44 years of ethnographic research in arctic Norway, among both nomadic reindeer-herding and sedentary Saami together with their nearest neighbors within and without northernmost Norway.

Methodology/approach

General ethnographic immersion, from five years in duration down to single months or weeks, since early 1972, provides qualitative and quantitative data relevant to gender and food, collected in the two local languages, and supplemented by archeological and historical records as well as literatures from contiguous areas.

Findings

Two generations ago, most families, nomadic, or settled, could remember being self-sufficient with respect to food, and to lesser extents to clothing and shelter. Women’s roles in food acquisition and preparation have expanded in recent times. Some families, given choices largely made by wives and mothers, may today have a diet comparable with that in other parts of the West.

Research limitations/implications

This holistic ethnographic research continues indefinitely. Any ethnography is both enabled and limited by its investigator and by local social relations, in this case synergistic and positive.

Social implications

By the close of the 20th century, Saami researchers joined others in social science, often focusing on their indigenous culture and language. These provide usually corroborating and always fascinating data for outsiders, and many anecdotal narratives illustrating these data.

Access restricted
Purpose

This chapter examines everyday food production and consumption by three white working class Jewish sisters in the “outer boroughs” of New York City between the war years of the 1940s and the suburbanization of the 1950s.

Methodology/approach

The analysis combines theory, social history, and political economic context as well as the memories of daily life during this period.

Research limitations/implications

This analysis is not generalizable to the working class population at large during this era.

Findings

The chapter shows the importance of changes in the political economy as well as family structure and intersectionality on the production and consumption of food.

Social implications

The importance of government intervention and regulation in food distribution as a mechanism to combat scarcity and to increase equality is demonstrated.

Originality/value

The chapter examines the concept of intersectionality from the perspective of white, working class Jewish women. It analyzes the relationship between government policies, the growth of monopoly capital and women’s agency, and it fleshes out the concepts of social reproduction and use value.

Access restricted
Purpose

This chapter uses a feminist political ecology perspective to demonstrate how gender interacts with access to land as a re/productive resource in Tamale, a rapidly urbanizing city in West Africa. The study gives insight into the strategies that vulnerable groups employ to gain access to resources.

Methodology/approach

An ethnographic field study was carried out over 16 months, taking a case study approach involving interviews, participant observation and focus groups.

Findings

Women’s access to land is restricted in order to guarantee their labor for household reproductive tasks and inheritance. Yet they are using various traditional and contemporary strategies to reconcile their landless status with their food provisioning responsibilities. These involve forging networks with individuals and development institutions as well as harvesting and marketing. As land markets accelerate, these strategies become more important, even though they offer no guarantee that a woman can provide what she needs to her household. Formalized institutions aiming to give women access to land do not necessarily fulfill those functions if they are naive of the historical and cultural context.

Practical implications

Marginalization of groups of people, such as women, with regards to resource access is a result of complex interlocking historical processes that are often a result of dominant groups’ efforts to retain power.

Social implications

We confirm that gender is a primary element organizing access to land. The way this is performed in Northern Ghana results from the construction of tradition through post/colonial, religious and neoliberal contexts.

Originality/value

The originality of this work lies in its use of in-depth ethnographic data.

Access restricted
Purpose

This study examines the social and economic experiences of female food vendors in the informal economy in urban Ghana using a particularized analysis to challenge prevailing opinions that women working in the informal economy inevitably experience social oppression and economic marginalization.

Methodology/approach

Synthesizing data from ethnographic field observation of female street food vendors in urban Ghana with past ethnographic research, this study focuses on the cultural, historical, political, social, and economic particularities of the Ghanaian context to understand the experience of female urban street food vendors.

Findings

Ghanaian women working in informal food vending in urban environments in the Southern regions of Ghana experience a myriad of social and economic benefits including: strong social support networks, access to entrepreneurial skills and startup capital; heightened social status, resulting from loyal customers and community recognition; empowerment through financial autonomy; as well as pride in providing economic resources for children. These social and economic experiences serve as counterevidence to the dominant perspective that women in the informal economy experience social oppression and economic marginalization.

Originality/value

This research contributes qualitative data regarding the social and economic support systems established by women in the informal food economy in Ghana. Furthermore, it emphasizes that development agencies and policymakers understand the importance of these contextual dynamics in developing policies aimed at the informal economy.

Access restricted

Part II: Eating in Sickness and in Health

Purpose

The chapter is an auto-ethnographic account of the self-management of a chronic illness within the context of a participatory research project on Mediterranean Diet (MD). A group of Italian women with type 2 diabetes is following a non-medical, personal interpretation of the Mediterranean-style diet. The research account is preceded by a critical appraisal of the scientific narratives of the MD.

Methodology/approach

Analysis of epidemiological research on MD examines some methodological aspects of gender blindness in its scientific approach. The ethnography concerns self-management of MD diet and redefinition of gender relations.

Findings

MD is analyzed as a case of transplantation of yesterday’s cultural and social capitals of the peasant classes, to today’s discourses on food considered as appropriate for affluent people suffering from satiety diseases. The ethnography highlights gender aspects of biographical work, examining in particular a “conversion” dietary model.

Research limitations

The ethnography must be amplified to include women and men from different social classes with various Mediterranean cooking habits, and family and gender patterns.

Practical implications

The chapter highlights cultural processes for women’s empowerment in self-managing type 2 diabetes.

Originality/value

This chapter may represent a seminal sociological work on chronic illness, gender and food studies in one of the “native” contexts of the Mediterranean-style diet.

Access restricted
Purpose

Previous research assumes that economic development is the key to increasing the food supply and alleviating child malnutrition. However, economic development alone does not promise that income is distributed fairly, nor does it guarantee that other human needs will be fulfilled. What has been missing from cross-national research is an analysis of how gender inequality shapes women’s abilities to effectively maintain food security. The current study contributes to this literature by exploring the multidimensional effects of women’s empowerment on child stunting and wasting.

Methodology/approach

Pooling data from the Demographic and Health Surveys and the World Bank, the analysis estimates a series of multi-level models that examine the country-level influences on malnutrition, while also accounting for household and maternal characteristics that affect food security at the individual level.

Findings

Results suggest that improvements in women’s education, control over reproduction, representation in national politics, and life expectancy correspond to improvements in child malnutrition. Notably, the effects of gender inequality are comparable to or larger than those of economic development. The multi-level modeling technique illustrates how social forces that are larger than the individual shape the chances of experiencing food insecurity.

Research limitations

Cross-national data are limited in scope and cannot prove causality. Further research is also needed to better understand the process by which women wield advances in rights and empowerment to affect food security.

Social implications

If policymakers want to facilitate food security in poor countries, they should not disregard the potential of policies that will promote more equitable rights for women.

Access restricted
Purpose

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that requires strict lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. I explore how a celiac diagnosis affects gendered feeding work within families.

Methodology/approach

This chapter is based on a grounded theory analysis of field research with five celiac support groups and 80 in-depth interviews. I interviewed 15 adult men and 56 adult women with celiac, plus nine additional family members.

Findings

Gendered care work norms place the onus of responsibility for gluten-free feeding work on women, multiplying time spent planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Women employ distinct gendered strategies to accommodate the gluten-free diet. Following a strategy of integration, women tailor family meals to meet other diagnosed family members’ dietary needs and the entire family’s taste preferences. However, when women themselves have celiac, they follow a pattern of deferential subordination, not allowing their own dietary needs to alter family meals. Thus, women continue to prepare family meals as a form of care for others, even when their medical needs justify putting themselves first.

Originality/value

Social support is a key determinant of compliance with necessary lifestyle and dietary changes in chronic illness. However, little research explores the gendered dynamics within families accounting for the link between social support and dietary compliance. I show how gendered care work norms benefit husbands and children with celiac, while simultaneously disadvantaging women with celiac.

Access restricted
Purpose

The purpose of the chapter is to explore the relation between women’s healthy eating intention and food attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and barriers with a focus on the effect of women’s income differences.

Methodology/approach

The research applies the Theory of Planned Behavior, including attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, perceived barriers, and ability opportunity resources. Close-ended survey responses of 704 women between ages 25 and 65 years, affluent and at-risk-of-poverty women in three EU-member countries were analyzed.

Findings

Women are mostly positively inclined towards healthy eating, and income does not differentiate women’s inclination. Influencing factors are perceived behavioral control, attitudes towards healthy eating, subjective norms, and level of knowledge regarding healthy food. Barriers, when present, are similar for lower or higher income women and relate to routinized family habits and food affordability and availability.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should thoroughly investigate family network and structure features, with a focus on family food preferences and habits.

Social and practical implications

Encouraging women’s healthy behavior also impacts children and men, and vice-versa. There is need to target all family components with enjoyable, self-rewarding, emotionally gratifying, and pleasant tasting food.

Originality/value

Income is an overestimated driver in healthy food choices. Women are strongly influenced by personal and environmental factors, mainly personal control, feelings, and family habits.

Access restricted
Purpose

This chapter examines the emotional labor of food provisioning for women engaged in local food systems (LFSs), and considers how socio-demographic factors influence the emotional labor of food provisioning for women engaged in LFSs.

Methodology/approach

Qualitative data was used for analysis, and was gathered through in-depth interviews with 43 women across the state of Ohio who expressed concern with the agrifood system, but engaged in varied levels of LFS participation.

Findings

Results confirm that women engaged in LFSs experience heightened emotional labor in food provisioning. Showing care to family, community and the environment, transmitting values, sharing cultural traditions, and demonstrating skill were related to positive emotions that were heightened by LFS engagement. Women with higher incomes, those with partners and children, and those who were not employed were more likely to report these positive emotions associated with food provisioning.

Negative emotions associated with food provisioning were also heightened by LFS engagement. Women reported that LFS engagement heightened their sense of demand, burden, stress, and guilt with food provisioning. Low-income women, employed women, younger women, and women with children were more likely to report negative feelings connected with food provisioning.

Originality/value

This research helps fill a gap in existing literature and encourages agrifood scholars and LFS proponents to acknowledge the fact that women engaged in LFSs are performing significant emotional carework in their food provisioning. This research also confirms that considering intersectionality can be important to understanding the sphere of consumption in agrifood studies.

Access restricted

Part III: Food: Preparing and Serving it

Purpose

Gender, race, and class-based meanings inform longstanding divisions and status hierarchies within the culinary profession, such as those between public and private and amateur and professional cooking. Private and personal chefs’ work in homes disrupts these divisions and hierarchies. Given their precarious position, how do these chefs negotiate their standing within the profession?

Methodology/approach

This chapter draws on interviews with 41 private/personal chefs. Eight were primarily private household employees, while all others were primarily self-employed.

Findings

The chefs negotiated their status by making distinctions between themselves and commercial chefs, along with other private/personal chefs. The chefs both challenge and reinforce the dichotomies and criteria shaping status evaluations within the culinary profession. Similarly, they both contest and reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies.

Social implications

The chefs’ conceptual distinctions can potentially (re)produce or challenge material inequalities. Moreover, while the fields of private/personal cheffing create opportunities for more adults to cook for a living, the traditional status hierarchies remain largely the same. It is likely that as long as those hierarchies persist, the chefs’ conceptual distinctions will continue to challenge and reinforce them.

Originality/value

Research on private/personal chefs has been minimal, so this chapter fills this gap. It also adds to scholarship connecting workers’ status struggles and gender, race, and class inequalities. The case of private and personal chefs sheds new light on how gender, race, and class intersect to inform status evaluations within the culinary profession.

Access restricted
Purpose

This ethnographic study of school food service employees at an elementary, middle, and high school in the Midwest introduces “feeding labor,” a concept to signify a form of gendered labor that entails emotional and bodily feeding activities.

Methodology

This chapter is based on 18 months of participant-observation and 25 in-depth interviews.

Findings

I illustrate three characteristics of feeding labor: (1) the physical labor of attending to the feeding needs of customers, (2) the emotional labor of managing feelings to create and respond to customers, and (3) variations in the gendered performance of feeding labor as explained through the intersection of race, class, and age. These dimensions vary across different field sites and emerge as three distinct patterns of feeding labor: (1) motherly feeding labor involves physical and emotional attentiveness and nurturing with mostly middle- and upper-class young white customers, (2) tough-love feeding labor involves a mix of tough, but caring respect and discipline when serving mostly working- and lower-middle class racially mixed young teens, and (3) efficient feeding labor involves fast, courteous service when serving mostly working- and middle-class predominantly white teenagers.

Implications

These findings show that a caring and nurturing style of emotional and physical labor is central in schools with white, middle-class, young students, but that other forms of gendered feeding labor are performed in schools composed of students with different race, class, and age cohorts that emphasize displaying tough-love and efficiency while serving students food. Examining this form of labor allows us to see how social inequalities are maintained and sustained in the school cafeteria.

Access restricted
Purpose

This study examines liberal second-wave feminists’ writings about cooking. Most scholarship of liberal feminism has focused on the attempts to integrate women into previously male-dominated public spaces such as higher education, the professions, and political office. Less attention has been paid to how these feminists politicized feminized spaces such as the home. A longstanding tension between the housewife role and feminist identities has led many to theorize that feminists avoid or resent domestic tasks. However, I argue that some liberal feminists in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s suggested engaging with cooking in subversive ways that challenged patriarchal institutions and supported their political goals.

Methodology/approach

I analyze 148 articles about cooking in Ms. magazine between 1972 and 1985. I also analyze the copy and recipes within four community cookbooks published by liberal feminist organizations.

Findings

I find that liberal feminists suggested utilizing time- and labor-saving cooking methods, encouraged men to cook, and proposed that women make money from cooking. These three techniques challenged the traditional division of domestic labor, supported women’s involvement in the paid workplace, and increased women’s control of economic resources.

Originality/value

This study turns the opposition between feminism and feminized tasks on its head, showing that rather than avoiding cooking, some liberal feminists proposed ways of cooking that challenged patriarchal institutions. I show how subordinate populations can develop ways of subversively engaging with tasks that are typically seen as oppressive, using them in an attempt to advance their social position.

Access restricted

About the Authors

Pages 287-293
Access restricted
Cover of Gender and Food: From Production to Consumption and After
DOI
10.1108/S1529-2126201622
Publication date
2016-08-24
Book series
Advances in Gender Research
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-054-1
Book series ISSN
1529-2126