Why is Food a Feminist Issue?
Recently, I have been contemplating how I can combine my interests in the local food movement, food accessibility, and sustainability with feminism. While my food justice class discussed many issues that linked food with ecofeminism, there were a few that really caught my attention. In this blog post, I will be discussing a small part of the spectrum of feminist issues when it comes to food, regarding language, media, marketing, and women’s socially assigned role when it comes to: food.
The connection between cattle raising and women is derogatory and many people have chosen to ignore it. While the mistreatment and factory farming procedures of billion dollar farms is not enough for most people to consider cutting down on meat eating, as a woman, I find most of the information I’m about to discuss disheartening, and disgusting. The grouping of cattle, women and children have domestically throughout history been considered property of men. Cattle have been feminized and women have been animalized in the face of patriarchal control, in order to keep women and animals regarded as one and the same.
Some may disagree, and the most common argument is, “Meat eating has been a natural and historically significant part of life, and men fulfilled that role since ancient times.” While men have been historically hunters, and women gatherers- it is commonly overlooked that in times of bad weather or bad hunting seasons, it was the gatherers (women) that sustained the family through the gardening, saving, canning of food, in times when men could not sufficiently hunt meat for the family. It was women who filled the role, nourishing their men and children with grains, foraged fruits and rationed/preserved vegetables.
The grouping of animals and women is still overt in our everyday language, from the word “Bitch” referring to a female dog (historically a bulldog) being continually raped in order to carry on the breed (A bulldog being an incestual breed – sold for the looks – despite the inherent breathing and health problems associated with this type of animal breeding). Speaking of rape – cows are raped repeatedly in order to become pregnant and provide milk. Factory farmed cows are kept imprisoned, forcibly inseminated and the property of men, who positions himself superior to that of an animal. Kind of similar to the ways society assigns women to the domestic sphere, only ‘good’ for having and raising children, and taking care of imprisoned in the house. “Because our ideas about daughters and dairy cows evolved when both were property of husbands, the characteristics we ascribe to female humans and domesticated animals refer to and reinforce one another” (Jones, Satya, 2005).
If you then turn to media, which consistently sells the image of anorexic, blonde women as the archetype of what a women is “supposed” to be- when you divert from that image, you might be labeled as such. Labels for women such as: ‘cow, chick, bird, vixen, etc.’ group all women into a category that is animalistic, and makes it easy for men to position themselves as superior to women and animals. The patriarchy inherent in our language is also commercially marketed to society using highly sexist food advertisements. I am not going to rant and rave about this, instead I will attach a few pictures and you can decide for yourself how food advertisements depict women, and how this affects our culture.
An early Kellogs ad depicting vitamins for housewives. Oops! I think I just vacuumed up my brain. It gets even better with this sub way ad, very obviously hinting at oral sex. Just makes me want to eat a sandwich!
When looking at these issues, they fall on many different sides of the spectrum, but the missing link is the plate of food on your table: Who prepared it? Who farmed it? What animal was harmed or died for it? How much unpaid or paid time went into what you are eating from seed to plate? How was your food marketed?
In no way am I grouping all men into the same category, I am speaking from a historic and feminist perspective. Of course there are men out there who do not agree with these tactics, and do not expect every woman they come in contact with to serve them sex and dinner. I am simply stating the link between how women and animals are regarded in society, and the patriarchal culture that continues to dominate our culture, even beyond food. The farming, cooking, and profession surrounding food is used to socially construct the roles of women in many different ways, and I believe that this should be taken back and reclaimed by women- instead of lost in the abyss of dominant social constructs that plague our society and prevent people from taking action.
Identifying myself as an eco-feminist, I am aware of my own bias, but believe that these ideas are not discussed enough- if at all.
“One of the most basic tenets of the animal liberation movement is that there is no moral difference between human and non-human animals. If something ought not be done to humans, then it ought not be done to animals. And vice-versa. If we are serious about animal liberation, then we must work for the liberation of all animals, human and non-human. If we are serious about feminism, then we must shun speciesism just as we shun sexism. No one is free while others are oppressed. And, if we work together, understanding how seemingly different struggles are related to one another, then someday we will all be free.”
Shoutout to my food class people for these photos! (Alisha, Danielle)
I thought it would be fitting to focus my first blog post on the reason why I chose my blog name: Food to Fuel the World.
Today, there is so much emphasis on food, whether it is focused on poverty, world hunger, GMO and Organic labeling, as well as cultural, geographical, and the politics surrounding food. These are just some examples that have enveloped my interest in food, and understanding as much as I can about these topics. Because this blog was kick started by the “Take Back Your Kitchen Movement” I have to say, that picking my blog name was rooted in the idea that small-scale farming, eating in season, and being involved in what you eat from plant to harvest not only makes your own food taste better, but educates the community.
After reading “Everyone Eats There” by Mark Bittman, I realized how far away we have gotten from nourishing our bodies. The article details the mass-scale production of farming carrots, which are mostly exported to China, but also feeds the need of every American to be able to walk into the grocery store and buy a bag of carrots for $1.99, regardless of the season. This constant gratification of being able to “have whatever we want, whenever we want” have made people lose touch with what they eat.
The article also briefly discusses the billions of dollars companies like this one make, while failing to pay their employees a living wage (mostly migrant women), making them supply their own tools to farm, as well as destroying the environment around them through unsustainable farming methods.
Reading this article (among others) made me really want to do something, besides reading, responding, and discussing. Nothing gets done, when the only thing you can do is comment and respond to the reasons why this kind of farming is ‘bad.’ Another thing that came to my attention, is the fact that during this intense (and completely ridiculous) election season, food has not been a topic of conversation- not even once.
My blog, Food to Fuel the World, aims to dismantle the idea that communities can’t be resilient to large-scale farming and that ordinary people can’t make their own farm-to-table meals. Food to Fuel the World aims to create a platform that allows farming, cooking, and buying locally to sustainably nourish yourself, your family, and your community.
Taking a step back in time is easier said than done, but my hope is that thousands of people out there will realize the power of the ‘local’ movement and the fact that it has the power to transform the world you exist in.
I want my readers get inspired and inspire others to cook and eat local, and grow a food community that can potentially fuel the world.