Sexism in Food Ads & Genderfying Foods: Feeding into a Culture of Inequality

Where is the sexism in food ads? What does genderfying foods mean? In light of International Women's Day, March 8th, I want to illustrate some of the topics revolving around discrimination in the food industry.


As a current Dietetic Intern working in a hospital's foodservice kitchen, I thought it would be appropriate to research and share the link between food and women, as our society paints the picture.


While flipping through ads in a magazine, scrolling down a website with ads, driving past a billboard...next time pay attention. It's not rare that you might find a food ad with a woman eating a salad; a woman talking about grocery shopping; a woman cooking; a woman eating "healthy".


Let's take a look:

Dehumanization of women: showing an inability of strength

A representation of a woman doing chores and "shopping" for food.

The woman takes vitamins so she can “clean harder”

The man takes vitamins and becomes a superhero
Just one example of identifying salad as a feminine food

“Now even amateurs (men) bake better than experienced homemakers (women)…”

Contributes to body dysmorphia: telling woman what to eat to look a certain way

As seen above, some past and current food ads have negative implications on a woman's role in society, on how her body should look, and on what she should eat. Additionally, although she fulfills the "role" of cooking for the family, she still can't win as the man will always prevail (refer to the Kellog's PEP and Betty Crocker cake mix examples). Ultimately, these ads feed into a culture of acceptance for gender inequality.


Moreover, we see that genderfying (applying gender to) foods also contributes to a sexist culture. "Meat and potatoes are for men!" versus "Ladies, want to be slim? Try these low carb lettuce wraps!" I mean, have you really ever heard the oppositions to these: "Meat and potatoes are for women!" and "Men, want to be slim? Try these low carb lettuce wraps!" It's unheard of!


Meat is not masculine. Salads are not feminine. Food does not have a gender! If you, as a woman or a man, are craving a cookie--eat a cookie! If you really want a big crunchy salad with lots of toppings, make it happen! Want some steak and potatoes? Go for it! We all need protein because we all have muscles! We all need carbohydrates because we all expend energy! We all need fat to feel satiated throughout the day!


It's time to dismantle societal expectations on how our bodies need to look and instead, be concerned with the cues our body gives us. Your body dictates what it wants and needs to feel satisfied! Societal markers of what a man should eat versus what a woman should eat are unrealistic and harmful to our psychological relationships with food.


With all that being said, to my women reading: eat to fulfill your soul and fuel your body. Your mind, body, and spirit know what is needed-- always listen to those needs and shelve the societal pressures-- the world is just fearful to see a strong woman taking charge of her life. You are in the driver seat, make the turns you want, stop and go as needed, and have a Happy International Women's Day!


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