When Kate Cairns and I first worked on the topic of Food and Femininity, we didn’t anticipate that the topic of meat would hold such an important, but contradictory place in everyday foodwork. People worry about meat — where it comes from, whether it is safe to eat, how the animals were treated, and if they should teach kids about where meat comes from.
In this article in Agriculture and Human Values, we draw from qualitative data collected with Toronto mothers to explore how meat figures into foodwork and childrearing. We identify a central paradox surrounding meat consumption. On the one hand, good mothers are expected to teach kids where food comes from, a perspective strongly informed by ethical consumption discourse. On the other hand, good mothers are expected to protect children from the harsh realities of modern life — realities like slaughterhouses, factory farms, and eating animals. This paradox is not easily resolved, and can force mothers to confront some of the visceral discomforts of eating meat, especially in settings that are far-removed from the lives and deaths of animals. More generally, this articles speaks to the idea that food habits are not just about knowing (e.g., knowing the backstory of your meal), but also involve care, concern, and discordant emotions.
An excellent new journal article in Poetics explores how the cultural idea of terroir gets translated between wine regions across the globe. Sarah Cappeliez, one of the PhD candidates I supervise, draws on interviews and website analysis to explore the discourse of terroir in French and Canadian regional contexts.
Here is the abstract:
Terroir is a complex French cultural term used to identify and classify artisanal foods and drinks in relation to a specific place. Notoriously “untranslatable”, terroir has nevertheless travelled well beyond the borders of France and Europe more broadly. This paper illuminates the parts of terroir that translate culturally by using a qualitative comparative case study of two contrasting wine regions, and examines how terroir manifests in similar and different ways when it is taken up in a French and a Canadian regional cultural context. Through the analysis of terroir discourse in 30 interviews and 32 websites, this study further clarifies the factors that drive consistency and change in the translation of a cultural idea like terroir. Moving beyond the idea that “terroir is adaptable”, this paper shows how wine actors articulate terroir’s normative principles as constant, but describe terroir’s natural and human practices in locally contingent ways, nuancing our understanding of stability and change in how culture unfolds within a globalized cultural context.
This article looks at how leadership works within community based Participatory research (CBPR). Drawing from experience with a CBPR project involving 16 organizations from the community, government, and university sectors, we completed a focused ethnography where we interviewed 18 partnership members who were instrumental in, accountable for, and knowledgeable about Partnership’s formation. These interviews revealed that leadership was exercised in three ways during the formation stage of this CBPR: (1) through individual characteristics; (2) through actions; and (3) as a collective. These findings show that CBPR leadership requires a specific set of skills that draw, not only on collaborative leadership, but also leadership from more traditional, hierarchical settings. While CBPR leadership shares many of the characteristics of traditional leadership, this study shows that non-hierarchical leadership is also possible as Partnerships adapt to support the collaborative process of CBPR.
Kate Cairns, Merin Oleschuk and I recently wrote a short piece for the Gender & Society blog on the pressures mothers face when feeding children. We write: “When it comes to feeding children, mothers today must avoid the appearance of caring too little, or too much. Either extreme garners social stigma, although the penalties are far from equal.” Read the full piece here.
Hats off to Dr. Alexandra Rodney, who successfully defended her dissertation! Entitled “Healthy is the New Thin: The Discursive Production of Women’s Healthy Living Media,” Ali’s dissertation is an analysis of healthy living blogs and other media. It asks, “how do these media shape people’s ideas about gender, health, food and the body?” Her research provides fascinating insights on how healthy living bloggers are changing the conversation about which foods are defined as healthy, and on who gets to be considered a health ‘expert.’ It was an honour to work with Ali on this research, and I learned so much from the process.
Ali recently landed a full-time postdoc at the University of Guelph as part of an initiative to advance gender equity in leadership on campus. The two-year project focuses not only on research to better understand the problem, but also on designing and prototyping short- and long-term solutions; this approach parallels Ali’s work with the Innovation Hub at UofT.
Although we’ll greatly miss her wisdom and sense of humour in the halls at UofT, we are looking forward to witnessing the new ways Ali is advancing social justice through her feminist research expertise.
Model, Paloma Eslesser, posing for Glossier (as part of their “body hero” product campaign).
I have teamed up with my friend and colleague, Judith Taylor to write a commentary on the legacy of Hugh Hefner. Definitions of feminine beauty are being broadened and contested (as we see in the Glossier model depicted here). Still, it seems important to continue to interrogate gendered double-standards that persist around physical appearance, sex, and the body.
In the realm of local food, it’s often important to emphasize how food can be pleasurable and convivial. This is a pragmatic strategy for many reasons, and forces scholars to think carefully about what we mean by “politics”. Interviewing and observing food actors located in civil, state and market spheres in three Canadian cities, we describe a set of commonly articulated political ideals that inform and shape an engagement approach that we call “small-p politics”. We analyze why small-p politics is such an attractive option for food movement actors, but caution that narrowing the scope of tools and topics available for civic participation may compromise the ability for collective action to tackle barriers to justice and sustainability.