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.” Ali’s 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.
On top of these accomplishments, Ali is the lead author of a new publication in Food, Culture & Society written with Sarah Cappeliez, Merin Oleschuk and I: The Online Domestic Goddess: An Analysis of Food Blog Femininities.
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.
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.
I am happy to report that an article I have worked on with Emily Huddart Kennedy and John Parkins is now available in British Journal of Sociology. The article is called “Small-p politics: how pleasurable, convivial and pragmatic political ideals influence engagement in eat-local initiatives”.
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.
Warm congratulations to Tyler Bateman, a PhD student I supervise, for receiving a 2017 Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. Tyler joins seven other students in the Department of Sociology at UofT who were awarded SSHRC fellowships this year.
Here is Tyler’s description of his exciting project, entitled Who cares about nature? The environmental sociology of perception.
With increasing urbanization, urban parks may play an important role in the ability of urban dwellers to develop an affective appreciation of wild organisms and their natural habitats. This research investigates the social processes that support and derive from the awe-inspiring discovery of animals, plants, and other organisms in urban parks. The thrill of discovering wild nature may be an important root of public discussions about conserving nature.
Anelyse Weiler, one of the PhD candidates I’m supervising, is the lead author of a new article in International Migration: “Food Security at Whose Expense? A Critique of the Canadian Temporary Farm Labour Migration Regime and Proposals for Change.” Co-authored by Janet McLaughlin and Donald Cole , the article focuses on linkages between food security, food sovereignty, and Canada’s migrant farm worker regime. One of their core arguments is that pitting food security for Canadians against the rights of migrant farm workers is a false moral choice. They propose a range of policy options to advance dignity alongside migrant farm workers. These include granting migrant farm workers full immigration status on arrival, supporting worker-owned farms, and rethinking regulations that underpin concentrated corporate power in the food system.
Anelyse is currently conducting her dissertation fieldwork in BC and Washington state. Last year, the BC Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives acknowledged her efforts to inform more just and sustainable food systems through the Power of Youth Leadership Award for Research, Analysis and Solutions.
Although much is known about how affluent ‘‘foodies’’ use food as a marker of status and distinction, what are the food tastes of people with a lower socioeconomic status?
In a new article in the Journal of Consumer Culture, Shyon Baumann, Michelle Szabo and I investigate this question. We analyze interview data from 254 individuals from 105 families across Canada to explore the cultural repertoires that guide low-socioeconomic-status consumer tastes in food. We asked respondents across socioeconomic status groups which foods they prefer, and for what reasons.
We argue that low socioeconomic- status respondents show aesthetic preferences that operate according to four cultural repertoires. These repertoires are notably different from people with a high socioeconomic status who practice “cultural omnivorousness” (i.e. eating a wide range of high-status and low-status foods). Our respondents display tastes for foods from corporate brands, familiar ‘‘ethnic’’ foods, and foods they perceive as healthy.
Even though low-socioeconomic-status taste preferences in food are shaped by everyday economic constraints – what Bourdieu called ‘‘tastes of necessity’’ – we show how cultural repertoires guiding low-socioeconomic-status tastes relate to both material circumstances and broader socio-temporal contexts. Our findings shed light on the underlying meanings and justifications behind food ideals among people with low socioeconomic status.