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.
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.
Professor Kate Cairns and I are always happy to hear when our recent book, Food and Femininity, has struck a chord with readers. Here is a compilation of the thoughtful reviews the book has received so far. We hope our contribution continues to push forward critical conversations about gender, feminism, food and inequality.
The Huffington Post just published a short, seasonal piece I co-authored with PhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk and Professor Kate Cairns. In our article, we reflect on ways to alleviate some of the pressures behind the idealized family meal, particularly as they pertain to economic and gender inequality. Continue reading →
It’s been exciting to read the critical ideas and discussions stimulated by Food and Femininity. In this book, Kate Cairns and I explore the complex and emotionally-charged tensions underpinning women’s relationship to food today. Continue reading →