Gendered food

Ever wondered why chocolate is for girls, and steak is for boys? (Ever wondered whether chocolate is for girls and steak is for boys?) Well wonder no more, because those lovely scientists have been doing some researching and come up with some answers – which contradict each other, of course. First up, there’s the innate difference brigade, who claim that women are genetically predisposed to prefer sweet food, whilst men are genetically predisposed to prefer bitter tastes. This is why men prefer beer and women prefer alcopops. Then there are those in the evolution camp, including our old mate, David Katz. Men need more protein because they were hunters, so they prefer to eat meat. Delicate ladies like ourselves, however, can get by on vegetables, because we just evolved to sweep the cave and pick a few carrots. (Anyone know how much protein’s involved in making new humans? I’ll wager a fair bit’s required to make all those little brains and nervous systems and muscles and bones and… ok we get the picture). Third, there are those folks who realised that a proper study of gendered food preferences might want to peer past the US boundaries and see what all those foreign types were eating. And hey presto, they found that things were different overseas. Spanish women and men craved chocolate equally – it wasn’t just those Spanish lasses locking themselves in a bath to feast on well-known chocolate treats, whilst Egyptians all preferred salty foods. Finally, there’s Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab (wow – who knew such a place existed?), who has discovered that people like to eat food that they’ve been told reflects or embodies the sorts of qualities they want to have or see themselves as possessing. So food choices are an extension of people’s identities. But this is a phenomenon that is more prevalent in the US (and perhaps the UK?) where there is an abundance of food. In places such as India, for example, attitudes to food are different – it is considered sacred – and there are less gendered food preferences. So there you have it, folks. You can read more here.

10 thoughts on “Gendered food

  1. Every time I read innate difference studies, I become increasingly convinced I am a man. I don’t like sweets at all. I prefer (not bitter really) sour, umami and salty. I also prefer beer to alcopops.

  2. I can’t wait to try “boys don’t like chocolate” out on Jender-Son! (He wants to play the gender stereotype game every morning now. And he’s added to it: he now demands an apology.)

  3. JJ – that can still be true. It could also have been created for a before football sugar boost, a handy snack mid dance-class, a present for celebrating people’s birthdays, etc…. A multi-functional treat :)

  4. The bit about sweeping the cave floor & making new people had me laughing.

    On a more serious note, I went out to eat with the family a month ago and almost everything on the menu was fried, so I went for a steak, which I like, but just don’t eat often. Anyway, when the waiter went through the whole “how do u want it cooked, sides, etc.” rigmarole I realized that I was *nervous* about messing up my order or not knowing what he was talking about. This was at the Outback. It’s not complicated. And yet I had this weird sense like I had just stepped into a club that I didn’t belong to and had to prove that I belonged there.
    I also get this kind of nervousness when I order beer at new places, which I order often and I have possibly above average knowledge of (raised by alcohol snobs). Food and gender is frickin weird.

  5. Logoskaieros, relations of mine with mild social phobia can find restaurants nightmarish. Not to say you have it, but rather that there are definite rights and wrongs. Perhaps it takes some imagination or sensitivity for that to rise to awareness.

    Relatedly, there are places which value being able to order well, and discussing one’s order can be a matter of some boasting.

    Monkey, good point. The goddess would see the value of chocolate to all peoples. Not dogs, though.

  6. Y’all should read “The Sexual Politics of Meat” by Carol Adams which traces classism and sexism based on the consumption of meat.

    Why are things considered important known as the “meat of the matter”?

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