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7th November 2018

Gendered Eating: nothing but celery is safe

Contributor Elena Bradley explores gendered eating as a concept. Is it a fad or is there stock in it as a social issue?
Gendered Eating: nothing but celery is safe
photo: Zaskoda @ Flickr

Food and eating is gendered in so many ways. There’s no denying it. I began to draft a piece on my experiences as a girl working around male derogatory chefs (cue ignorance and tea-towel whipping), but then settled on the phenomenon of ‘gendered eating’.

At first glance, you may be thinking that ‘gendered eating’ is the latest, wrongly picked fight by the social justice warriors. However, I promise this has some stock in it (pardon the pun). As I thought of all the times my ‘femininity’ had encouraged me to change my food choices, the list grew. I’m sure we’ve all had the advice of what foods to avoid on a date; spaghetti, curry, and big slabs of meat to name a few.

That’s essentially anything flavourful and substantial because, God forbid, your date sees you enjoy your pasta a bit too much and thinks you’re an animal. I also recalled the time I ordered a practically blue steak at a high-end restaurant and was greeted – with concern – by a male waiter who asked whether ‘madam realised that a blue steak was “very bloody” (yes, that did happen).

Whilst narrow-minded assumptions don’t threaten my being, the female food fads that populate Instagram and poison the minds of impressionable young girls are increasingly threatening. The fads I’m referring to are those circulated by the ‘icons’ of our generation namely; weight-loss lollipops and ‘clean’ eating to the point of only celery being safe. The premise of ‘clean eating’ is positive. Mindful over what you’re putting into your body and the encouragement to re-insert greens into a generation hooked on McDonalds and the teddy-bear fishcakes Jamie Oliver took from our primary schools is a bipartisan, positive move for diets everywhere. However, this is not what Instagram is selling to me and many other young women.

We are being sold a gendered myth. A myth that if I deprive myself of everything I love, i.e. fillet steaks, creme brûlée, seafood linguine, and pork scratchings (much to my boyfriend’s horror), I will be better off. Even though I may be thoroughly sad and hungry at least I will be deemed “sexy”. Whilst malnourished, I’ll also be confused as to why I haven’t transformed into the perfect hourglass like Kim K. This is the poisonous message.

I am personally sick of being sold the lie that deprivation is happiness. That ‘self-control’ to a woman is pushing away the cheese sandwich and choosing the green juice, stomach rumbling. This is not self-control, this is a society obsessed with achieving unattainable plasticity: in body and in concept. This is a society that is still calculating the worth of  women by their appearance – this is something food fuelled. Return to love of food, return to everything in moderation and return from the plastic to the real! Choose the salad because you want it, not because Kim K said it’s how she shed her cellulite.

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