8

votes

Food Genderization

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 08, 2012 at 7:04 PM

Seeing as it's International Women's Day and all (fella's, you can get everything together for November 19th, but keep reading because I want your opinions too!) I was wondering if anyone has noticed an effect of the "genderization" of food on how your friends/family/coworkers etc perceive your way of eating.

Traditionally the phrase "meat and potatoes" is not followed by the word "lady", so it would seem logical to me that women would receive greater back lash for eating so much gosh darned meat in their diet, versus men who are more "expected" to want and need meat in order to be satisfied with a meal. I know that if I order a steak in a restaurant I always feel like I need to justify ordering it like "it's a special occasion!" or something phony if I don't want to give the spiel about what I eat, while when my boyfriend orders a steak he gets a sort of "way to go, good choice" especially from other males. Is this me being overly sensitive? Do other ladies feel like they are being judged above and beyond their male counterparts for eating a higher fat, higher animal product diet?

The other side to this, is when you look at the vegan, vegetarian, and raw food diets, it seems that most of the gurus are these late middle aged men staring at me from the diet section of the book store. This makes me think that society is probably become less tolerant of the "meat and potatoes" history that men have been historically branded with. Men, do you think you experience equal judgement to your female counter parts? Do you receive MORE judgement because we expect the ladies to change their diet, but people are confused by a diet-conscious fellow?

ALSO, bonus question: Who berates you more for your food choices, males or females?

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on May 18, 2012
at 06:08 PM

HA!! USAF veteran here. Certainly not a hardcore Marine, but still love this answer!

D1728f99db66ff91d695a6df5cd38b02

(1368)

on March 09, 2012
at 05:31 PM

I order with conviction, never give excuses, and don't seem to have any issues. I feel much worse if I order a salad. I feel like a bad ass ordering a steak.

5aa057aabe02e83299e1e2137eab05e2

(108)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:49 PM

True! In my pre-marriage days, I was sort of an expert at the dating scene, and I found early on that men ( in NYC) were oddly attracted to my food choices. I didn't choose them to be alluring, but I experienced extremely positive interest when I would order steak or veal chops instead of a salary- seafood thing. I learned to tailor my beverage to the mans taste too, just because I wanted to see what would happen. When all the ladies switched to bottled water after dinner, I ordered port. I even smoked a cigar once in a while. I was much in demand.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on March 09, 2012
at 09:44 AM

I also feel that western males berate me for my food choices, but ordinarily I hang out with a veritable united nations of females who don't view my carnivory with susspicion (mm eat that duck skin! Yum beef tendon,etc)

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:36 AM

Thomas Tryon wrote a vegetarian cookbook way back in 1691, his wife could not be persuaded to change her diet at his suggesting. I think there was probably a lot of judging going on both ways in that household.

4b8ce2e8143119b39e00d5705b76cfa6

(40)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:39 AM

I tell people I do the Paleo diet and they look at me for a few seconds, then say, "Why!? You're not fat!" the word diet has become completely bastardized.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 10:39 PM

Wait staff can totally surprise me with the condescending little judge-y remarks. I even got the "eating for two?" remark when I ordered a big, meaty meal once, which is kind of crazy because I do not have anything that could be mistaken for a baby belly...slap in the face much!

2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

(328)

on March 08, 2012
at 09:19 PM

Yup! I think the phrase "ladies don't eat steak (in public)" is in the secret wait staff handbook.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 08, 2012
at 08:44 PM

LOL, a waiter did try to give my steak to my son once; we had a great laugh over it.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Yeah, I wonder if age plays in- my mother is the one who is always concerned that I am not eating "right", and all of her friends try and give me little bits of "advice" while looking wierded out by what I eat. Tend to get a lot more reprimanding by people older than me VS people younger than me..

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:47 PM

The expectations for females to diet and watch their weight is why I was wondering if any guys got bugged for watching what they eat- it seems like it is more normalized for women to change their eating habits from a "main stream" diet.

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13 Answers

7
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:23 AM

I think at least in the early dating phase there is the "woman eats a salad, man eats a steak" thing as a mating dance symbolically showing that the man can procure a lot of meat, and the woman shows how little meat she will need to survive, thus proving to each other that they are low maintenance mates and that there will be a bounty of food. A whole lotta dates take place in restaurants, so I think the waitstaff becomes attuned to this song and dance.

I've never set out make a feminist statement ordering meat in a restaurant, but it has been perceived that way on occasion by older female family members, one even took me aside to suggest that I be more "ladylike" if I want to "hang on to my man". It isn't like I was shoveling food into my mouth and grunting, just ordered a steak, and ate to satiety. Oh, the horror!

My current pet peeve is that our culture has not been able to shake the idea that women prove their virtue by not needing to eat, and as a result try to sustain themselves by sneaking small bites of things like Luna Bars, and then shoving them back into their bags quickly hoping no one saw them eat. This seriously needs to stop. Eat a damn meal already!

This goes way back though, far beyond the corset training and "green sickness" (anemia from living on salad and sweets, you know, ladylike foods) of the Victorian era. In the book In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful history of Forbidden Food there is a chapter called "Saints and Supermodels" that goes into this quite a bit. "Food deprivation among Judeo-Christians originated as a form of penance and as a reaction to the indulgences of pagan Rome." It goes on to talk about female mystics starving themselves to experience light-headedness and holy hallucinations. I think we should do some serious finger pointing at a certain fellow named St. Jerome, who suggested that his "young female followers fast without cessation to 'cool their hot little bodies.'" His definition of a true lady was "one I never saw eat" and his female followers when they did eat were advised to do so alone in the dark to hide their shame. So, we have some pretty entrenched misogynistic tendencies in Western history when it comes to food.

As much as there is this ideal that that bodily needs are a distraction from the spiritual in both the East and the West, I think the men falling under the spell of this type of thing today is influenced deeply by interest in Eastern mysticism and yoga (don't get me wrong, I love me my yoga classes I'm just gonna go home and eat a piece of animal when I'm done). Media images of male models often show a yoga body or the gaunt Christlike body of someone who has "better"/more spiritual things to do than indulge the body in meat and potatoes. In the men this appeals to it is often a rebellion against their origins and fathers seeking a more "enlightened existence". Eating little enough to reduce sex hormones drastically makes it easier to follow their spiritual path because it is kinda hard to meditate day in and day out when you are too horny, so the vegan thing and the yoga thing are a great team for that. But, I get really frustrated when I see young fertile men and women deprive themselves of the nutrients they need to be full humans before they've even had the chance to decide if they want to make more people, often having that choice made for them through chronic malnourishment.

I think everyone feels some guilt about taking what they need to survive, but denying ourselves our needs on a large scale to rectify that feeling is not in my opinion a sign of a healthy society.

6
Fd627132a760e414f2afbf378c8afd9b

(260)

on March 09, 2012
at 03:40 AM

Interesting topic. I'm not a lady, but I'm gonna comment anyways.

I think its hot when my wife eats a steak, and I've heard a lot of my male friends say the same thing. I think other women are the ones that really judge. I've heard that when women get dressed up, more often than not its to impress other women. The same is probably true with what they order in a restaurant.

As for there being a societal double standard with the old 40 year old men eating like vegans, in their hippyish subculture, I'd say acting "effeminate" is the norm. I think those vegan guys would feel much less progressive and chic if they put on a uniform, went to a military chow hall and grabbed their vegan fare before sitting down with some Marines.

5aa057aabe02e83299e1e2137eab05e2

(108)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:49 PM

True! In my pre-marriage days, I was sort of an expert at the dating scene, and I found early on that men ( in NYC) were oddly attracted to my food choices. I didn't choose them to be alluring, but I experienced extremely positive interest when I would order steak or veal chops instead of a salary- seafood thing. I learned to tailor my beverage to the mans taste too, just because I wanted to see what would happen. When all the ladies switched to bottled water after dinner, I ordered port. I even smoked a cigar once in a while. I was much in demand.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f

(8014)

on May 18, 2012
at 06:08 PM

HA!! USAF veteran here. Certainly not a hardcore Marine, but still love this answer!

6
2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

on March 08, 2012
at 08:14 PM

Mostly, the genderization of food I see is when wait staff is continually trying to put my food down in front of my boyfriend. Also, I work in an office of mostly women, who all seem to undereat compared to me..granted, I am very active, but still. The foods I see being made in our break room horrify me, but I can tell that these are attempts at eating "healthy." I'm talking Lean Cuisine and half a can of soup. My hatred of canned soup aside, half a can, who can live on half a can of soup for lunch!!

2f83028f9830b25f7c21109197176d9e

(328)

on March 08, 2012
at 09:19 PM

Yup! I think the phrase "ladies don't eat steak (in public)" is in the secret wait staff handbook.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 10:39 PM

Wait staff can totally surprise me with the condescending little judge-y remarks. I even got the "eating for two?" remark when I ordered a big, meaty meal once, which is kind of crazy because I do not have anything that could be mistaken for a baby belly...slap in the face much!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 08, 2012
at 08:44 PM

LOL, a waiter did try to give my steak to my son once; we had a great laugh over it.

4
Fb10cf8e5dbac271762e13721181d5dc

(453)

on March 09, 2012
at 04:18 AM

I notice the genderization of food a lot in the media, and it bothers me, but in my personal life-- it usually doesn't happen that I eat around other people, and when I do, it's around my friends who, while not paleo (one's a vegan, another likes beef as much as I do), appreciate real food . Plus we're all a bunch of dirty hippies, so they probably think the genderization of food is as idiotic as I do.

I'm self-conscious about a lot of things, but for whatever reason ordering a steak--or a fatty carnitas burrito bowl at Chipotle--doesn't make me feel insecure in my femininity. Mostly I just feel smug, haha. Look what I can lose weight eating. Not that they'd know from a single encounter, but I know, and that makes it fun. I don't eat out that much either though; maybe I just haven't run into the judgmental wait staff yet and my time is coming.

4
Medium avatar

(10663)

on March 09, 2012
at 02:21 AM

I just smile whenever people stare at me while there's a half masticated cow chillin' in my mouth. I just ignore when my girlfriends tell me this has soooooo many calories and omg all that saturated fat.
I think it's like when you see women lifting really big heavy weights. They're not any less feminine than the women you see running on the treadmill for half an hour.

3
183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

on March 09, 2012
at 08:50 AM

I find the genderisation of food unsettling, as I favour a more egalitarian approach. I'm a small female, and a guy once once described my steak as 'pornographic' - never thought of it in these terms before. I think that culture also plays a big part. I grew up in a non western culture where frequent consumption of various animal parts by a female was totally normal, whereas now in my newly adopted western ( new Zealand ) culture there is a lot of commentary on my Meat consumption (organs, large cuts of meat, and most disturbingly FAT) See the analysis of nigella lawson for instance. A Woman's appetite is tied to sexual appetite. Ties back to a Victorian way of thinking.

I am happy to be a small female who loves to eat large potions of meat, organs and fat and that's all that matters.

183f5c49a7a9548b6f5238d1f33cb35e

(1716)

on March 09, 2012
at 09:44 AM

I also feel that western males berate me for my food choices, but ordinarily I hang out with a veritable united nations of females who don't view my carnivory with susspicion (mm eat that duck skin! Yum beef tendon,etc)

3
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:15 PM

My status in my family is such that no one tries to direct my food choices. My son and grandson both seem happy about my obvious health but neither had a voice in last year's lifestyle change.

Among my friends, they'll find SOMETHING to tease me about so if it isn't water kefir (referred to by them as "hooch") it's that I refuse cookies and cake. I'd say the women pile on more than the guys but we're all strong women and it's all in fun.

To be honest, I expected to be berated at the doctor's office yesterday as I'd confided my eating plan. My blood work was great, though, and the PA said this is obviously a terrific diet for me. She also agreed she's in favor of avoiding meds if at all possible so I found an ally where I expected resistance.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:49 PM

Yeah, I wonder if age plays in- my mother is the one who is always concerned that I am not eating "right", and all of her friends try and give me little bits of "advice" while looking wierded out by what I eat. Tend to get a lot more reprimanding by people older than me VS people younger than me..

2
0eba2cda101e1ef460ca0291aeb2e975

on March 09, 2012
at 12:59 AM

I went out and had an amazing rib eye at a nice restaurant last night, but since my man ordered the same thing and it was a steak house I can't tell if there was any food discrimination. He is not really paleo and ordered a berry cocktail, which they brought to me. Bah! Real men eat berries!!!

2
193b7fb0fec8913d5ebb3b99a04d21c6

(2918)

on March 08, 2012
at 10:25 PM

Back when I drank regular Coke and my husband drank Diet Coke, they would ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS give him the regular and me the diet. Probably because he has 100 lbs on me, but still, I ordered it!

Now we don't really have any problems, since we usually end up ordering the same thing to drink/eat. We don't do much eating with other people outside the house.

They do assume my kids want their steak medium or well done, and when they ask for it rare, people get shocked and confused.

1
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on March 09, 2012
at 01:21 PM

People are generally a bit weird about my eating habits because I am underweight, but I also get encouragement from everyone to pig out (normally on things I don't eat though, like pizza and donuts). I've never had to deal with the subtle (or not so!) judgement normal-weight or overweight women experience most days of their lives for their eating choices.

Men seem to find it a big turn-on/fascinating that I can and do eat large quantities of 'manly' foods like steak, potatoes, etc. Of course my freakish ability to stay very slender while doing so might be a part of this.

My ex does not eat very much, despite being a muscular 160 lb to my scrawny 100 lb, and dislikes most meat dishes, preferring salad and sushi and other 'feminine' foods. When we went out to eat it was almost inevitable that they would serve our entries to the wrong person.

1
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 09, 2012
at 12:44 AM

I don't experience any judgement, but then most of my friends eat whole foods even if they aren't outright Paleo.

I did notice the other night that the waiter thought I had ordered the salad, instead of my husband, but that's about it.

1
35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:40 PM

Meh... there's a lot of paleo foods that could be thought of as more female gendered. A ribeye or tri-tip maybe not, but a crustless quiche, salad or pile of fruit many people think of as lady-like foods. It's pretty ridiculous to me either way, but I could certainly serve up a Mother's Day brunch of all paleo foods and not have anyone blink an eye at it.

4b8ce2e8143119b39e00d5705b76cfa6

(40)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:39 AM

I tell people I do the Paleo diet and they look at me for a few seconds, then say, "Why!? You're not fat!" the word diet has become completely bastardized.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 08, 2012
at 07:47 PM

The expectations for females to diet and watch their weight is why I was wondering if any guys got bugged for watching what they eat- it seems like it is more normalized for women to change their eating habits from a "main stream" diet.

0
Bad3a78e228c67a7513c28f17c36b3cf

(1387)

on March 09, 2012
at 01:09 PM

I've never had the restaurant problem. I always get what I ask for without comments from the waitstaff. Now, when I am out with a group of non paleo women friends, it is true they are all ordering salads, and other dainty fare. They never comment on my meaty and substantial choices. I wish they would. Seeing as they are mostly overweight and obsessed by it, I would love to steer them in a helpful direction.

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