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The Culturally Stereotyped Structure of Foods Into Gender

By Chinelo Eze
31 October 2021   |   1:01 pm
Opposites attract and thus this concept hangs about every scope of life as we know; man, woman birthing the social norm of society, pink as opposed to blue for boys, male shirts with the buttons run on the right side different from the accustomed left side for women's shirts. All these rubrics have fashioned the…

Crab legs | Insanely Good Recipes

Opposites attract and thus this concept hangs about every scope of life as we know; man, woman birthing the social norm of society, pink as opposed to blue for boys, male shirts with the buttons run on the right side different from the accustomed left side for women’s shirts.

All these rubrics have fashioned the ideology of every being. Perhaps in imitating nature, such belief came to be. Hence turning to the welcome gifts of Mother Nature which feed us, the gender disparity is also present in vegetation. As human beings are gendered, similarly are the foods eaten. Though nature has given some sort of blueprint in which humanity has built upon such that we see a pattern being formed from these ideologies in the disparity of sexes permeating to instruct the conduct and manner at which these foods are eaten which therefore insinuates that foods are gendered not just formation but in ideology- in the way they are eaten, thus affecting the social behaviour and norms found in human society.

Taking a cue from nature, society has been able to forge principles for life. We look at how human outlook and discernments have shaped and influenced the inner structuring that forms the conditions of food gender. Such that in African tradition, a woman cannot break the kola nut. In fact, the bitter kola is the female substitute of kola nut. In such we see the ritualisation and the relationship man has with food and plant subsequently enlarging the scope of food cultures and taboos within different communities and instructing the way they are eaten. The food choice between men and women are predisposed to cultural and medical why’s and wherefore’s. 

Jamaican Kolanut | Jamrow

Myths and old wives’ tales have been in the heart of food gendering, especially with pregnant women and how it affects food stereotypes during and after pregnancy. These spiritual belief systems guide and conduct the gender of foods in varying cultures. The Chinese people have an old wives tale that eating crabs will make the baby mischievous. Whereas in Nigeria, the myth lingers that pregnant women should avoid eating snails on the notion that it will make the baby sluggish. There is also the Igbo people’s belief that the gizzard should be left for the man of the house. 

Another myth has to do with pregnant women staying away from eating egg or drinking milk because it is believed that the child will develop bad habits after birth. In Tanzanian, pregnant women abstain from eating meat so as not to endanger the child from picking up animalistic traits of one of the animals. These old wives’ tale thus perpetuate the patterned nature of foods being gendered during and after birth because such ideologies would sentimentally affect the options of food to eat by these women. 

To reiterate, the gendered nature of foods springs perspectives, such as the culturally infused avoidance of certain foods based heavily on spiritual perspective and also medical findings. Therefore, some cases cling to medical perspectives, making women stay away from certain foods for their welfare and that of their babies. 

Chocolates hmm!!! Many love chocolates, sweets and all types of confections but, one typical instance of food being stereotyped by our actions is evident in the culture, traditions and customs of a society. The large purchase of confectioneries on celebratory days like Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversaries and any significant commemoration by male and female counterparts usually has the males curating the food choice of the women and vice versa. The buying of confections has constructed and helped in the gendering of that type of food consequently, confections have been gendered to be more of a female’s. 

Chocolates | Mashed

In the hunt and gathering days, there was a distinct complementary role that was fine-tuned with physical abilities and wits, also dictating the foods handled by men and those handled by women. 

The age-old brawl of the sexes has thus pervaded centuries permeating and dictating how to live life/expected for each gender. These expectations have been largely questioned from one epoch to another by individuals making up society. Saliently, these male/female dynamics have influenced various aspects of life from the perceptible to the elusive, hence having a full grip on perceptions, like the way food is gendered. 

Based on statistics, women are reported to be more inclined to healthy eating, as they are more exposed to diets and food curbs for weight control.