On gendered food

I love burritos. There is nothing not to love about a face-sized pocket of joy bursting with meat and chilli and veg. It gave me great dismay, then, to visit my favourite burrito joint for the first time in months and discovering that my gigantic joy-pockets have become gendered. This discovery came quite by accident: most of my vowel sounds are schwas, and when I was handed a disappointingly tiny joy-pocket, I was informed of my error. Instead of ordering a burrito, I had ordered a burrita.

It’s a feminine name. A needlessly feminine noun, because this is a burrito for girls. It’s smaller, see, so we won’t get terrified by the mighty mighty girth of the man-burrito.

It might sound as if I’m overreacting to the feeble portion of luncheon I was given. This is certainly a possibility, but food is gendered. Take meat, for example. Meat is, apparently, very manly. Meat is marketed at men in a way to reinforce their heterosexuality by making it as deliciously sexy as possible. Meanwhile, salad is girly. Salad is for women to eat while laughing alone.* We’re also allowed to like chocolate and cake in moderation. This photoset shows starkly just how gendered food marketing is.

It’s worth asking ourselves why this is. A few years ago, Salon magazine asked a few experts. Some of the answers are utter bollocks, involving women being more genetically predisposed to sweet things, or men needing more meat to build muscles because thousands of years ago they were definitely the hunters, or mysterious ladyhormones. Salon concludes that this is probably rubbish, and I wholeheartedly concur.

The thing is, it’s not that some food is inherently more palatable to people of a certain gender. Of course it isn’t. It’s just the symbiotic relationship between marketing professionals and patriarchy at work once again. Patriarchy instils a certain set of insecurities and expectations into people. Playing on these existing stereotypes makes the marketing jobs easier, and they can all take a cocaine break and then work out how to make women a little more paranoid about the shape of their earlobes. Marketing and patriarchy feed each other in an ouroboros of tedious stereotyping.

Eating for basic sustenance is not a gendered activity. Neither is eating for pleasure. Yet patriarchy and its PR cheerleaders make it so. I wish they’d keep their politics out of my lunch.


*Although, it is worth noting that the marketing executives might have started to worry about men getting scurvy from all the meat they’re cramming into their faces, so decided to make fruit a bit sexier.

8 thoughts on “On gendered food”

  1. There was a period when there was (I counted) nine TV ads for low-fat cereal bars with identical formula: Female Office Worker 1 offers Female Office Worker 2 a tasty snack. The snack is declined on the grounds that it is unhealthy. Female Office Worker 1 informs her coworker that it’s okay, because the snack in question is 99% fat free. Female Office Worker 2 then ravenously consumes said snack in a few seconds.

    Nine identical ads. People get paid to do this.

  2. Not to mention the myriad of products that come in two identical forms: “Diet” or “Lite” for chicks and “Max” or “Extreme” for guys. Same shit, different labels.

  3. I was dismayed recently to see that a new independent cafe in Archway (‘Bread and Bean’) has an item on the menu called ‘Lunch for the Ladies’. This is of course a massive steak. Just kidding. It’s a salad. Mental note: never visit that cafe again.

  4. I can think of only one set of beer adverts from my lifetime in which it was women, not manly men, drinking beer. Those were the Cameron’s Strongarm ads of the mid-90s, featuring a group of women, acting like stereotyped manly men. I’d like to see a beer advertisement that’s bold enough to use openly gay characters, too.

  5. The thing is, gender-essentialism is so deeply entrenched in so many people’s minds (although we have 45 chromosomes out of 46 in common, and there simply isn’t room on the 46th for all the supposedly innate differences) that it would not surprise me if someone were actually to start recommending different diets for boys and girls.

    They will get to our minds via our bellies.

  6. It’s smaller, see, so we won’t get terrified by the mighty mighty girth of the man-burrito.
    Only a real man can put that mighty girth in his mouth.

  7. As shitty as gendered food is, I quite enjoy the way that these “burritahs” sound like they’re made as a deliberate trap for people with cockney accents. Hopefully next they’ll make extra-large burrituhs to reward Northerners.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.