The Femisphere: Foodies and Food Politics

Without a doubt, food is an inherently feminist topic. Women are inundated on a daily basis regarding food—whether being told how to properly (and perfectly) prepare it, or how to control our intake of it for “ideal” weight purposes. While there is no shortage of both men and women who write about food online, what sets the following bloggers apart is the feminist lens they use to frame their posts. Some of these bloggers delve into the domesticity angle of food, investigating how years of stereotyped gender norms influence our relationship with food, while others focus on food politics, writing about everything from food accessibility/scarcity to ethical issues. From the delicious and delightful to the problematic and political, all of these blogger tackle food in a uniquely feminist way.

BreezeName: Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper
Blog: Sistah Vegan
Age: 37
Location: California
Blogging Since: 2006
When Not Blogging: Writer, consultant, public speaker, author of Sistah Vegan
Twitter handle: @sistahvegan

Why did you begin writing about food from a feminist perspective? In 2005, I transitioned into veganism from an Afrocentric perspective. I thought it was interesting that all of the mainstream vegan books and sites approached veganism from a “post-racial” perspective. It was as if race, class and gender had nothing to do with how one came to their food choices, food philosophies and vegan consciousness. So, I started writing about veganism from black feminist and critical race studies perspectives.

How does your feminist identity influence the way you think about food/food politics? I am always looking through the lenses of black feminism, critical race feminism and decolonial feminist world-systems analysis when I try to understand food in every aspect. I simply cannot look at food as an “everyday mundane object.” I understand the meanings applied to food as something that represents an entire culture’s ideologies around everything. For example, food can tell me a society’s expectations about sexuality, gender roles, racial hierarchies of power and ability.

Why should people consider food a feminist issue? Oh, that’s a great one. First, I think feminism is really broad, so I’m coming from the perspectives of black feminism and decolonial feminist world-systems analysis. So, that is how I define “my” feminisms, for now at least. I think one cannot understand structural oppression within the food system without understanding how structural sexism shapes one’s relationship within the food system, from seed to plate. For example, what does it mean that tomatoes coming out of Mexico since NAFTA have come to North Americans “cheaply” due to the exploitation of indigenous Mexican women and the myth that indigenous women are “more tolerant” of harsh chemicals and sun exposure than light-skinned mestizas who are usually found working in the tomato packing plants? Check out Deborah Barndt’s work on that.

Food sustains us in a critical way nutritionally, but there’s something to be said for how it sustains and connects us on a social level. With that in mind, what role does food play in your daily life? Food nourishes me through stress. I receive a lot of microaggressions from primarily white vegans who do not want to reflect on race, whiteness, etc. To combat the physical stresses of such microaggressions, I overload on raw green smoothies and herbal teas. I find the raw green smoothies made from fresh kale, ginger, spirulina, grapefruit and avocado are really great for that. I find the herbal teas at night, such as Skullcap and catnip, are awesome too. I have to remind myself to always reach for ‘healthier’ food when I am trying to deal with the trauma of racist micro-aggressions, as it’s really easy for me to just overdose on bars of vegan chocolate.

Favorite food memory: Picking fruit in my parent’s orchard and eating peaches at night while looking up at the stars with my dad and twin brother.

Your ideal/favorite meal: Raw green kale smoothies! My 18-month-old daughter devours them!

Post Pride: Mindful or Deluded? Reflections on Being a ‘Racist’ Anti-Racist Student of Buddhism Who is Seeking Wellness.
Racial Tension Headaches: Kale Smoothies for a “Post-Racial” Era
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AddieName: Addie Broyles
Blog: The Feminist Kitchen
Age: 29
Location: Austin, TX
Blogging Since: In general, since 2006. At The Feminist Kitchen since 2010.
When Not Blogging: Food writer at the Austin American-Statesman
Twitter handle: @broylesa

Why did you begin writing about food from a feminist perspective? I write about food for a living but needed another outlet to talk about food through the lens of feminism and womanhood. I wanted a place where I could channel my frustration (and simply observations) about how women are portrayed in fictional and nonfictional media, and where other people could chime in to share and learn ideas from one another. I blog more about my family, including my two young sons, and personal experience with food and food culture than I thought I would originally, but it’s still a side project that I love doing and watching evolve. With our monthly book club and film series taking the discussion offline, it’s a pretty good substitute for grad school.

How does your feminism influence the way you think about food/food politics? I’m keenly aware of the gender roles in food production. From the male (and increasingly female) farmers who grow/raise the food to the female (and increasingly male) shoppers who buy and cook the food, I’m always thinking about how gender plays into how food is produced, consumed, marketed and shared.

Why should people consider food a feminist issue? Food, specifically cooking, has for so long been considered something that was supposed to be in a woman’s domain, but even now that we have more of a choice in terms of what, how and if we cook at all, the general public still places the expectation of cooking at home (and child-rearing and cleaning and other domestic work) on women. Society, with the help of marketers and Hollywood, also continues to put pressure on women about what and how much we should eat, how we should talk about food and how women should behave in the kitchen. Food can be both a path toward liberation (and joy and connection and entrepreneurialism), but it can also be another way to overwork, undervalue and objectify us. We might not have the solutions, but we should at least be talking about the problems.

Food sustains us in a critical way nutritionally, but there’s something to be said for how it sustains and connects us on a social level. With that in mind, what role does food play in your daily life? Food is a great excuse to connect with just about anyone because it’s something we all share in common. Not many other tangible things share that universality. I get to know the most interesting people over a cup of coffee, and I would never see my friends if we didn’t plan happy hour meet-ups and dinners at each others’ houses. Sometimes I worry what my social circle would look like if you removed every person that I met through food.

Favorite food memory: We went camping a lot when I was growing up. From the swamps of Florida to Yellowstone, if my dad could find a place to pitch the tent, he did. My mom did most of the cooking when I was a kid, but campfire cooking was my dad’s forte, and I can think of few more satisfying and pleasurable meals than his peppery, cheesy scrambled eggs and crisp bacon wrapped in a flour tortilla that had been heated just a few inches from the bright red coals. I never wanted breakfast to end.

Your ideal/favorite meal: Something super simple, eaten outdoors (and preferably close enough to an ocean to hear the waves and seagulls) and one that I don’t have to cook or clean up afterward. Perhaps perfectly seared scallops, grilled vegetables, maybe a creamy risotto or polenta and a strong margarita. Family nearby, but not close enough to complain about the food or ask me to get up and get them anything.

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MeganName: Megan Kearns
Blog: The Opinioness of the World
Age: 35
Location: Boston
Blogging Since: April 2010
When Not Blogging: Writer
Twitter handle: @OpinionessWorld

Why did you begin writing about food from a feminist perspective? While the blogosphere contains a plethora of fierce feminist blogs and inspiring vegan blogs, I found very few explored both. As a feminist vegan, I couldn’t separate my two identities. I don’t believe in oppression or exploitation of either animals or women. I realized that I didn’t want to write about either feminism or veganism, but rather both.

Feminism and veganism intersect, and often overlap, as both advocate freedom from subjugation and exploitation. Feminists oppose misogyny and sexist patriarchy, and want gender equality rather than a hierarchy of control. Vegans want the same thing for animals. Vegans align their actions with their belief that humans should not consume or exploit animals for profit or pleasure and that animals have a right to live free from suffering. Veganism is predicated on compassionate consumption. [It's about] making choices every day—what to eat, what to wear, what to slather on skin—rooted in a philosophy of kindness towards animals and the planet.

How does your feminist identity influence the way you think about food/food politics? As a feminist vegan, my feminist identity and my views on food are irrevocably intertwined. I’ve always been a feminist, although I didn’t know it and didn’t call myself one for many years. But it was my path to veganism and my passion for animal rights that actually informed my identity to advocate for gender equity and combat patriarchy. A connection exists between the objectification and oppression of women and animals. Both women’s and animals’ bodies are commodified for consumption and profit. Sexism and misogyny are inextricably linked to our industrialization of farming and our cruel treatment of animals.

Sexist commercials exploit and dismember women’s bodies in the shape of food. Food is hyper-sexualized and depicted as titillation. Some ads mimic soft-core porn as women lasciviously lick condiments off their lips and fingers. Ads also depict anthropomorphized animals portrayed as sexy women, and the feminization and masculinization of certain foods. Animals on factory farms endure inhumane treatment and cruel slaughter, cows and pigs suffer forced insemination and perpetual pregnancy and baby animals are wrenched away from their mothers. While women and animals have undoubtedly different struggles, it’s this same mentality of desensitized objectification that perpetuates the oppression of both.

Becoming a vegetarian and later vegan made me acutely aware of what I consume and put in my body. What we put in our bodies remains an extremely personal decision. Through feminism, I realized the toxicity of fat shaming, body policing and the power of body positivism.

Why should people consider food a feminist issue? Food justice is a feminist issue and an integral aspect of social justice. We all deserve access to food—clean, fresh, organic, healthy, sustainable and delicious. Processed food, junk food, fast food—these are cheap to produce and earn producers a high profit. Yet it harms people’s health. But if you live in a food desert (an area where no grocery stores exist) packaged food and fast food may be the only option you have. Too often, food deserts exist in economically impoverished communities of color. Class and economic inequity pose a barrier due to farm subsidies driving up the cost of produce. We need to overhaul our existing food system, abolishing toxic factory farming and the inhumane treatment of animals. We need to make local and organic produce accessible and affordable. Gender, race and class play a huge role in agriculture and issues surrounding food security. It’s time to shift our food paradigm.

Many sexist stereotypes surround food, such as women bake and men grill and women belong in the kitchen. Cooking has traditionally been viewed as belonging to the feminine sphere. A gender disparity exists even today as women spend twice the amount of time cooking in the kitchen as men. But in the professional culinary world, while there are many female chefs, cooking remains a male-dominated profession. Even food itself is gendered. Men are supposed to want meat and salty foods like pizza and chips, while women supposedly eat salads and crave sweets like chocolate. Advertising often masculinizes and feminizes food. Sexism in food advertising prevails in the media, objectifying women’s bodies and reinforcing gender stereotypes. Our toxic body standards tell women they should be thin. So food, spurred on by its seductive marketing by advertisers, often becomes a foe to battle.

Body image and fat-shaming comprise food justice, too. Society often demonizes and blames people for being overweight. People are judged based on the morality of their food choices: healthy equals “good,” junk food “bad.” While I happen to think processed food laden with toxic chemicals is bad, people shouldn’t be stigmatized for their food choices. I want people to be healthy. But healthy comes in all shapes and sizes.

Women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized, critiqued and policed. The media polices women’s bodies and their consumption, reducing us to our appearances. We’re supposed to diet and exercise our bodies into submission. Diet programs and foods like Truvia sweetener, yogurt, Special K, Weight Watchers, typically target women. Our society is obsessed with controlling women’s bodies—not too curvy, not too thin. Eating disorders are on the rise, especially among young people. We’re teaching future generations to have unhealthy relationships with food and wage war with their bodies. Through feminism, we can critique sexist food advertising and tired gender norms and embrace food equality and body image positivity.

Food sustains us in a critical way nutritionally, but there’s something to be said for how it sustains and connects us on a social level. With that in mind, what role does food play in your daily life? Food plays a critical role in my daily life. As a vegan, it informs my every decision about what I eat. By uniting food with activism, I align my beliefs with action. What I eat shapes my identity. I love food and find liberation in cooking. It’s an art, a creative outlet to embrace self-expression. Cooking evokes memories and emotions. I relish the smells of veggies and herbs sautéing in a pan or savor the simple act of stirring a creamy risotto. Food is also how I connect with people. I share vegan cupcakes, muffins and cookies. Not only do I like to cook for people, but I like to show that vegan food can be delicious. Through scrumptious vegan food, vegan myths can start to crumble. People may not live the way I do or agree with me on veganism or animal rights, but we can bond over decadent food. In our society that polices women’s bodies and consumption, my sensual enjoyment of food sometimes feels like a revolutionary act.

Favorite food memory: I love cooking for people, connecting through sharing food. So cooking blueberry pancakes for my friend and her mom on New Year’s Day and making strawberry and banana stuffed French toast for my friend’s wedding shower are wonderful food memories. But one of my favorites has to be the 5-course vegan meal I ate at 1900 Park Fare in Disney World. I specifically went to this restaurant—a kids’ character themed buffet restaurant mind you—for Chef TJ, who’s renowned for his vegan creativity. Every whimsical yet sophisticated dish—which included salad with caramel popcorn, noodles with jelly beans (so weird yet so good), and a foot-tall ice cream and cookie sundae drizzled with chocolate sauce (yes, I ate that whole thing)— surprised and delighted. I’ve never had so much fun eating a meal.

Your ideal/favorite meal: What isn’t my favorite meal?? But my absolute favorite, the one I crave each and every week? Brunch at the upscale vegan restaurant True Bistro in Somerville, MA. I order the tofu scramble with mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula and herbs de Provence. Most people probably think, a tofu scramble? What’s so special about that?? But it’s divine. Accompanied by homefries, a side of the best vegan mac and cheese and a robust Bloody Mary equals culinary nirvana. Close runner-ups are the Taiwanese-style cold dan dan noodles and veggie dumplings at Myers + Chang in Boston and the seitan piccatta and raw lasagna at Candle 79 in NYC with chocolate coconut donuts from BabyCakes for dessert.

Post Pride: 10 Myths about Vegans
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In addition to the bloggers above, take some time to check out these other feminists writing about food. And as always, share any we may have missed in the comments!
Afro Vegan Chick
Autumn Makes and Does
Biscuits and Such
Carol J. Adams
Connect The Dots Movement
The Feminist Kitchen
I Will Not Diet
One Green Planet
Our Hen House
My Rubberband Ball
The New Domesticity
QVF | Queer Vegan Feminist
Queer Vegan Food
Vegans of Color
Women’s Page History

Comments

  1. This is a real eye opener, thank you so much for posting this :)

  2. Thanks for the article and list of feminist food blogs. I’m a feminist food blogger myself; I’ve been following Feminist Kitchen and am excited to add new ones to my roster. I also recommend Bitch Beer: http://bitchbeer.org

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