In today’s society, gender roles are a significant topic of discussion. Throughout history in the United States, men and women have been assigned specific parts. Typically, men have been known as the ones who work to bring home money so their wives can cook, take care of the children, and run the household. The necessary question arises; how did these roles form, creating our sexist society?
Delving into a more specific aspect of our as well as many others’ culture, one may not think about normative gender roles in food items. For example, a meaty steak may be associated with men, and fruits and vegetables may be associated with women. Some may argue these ideas come from evolution or biology, when in truth they are social constructs. In the article Gender Rolls, the author Molly Bearman uses the example of a Pizza Hut commercial. It features a ‘traditional’ American family, including a husband, wife, and a son and daughter. The man walks into the room with two boxes of pizza and says, “I can get a meat lover’s, and they can get all the fresh vegetables they want. No more compromise.” This is a direct example of how the media can manipulate viewers by placing the man in the existing category of a man who loves meat, a theme that ties directly to masculinity. On the other hand, the woman and children are associated with healthy vegetables, which can be linked to femininity. Bearman states, “he is affirming (to himself and to the viewers) that it is both acceptable for men to eat meat, and more importantly, that the inverse is also true: ‘real’ men cannot consume vegetables, for fear of damaging their masculinity.”
By watching this commercial, viewers are subconsciously conforming to the stereotypes that men need to affirm their masculinity by eating fat-filled steak whereas women are be more associated with healthy food because having a good appearance is very important to them. These roles contribute to the idea that men must act a certain way and women another. When referring back to the commercial, one might ask, why didn’t the husband just order a pizza with meat and vegetables?
The only answer as to why society is forcing gender roles upon us has to do with language and making an “easy play” on our minds. According to recent studies, what we think is determined by what we say. Therefore, if we change what we say, we can adjust what we think and our way of interacting with others.
In our class Intro to Anthropology, we have widely discussed gender roles in society. We are immensely manipulated by the media as well as each other when it comes to gender and our ‘roles.’ In other countries, they do not take gender roles so seriously and are more open. Although the topic of ‘food gender roles’ may seem obscure, it is just another example of how media and language feed into our sexist society.