Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Against gender noms

Frank Bruni addresses the continuing difference between how men and women are treated in restaurants. This got me thinking about how today, food itself is divided according to what men versus women consume.

The whole concept of gendered dishes (think sushi for women, steak for men) is probably quite new. Presumably, man-food vs. woman-food only became a possibility a) once the scarcity issue was (in some parts of the world, at least) conquered, and b) once meals stopped being family affairs. Pairing white wine with 'just a salad' implies a situation where women dine out with one another or alone. As restaurant service has gotten somewhat more gender-neutral, foods have become gender-specific, from the very obvious (see Sarah Haskins on yogurt ads) to the customary. Customary, as in, when have you last met a female friend for steak?

Being smaller, women have always, I'd imagine, eaten less than men. Today, with thinness in, women try to eat still less than would naturally be the case. To do this, women watch what they eat not so much via portion control as via cuisine. If we (Americans) had a more entrenched national cuisine, perhaps we would not have gendered foods; do the paradoxical French eat by gender? Isn't the point that they all eat all kinds of saturated fat? But, at least in the States, certain types of restaurants (Japanese, vegetarian, 'organic') seem as though they serve light food; actual calorie counts are irrelevant. Couldn't a man just eat a bit more salad, a woman a little less steak? Do completely different meals make life better? How much is innate gender-based food preference, and how much is marketing? My guess: 99.9% marketing, if only because there's just so much of it.

So, time has come for a stance. Gendered food is, I think, bad news. It complicates dating. It complicates any social interaction between the sexes. It will, if it hasn't already, make most family dinners impossible.

Or maybe the age of girl-vs-boy cuisine will end given the economy--for pasta-eating grad students and former brothers of Lehman, it's already something of a non-issue.


Miss Self-Important said...

I don't know any women except vegetarians who don't love steak. Unfortunately, most of the people I know also can't afford it very often, so maybe there is some element of that involved in not asking for it, whereas a salad, even at a chi-chi organic place, usually doesn't break the $15-mark.

Nick said...

and also, I'm sick of always being handed the check, and sick always getting the bad chair, and therefore being the one in the worse position to scope out the room.