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Aug 27, 2012 02:42 PM

Gendered representations of food in the media

Hey everyone,

I am in the preliminary stages of a little discourse analysis project I would like to do regarding how foods are gendered and represented in the media. So, for example, the yogurt commercials- yogurt is often represented as a inherently "female" food simply by the vast majority of people in the commercials.
So, chowhounds, can you think of any commercials/ print ads/ TV episodes/ movie scenes where:
-a food is presented as being directed at either a man or a woman (i.e Special K is another one that comes to mind)
- women or men making specific food choices perhaps related to their gender and the social expectations that come along with it (i.e. women ordering a salad, men ordering steak etc)
-women engaged in gendered food roles (ie. women allowing men to eat first, giving men the bigger piece of meat etc) and ditto with men with their respective "roles" (ie. males expecting dinner on table when they come home, men eating before women etc.)

I would also be interested in examples where these stereotypes/expectations are resisted.

Thank you so much for your help! This should be a very interesting project.

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  1. I hope you're familiar with the meme "women smiling while eating salad". Seems to fit perfectly!

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. Well in general food for women are always have like guilt attached with it. Like why yogurt is always associated with women because it's not fattening and they don't have to feel guilty about liking it. Or if it's more indulgent food (like chocolate) then it's always seen as a treat, something really special. Dove chocolate ads are a good example of what I'm talking about.

        Food marketed to men (well the only thing I can think of that is male targeted is beer at the moment) is more complimentary to the men like "yea you go drink this beer because you're AWESOME!".

        3 Replies
        1. re: AngelSanctuary

          Is the Dos XX 'most interesting man' commercial aimed just at men? The central character is a man, but who's attention is caught? men who identify with him, or women who are attracted to such a man? There's a thread discussing that commercial.

          1. re: paulj

            Was that thread deleted? I can't locate it. Women were clearly responding the most.

        2. My guess is that the yogurt - women connection arose years ago from the idea that yogurt is a healthy diet food, and the women have more interest in dieting. So marketing is aimed at women. A vaguely recall that years ago yogurt was being touted as some that very old but healthy men and women in the Caucuses were eating.

          Again, Spacial K is being presented as a diet food.

          Commercials have a specific market in mind, and choose actors that fit with the message. Koolaid is (or at least was) marketed with kids themes, Metamusil with seniors.

          My guess is the movies, if they present food in gender specific ways, they are reflecting, not driving, the practice in commercials (except for paid product placements). The only movie food association that comes to mind is Resese pieces in ET (an age specific placement).

          8 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            Well now yogurt is not only a healthy diet food, it helps you POOP! Yay!
            Obviously men don't have a problem pooping. They are pooping champs. (like the dog food commercial)

            1. re: pdxgastro

              A real man can go under any circumstances.

              1. re: pdxgastro

                Does it supposedly have a laxative effect (must say I never noticed that), or is it that it is being promoted for healthy gut bacteria/conditions? I think there is a difference.

                1. re: babette feasts

                  Yogurt isnt a laxative, it just promotes healthy gut bacteria which can promote regular (not excessive like as in diarrhea) bowel movements.

                  1. re: hungryabbey

                    Yes, that is what I thought, but I have seen at least one other post on chowhound recently suggesting it was a laxative, and was wondering where that idea came from. Perhaps just poor wording by the posters.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      have you all actually seen any of those yogurt commercials featuring jamie lee curtis? many of them are really hilarious, with women talking about regularity and how the yogurt helps "things move through" their systems, making tai-chi like arm motions which are presumed to represent the flow through their lower intestines and bowels. many of them also talk about "that bloated feeling" etc. i do get the impression it's supposed to appeal to the dieting/laxative abusing female population? sort of dubiously promising weight-loss type effects without actually explicitly (fraudulently) making weight-loss claims. the first several times i saw the commercials they went over my head, it was *very* unclear what the company was actually selling. i think the ones currently running are pretty toned down in comparison to the earlier ones.

                      there is also no way they are marketing to men... or lower/working class women, etc.

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        I believe that they had to tone down the commericials because the FDA investigated them, I don't think it was by choice.

                        1. re: NE_Elaine

                          that would make sense to me, the ads were off-the-hook. nevertheless, apparently the product is wildly popular, though almost exclusively in the demographic it aims the ads at.

            2. This is a great topic! I hate that women are always portrayed as needing to lose weight, or desiring to ...
              BBQ seems to be mostly a male thing..the grill is supposedly the male domain.

              7 Replies
              1. re: cheeseisheaven

                Would a commercial featuring a dieting man work? with what audience? What's the weight of women in diet food commercials? Most trim, right? The after successful weight loss, not the before? LIkewise beer commercials are more likely to show trim muscular men, not ones with a beer belly (unless its a humorous one).

                The actors involved in commercials are idealized in more ways than just gender - age, weight, profession, etc.

                1. re: paulj

                  Commercials with men dieting that come to mind almost all have women coaxing, coercing, or tricking them into food choices. Fiber bars disguised as candy bars, for instance, or yogurt that tastes like key lime pie. If men diet in commercials on purpose they want good tasting food that will lower their cholesterol and not offend their testosterone levels.

                  I was going to suggest Jack Links Beef Jerky (the Messin' With Sasquatch series in particular) as male-centric but there actually are one or two episodes where women get something to eat. Almost almost entirely guys though.

                  1. re: paulj

                    Maybe getting away from food a bit, but there are definitely commercials for diet "supplements" that are aimed at men. And one of those diet meal plans has a diet for men. These are not ads that are shown at prime time on major networks, but if you watch the sports networks or other male-focused channels on cable you will see these ads.

                    1. re: paulj

                      One example in commercials of a man losing wieght was Jared Fogle and the Subway ads


                    2. re: cheeseisheaven

                      Yes. When Summertime starts to roll around you start to see commercials where men are wearing the backyard. Brats, sausages, BBQ sauces, hot dogs, are marketed as "manly" things to cook. In our household, the grill is mine and I am its *master*. My husband practically has to ask permission to use it.

                      1. re: Justpaula

                        YES, this reminds me of another good example.. the V8 commercials.. where the woman happily eats her veggies, and the man always has a big plate of meat (the same meal but with meat vs veg), and the woman has to give hima snack on the head to get him to eat the veggies.
                        I guess my question is-- aside from the products explicitly aimed at wt loss (special k), why are "healthy" foods for women, and "high fat" foods for men?
                        As a dietitian, as far as im concerned, this has huge implications for health promotion strategies.

                        1. re: hungryabbey

                          Aren't you also concerned that most diet ads are of questionable value? Should anyone, man or woman, be getting their diet advise from a company that is trying to sell them on the latest fad?

                          Ultimately companies advertise in ways that they think will increase their sales. Ads are seldom public service announcements. Can you think of a good-health-diet item that could, and should, be marketed to men? And with what theme?

                          Others have mentioned sales pitches such as women nagging men, or ads on sports channels.