Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Must we choose between food or love?

In "Hunger as Ideology," Bordo brought up various thought-provoking claims about women's perception of food, the media's manipulation of these tendencies for advertising purposes, and the whole dynamic of the woman-food-man configuration. A point that struck me as especially interesting was the claim that men had the privilege of eating and being loved because their food was often received as an expression of love from a woman, but women could only benefit from the former. Eating, for women, becomes a substitute for love and an expression of emotional need. Thinking about common "rituals" like eating ice-cream after a bad break-up, it seems like Bordo is making a valid point. In times of high emotional stress, food alleviates the pain because it is undeniably a pleasurable experience. However, to say that women can only have one or the other when it comes to food or love seems a bit extreme. When a boyfriend cooks dinner for his girlfriend, is that not a demonstration of woman's capacity to be loved and be fed? Alternatively, who's to say that reciprocated love comes only from a man to a woman (with whom he is a in a relationship with) and vice versa? Friends and family love just as equally and it is not uncommon to see shared meals between loved ones as a way of bonding and spending time with each other. Moreover, the notion of women as perpetual nurturers who use food as an offering of their love seems to me almost like a contradiction to the previous claim because food and love seem to go hand-in-hand (or at the very least, food could be considered an extension/expression of love) rather than one against the other. Yes, it remains true that there are women who feed themselves and seek solace in food when a male counterpart is absent, but it is also possible to consider other aspects and situations in response to Bordo's argument.

One more thing I wanted to bring up on the subject of gendered representations in media is the critique and attention paid to the image of the woman. As analysis of the Fibrethin commercial points out, advertisers often use this depiction of the "ideal" woman as being slender and attractive. Although this image is unrealistic, it is reinforced by countless media texts because it sells a fantasy that people want to believe in and imitate. is a San Francisco-based organization that is rooted in a documentary that was made as social action campaign exposing the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in media and its detrimental impact on young audiences who are led to believe that all women should fit a certain framework and are limited in power and expression in society. It's at best reassuring to see organizations like this one make an effort to inform media consumers and advocate a change in gender representations. I've attached the trailer for the documentary for anyone who is interested and highly recommend visiting the website if anyone is interested in learning more about the movement and how to get involved:

Newest Miss Representation Trailer (2011 Sundance Film Festival Official Selection) from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

Media Share from 11/15

Dove Chocolate's "Senses" commercial reinforces Bordo's claim that food is seen as a "sexual object" and replacement for a romantic partner. I found this commercial a bit uncomfortable to watch because the images and innuendos bordered on soft-core and definitely incites some reactions that are typically inappropriate for younger tv viewers. Nonetheless, Dove has made it clear that its chocolates cater to the needs of their female consumers.
*on a side note, how often do we see chocolate commercials geared towards men?

On a more humorous note, a meme that surfaced awhile ago was "woman laughing alone with salad" ( The meme is both hilarious and ridiculous -- the fact that women have to be "happy" with a salad (when they might really want a nice, meaty burger or steak) points again to the gender expectations when it comes to food. 


  1. I agree with your counters to Bordo's argument on women's tendency to seek love and relationships withe their food. Although I do believe that food may serve as a factor that may give a sense of temporary comfort and also bring people together or even engender a stronger bond of love, I do not think that food can wholly replace the true love that comes from another human being without serious repercussions. I also like that you included the MissRepresentation trailer, because it shows that the media can be a positive source that has the potential to change the way women are portrayed and the consequential gender norms that seem to be reinforced as a result of these portrayals.

  2. I think the concept of gender representations in the media is an interesting one. Ashley, I totally agree with you and your interpretation of how the media is presenting the "ideal woman" as skinny and unattainably beautiful. We talked about in class how with the advancements of technology, we are now able to photoshop pictures to the point where women don't even look like themselves. We can even create a woman who doesn't exist. I don't think this applies to only women though. Men are also victims to advertisements, and to the pressures of looking like the men in the media. The term bigorexia comes to mind. But the thing that is worrisome, is that the media sells what can be sold to the audience. Does this mean that we, as the audience, should find ways to stop being so influenced by the "ideal" features we see in the media?

  3. I'm now fascinated with the "woman laughing alone with salad" meme. Who knew?! And Ashley, I like the way you explore Bordo's arguments, though I do think she acknowledges some value to food as nurturing, when she talks about African-American women's historic experience and her own childhood.