Tag Archives: advertising

Food, identity, and gender

Okay, so this ad is as much about Latin chauvinism and machismo as it is about gender–I imagine you can get the point even if you don’t speak Spanish. Another ad I saw at the gym recently is less overtly offensive, but it plays on one of America’s foundational food-and-gender stereotypes: the meat-grilling men. For a broader selection, Sociological Images has compiled quite an assortment. (And see here for more, on ‘suicide foods’) This last one is, well, ludicrous.

This recent NYT profile of Simon Doonan’s Gay Men Don’t Get Fat got me thinking about the topic…Doonan acknowledges that his gay/straight food distinction is a sweeping generalization, but I think this kind of essentializing is unnecessary and damaging, if obviously tempting to advertisers.

(edit, 2/7/12: So apparently Snickers has ads like this in English, too, or so my Food Politics students tell me – this is what I get for not having a TV at home…)

Tax all the things?

Or ban all the things. You get the picture. Seriously, though, I’m on the fence about the long-term policy effectiveness of restrictive measures as a means of approaching various iterations of food justice. It makes me feel like an equivocating schlub, a sophist even, but I really think both sides have some good arguments here. On the one hand, Bittman is right that the food industry isn’t going to market healthy food on their own. But his proposed solution of giving with one hand (subsidies for veg) and taking away with the other (taxes for sodas) seems iffy to me. On the other, I’m not convinced by Vegansaurus’ response; it’s disingenuous verging on naive to underplay the myriad obstacles at-risk demographics face when trying to eat healthily, so color me a nanny stater: I do believe that the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens from the food advertising run rampant in the private sector, at least by providing complementary information.

But the glib acceptance of confiscating fat kids goes to far in this direction–even though I actually agree with the recommendations of the study in question, such radical interference in the parent-child relationship should never be taken lightly. On the question of regulatory policy more broadly, however, the ag industry seems woefully ill-equipped to regulate themselves for food safety, let alone such ‘negative externalities’ as animal welfare…whatever their pr departments may claim. On the other end of the spectrum–the option of using carrots rather than sticks–Matt Ridley’s proposed ‘healthy living credits’ deserve consideration, but would need some serious parsing, on many levels.