SHE IS WHAT SHE EATS: how gendering food oppresses women 

Food and food-related aspects of culture are gendered, or biased towards either males or females. Throughout the world, procuring and preparing particular foods has been traditionally and seemingly irreversibly associated with particular genders. Women nourish others, but often fail to nourish themselves. There is shame reflected in these works of art that depict women as vulnerable in the presence of food. Stemming from this shame and secrecy is a keen awareness of the body; body image becomes inextricably tied to women’s tortured relationship with food. She Is What She Eats: How Gendering Food Oppresses Women pulls together an eclectic collection of artworks that demonstrate the complicated relationship between women and food, working to expose the impact of this oppression on women. We hope to encourage a new way of thinking in which we all recognize and work against the oppression created by the gendering of food. Genesis Acosta, Estefani Perez, Sarah Torresen         

This work by Edward Burra exemplifies how food has been gendered in our society. Across the bar we see a woman daintily eating a sandwich and having a cup of tea with a far off look. This action of the woman eating is sexualized by the bartender’s glance. The piece of meat the bartender is happily cutting makes him appear more masculine and in control of the situation. -Genesis
The relegation of women to be nurturers first and foremost, begins with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding positions women as the original nurturers and original providers of food. The focus of the mother in this painting is entirely on her child and the child is entirely dependent on the mother for survival. Breastfeeding itself is a controversial topic and often our society places undue burdens on new mothers. The pressure on women to nurture is born here and continues for a lifetime. -Sarah
In this piece, Sansour shows how even in the worst of times women are expected to have this ability to nurture. Almost expected to create life (food) from the barren and dead. Women, as in birth giving, are seen to have the touch of life and are therefore expected to constantly nurture this life. -Estefani
This piece reveals how even through pain and suffering, women will be responsible and caring for their children. This expectation and reality has a flip side, though, which shows how the pain and suffering can be transferred to their offspring. -Estefani
During the 1950’s, women were expected to take on the role of caregivers of the household. In this wall sculpture, we see a women in a kitchen trying to simultaneously balance cooking with every other chore in the household in preparation for her husband’s party. Women are expected to happily and easily maintain this balancing act without a second thought. -Genesis
Rivera's painting again depicts the labor that women are expected to put into the preparation of food. Disproportionately, women are expected to cook and prepare meals. The woman in this painting is hunched over, clearly working hard and her face is not visible. Women can often be lost in the work they put into providing for others. -Sarah
A tired-looking women is seen crying while she is cutting up onions. However there is the implication that the woman may in fact not be crying because of the onions but because of the suffering women go through as they are forced into the gendered roles society has dictated for the female population. This gendered roles thrust upon women lots of difficulties and labor and it becomes difficult for women to remain positive and happy with their circumstances. -Genesis
Linking women with the kitchen is common in images we are constantly being fed, but this photo in particular implies the impressionability of young girls who associate their mothers with the kitchen, which then becomes a comforting space. The kitchen, as a space designed for the preparation and storage of food, is also gendered and “suited” to women and girls. The little girl in this photo is a product of seven years of socialization. -Sarah
Raja Ravi Varma depicts how women are sexualized even with food, something so necessary for our survival. The woman holds a seductive gaze, that shows a contrast to the commonly nurturing nature that food has been giving through many years. -Estefani
Juyeon Kim has sewn bra cups onto a larger piece of fabric stuffed with cotton, placed an onion seed into each cup, and let the onion grow. This piece suggests that the sexual identity of women can be closely associated with nature and the growth of life and food. Sexuality is symbolized in many ways, but the imagery of the bra physically holding and sustaining new life is striking. -Sarah
This steel sculpture shows an acknowledgment that women are often sexualized through the use of food. The artists has taken apples, a fruit associated with temptation, and made it into a high heel, a symbol associated with feminine sexuality. The color red is also often associated with carnal passions and sexuality in a majority of cultures throughout the world. -Genesis
The woman in this painting is traditionally feminine: skinny, yet curvy, and wearing makeup and a floral dress. She is being offered a hot dog on a stick. Women are sexualized, often with the use of foods and this perpetuates a tortured relationship between women and food in which women are expected to conform to a particular body norm. Women often grapple with maintaining an “ideal” skinny body while nourishing themselves with healthy foods. -Sarah
Botero’s painting alludes to the shame and subsequent privacy and secrecy that women associate with consuming food. Publically, women are often hyperconscious of the food they eat. In this painting, in an extremely private space, a large woman boldly reclines naked and is surrounded with sliced fruit, which is presumably there for her consumption. -Sarah
This piece can offer an exploration of how women constantly feel that much of their eating has to be done in secret. Because of the gendering of food, which tell us that women should only be eating certain foods with very small portions, women often feel the need to hide what they eat and how much they actually eat. -Estefani
Without Hope clearly reflects the many eating disorders Khalo had and the misery it caused her. This idea is one that is almost universal with women. Women, because of the pressures of society, often develop eating disorders that dictate their happiness and wellbeing. -Estefani
Sarah Lucas is seen here dressed in androgynous clothing and is sitting with her legs wide open, a posture typically seen as masculine in nature. She is defiantly staring at the camera with two fried eggs covering her breasts as an overt reminder that she in fact is a woman and daring the viewer to sexualize her. Her more masculine femininity challenges gender stereotype and the more feminine ideal of woman prevalent in our culture. -Genesis
As the sexualization of food has become more prominent in Western society, women have begun to take a stand against it. The duo, Project O, is otherwise naked except for the food covering their breasts and genitals. However, the duo’s posture indicates that they are doing anything but trying to be provocative. Food can be used to cover a woman’s body without having to sexualize her as well. -Genesis
The woman in this piece seems to be in a very vulnerable state but at the same time at peace with herself. The necklace, with chicken bones, can offer a sign of pride as a nurturer. -Estefani
Food and women are relating in different ways worldwide. Despite a historical series of oppressions, women can reclaim ownership of their connections to food. In this photograph taken in Ghana, the connection between women and food is framed as a positive one. Food offers a livelihood and a means of survival. This photo was taken for The Women’s Trust which aims to empower women through microenterprise. -Sarah
These four stills show the process of the artist having an egg thrown at her head and rubbed harshly into her hair. Despite the degrading act, the artist has a smile on her face after the ordeal. Chang appears to be happier in her more messy state than she was in her cleaner one. Her smile seems to be challenging her offender to continue to try to make her break. -Genesis
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