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The Feminist Food Studies Bookshelf

3rd March 2009

The Feminist Food Studies Bookshelf

I just finished a particularly daunting historiography on feminist food studies and scholars. Since the field is still relatively in its infancy and because it is vastly interdisciplinary, compiling all the work that has been done in the past 15 years — and it is significant — was a bit of a challenge. The food studies movement has made great gains in the past two decades to become a respected academic field, but missing from these works has been a focused gendered or feminist perspective on how foodways — behaviours and beliefs surrounding the production, distribution, and consumption of food — contribute to constructions of identity and femininity and reinforce gender hierarchies. It’s interesting to note here that the food studies field is dominated by men while works in feminist food studies nearly exclusively penned by women.

Only in the past 10 years has there emerged a critical look at the centrality of women’s relationship to food practices and the meanings embedded in them. Here’s a few of those works. I’m developing a more comprehensive bibliography of related works with the new site design, so please add any works I’ve missed.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009 at 12:30 pm and is filed under Book Reviews, Feminist Topics, Food Culture, Food History, New Research, Vegetarianism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 19 responses to “The Feminist Food Studies Bookshelf”

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  1. 1 On March 3rd, 2009, Rachel_in_WY said:

    What a fabulous resource! This stuff is fascinating. Thanks!

  2. 2 On March 3rd, 2009, Karen said:

    Are there any in particular you’d recommend for a beginner to the subject? My curiosity has been piqued by following your blog, but, having read entirely too many scholarly sociological treatises in college, I’m wary of finding myself mired in stuff too dense for free time reading.

  3. 3 On March 3rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    Karen — I really like Sherrie Inness’ stuff. “Dinner Roles,” especially, reads as a kind of introduction to the different issues and is very readable (Inness is an English professor, not a historian which may account for why!). Each chapter focuses on a different issue, whether it be women and food rationing during WWII, homemakers in the 1950s, cookbooks for kids, and the genderization of food.

  4. 4 On March 3rd, 2009, The Bald Soprano said:

    Oh, this is a dangerous list for my bank account! I’ve already ordered _Eating for Victory_. Thanks for the recommendations for _Perfection Salad_ a few weeks back, by the way; it arrived over the weekend and I’m deep in reading it.

  5. 5 On March 3rd, 2009, sarah said:

    Wow, Rachel, thanks this is AMAZING. I am so excited to have this list…

    While not explicitly a feminist food study, have you considered Revolution at the Table by Harvey Levenstein? It’s been a couple of years since I’ve read it (for a paper on the history of the organic food movement) but if I remember correctly he spends a good deal of time discussing the changing role of women in an increasingly industrial food system.

  6. 6 On March 3rd, 2009, Rachel said:

    That’s a great addition, Sarah. His companion work, “Paradox of Plenty” also discusses women’s evolving roles in food preparation and consumption from the 1930s – 1990s (“Revolution at the Table” focuses on the years between 1880 and 1930, if memory serves).

  7. 7 On March 3rd, 2009, spacedcowgirl said:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s a field I wasn’t even aware of, and there are some books listed that look really good. It’s a great resource.

  8. 8 On March 3rd, 2009, Godless Heathen said:

    I tried to like The Sexual Politics of Meat, but I was really off put by how she compares meat eating to rape. I was raped, people are raped, there’s nothing like it, and I don’t even want well-meaning progressive people to suggest that. What happens to animals isn’t what happens to women, and it pisses me off to suggest otherwise. At the worst, it trivializes what happens to women every single day.

    I’m also one of those godless fuckers who doesn’t give a shit if cows suffer on their way to becoming a tasty steak, my focus being more concerned with people.

  9. 9 On March 3rd, 2009, sherunslunatic said:

    This is actually about 20 years old and probably not in your field of interest, but Caroline Walker Bynum’s Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women is huge in medieval studies. (If you can deal with the stuff about nuns drinking pus.)

  10. 10 On March 4th, 2009, Cecelia said:

    Thank you for posting this. Excellent resource list!

  11. 11 On March 4th, 2009, Amie said:

    Have you read “Stolen Harvest” or any others by Vandana Shiva? I would definitely add that to the list. Great list though, will definitely be picking some of them up–a couple of them are already on the reading list for the gender and nature class I’m taking right now! Thanks for the list!

  12. 12 On March 4th, 2009, Rachel said:

    Godless Heathen: I think Adams is a bit too radical for me, but I do think she and other ecofeminists have a point about the correlations between a culture that oppresses both meat and people, if only for the environmental aspect of the argument (which she doesn’t get into).

  13. 13 On March 4th, 2009, D said:

    Rachel, what is The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Theory all about? I’m interested, ha ha! I am a feminist and a vegetarian. Hmmm….

  14. 14 On March 4th, 2009, sarah said:

    @Rachel: Ah yes, Paradox of Plenty is probably the more relevant one then. I read them both and always get them confused….

  15. 15 On March 4th, 2009, Rachel said:

    D: You can read a good review of it here.

  16. 16 On March 8th, 2009, Leanne said:

    WOW! THANK YOU for posting this! I have been waiting for a list of these resources to come out :) This is so helpful!

  17. 17 On June 29th, 2009, Online resources for feminist food studies and ecofeminism » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] Feminist Food Studies Bookshelf: My somewhat rudimentary list of some of the most prominent works in the field of feminist food studies. [...]

  18. 18 On February 28th, 2010, Charlotte said:

    Laura Shapiro’s Something From the Oven is fantastic. When we discover the degree of manipulation and lies perpetuated on American women in the 50′s, by the large food companies, it makes me sick. These companies toyed with women’s identities, even using psychologists to rename their products, so women who previously cooked healthy, real food for their families would serve packaged junk instead. They created fictitious women to look up to and give food advise. Did you know “Betty Crocker” was not a real person? She was a home ec. major who also wrote copy for ad. agencies and women’s magazines. She had a different name, couldn’t cook, and was a fiction created by General Mills, to get women to buy more boxed baking products. Every other large food company had a similar fictitious figurehead who would promote their company’s products and give advise in newspapers, magazines and radio programs. The recipes they came up with and published were made of marshmallows, jello and other chemicals. If you read this book you may never buy a boxed or frozen food product again. And you shouldn’t! These companies’ execs would go to jail for their antics today…but in the 50′s, anything that sold this junk was acceptable. Great research. Kudos to Laura Shapiro!

  19. 19 On April 24th, 2010, Anonymous said:

    A seminal contribution to this reading list is:

    Marjorie DeVault (1991). Feeding the Family: The Social Organization of Caring Work. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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