Tag Archives: food/agriculture

1/3 of People Say Commercialism is the Worst Part of Christmas

In Pew Research Center data collected earlier this month, only 4% of respondents said that the thing they liked best about Christmas was the gift exchange. Only 1% said they most liked shopping or good deals and only 2% said it was the food.  Instead, the majority (69%) said it was the family and friend time that they most appreciated, followed by religious reflection (11%), and general happiness and joy (7%).  My pet suspicion, that people really like it for the vacation, came in at only 3%.

What do they like the least?  Commercialism and materialism top the list (33%), the expense comes in second (22%), and shopping comes in third (10%).

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There may be some response bias here — that’s when people say what they think the researcher wants to hear instead of the truth — but, if the data are good, it reveals why marketers have to try so damn hard every season to convince us that the gifts, decorations, and food are what make the holiday special.  What would happen to spending if we all decided to do Christmas the way we wanted instead of the way it is in toy and jewelry commercials?  There are lots of monied forces that don’t want us to find out.

1All images from a Google search for “Christmas marketing.”

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Red Bull’s Historically Stupid Thanksgiving Fantasy

Still from a 2013 Red Bull commercial:

Red Bull TV Commercial

The winter of 1620 was a devastating one for the colonists who had just arrived from England in New Plymouth.  They suffered from scurvy, exposure to the elements, and terrible living conditions.  Almost half (45 out of 102) died; only four of the remaining were women.

They made contact with the Wampanoag tribe in March.  The tribe taught them how to grow corn and donated food to the colony.  Thank to their help, the pilgrims were able to celebrate a harvest, or thanksgiving, that fall.  It was attended by the 53 remaining pilgrims and 90 indigenous Americans.

That’s why this Red Bull commercial is so annoying.  In the final 12 seconds, you see four pilgrims and two Indians, three women and three men. So, by pure numbers, reversed and heavily female.  The turkey is served by a pilgrim, sending the message that the pilgrims were feeding the Indians and not vice versa.  It’s a woman, of course, but likely most of the food preparation would have done by men, since they were 77% of the colonist population.

But, it nicely lines up with how we apparently think the world should be today: multicultural but majority white, with women cooking, and everyone paired up in same-race, heterosexual monogamy.

It’s the little things, you know.

Thanks to Jeff S. for the tip!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Poet Clint Smith on Food Deserts and Urban Warriors

Screenshot_1In this powerful spoken word, poet Clint Smith, who is also a teacher in Washington D.C., tells the stories of some of his students. It puts names and details to the struggles of young people trying to thrive in an urban environment that is all too often indifferent to their survival.

Via Upworthy.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Why Do We Sexualize Chicken?

The Sexual Politics of Meat is a scathing, powerful analysis of the relationship between the oppression of women and the farming of animals for food.  Written by Carol J. Adams and published in 1990, it inspired many a feminist to choose vegetarianism and made many more take pause.

In the six-and-a-half minute video below, she discusses the sexualization and feminization of chicken specifically.  She shows lots of examples of the ways in which chicken carcasses are objectified as women: put in high heels, bikinis, sexual positions, etc.  We feature many examples of this at our Pinterest board collecting gendered and sexualized food, some of which we’ve borrowed from Adams.

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Adams then argues that this is a way to distract us from the fact that we are eating the flesh of an animal that has been killed for us. She writes:

By sexualizing animals, we trigger another thing, that uneasiness becomes sexual energy… and everybody knows what to do about sexual energy.  You can laugh at it, you can talk about it, it reduces whoever is presented to an object.  And so it makes it okay again.

So the sexualization of animals enters into and participates in the wider issue of “Why are we doing this to animals?”  Oh yeah, because it’s funny, because it’s fun, because we can have fun with it. And it takes the ethical out.

Moreover, presenting chicken as dressing up for the male gaze suggests that the animal wants to be consumed.  The animal appears to desire to inspire (culinary) lust and, accordingly, it’s okay if you eat her.  This works best alongside feminization, as it is women who are typically presented as objects of a lustful male gaze.

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Bonus: Fifty Shades of Grey makes an appearance, and not incidentally.   In response to its popularity, a book was published called Fifty Shades of Chicken.  Here’s the book trailer:

Adams call Grey a “regressive book that implied that despite all the advances feminism has made, women really just wanted to be in bondage.”  In both books, she argues, we’re seeing the “packaging and sexualizing [of] dominance over another being.”

Hear it straight from Adams, via Uncooped:

Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Alienation and Orange Juice: The Invisibility of Labor


Compared to some European countries, the United States has a weak tradition of labor-based activism.  All too often, this leads to the invisibility of labor issues.  Take for example, this commercial for Simply Orange® brand orange juice. In an attempt to present their product as a natural alternative to other brands, Simply Orange juxtaposes images of natural orange growth with common phrases relating to the structure of a manufacturing organization. The tree is their “plant” (a marvelous pun), the orange blossoms are the “workers” that produce the fruit, and the sun itself becomes “upper management.”

Even though this commercial is humorously centered on the process of producing orange juice, there is not a single human being present in any of the images. It is a story about making a product in which nobody actually makes anything! This message cleverly sells the product, but it also obscures the real labor that went into growing, picking, and juicing the oranges and downplays the contributions to the process made by real people. All that productive effort is condensed into the image of an orange blossom, as if it can be assumed that such production will just naturally occur like an annual blooming.

The reality of orange juice production is much less sunny. According to statistics recently compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are roughly 20,000 undocumented workers in Florida that are subjected to harsh working conditions as growers compete with imported oranges in a “race to the bottom” for a cheaper production process. The illegal status of many of these workers makes them easily exploited for substandard wages, because they are often afraid to challenge the policies of their employers.

In a Marxist theoretical perspective, the way that these workers are rendered invisible by the public image of the commercial is a prime example of alienation: a tension in modern capitalism in which the workers in a mass-producing industry are separated from the fruits of their labor. Where at first it was merely the physical product that was taken from those who produced it to be sold in the market, now the credit for even participating in the process is being abstractly torn away.

This commercial also challenges the realities of the labor process, associating modern concepts of work organization such as “the plant” and “upper management” with images of natural growth. These associations allow the commercial to imply that their methods of labor organization are somehow rooted in a simpler way of doing things that is more harmonious with the natural order. By hearkening back to these roots, the organization is rendered harmless, as if to say the complexities of modern labor relations do not apply to the simple production of orange juice. All together, the choice to portray the associations in this commercial serves to hide the realities of agricultural production in the United States and limit the viewer’s potential curiosity about the way the process really works.

Evan Stewart is a Ph.D student at the University of Minnesota studying political culture. He is also a member of The Society Pages’ graduate student board, and you can follow him on Twitter

The Power of Pork: Who Needs Feminism?

Look at this cute ad from the 1950s.  Mom is so satisfied as she watches her three children husband and two kids discover the Swift’s Premium bacon she just cooked up.  We should wax nostalgic because that kind of feminine domesticity and helpless husbandry just isn’t expected in marriage any more.  Right?

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Wrong!  Enjoy this dizzying ad from Maple Leaf in which a woman finally gets her three children husband and two kids to be decent human beings by feeding them, you guessed it, bacon:

Thanks to Tom Megginson, The Ethical Adman, for both of these examples and the title of this post.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Weird New World of Girl Cheese

In May we featured a block of cheese that inspired quite the response.  Riffing off the name “Monterey Jack,” a company was selling “Monterey Jill”: the same old cheese, but reduced fat.  It was an excellent example of the way dieting is feminized.

People — myself included — were pretty stunned to see gendered cheese; who knew this was going to be a thing.  In fact, Liam sent us an example of gendered string cheese with the exact same theme: there’s string cheese animated by a male character and reduced-fat string cheese animated by a female character.  Also, they’re surfing; aaaaaand I have no analysis of that.

Screenshot_1Thanks for reminding the ladies to be worried about their waistlines cheese people!  It’s not as if we don’t get that message absolutely every time we turn around!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Modern Social Problems and Vintage Technology: Google’s Project Loon

Screenshot_2As our society becomes increasingly technological, I love stories that remind us of the value of simpler ways to solve problems, like a faux bus stop to catch escapee nursing home residents or dogs that are trained to sniff out cancer (both stories here).

This weekend we were treated to another such story, this time by Google. The company has announced a plan to bring internet to the whole world… with balloons.  The very first launch of a gas balloon was in 1783.  Two hundred and thirty years later, the company aims to deliver what is arguably the defining feature of our age — the internet — with helium-filled balloons.  That technology will then bring almost countless other technologies, such as medical advances and agricultural information, to people who are largely excluded from them now.  A fantastical plan.

Here’s how it’ll work:

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.