Can Gender Equality be Solved at the Dinner Table?
Last week we discussed a section of the reading labeled as, ‘Gender, Globalization, and Food.’ The discussion went along with a reading from Nancy Worcester titled, Nourishing Ourselves. I never saw the irony in the fact that women around the world are the food producers, and the fact that they are providing prohibits them from getting their nutritional needs. I knew that on average men eat more than women, but I did not know that women actually need more nutrition in their daily diet than men in the aspects of specific requirements such as iron and calcium.
Being from the United States, I am aware that there are many issues concerning the malnutrition of women, but other than social pressures I do not see why women would be lacking the nutrition they need. This is where Worcester’s idea of bringing in the term internalized sexism clears this up for me. She makes the statement that, “It is women, not men, who are unequally distributing food within the family, giving men and boys more than their share of what is available for the household” (352). I have seen this my entire life in many different families and thought of it as natural. The females of the house would prepare meals, and then they would dish out the majority to the males, leaving them with essentially what is left. Women are essentially putting themselves behind the importance of the men being fed first, most of the times without knowing it.
While internalized sexism is playing a role in women not giving themselves enough food because they believe themselves to be inferior when it comes to consuming the available food, Worcester points out a term that a psychiatrist by the name of Hilde Bruch calls, “thin fat people.” This is what I expected to be the cause of malnutrition of women, especially as they are developing under social pressure to look ‘good.’ These are people who, “Eat less then their bodies require in order to stay at a weight which is artificially low” (353). In a young women’s life, the most nutritional needs are from the ages of eleven to fourteen, which is also one of life’s most crucial times for educational decisions that will shape the rest of that women’s life. Seeing as cognitive development is equally dependent on both intellectual components as well as nutritional components, this is one of the worst times for a woman to be experiencing malnutrition.
Worcester has shown me that social and economic factors can work together in a negative sense for women in getting the nutrition that they need. When you have conscious decisions such as trying to look fit working with unconscious decisions such as the mother of the house giving the males more food, this will only spiral downward into future generations. If women are kept from growing intellectually as a result from growing properly in a nutritional physical state, then how will they break other barriers such as closing the gender pay gap between men and women in the work world. These women need to have a fair chance to become all that they can be in order to be as efficient as they need to be in society. These young women need to have less pressure to look ‘good,’ as not to become these ‘thin fat people,’ and rather get all the nutrients they need to grow properly.
While I this reading response has looked upon issues that are more prevalent in countries such as the United States and other first world countries, the reading does point out how no matter what world wide men get the feeding priority. Whether is be in Arabic Islam where girls are breastfed for a year to a year and a half less than boys, or in extreme cases such as in Kashmir where girls are breastfed for only months while boys can be breastfed for a few years. There needs to be a new look on the way we prioritize the feeding of our youth. Whether this be through new education on the importance of nutrition for women, or whether there is a different approach on trying to portray how men do not need to vast amounts of extra nutrition that they are given, there needs to be a change in nourishing women. This problem could lead to fix other issues such as women’s role in society as a whole, when the playing fields are leveled and everyone can consume the same.
- Did you see how something as ‘internalized sexism’ is causing this problem in households where women are creating themselves to be inferior before reading this?
- What other issues do you think could be resolved in the sense of gender equality if the feeding priority was taken care of?
Worcester, Nancy. “Nourishing Ourselves.” An Introduction to Women’s Studies:
Gender in a Transnational World. Ed. Inderpal Grewal, Caren, Kaplan. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. 348-355. Print.