Do Food and Drinks Have Gender?: Cultural Conceptions of Food Types among Emory Undergraduates Open Access

Stubbs, Sierra (Spring 2019)

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Gender performance affects various aspects of life, from clothing choices, to personal relationships and sometimes, as discussed in this paper, food choices. Therefore, the goal of this thesis was to better understand the ways that individuals conceptualize common foods and drinks in relation to gender, and whether they apply these conceptions to their gender performances. This thesis also strove to evaluate potential patterns in conceptions and gender performances across genders and races. This thesis focuses on college students because they are an excellent population to examine these cultural conceptions of food within as the population is racially diverse, and in the process of developing and solidifying their gender identities. The author conducted an exploratory free-listing exercise in order to discover which foods to interrogate in relation to gender. The author also conducted two online surveys, one large survey which received responses one hundred and sixty-five responses, and another smaller pilot survey that received thirty-five responses. Of the thirty-five pilot survey responses, seven of these surveys were conducted in person to allow for a deeper examination of the participant’s thoughts and opinions. 

Both the first survey and the second survey allowed for an exploration of norms surrounding gender and food. The second survey allowed the author to further examine how individuals conceptualize the relationships between the free-listed foods and gender. The results of this thesis illustrate that individuals do conceptualize food as related to gender in the same ways that previous research has found, and some individuals follow the common food and gender norms, such as ties between femininity and salad. However, although the results indicate that people are aware of food and gender norms, they also break these norms frequently, and many individuals do not think that these norms should exist. Finally, these results indicate that the resistance to these norms and stereotypes is not simple, as respondents gave conflicting answers about the ways that they break gender norms, and they speak about the difficulty of actually breaking norms and stereotypes. Incorporating this connection between gender and food may help healthcare professionals create more targeted nutritional interventions.

Table of Contents


Inspiration   1

Background and Overview   2

Rationale and Anthropological Connection  3

Positionality   4

Study Location   5


Culture and Gender   7

Race and Masculinity  10

Food   10

Settled and Nomadic Sensibilities           11

Structuralism 13

Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche           14

Food and Gender Studies 14


Project Goals and Questions        20

Hypothesis    20

Step One: Participant Observation           21

Step Two: Free Listing Exercise   21

Step Three: First Online Survey    22

Step Four: Larger Online Survey  23

Methods Table         25

Study Population: Only American Born For the Analysis         26


Respondent Profile 27

Free List Results and Analysis     28

Quantitative Results of the Larger Survey          30

Feminine-Sorted Foods     31

Masculine-Sorted Foods    33

Neutral-Sorted Foods         34

Dark Chocolate as an Outlier        36

Qualitative Findings and Discussion- Themes of Resistance 37

“Menu” Choices       37

Food and Gender Norm Resistance        38

Further Resistance Analysis         40

Social Context          41

Race and Masculinity         43

International Student Qualitative Findings and Analysis         46

LIMITATIONS           47

Sample Size and Demographics 47


Future Research      48

Conclusions 49

References   51

Appendix       54

Links for the Pictures Included in the Second Survey  54

Google Forms Survey (Online Survey #1)          56

Qualtrics Survey (Online Survey #2)       59

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