9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-03 15:30:00 2009-09-03 17:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 15:30 - 17:00 The Social Reproduction of Gender Inequalities Building II, C4.02

Gender made by nutrition. Forms of social reproduction of a difference

Studies of nutritional sciences usually suggest a physical relation of sexuality and nutritional behavior. It is assumed that because of the different body composition (fat-water ratio) there are not only different nutritional needs but different preferences to food. Therefore gendered behavior appears as an effect of the naturalized body structure. Beside the rejection of some important arguments of the gender discourse of the 1990s, this assumptions draws a very confined picture of the phenomenon of nutrition and eating.
Eating goes beyond the satisfaction of physical needs. Indeed occasions of eating have to be understood as causes for representing social relations. Since the 1920s there have been many studies showing that through eating the boundaries of community are constituted and confirmed, as well as role expectations. Gender marks one important aspect of social relations as well as its definition of male and female roles. As with every social occasion, nutrition as well realizes social relations and confirms also gender roles.
To argue for a gender-confirming instead of a sex-dependent status of nutrition, four observations will be discussed. Firstly, the social effects of the conversion from hunting to agriculture will be noted. Secondly, there are some remarks on the anatomical reasoning for the female status in antique households. Thirdly the argument will focus on the changed anatomy of women driven by changes in moral expectations during the 17th and 18th century. Lastly, attention will be drawn to the attribution-process of current gender role identities. In all these cases it can be illustrated that the valuation of nutrition was synchronized according to the current gender roles and gender hierarchy but the explanations have changed. Therefore nutrition is not an almost ahistorical expression of sexual differences but an occasion for the everchanging realization of gender differences.