“First we eat, then we do everything else,”
To be satiated is to be cared for.
This is not a given – bizarrely, cruelly – it is not a right.
Food is work. Food is power. Food is expression. Food exists as a composite.
for food you’ll need to
Think of roughly 10,000 years since the Neolithic agrarian revolution, the birth of sowing, tilling – of farming
Think of the women responsible for this revolution, the central communal power of feasting, shaping female cultural identity through cooking and eating
Think how patriarchy subsequently created the private sphere and relegated meal making and all it’s constituents as ordinary and simple, condemned to being ever unrecognized labour
Think of sugar and spice (and everything nice!) and all other commodity food items whose desirability shaped global economics and colonial patterns of exploitation and reward
Think of a patriarchal agrarian ideology – the forming and dissolution of American farming unions which protected the male farmer and subjugated the female housewife
Think of Earl Butz, the USDA secretary under Nixon, slashing the New Deal agrarian reform and exemplifying the lobbyist love affair that is American policy-making
Think of the 1980’s supreme court approval of patenting life, of the loss of our genomic liberty as companies like Myriad and Monsanto claim the most basic constituents of life as their proprietary technology
Think of agribusiness imposing these protections such as Bill C-18, thus prohibiting farmers from saving seed and having any kind of agricultural autonomy and exploiting their land and animals
Think of our dire environmental situation, of the irretrievable land, water, and energy expenditures involved in the farming, transporting, and preparing of food
Think of the lowest echelons of the food pyramid, the female migrant farm labourers who are seasonal employees of meagre wages, with no benefits and no protections from being sexually assaulted
Think of your cultural and physiological restrictions, of your psychological constructions, of your bodily expectations: you are what you eat
Think of subservience and entitlement and the paradox of bourgeoise choice
Season to taste.
preparation requires recognizing the burden women carry in the maintenance of our current agrifood system
I. Material Domain
A Kuhnian normal science seems at play, as Michael Pollan (2010) outlines, in the tone-deaf and highly technological, I would argue technocratic, solutions for the severe inefficiencies of our industrialized agricultural system. From feeding corn to cows to bathing chickens in chlorine, well-subsidized bandaids evade the crux of our troubles entirely. There is a mad race between global economic powers to land-grab as much of the Global South as they can before they, in their ill-thought industrialization, starve like those they’ve exploited.
II. Socio-Cultural Domain
Nourishing others is a woman’s proverbial calling. Allen and Sachs (2007) describe the mental and manual labour of food provision as the most basic level of care. Failure to fulfill this role to the specifications of the head of the household, the husband, remains a crucial trigger for domestic violence. Moreover there is insidious violence in the fields where racialized migrant workers, particularly women, experience poverty and harassment while being rendered expendable and utterly forgotten.
III. Corporeal Domain
Food is at once a hedonistic vehicle for creative expression and sensory satisfaction as a it is a locus for obsession and harm. Bordo (1998) explains how the restriction of food and denial of hunger have served as central features in the construction of femininity. The body becomes a locus of control in a world set on usurping female agency. However, simultaneously and particularly amidst corporate exploitation of this constructed feminine vulnerability, Counihan (1998) points to the creation of many women’s transformation fantasy: equating achieving thinness with the resolution of all other problems. Let’s think of the damaging legacy of Descartes’ acute somatophobia and the over-valuing of a mythic male rationality over emotional, visceral, female responses. Listen to your body, it matters, you matter, and you get to choose how to explore and reward it.
Food is not torment.
obtuse, linear, short-sighted, these are the manifold ways food has been corrupted – let’s fix these
Redefining food involves a critical reconstruction of traditional agriculture. Past iterations of the feminine can be moulded into intersectional, inclusive, subversive identities under an umbrella of womanhood. Movements like those of the New Domesticity and Radical Homemaker kind aim to empower women by challenging the tenants of agribusiness. Sustainable farming and community gardening in low-income areas are largely women-led initiatives and women are at the forefront of ethical buying. The journey towards achieving food sovereignty requires a great deal of collaboration. It’s a restorative process which concerns indigenous land rights and valuing subsistence farming, promoting local control and self-sufficiency over commercial farming. It is the fight for autonomy, dignity, and care for people and the environment. It is what nourishment should encompass.
Food becomes resistance.
Allen, Patricia, and Carolyn Sachs. “Women and Food Chains: The Gendered Politics of Food.” International Journal of Sociology of Food and Agriculture 15.1 (2007): 1-23. Print.
Avakian, Arlene Voski., and Barbara Haber. “Feminist Food Studies: A Brief History.” From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food. Amherst: U of Massachusetts, 2005. 1-26. Print.
“Bill C-18 and Farmers’ Privilege – What Is the Whole Story?” National Farmers Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. <http://www.nfu.ca/issue/bill-c-18-and-farmers%E2%80%99-privilege-%E2%80%93-what-whole-story>.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan. Swank Motion Pictures, 2010. DVD.
Patel, Rajeev, Radhika Balakrishnan, and Uma Narayan. “Transgressing Rights: La Via Campesina’s Call for Food Sovereignty / Exploring Collaborations: Heterodox Economics and an Economic Social Rights Framework / Workers in the Informal Sector: Special Challenges for Economic Human Rights.” Feminist Economics 13.1 (2007): 87-116. Taylor and Francis Online. Web.
Parker, Alison. “Fertile Ground: Farming for Feminism | Bitch Media.” Bitch Media. N.p., 9 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2016. <https://bitchmedia.org/post/fertile-ground-women-feminism-food-farming-femivore-eco>.
Philpott, By Tom. “A Reflection on the Lasting Legacy of 1970s USDA Secretary Earl Butz.” Grist. N.p., 07 Feb. 2008. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. <http://grist.org/article/the-butz-stops-here/>.
Shiva, Vandana. “The Seeds Of Suicide: How Monsanto Destroys Farming.”Global Research. N.p., 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. <http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-seeds-of-suicide-how-monsanto-destroys-farming/5329947>.
Specter, Michael. “Can We Patent Life?” The New Yorker. N.p., 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. <http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/can-we-patent-life>.
“The Truth about Land Grabs.” Oxfam America. Oxfam America Inc., n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2016. <https://www.oxfamamerica.org/take-action/campaign/food-farming-and-hunger/land-grabs/>.
Weisdorf, Jacob L. “From Foraging To Farming: Explaining The Neolithic Revolution.” Journal of Economic Surveys J Economic Surveys 19.4 (2005): 561-86. Web.
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