In 1963, patriarchal social structures in the United States seemed to be getting stirred up by female voices challenging the hegemonic imaginary woman, when Betty Friedan published her seminal book The Feminine Mystique. That same year, Jean Nidetch started a company helping women reduce their body weight: Weight Watchers, now called WW. By losing weight, as Marisa Meltzer argues in her book This is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World (and Me) (2020), Nidetch “basically earned the American dream” (8) and then sold it as a commodity. Meltzer explains that “Jean had a Cinderella story for the ages. She was a maven and mogul who lost weight, spectacularly found her calling, and helped to create a national pastime and obsession that endures today” (276).…

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The controversial documentary The Game Changers seeks to debunk the myth that plant-based proteins will never be as good as their animal counterpart. For those who have not seen the documentary, a quick look at the film poster might help to better understand what is at stake here: in the documentary, vegan athletes are depicted as so ultra-masculine that they also make their dietary choice “manly” and, therefore, do not challenge hegemonic ideals of masculinity. We see a strong arm, a clenched fist, and enlarged veins with green blood circulating through them. Next to this arm, green and white letters proclaim: “Fueled by the Truth: The Game Changers.” At first glance, the poster seems to announce a remake of the…

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  “Can you imagine my mom’s reaction?” [Abby asks]. “Eat Healthy with Norah!’s Norah suspected of having a fat kid!” —Amy Spalding, The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles (91) What exactly is postfeminist healthism? Postfeminism, in a nutshell, describes the all-encompassing notion that Western societies have moved beyond sexist and sexualized discrimination and that gender roles are stable and fair. Therefore, our societies are no longer in need of feminist critique, activism, and (body) politics. Essentially, this leads to the assumption that whether women are successful or not is on them and them alone. Sociologist Rosalind Gill conceives “postfeminism as a sensibility” (148) to emphasize the omnipresence of postfeminism as it influences every part of daily life. Healthism, first coined…

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Creamy, sometimes salty, and optimistically yellow, butter is one of my favorite foods. It’s also a scientific and cultural barometer. For the first half of the twentieth century, nutritionists enthusiastically endorsed butter as a good source of energy and part of a healthy, moderate diet. Early government-issued food guides endorsed eating enough food, as public health efforts focused on such problems a nutritional deficiencies and inadequate diets, particularly for children. Since then, increased food availability, changing disease patterns, and additional research have reshaped food and nutrition guidelines, changing perceptions of butter along the way. Butter’s shifting nutritional status provides a window into major developments in dietary advice and public health. The following food guides sought to communicate each historical moment’s…

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John Egerton writes in Southern Food: On the Road, at Home, and in History that “the [U.S.] South, for better or worse, has all but lost its identity as a separate place.” However, Egerton quickly turns to food as one of the last distinct markers of Southern identity: “But its food survives — diminished, perhaps, in availability and quantity, but intact in its essence and authenticity — and at its best, it may be as good as it ever was” (3). For many folks who identify as Southern, cuisine is all that remains that makes Southern culture unique after cutting out all the problematic elements of an economy and culture built on enslaved labor, a history of racial violence and poverty, and other regressive…

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