In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, hikers, backpackers, and mountain climbers on the United States’ east and west coasts spoke as excitedly about campfire food as they did about the continent’s ‘pristine’ wilderness. In hiking accounts and articles in outdoors magazines, early recreationalists explored what food meant to them. For many, trail fare and campfire cooking were about more than sustenance; they provided a means to transcend contemporary society’s gendered expectations about food and its consumption. The early hiking clubs of the United States were not overtly exclusionary in the ways that their European contemporaries were, but resistance to women’s inclusion was evident. In their early years, Massachusetts’s Appalachian Mountain Club (est. 1876), California’s Sierra Club…

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While the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program in which low-income men constructed trails and lodges in parks, built public roads, and otherwise improved the American environment, lasted just under a decade, it has remained an incredibly popular agency in American consciousness. Organizations push its memory, the National Park Service celebrates its past, and Americans write a surprising number of editorials about how we should revive the program. This is an unusual amount of love for a social welfare program, most of which are loathed and stigmatized in the U.S. Why are so many welfare programs villainized, even when they include a work component, while the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) invokes such pride and nostalgia? There are several reasons…

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Weight Watchers first launched an online program “customized just for guys” in 2007, one of their advertisements proclaimed, “Real men don’t diet.” This counterintuitive declaration evoked the questions that animate my current research. I’m analyzing how the consumer culture constructs notions of “real men” through depictions of food and the body, particularly during moments of intense social change and anxiety. As you might have guessed, commercial weight loss programs, developed for men in the early decades of the new millennium, provide ample evidence. Men have made up a small but consistent 10 percent of the Weight Watchers membership since the company’s founding in 1963. Throughout the decades, program materials, cookbooks, and magazines have each addressed men. For example, the 1973…

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The understanding that women are more likely to be fat than men and need fewer calories is common sense and counts as a truism in today’s nutritional discourse. Yet it has a relatively young history, one that shows how nutritional science contributes to shaping gender difference and ultimately putting women in their place. In the late 19th and early 20th century, nutritional research legitimized an unequal access to food for men and women and created fatness as a problem of passive women unable to keep up with modern times.   Dietary Studies and Women’s Food Needs In the late 19th century US, nutritional science emerged in a society shaped by the belief that scientific expertise—especially on bodies—was key to individual…

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Bachelorette Chow is one of several recipes posted by users of the platform “Complete Foods,” formerly known as DIY Soylent. Like many other websites dedicated to sharing homemade variations of commercially available nutritional substitute products like Soylent, it began with attempts to imitate as closely as possible the composition of Soylent. But meanwhile, the platform offers a variety of recipes which often aim to provide additional taste value, or claim to be targeted towards a particular purpose or target group–in the case of Bachelorette Chow, that group is obviously women. Few recipes on the platform are specifically targeted towards women. In fact, Bachelorette Chow presents an alternative to “Bachelor Chow,” a recipe which contains similar ingredients but in different quantities,…

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