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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In spring 2016 Cameron Diaz published The Longevity Book, the long-awaited sequel to The Body Book, a number-one bestseller in 2014. In her books the Hollywood star promises healthier, more fulfilled lives and more beautiful selves to those who follow her guidance. Diaz’s publications are recent additions to a growing corpus of advice literature published by actresses claiming expertise over the female body. Often this advice comes wrapped in a language of empowerment. In The Body Book, Diaz writes: “…nutrition and fitness…are not just words they are tools. They are power. They are ways to care for yourself that empower you to be stronger…and truer to yourself” (2). “Love Your Amazing Body,” the book’s back cover exhorts its readers. The…

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