No Gender December
Okay… it may not be December, but just like appreciating our fathers when it's not Father’s day, the topic here is important outside of December, and totally relevant to our health and nutrition. No Gender December is great initiative trying to squash gender stereotyping in children's toys: http://www.nogenderdecember.com
But what on earth does this have to do with health and nutrition?
Well… as a university major in Anthropology, I became increasingly aware of the role our 'gender' (not to be confused with biological sex) plays on our food choices.
Gender stereotyping extends far beyond the toy store where there are clear distinctions between toys that girls and boys are expected to purchase and play with. Some other examples are;
How we speak and present ourselves
How acceptable it is to show emotion both publicly and privately
Expectations of income and pressure to ‘provide’
Our posture and mannerisms
Our body language and verbal language
The dynamics of our relationships and expectations of them
Career choices and ease of graduating to senior positions …
and SO much more.
AND our 'gender' is shown to also affect our health markers, exercise choice and food choices. Who remembers this classic scene from white chicks? (fast forward to 1:20)
I’ve personally (as a female) had numerous experiences going out to eat with male friends, and the waiter or waitress making assumptions about who to put the burger and beer in front of and who to give the salad to. For the record, this is not at all offensive to me, but an interesting observation of norms and expectations.
Yes, it’s true that generally females require less calories (including calories from protein) to their male counterparts so a female with a salad and a male with a steak could be explained through the caloric needs of each gender, however....
Various (ethnographic) studies show that females make such food choices because of social pressure they feel to be 'skinny' and because they feel particular food choices will help maintain the quality of their skin and overall 'healthy look'. Whereas a much smaller percentage of men feel this social pressure and make their food choices based off what they feel like at the time.
Please note: Of course there are plenty of exceptions where a male cares more about their appearance than a particular women, but this is a generalised statement taken for anecdotal observation as well as sociological study results.
Why is it that all but a few of the female clients that come to Flex Success have goals of weight loss and ‘looking better’, whereas there are far more examples of male clients want to put on muscle and ‘feel strong’ and aren't too concerned with a bit of body fat?
The Answer: Different desired outcomes due to social and cultural pressures and expectations.
While "No Gender December" calls for a ban on gendered toys, I am calling for a re-think on how we as a society think about the genderisation of food, and the pressures we place on people on the basis of their gender.
This is not just a #femalepower blog where I am only saying it’s just as okay for a woman than a man to have a little junk in the trunk, but also a broader acceptance of men choosing salads and being okay with expressing their emotions could go a long way in increasing one's (physical and mental) overall health.
The pressure on people (women especially) to be lean and well presented at all times is real, and the media is harsh to judge the success of woman, (even high powered and/or influential women like Julia Gillard and Angelina Jolie) by her appearance and discuss her handbag choice over discussing important aspects of one’s life such as their academic achievements, charity and aid work, party policies or business endeavours.
Read more about Angelina’s work here:
Read more about Julia Gillard and the media coverage of her ass instead of her policies, here:
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a woman caring about her appearance, or a man wanting to be big and strong #popeye, but perhaps we can set our food choices and goals based off health and what we want to look and feel like, instead of what we feel others expect of us based on our gender.
Let’s reject gendered food and encourage men to eat salad and women to eat steak.
Benefits of steak for females:
A steak will deliver much needed heme iron to the body which is increasingly beneficial for those with regular periods who lose iron through monthly menstruation. Iron from other foods such as beans and leafy greens (non heme iron) have a much lower absorption rate in the body making red meat far superior in its iron benefits, not to mention glutamine, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Find out more about iron and iron deficiencies here:
I for one, will be digging into an iron rich steak AND a salad, because we can have the best of both worlds.
Diet Smart. Not Hard.