Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 1, Issue 2
Spring 2011
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editor, John-Albert Moseley
Layout Design: Nick Appleby

Course Profile on WGSS 120, Women, Food, and Culture

by Jordan Zimmerman '12

Maria Trumpler
Maria Trumpler

Love her or hate her, Susie Homemaker is a woman whom consumers of American culture cannot forget. The real problem with Susie is not that she places some unattainable ideal of American domestic femininity on a pedestal, but, that her pedestal does not offer enough room for other venerable female food icons. Whatever happened to Fanny (the) Farmer? When did history forget Molly Muncher, a woman whose eyes gleam not necessarily at the sight of a four-burner gas stove but at a full dinner plate? In Women, Food, and Culture, Professor Maria Trumpler erects a stage not only for Susie, but also for the Fannys and the Mollys of the world.

In the course we focus specifically on three areas—production, preparation, and consumption—in which women around the world interact with their food. We begin with the cave-drawings and tomb-carvings of prehistory, and make our way to the present day through critical studies of extremely varied sources: cookbooks for and by women, photographs of women on the farm and in the kitchen, Hollywood movies depicting women interacting in some way with food, and even the work of ultra-modern female performance artists who bend, stretch, and challenge the associations between women and the food they produce, prepare, and consume. Students are often shocked to learn that women make up the majority of the world's farmers, and that the CEOs of many of the major commodity food corporations are female. We are challenged to analyze taboo topics, such as eating disorders among women, that convey the deep emotions that tightly bind women and food. Ol' Susie is (and, as Professor Trumpler teaches, always has been) expanding her horizons!

Through critical analysis and a lecture-discussion combination, we seek to challenge our own assumptions about how women interact with their food. In Women, Food, and Culture, we learn that a woman's cultural heritage, ethnicity, social customs, and economic constraints are all essential ingredients in the soup of her food-dependent existence and often value-fraught daily food choices.

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