Food and Femininity

Food and Femininity

by Kate Cairns

Kate Cairns is Assistant Professor of Childhood Studies at Rutgers University-Camden, USA. Her research brings an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture and inequality, with particular focus on childhood, gender, and consumption. Kate has published in venues such as Gender & Society, Theory and Society, Journal of Consumer Culture, Antipode, and Gender and Education. Her current research explores educational initiatives that seek to connect children to their food. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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and Josée Johnston

Josée Johnston is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her major substantive interest is the sociological study of food, which is a lens for investigating questions relating to consumer culture, gender, and inequality.  She is the co-author of Foodies (2nd edition, 2015) with Shyon Baumann, and has published articles in venues including American Journal of Sociology, Journal of Consumer Culture, Signs, Theory and Society, and Gender and Society. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Bloomsbury Academic, 2015
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-0-8578-5552-7 (hardback)

    978-0-8578-5664-7 (paperback)

    978-0-8578-5556-5 (epub)

    978-0-8578-5774-3 (epdf)

    978-1-4742-5515-8 (online)
  • Edition:
    First edition
  • Place of Publication:
  • Published Online:
Food and Femininity
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Over the space of a few generations, women’s relationship with food has changed dramatically.  Yet – despite significant advances in gender equality – food and femininity remain closely connected in the public imagination as well as the emotional lives of women.  While women encounter food-related pressures and pleasures as individuals, the social challenge to perform food femininities remains: as the nurturing mother, the talented home cook, the conscientious consumer, the svelte and health-savvy eater. 

In Food and Femininity, Kate Cairns and Josée Johnston explore these complex and often emotionally-charged tensions to demonstrate that food is essential to the understanding of femininity today.  Drawing on extensive qualitative research in Toronto, they present the voices of over 100 food-oriented men and women from a range of race and class backgrounds. Their research reveals gendered expectations to purchase, prepare, and enjoy food within the context of time crunches, budget restrictions, political commitments, and the pressure to manage health and body weight. The book analyses how women navigate multiple aspects of foodwork for themselves and others, from planning meals, grocery shopping, and feeding children, to navigating conflicting preferences, nutritional and ethical advice, and the often-inequitable division of household labour. What emerges is a world in which women’s choices continue to be closely scrutinized – a world where ‘failing’ at food is still perceived as a failure of femininity.

A compelling rethink of contemporary femininity, this is an indispensable read for anyone interested in the sociology of food, gender studies and consumer culture.