Greed: As American as Vat-Fried Apple Pie and Hamburger Brain

Look, it’s ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I’ll kill ’em, and I’m going to kill ’em before they kill me. You’re talking about the American way of survival of the fittest.'”

—Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s Empire, 1972

Not satisfied with marketing to children through playgrounds, tys, cartoons, sweepstakes, games, and clubs, via television, radio, magazines, and the Internet, fast food chains are now gaining access to the last advertising-free outposts of American life. In 1993 District 11 in Colorado Springs started a nationwide trend, becoming the first public school district in the United States to place ads for Burger King in its hallways and on the sides of school buses. […]

District 11’s marketing efforts were soon imitated by other school districts in Colorado, by districts in Pueblo, Fort Collins, Denver, and Cherry Creek. […] Hundreds of public school districts across the United States are now adopting or considering similar arrangements. Children spend about seven hours a day, one hundred and fifty days a year, in school. Those hours have in the past been largely free of advertising, promotion, and market research—a source of frustration to many companies. Today the nation’s fast food chains are marketing their products in public schools through conventional ad campaigns, classroom teaching materials, and lunchroom franchises, as well as a number of unorthodox means.

—Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, pp 51, 52

The spiraling cost of textbooks has led thousands of American school districts to use corporate-sponsored teaching materials. A 1998 study of these teaching materials by the Consumer’s Union found that 80 percent were biased, providing students with incomplete or slanted information that favored the sponsor’s product and views.

—Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, p 55

For years, some of the most questionable ground beef in the United States was purchased by the USDA—and then distributed to school cafeterias throughout the country. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the USDA chose meat suppliers for its National School Lunch Program on the basis of the lowest price, without imposing additional food safety requirements. The cheapest ground beef was not only the most likely to be contaminated by pathogens, but also the most likely to contain pieces of spinal cord, bone, and gristle left behind by the Automated Meat Recovery Systems (contraptions that squeeze the last shreds of meat off bones).

A 1983 investigation by NBC News said that the Cattle King Packing Company—at the time, the USDAs largest supplier of ground beef for school lunches and a supplier to Wendy’s—routinely processed cattle that were already dead before arriving at its plant, hid diseased cattle from inspectors, and mixed rotten meat that had been returned by customers into packages of hamburger meat.

—Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, p 218

Children under the age of five, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems are the most likely to suffer from illnesses caused by E. coli 0157:H7. The pathogen is now the leading cause of kidney failure among children in the United States. Nancy Donley, the president of Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP), an organization devoted to food safety, says it is hard to convey the suffering that E. coli 0157:H7 causes children. Her six-year old son, Alex, was infected with the bug in July of 1993 after eating a tainted hamburger. His illness began with abdominal cramps that seemed as severe as labor pains. It progressed to diarrhea that filled a hospital toilet with blood. Doctors frantically tried to save Alex’s life, drilling holes in his skull to relieve pressure, inserting tubes in his chest to keep him breathing as the Shiga toxins destroyed internal organs. […] He became ill on a Tuesday night, the night after his mother’s birthday, and was dead by Sunday afternoon. Toward the end, Alex suffered hallucinations and dementia, no longer recognizing his mother or father. Portions of his brain had been liquified.

—Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, p 200

Look, it’s ridiculous to call this an industry. This is not. This is rat eat rat, dog eat dog. I’ll kill ’em, and I’m going to kill ’em before they kill me. You’re talking about the American way of survival of the fittest.'”

—Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s Empire, 1972

THERE ARE MANY THOUGHTS one could take away from this collection of information. I recommend the entire book Fast Food Nation. This is just the tiniest sampling, and a better picture can be had by reading the full narrative with its relentless onslought of gruesome revelation (yet with an organic Hope center!). All laid out in a narrative voice rather factual, and actually tastefully bereft of the emotional color that could have (rightfully) been employed. To my mind, this gives the book or tone therein a haunted, sad quality; the restrained, quiet voice reflects aurally, a certain (moral) emptiness it textually navigates.

The thread sketched in this post by my choices do not necessarily reflect the arc of narrative in the book. I chose a few quotes that had to do with children and the system we call “school,” and the uses that the fast food industry has had for this system, as well as the compromises that can arise out of this unsettling alliance. Some of the first grouping of facts in this book that began to boggle my mind…but in a way that wasn’t terribly shocking to my general views. Only sadly confirming.

From here, one could take the discussion a few ways. It probably depends a lot on our own beliefs and feelings about many things. We could talk about trusting companies or intermediaries on the mass-scale, who handle our food. We could talk about industrialization. Or packaging. We could talk about how many hands are between us and the neat, jazzy little box of munchie-munch we flip a buck or two for. We could talk about the speed of justice and the timeline of truth and possible consequences to relying on distant investigatory boards that hand down self-imposed inspections to massive corporations that exist outside our personal realm of understanding or control.

We could talk about trusting agencies to feed our children. We ought to at least admit there is no way the average person can ascertain any level of safety at all in such environs, that we don’t know a damn thing about what is in the school kitchen or how it is made, and that we are trusting a thousand people we do not know to keep our child healthy—when, as good as those people may be at heart, they cannot possibly control all variables that aid that agency. We could talk about other choices. Are there any?

We could talk about eating meat at all. Or we could talk about the way meat is being handled far too often. Just for the hell of it, let me underline that “meat” means “carcass.” It means “flesh,” it means “body.” So we could talk about the inferior, and yes, STUPID, way animals (alive and dead) are being treated, handled, and then fed into a mass-grinder that we have not cleaned, sterilized, nor even seen. We could talk about processed and mass-distributed food, and the philosophies that encourage and sustain such ideas. We could talk about a view on nature, and on animals vs. “human, not of animal descent.”

We could talk about fast food, for sure. That’s right up front. I don’t eat the stuff anymore. My (vegetarian and hippie-consciousness) upbringing, and then job at McDonald’s (at 16) cured me of 99% of that. This book took care of that last 1% with energy to spare.

We could talk about children, the last group of people yet to be fully considered as equal beings in this world, the small, weak human beings with tiny vocabularies and trusting minds. Every ounce of energy and cost should be being expended to keep them safe and smart and well-fed, no corner ought to be cut, no consideration too small, no excuses made for preying upon them in the ways this book divulges, or that we all know of just turning on the TV or looking around us. We are a foolish, ignorant, and self-destructive people to disregard and play stupid with our most precious available commodity and potential for change.

We could talk, again, about trusting school systems to even teach our children. How many parents would have approved the ways in which the school lessons were being shaped by corporate interests as described in this book? How many knew about this? How could they have? In what ways are even today’s school lessons being influenced in a way that will not be revealed until tomorrow’s new Fast Food Nation? And thus, we could talk about ignorant (not in the emotional sense, but the strict definition of not knowing) parents and good teachers deceived and reliant upon a system that cannot be assumed, at every turn, to be concerned with truth and good information….and even assuming most of the institution’s influential members are, if a parent’s definitions of those concepts—truth, good information—jibe! We can look at how the corporate forces are invading even the centers of learning for our children to make hypnotized zombies out of them, we could talk about this educational system that began as a means of preparing humans to be good factory workers, that began by objectifying them in this cold economic fashion, and in a few ways, clearly, has not changed too much. We could talk about the mutagenic growth cycle and aggressive territoriality of the advertising beast.

How to get at the root? What connects these things?

Ultimately, as a philosophical sort of LCD (Lowest Common Denominator, I’m getting mathosophical on you), I see greed, yet again. In a past post I had a few words on greed, and I have before, and I will again, and that’s because it’s clear to see that this sense of eating everything that strikes our whim, shitting where we sleep, tearing through each hull without even cleaning off the old ones, tossing our bones in our drinking supply, chewing with our eyes closed—this sleephuntgathering, this distorted tapeworm-thirst baked brain dyslogic that informs so much of our so-called “progress,” this EXTRA 40% FOR HALFPRICE 25 HOURS A DAY SHIPPED FREE TO YOU!, this doing it in half the time, this devouring as much as possible and at the same time trying to expend as little care/energy/concern/cost as possible, this attempt to cheat a balance for a bigger horded stash….it is what is eating away at our human existence and our peace of mind. Behind every decision disruptive and destructive to the good of humankind is a decision to try and cheat that balance, to get more for less, to profit off of other beings, to control things to your own benefit at costs that don’t concern you. I return to this, because it informs all the other complaints here for me. So many wrongs spring from a simple lack of acceptance of a few basic principles. One is that For Every Shortcut, There is an Unseen Cost.

M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, spoke of something in a nearby neighborhood. He posited, in the first chapter, that we just don’t accept the delaying of gratification. We’d rather procrastinate all day about an hour of work than do that work at the beginning of the day and have the rest of the day carefree. That we will eat our ice cream first and then fret forever over the broccoli. He rests people’s dissatisfactions, complaints, angers and much emotional and mental immaturity to a habit of denial of the truth that you just have to suffer sometimes for a little while to get where and what you want. And I agree… I frame it differently, but it is the same point.

When thinking, it helps to overlap symbols/shapes/ideas. To just slide them around, turn them inside out, lay them over each other, remove tags and just run through the closet of ideas and try on whatever might fit. Maybe it’s the Language closet mostly. Or the Symbol closet. I don’t know. I don’t spend much time in the Definition closet. but I’ve sort of amalgamated lessons from Science with my own philosophical wandering (like the “Philosophical LCD” above, which uses a touch of math to make its point). And when I was learning (this is as basic as high school bio) that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but only converted or otherwise carried along albeit in a new form, this made sense to me, it stuck with me, and it got tossed around with other intellectual garments and made its way into some of my favorite outfits. I have learned from living, the same lesson about energy. Not in a physically or empirically demonstrable fashion as the law described above, but along the same metaphorical lines. That energy is never thrown away. That it never has no effect. That where you invest it, it will return. Words begin to fail, when describing these things. And I think writing all out here that I’ve thought on this will sidetrack me. But I spend years thinking on certain ideas (not always actively) and very gradually give them shape as I test them and retry and superimpose and prod them…sometimes discard, sometimes rethink. I feel the truth of them all the while—that is what gives me the original impulse and direction—and it grows truer as I check back on it, as I sculpt away the inessential and inaccurate or limiting.

In our false paradigm of worshipping efficiency and profit, we are ignoring some axioms that cannot be so easily discounted. They come to collect the balance of which we try to cheat them, and they leave a receipt of (not unseen) harm, disease, violence, blanched fate.

Parents sometimes begin the first lesson of convenience by refusing to risk the child’s anger or unhappiness, and giving them all that they want or cry for. This is convenient for the adult, but begins to ruin the child. Why will they not, with this treatment as well as so much of USA culture, always seek the shortcut? The easier way? The convenient method? It is a dangerous focus.

It simply must be taught to children from the start that there is joy in investing energy and time and work has a great value. They must learn, in quite clear and direct terms, the danger in the reflex to shortcut, that the idea itself is already compromise of a sort that will affect the outcome, that energy and time invested into a Thing insure the conversion of that energy, not the loss; attention and focus and care as some disease of process that must be remedied by a trick? No. We must incorporate into our teachings that the translation of time and energy we take on making a thing will manifest into matter and a quality and an aura that lives on and radiates and affects everything else around it and that interacts with that thing. We must teach that spending more time doing a job means a job is done better. (There are always exceptions, their existence does not disprove this rule). It must be inculcated into our culture that Faster is not inherently Better, that Less is not More, that Cheaper is not Valuable, and that being in a rush is pointless and a way to destroy your peace of mind in the Now, sustain injuries, and waste energy conversion through lack of focus. How to shift the American (USA) culture in a diametrically opposed alignment to where it currently points? Good question. Feel it out. Let me know. I figure I’ll start with me. Thinking, speaking, living. (Not necessarily in that order.)

I have to admit, there is a line to be determined. Should we all hoe our own gardens? Is it wrong to attach a yoke to an animal and have them plow it? Is any “shortcut” at all bad? I cannot answer a broad question as this. I cannot say yes to that. I do not think any “shortcut” is bad. But I think a reflex to always find one is bad, causes harm, feeds decisions such as are made when feeding cattle other bits of rotted cattle, feeds kids rotted cattle, lies to the public. These are all greed-based shortcuts. If you feed that animal right, treat it right, give it care and good food and yoke it so that you can harness its larger, stronger frame, I do not see that as bad. You have to house that animal, feed it, care for it, tend it, fit it with the yoke, insure it does not suffer, tend its illness. So you don’t really cheat the balance I speak of. You put the energy you would use to hoe into a different area, and it is hoped that you save yourself physical energy, but perhaps that energy you use to care and house and feed the animals is but another form of paying that currency. Perhaps the energy equation balances. Perhaps the harm would come when you try to handle more oxen than you can feed or care for to turn over more ground to get ahead…and they suffer, go hungry, untended. And perhaps those decisions, that grow from the “more than you can rightfully handle” area are the ones that compromise to the point of harm. As I said, I haven’t finished thinking this all out. It’s not something I plan to have a final answer for. I want to keep these questions with me, rather.

As young as I am even, at only 38, I know that I have grown up in a remarkably young and ignorant culture. Headstrong on our marvelous biceps and wallet, which we stole from a lab corpse and a night watchman and appropriated by use of murder, mellifluous manifesto, and mad science. We use these same tools very often to continue growing this economic and military giant. If we live on, one day we must inevitably come to wiser philosophies, not simply to etch into statues or have our figureheads mouth in their speeches, but in a way that inform our international policies and personal dealings and national decisions on funding, buying, building, treating medically or legally or raising children or teaching them…and so on. We must grow this attitude (and I mean that both emotionally and in a metaphorical airspace sense) and aim it outward into the world, as well. If we want a world of peace and happiness for not just the ultra rich but for even the poorest of the poor, then we must change the yardstick that determines who is favored and funded and who is not, the measurement that determines who is bullied and who is bought. In essence, we must change our view on nearly everything we do. Or perish. And that’s why it is in all our interests, even if we don’t care about everyone’s happiness. If we forge on using the philosophies that favor quick, cheaper, better, faster (and at the cost to many along the way), we rush to our doom. Liquified children’s brains from E. Coli crawling rampant in a negligent meatpacking/distribution/marketing system is but one symptom of such terrible ideology and mispriority that too often are part and parcel of the economic flex we call the American Way.

You cannot ignore truths, no matter how many dollars talk back. And not keeping a tally of debt doesn’t mean it’s not adding up.

crossposted at the unapologetic mexican


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71 Responses to Greed: As American as Vat-Fried Apple Pie and Hamburger Brain

  1. lizvelrene says:

    *applause*

    I have nothing to add to this, except: you are fabulous, Nezua. And I love the grotesque Ronald McDonald picture.

  2. Smartpatrol says:

    Wow. Nezua, that was w/o a doubt, one of the rocking-est, arse-kicking, bullshit-destroying, cutting-through-the-crap bits of writing I’ve ever read. Precisely the reason I keep coming to Femniste & other like-minded sites. Seriously, this was Analysis As A Form Of Martial Art. Keep it up.

    P.S.: Reminds me of a line from Ramses The Dammed when the main character says to someone: “Greed is what went wrong. Greed is what always goes wrong.”

  3. Nezua says:

    thank you so much, lizvelrene.

    i wish i knew the artist for that pic. it’s fantastic, i agree. and reading this book inspired me to render my own version, which is not completed yet. but i actually have a series of demonmcdonalds planned. it’s too great an opportunity. clown face happy colors reppin a corrosive and hidden chain of effects and intention. how can i not?

    thanks again for reading and your words. :)

  4. Jamie says:

    Fast Food Nation was required reading for one of my classes back in high school. After reading it I found myself encountering the same issues you discuss in this post. I’m still encountering them anew on a daily basis. A very good summary of a very complex, far-reaching idea/set of ideas. Thanks for putting thoughts into words for people like me. :)

    I’ve been lucky enough to avoid the in-school marketing. Many high schools and colleges have fast food joints on campus (like Taco Bell or Subway). When I was in middle school I was envious of the next school district over, which got Taco Bell tacos served on Fridays. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Now, it mostly makes me shudder, and makes me glad my college has kept fast food away from us. They fail in other ways, though, so like most colleges it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of work to be done.

    I think a lot of schools succumb to the whole marketing scheme because they aren’t getting enough funding from their communities to begin with. Again, I was lucky enough to attend a school in an area where millages were actually passed. But in many areas, as I’m sure the readers of this site know, that doesn’t happen. As with so many things, the troubles we face come down to money and desire for it. Namely, residents in a school district don’t want to part with theirs, and schools think they need more to inject life into the failed public school method (when new methods entirely would better suffice).

    Bah. I’m a bit all over the place here, mostly because I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot so the ideas are running amok in my brain.

    To sum up, terrific post. ^_^

  5. Kristen says:

    In our false paradigm of worshipping efficiency and profit, we are ignoring some axioms that cannot be so easily discounted. They come to collect the balance of which we try to cheat them, and they leave a receipt of (not unseen) harm, disease, violence, blanched fate.

    Again, so much of what you’re saying reminds me of Pirsig’s arguments…only much less painful to read. :) Your ideas and his vision of quality seem very close to me.

    But I’m left wondering over the words. Greed is a loaded word. It connotes a love of money and a lack of consideration for others. But it is really the “love” of money that we’re worried about? I mean, I like money. I’ve lived with it and without and with it is definitely more fun for me.

    The efficiency quote up there really caught my attention. Back in ye olden days I was training to be an economist, a development economist in fact and one of the things I consistently argued for was the notion that by looking at efficiency and failing to address equity was the fundamental flaw of neoclassical economics. (Snorting at my impudence was the general response.) So it feels strange to argue that efficiency is amoral given my former rantings. Still, I don’t think efficiency is itself the problem, nor is profit. The problem is an inability to correctly measure costs and risks.

    Take for example gas prices. No economist in the world understands why gas is priced at $3.25 a gallon (around my house). It doesn’t make sense. Gas should be significantly higher (like $25 to $30 although this calculation is years old) given that we are quickly running out of it. But rather than pricing gas based on long term needs…we only think short term. What do we need this year or this season. And we overconsume based on this short-term thinking. If we had a true economic value of gas, or the economic cost of pollution, or the economic costs of an uneducated society, or the economic costs of a lack of universal health care, I think the world would conform to both our visions.

    In the end, I think your way of think and mine end up in the same place. We need to create a society that thinks and does so carefully and with consideration of the consequences.

    In any event, thank you for the post.

  6. betsyl says:

    this is an interesting article, but i’m unsure why you chose to illustrate it with a picture of a grotesquely obese ronald mcdonald, since you mention obesity nowhere in the post.

  7. Nezua says:

    hi jamie, thanks for all your thoughts.

    I think a lot of schools succumb to the whole marketing scheme because they aren’t getting enough funding from their communities to begin with.

    yes, that’s what Schlosser says in the book. of course this is an understandable motivation.

    As with so many things, the troubles we face come down to money and desire for it.

    well. i guess here i’d have to insert a note. because i think the larger problem is our lack of philosophy, or our backward one. given a hill, water flows downhill. i cannot blame people, who haven’t been taught better (for the most part, some suss it out on their own) not to value that which comes easy, appeals to a primitive tastebud aesthetic, is cheap, is free. if they have not been taught that there is a danger in Shortcut and a value to time and work invested, then why wouldn’t water run down hill?

    but is a lack of money the real root problem in many of these decisions? or is it that we rely on axioms in the USA that boil down to “easy is good,” “money is all that matters,” “quick is best,” “work invested is drudgery, less work is better.” etc. you can pick a slew that have to do with Me First, Individual First, Money Equals Success, Nuance is French, Americans are Cowboys, Might Makes Right, on and on. i see us, basically, aiming for a life where we sit on a floating cushion, all our entertainment is 3d beamed to us, surrounding us, remote controls floating, food instantly made and appearing at our side, quick, fast, hot, tasty, and probably producing myriad ill consequences, what for all that convenience and technology and compromises on the way. and us, in the chair, hugely obese because we’ve pulled off the Cheap, Fast, Easy, Quick, No Effort lifestyle and have no need to even move anymore.

    rather than “money” or “desire for money,” i see a corrupt philsophy, or rather cluster of philosophies being taught and exemplified in my country, and it is this set of standards that are consulted when times get tight. so i don’t see it as the tight times that is a problem, nor the tool that relieves the tight times as the problem. i see that set of choices and system of reasoning we are taught upon which to rely when times get tight.

    in specifics, the school should have a better operating philosophy than to react to a shortage of funding with letting corporate giants infect their school. because that is not the only choice to make given tight times. you know? and a school that makes a decision like that is one i cannot rely on to teach related philosophies to my children anyhow. this is separate from my understanding that they need money. this is a comment on paradigm, worldview, values.

    and i agree with the related point you make about the schools really needing “new methods entirely.”

    hope this made some sense. the longer i type on, the smaller this text box seems, and the less sense i can make of what i’ve written already, or scan it over.

    thanks for your words and thoughts, again. :)

  8. Nezua says:

    Smartpatrol Says:
    July 10th, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    […] P.S.: Reminds me of a line from Ramses The Dammed when the main character says to someone: “Greed is what went wrong. Greed is what always goes wrong.”

    Thanks for your words on my post, and I really love that quote!

  9. Matthew Cole says:

    Preach it!

    Sometimes I wonder, if meat is still murder and the capitalist system continues to reward multinational agribusiness execs for squandering natural resources in pursuit of the largest profit on the cheapest product and the whole quasi-food industry is content to funnel grease into the veins, feeding an obesity epidemic with the potential to bankrupt a health care system that is already irreparably hosed and rather than make the investment to fix it, or fix the schools, the government would rather ignore both and let the companies teach the kids to consume because thats what keeps the engine running, all that makes me think if there’s anything left to be said about greed and murder and the whole concept of an industry that turns on the misery of animals for the profit of other animals…. and you still found more to say. I’ve been working on these issues – human rights, non-human rights, environmentalism, anti-capitalism, – for awhile, and you’ve got me feeling all riled up like I just saw “Meet Your Meat” for the first time. And that has to be a compliment.

    And yet one issue, that your indubitably righteous and informative post didn’t even scratch was the entirely disgusting relationship between the fast food agribusiness industry and the starvation of the 1.1 billion people in the world who can’t afford to eat the basic essentials for life that have been made into luxuries for first worlders. But I think you have inspired me to blog on just that.

  10. You analysis was spot on, of course, but was the hugely fat Ronald McDonald really necessary?
    Because, you know, there’s really no need to demonize fat people. I’m just saying.

  11. Nezua says:

    Hi Kristen. Thanks for all your words.

    But I’m left wondering over the words. Greed is a loaded word. It connotes a love of money and a lack of consideration for others. But it is really the “love” of money that we’re worried about? I mean, I like money. I’ve lived with it and without and with it is definitely more fun for me.

    The thing is, tho, you deconstruct your own definition, here, not mine. After all, I do not define Greed as a “love of money” by any means. I define it as a craving for more than what can sustain one, or that one reasonably needs. Perhaps I define it as an inner imbalance that manifests as a lack of understanding of the paradox of Hoarding, which is the more you hoard, the less secure you feel. It really has nothing to do with money. Money is just the vehicle in which we very often see Greed riding.

    We need to create a society that thinks and does so carefully and with consideration of the consequences.

    well said. i don’t know, though, how we will get around to agreeing on values of consequences, of course. lots of people are out there thinking now, but their idea of good consequences and mine are very different.

    I will have to check out this cat Pirsig!

  12. Nezua says:

    Matthew Cole, now you’ve got me riled up to read your upcoming post!

    Thanks for the insightful words.

  13. feeding an obesity epidemic

    I have two point I want to make. Believe it or not, fat in and of itself is not an “epidemic”. If you want to focus on the health problems caused by fast food consumption and sedentary lives (which is probably a bigger problem in terms of health)–then go for it. If we really want to do something about this, we have to get grocery co-ops in neighborhoods where the chain grocery stores have left. It’s hell to feed yourself out of a slew of 99cent and fast food stores. We also have to fund and support urban community farms and farming.

    Thin Americans consume fast food. Thin Americans are sedentary. Thin Americans also have health problems arising from these problems as well.

    When you don’t have a car, and there’s a fast food joint in your neighborhood but the grocery store went out of business 10 years ago, where do you think you’re going to want to eat?
    There’s definitely a class (and race, imagine that) aspect to this as well. Who do you think fast food is marketed towards (besides children)?

  14. Kristen says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I think I get what you mean now.

    i don’t know, though, how we will get around to agreeing on values of consequences, of course. lots of people are out there thinking now, but their idea of good consequences and mine are very different.

    Hmm…see I think we can easily disagree over whether eating beef is a good idea or not and have different moral views on environmental protection…but I don’t think we can disagree over the costs of eating beef or living with significant amounts of pollution. Eating beef (particularly mass produced beef) is harmful. Cattle creates additional pollution. Each of these things have costs beyond the $1 someone plops down for a hamburger and because the person involved doesn’t face those costs at that moment, they tend to think the costs don’t exist.

    But now I see that we’re likely talking about different, although similar, things from different perspectives. I think you’re examining the personal/social/moral dimensions of things and I’m looking at the social/political dimension. Ack…oh well….*facepalm*.

  15. Nezua says:

    Hi Jay…as I see it, your points are—

    1. Fat is not in an of itself an “epidemic.” [not directed to me, so i won’t answer this one]

    2. When I don’t have a car, and there’s a fast food joint in my neighborhood but the grocery store went out of business 10 years ago, where do I think I’m going to want to eat?

    3. Who do I think fast food is marketed toward? [not really a point, more of a question.]

    I don’t know the answer to either of your questions, actually. Regarding the fantasy scenario, I don’t have a car now, for one thing. And guess where I don’t want to eat? Even if the supermarket somehow magically goes out of business? You guessed it. Fast food joint.

    I like these lines of yours:

    If we really want to do something about this, we have to get grocery co-ops in neighborhoods where the chain grocery stores have left. It’s hell to feed yourself out of a slew of 99cent and fast food stores. We also have to fund and support urban community farms and farming.

    I think there are a number of ways we can “do something about this.” I like your ideas. and as we do this (and in the future), we have to look at how we think about success and who is worthy of our dollars. without a new way of seeing spending and value, why would people spend more for the same types of products? or for the same amount of food? When you are broke, health goes out the window. I know that. I’ve lived it too often. That’s why I like your words about the 99 cent stores. Again, we need different values in place so that people are even inspired to weather the effort that comes with making the harder, healthier choices. In spending, eating, buying, zoning, building, patronizing….on and on.

  16. the15th says:

    I wish that this post had included some kind of context about how some aspects of the “slow food” (for lack of a better accepted term) movement are at odds with feminism — the fear of fat, the assumption that we were better off in the old days when mom stayed home cooking all day. I happen to believe that eschewing convenience out of a sense that “you can’t get something for nothing” almost always disproportionately harms the interests of women, but you could certainly argue otherwise; I just wish that some of these issues had been dealt with here.

  17. Matthew Cole says:

    Jay, let me address some of your concerns. I share many of them, especially about the no-out situation that many poor and minority people in the US face when it comes to consumption. I am 100% on board with funding healthy options for urban communities. And I don’t think it ends with better stores. I think giving funding for people who want to get active in a gym or in community recreational groups or YMCAs or whatever should be encouraged to, possibly my making such expenditures tax deductible. I also think that the hours people work should be restructured. You can’t exercise if you spend the entire day at the job and the rest watching the kids. Laws that mandated a certain amount of leave time during the day would do more to give poor people the capacity to use health resources and make convenience and subsistence work less as impediments to health.

    Secondly, on obesity. There is a difference between fat and obesity. Being obese carries health problems, so does being underweight. This isn’t about calling the body image police, its about advocating healthy lifestyles. The links between obesity and heart problems and diabetes are clearly shown, and inordinately impact low income communities and people of color, especially Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and African Americans, especially women. This is very likely because women in these demographics either work full time or have to stay at home and act as primary caregivers to their children. Healthy diets and activity are not an option. Yes, sedentary life is a problem, but one of the major benefits of active lifestyles is that they burn excess fat and calories. It not as though we could all be happy healthy and obese as long as we took more walks and ate less. All of these things are related.

    In any event, I agree with most of your policy recommendations, but I think that there are even more that have to be made. But the problem isn’t that people are focusing on obesity, just that we aren’t dedicated enough to fighting it. I’m not sure how it advances the discussion to tell people not to think of obesity as a health problem.

  18. jeffaclitus says:

    Great post, of course, but I’m a little ambivalent about the greed is wanting more than what you need to sustain yourself. None of this was really mentioned in your post, so maybe I’m putting words in your moth, but I look around me now and see a room full of stuff I don’t really “need,” certainly not to sustain myself. The costs of producing and shipping the dozens of cds and hundreds of books…take buying a four-cd set off a discount site for twenty bucks, versus paying fifty-a hundred dollars for a concert. I’m definitely trying to get more for less. So although I’ definitely with you on a lot of what the post is saying, I also feel like I’m too bound up or implicated in the economy based on those principles of greed to really nod too vigorously. But then again, I feel like this comment is really incoherent, so maybe all my thoughts about this are. Anyways, good post.

  19. Nezua says:

    I wish that this post had included some kind of context about how some aspects of the “slow food” (for lack of a better accepted term) movement are at odds with feminism — the fear of fat, the assumption that we were better off in the old days when mom stayed home cooking all day.

    Sorry, the15th. A friend of mine, Kai, just spoke to me about “slow food,” and that was actually also in response to this post. So consider me learning on that angle.

    Also, I’m sure it is frustrating to read posts here that miss obvious (to you) feminist angles. I have not been educated on Feminist angles (as has mi novia, my wife, a Soc major who took all those classes and does help me invaluably at times with her takes), and don’t generally think in the terms or come from a background that would inspire me, on my own, to tackle some of these issues or have the framing/lingo, etc. On many of these angles, I am learning, too.

    I have no memory of “the days when mom stayed home cooking.” I hope this is not what I am saying. If you ask me, it is not. I am the one who stays home while mama goes out to work in the world beyond the house! I don’t base these thoughts and feelings on conventional family arrangements/roles. I do’nt really attach them to sex. I just see much harm in the priority of “convenience” over all else. And my seeing a beauty in hand-prepared food, or bringing humans closer to the processes that sustain them is not harmful to women as I see it. Nor is my joy in being in the garden, in caring for a plant until the day I bring it to my table. Or in visiting a farm and paying for fresh, good, local food. And in seeing their smiles or faces or hands, nowing I am helping them sustain this life of theirs…it helps both of us. In tasting the fresh cider and knowing how close I am to where it was grown, and how simply it came to be and came to me.

    I dont need every burger in every state to be done quick and taste the same. And I sure don’t need the effects that come about when making such trivial dreams come true.

  20. Louise says:

    Sometimes I wonder, if meat is still murder and the capitalist system continues to reward multinational agribusiness execs for squandering natural resources in pursuit of the largest profit on the cheapest product and the whole quasi-food industry is content to funnel grease into the veins, feeding an obesity epidemic with the potential to bankrupt a health care system that is already irreparably hosed and rather than make the investment to fix it, or fix the schools, the government would rather ignore both and let the companies teach the kids to consume because thats what keeps the engine running, all that makes me think if there’s anything left to be said about greed and murder and the whole concept of an industry that turns on the misery of animals for the profit of other animals…. and you still found more to say.

    First off, this is one of the most poorly written sentences ever. Gibberish. Chop it down- use some punctuation- and try again. You’re trying way too hard to make your points. It’s a shame, because your points are valid.

    Secondly. “Meat is murder”- oh PLEASE. I have spent my entire life raising my own veggies, canning and freezing my own food, and that includes butchering animals. Granted, this is not the experience of most Americans, but to say this practice is tatamount to murder is idiotic. You make it sound like every small farmer feeding their family is Jeffrey Dahlmer.

    I do, however, share your disdain of fast food restaurants.

  21. Nezua says:

    hey jeffaclitus.

    jeje. touch a nerve? listen, bro. i feel you. i have a room full of junk too. and i have a real nice computer that probably various women in third world countries suffered to make.

    of course this is not a many-time edited piece. and the comments are going live. so i don’t claim that you can’t find inconsistencies. nor that i have the definition of “Greed” nailed for all time. nor that i am living some pure, holy life.

    nor that me wanting to have five guitars and congas and bongos and mics and keyboards is really what i need to “sustain myself.” i could try to make that argument, as a musician, but i don’t think i could pull it off, given the imbalance of wealth and resources in the world.

    i’m not a monk. but i shouldn’t lie to myself about the costs related to all the items we can get so easily, so cheaply.

    you are touching on one of my biggest and deepest conflicts. knowing that living in this society at all is taking advantage of many situations that harm many people. you can’t always see them. but its systemic, right? not individual.

    i dont have an answer. but i dont think my thinking and writing about it should be cushioned by my not wanting to admit what systems i am a part of.

  22. In regards to questioning the label of “obesity”, I can point you to The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health by Paul Campos.
    I believe we should be careful with labeling people “obese” and instead focus on “health at any size”–keep our focus on health and fitness for all and not obsession with body size or BMI tables. Weight/size is but one statistic in each person’s vitals and we shouldn’t get too caught up in using one statistic to categorize someone healthy or not. Especially given how huge the diet industry is and how size conscious on an appearance level American society (for instance) tends to be.

  23. Nezua says:

    Louise, I agree. I personally see nothing wrong with eating meat. I see somethign wrong with the greed and lack of philosophy that has led to the decisions that are involved with mass-distro of meat, etc.

    I think if an animal or plant is given care, and we understand what we owe in accepting the end of its life as necessary for our fuel—gratitude and our continued life, as well—then this is in keeping with the way I feel nature works. In a positive sense. My message is, at least, not against meat. Even though I was raised vegetarian. I do eat meat now, and I make sure it is from people like you, or farms I know have good practices.

    Life feeds on life. I am against the taking of life or handling of creatures in a way lacking complete awareness and reverence and respect for that life, and all the various roles we play and the care due to each one. I am not against the order that rules the entire animal kingdom.

  24. Holly says:

    Awesome post, Nezua. And I think it’s incredibly important to include the stuff Jay brings up about income, poverty, who has access to what kinds of food, and how that overlaps with the way fat is treated in our society, when discussing this stuff… and when teaching children about it, too.

    Also, I don’t know if people saw this, but:

    The links between obesity and heart problems and diabetes are clearly shown, and inordinately impact low income communities and people of color, especially Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and African Americans, especially women.

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2007/06/20/black-women-live-longer-if-theyre-overweight/

  25. jeffaclitus says:

    Hey, Nez, I wasn’t in any way trying to suggest that you were being hypocritical or anything like that. I was just rehashing the ambivalence I always feel about the idea of anything beyond basic subsistence being too much, and the point at which things start to go bad. On the one hand, I warm to the idea, but then I start thinking, hey, wait, I like books and music and movies and comfortable shoes and gin and being 31 and not having eight kids, half of whom died before they hit three. But I’m still torn, because I’m not willing to write all that off as simple materialistic weakness, but I’m also willing to pretend there’s no downside to our economic system just because I can get good deals on the internet. I then I start feeling very vague and incoherent again.

  26. Nezua says:

    no, i didn’t take it that way, jeffaclitus.

    and i feel you on this. i haven’t thought it all out to the end, either. as i touched on in the post, sometimes the best guides are not answers concretized, but questions you keep with you as you go along.

  27. Nezua says:

    Hi Holly, thanks. I agree, there are so many discussions that could spring from this area of thought, many good points made here, and possible directions to take it.

    I hear you on the diseases. For example, I’ve long known about the tie between diabetes and Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Sadly, my own abuelo, my grandfather, died in a rather cruel fashion from the disease. It has always been on my own mind, since learning about it. Especially having blood sugar stuff myself.

  28. Holly says:

    Sorry, that wasn’t clear enough. The quote I quoted above was from Matthew Cole, up the thread a ways, and right after that I posted a link to something Amp wrote on his blog a while back — with a study and chart showing that for black women, longevity actually goes up with BMI, not the other way around as “conventional wisdom” would dictate. There certainly are studies linking various kinds of diseases and health problems with various sizes of folks (thin or fat) but I think it’s always worthwhile to be cautious when treading into that territory where you simply cannot escape that boatload of culturally-based, ingrained assumptions that we all have about fatness and thinness.

  29. Nezua says:

    Thank you, Holly. I had misunderstood. Now the little one is up, I can’t type proper, and am reading a bit fast, actually will have to take a break for a bit.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  30. SoE says:

    Healthy diets and activity are not an option.

    When I read that sentence I just thought crap. Yea, we think those things aren’t options but they actually are. Only that they are the hardest ones and that’s what we should change. And while it’s a bit tricky about diets, activity should be a no-brainer. Activity does not mean one has to pop in the gym every day wearing nice work-out clothes. It’s everywhere. Taking the kids for a long walk instead of the playstation, taking the stairs rather than the elevator… The list goes on.

    As for the healthy diet, it’s getting easier and easier. Salads now come pre-washed (I know, sometimes with chemicals) and cut, supermarkets start to stock organic produce (sometimes from countries far away), prices have never been lower. The fastest way to a better lifestyle is probably the easiest one: Cutting down the meat. Not just substituting red meat with poultry. Less meat altogether. Saves some calories, antibiotics, hormones and money.

    BTW I really like the idea of balance. Nothing comes without a price.

  31. Matthew Cole says:

    Louise –

    First off, that wasn’t supposed to be an argument, more a conveyance of my excitement at how terrifically Nezua nailed each of those issues. If you look, I basically just recapped her post.

    Secondly, on meat – murder. I have yet to hear any remotely comprehensible ethical defense of eating meat. My logic goes like this: suffering is morally relevant, no matter whose suffering it is. We know that everything with a central nervous system can suffer. That includes almost all animals (like, maybe not jellyfish). We should not force anything to suffer when it does not need to. We do not need to eat meat. Therefore we should not force animals to suffer so we can eat meat. Therefore we should not eat meat. To convince me that meat is not murder, you’d need to give me: (1) a non-arbitrary or morally ridiculous reason why we can ignore the suffering of non-human animals, and/or (2) a non-arbitrary or morally ridiculous argument as to why we can cause unnecessary. suffering. I’ve read a lot of the literature on this and have not yet seen either of those two premises successfully defended. But I’d welcome your contribution to the debate. But for starters “I know lots of meat-eaters who aren’t crazy” isn’t an argument. I have some seriously homophobic friends who are generally pleasant people, that doesn’t make their homophobia any more justified at the level of ethics.

  32. Louise says:

    No, gonna pass on the meat/non-meat debate. But thanks for the offer.

    Gonna go fishing instead. And YES, dear child, I DO EAT WHAT I CATCH…

  33. Matthew Cole says:

    Holly –

    Thanks for posting that link. I hadn’t read the research presented there, and it’s certainly true that auto-associating overweight with poor health is not correct. But I’d say two things: first, I mentioned specifically, heat disease and diabetes. Overall trends in mortality and life-span don’t necessarily speak to the prevalence of certain specific conditions, and they certainly weren’t addressed in the post you linked to. Secondly, obesity is not the same thing as being overweight, there are degrees of severity and it does not do to say “overweight women are fine so we shouldn’t worry about obesity”.

    But the article you linked did make some really good medical points as well. For example, the relevance of where fat is located, rather than vulgar measures like BMI or height/weight in a vacuum. Its mainly waist-fat that raises the risk for heart problems, according to the AHA, not fat in other places. I wish I had been more clear in my first posts that I was talking about those types of trends and conditions, and not just trying to vilify overweight women. Nonetheless, the link between economic conditions that make poor exercise and eating habits more common and unhealthy concentrations in waist-fat is still important. And the disparities in heart conditions between women of color as compared to white women and lesbians as compared to straight women have been tied to the relative prevalence of overweightness in the former groups (see the HP2010 supplement for LGBT people for more on that).

    I guess its not easy, given all the cultural baggage around body type, to strike the balance between genuine health concern and irrational fatphobia. But people who are willing to enlighten with facts certainly help.

  34. exholt says:

    Nezua,

    Read “Fast Food Nation” and found it to be the flipside of what my parents and their generation experienced in wartime China.
    My parents witnessed people going days without eating more than a bowl of extremely diluted rice porridge without any accompanying dishes or condiments while fleeing Japanese or later, Communist armies.

    Coming from a society where most barely had enough to eat due to the ravages caused by decades of colonial exploitation, warfare, and weak governments, my parents, especially my mother are sometimes taken aback at the excesses of consumption within the US.

    Even among supposedly socially and environmentally conscious classmates at my college, I’ve seen them blithely waste food without any hesitation or guilt. This was doubly shocking when they wasted this food in front of the very gracious host who provided it at great expense for our benefit. Considering these classmates all came from upper/upper-middle class suburban homes, it reinforced my own disdain for their hypocritical self-proclaimed superiority over “less socially conscious” working-class students like myself.

    As for the American disdain for any philosophy which does not further the pursuit of wealth and commerce, one can trace this mentality almost back to the beginning of the American Republic. Alexis de Tocqueville made a reference to this in Democracy In America Chapter X entitled Why The Americans Are More Addicted To Practical Than To Theoretical Science.

  35. Isabel says:

    exholt: I try very hard not to waste food (and generally don’t eat much due to a slow metabolism that manifests in a small appetite) but what about those times when you really just aren’t hungry anymore (I get very nauseous if I eat too far past being full)? this isn’t meant as a “gotcha!” moment, more of an actual question. what do you do when you can no longer eat what’s in front of you (something, again, I try to avoid by taking little; this is one reason I’m not a big fan of restaurants).

    Fabulous post. Wish I had something more intelligent to add. Fast Food Nation had a similar effect on me, where I started thinking about it when I read it last summer and, well, bascially haven’t stopped. In retrospect it’s where the whole thought process I’ve gone along this year started, or part of where it started anyway.

  36. La Lubu says:

    Great post, Nezua. Lots to sink one’s teeth into.

    As regarding supposed anti-feminist strains within the slow-food movement, there’s a flip side to that too—namely, that the de-skilling of jobs and people has an economic cost that disproportionately affects women. Folks who can DIY by cooking and/or raising their own food, sewing or knitting their own clothes and other fabric items, repair their own cars or homes, etc. have a better fighting chance at making the ends. This isn’t to dismiss the argument that women are expected to bear a greater burden of any technological downsizing or “living simply”, just saying that aspect isn’t the whole story. After all, there are reasons feminists are reclaiming forgotten or abandoned skills, and there is still pride in a job well done—especially if done for self or loved ones (as so much of what we do is co-opted into employment—with others who could give a damn about us reaping the greater benefits of our labor—and the years of our lives). And a wider reserve of skills can translate into greater economic benefits, whether by employment, teaching that skill to others, or a side job. (and yes, that in itself—the side job—could be argued as yet another traditional way of burdening women, but I’d argue the alternative—nothing to fall back on ‘cept cold hard ground—is worse.)

    Also, the slow food movement started in Italy, and was as much about resurrecting culture and conviviality as about protecting indigenous grains, heirloom vegetables, and animal breeds not suitable for mass production. Slow food isn’t just about food—it’s about the life that goes with it, not about mama in the cucina endlessly stirring sugu. It’s deeper—about creating culture rather than having Madison Avenue sell you their version.

  37. Melissa M. says:

    In terms of meat, I think that the U.S. needs to get better at regulating the way animals are farmed. The pork industry is an atrocity. I’m comfortable using the word because a few large companies have developed factory farming techniques in which the pigs aren’t allowed any mobility and given enough antibiotics and exposure to pesticides that I really wonder if they are safe to eat at all. The industry has wreaked havoc and contaminated water supplies in the Carolinas. Better regulation has to be the answer, and the best way to achieve it is to get people to think with their stomachs.

    People will lobby for regulation if they learn enough about the industry that it grosses them out or they worry about food safety. Talking about animal living conditions should help but currently many people just choose to ignore the hard-core animal rights activists who equate human lives with animal lives or argue that anyone who eats meat is amoral. I think that it is unfortunate that people assume that reforming the meat industry is a fringe issue rather than a mainstream issue because most people don’t want to be part of a system that tortures the animals they eat or eat contaminated food. There also needs to be more education about sustainable fishing and better origin labels for fish.

  38. Donna Darko says:

    Slow food is not anti-feminist at all. It’s feminist. Nez and Kai are males who grow, cook and eat their own food. Fast food is unhealthy, lethal, capitalistic, anti-environment, addictive, benefits multinational corporations, kills people slowly, etc.

  39. Donna Darko says:

    Historically, women cooked slow meals but conceivable men and women can grow, cook and prepare slow meals equally. Fast food also precipitates a lifestyle based on convenience over quality of life, enjoying meals and company.

  40. evil fizz says:

    Slow food is not anti-feminist at all. It’s feminist.

    I don’t think it’s intrinsically either one, and I think La Lubu points that out quite succinctly.

    This is also not meant as a nitpick, but fast food is addictive? Do you mean in a chemical dependence sense or something more colloquial?

  41. exholt says:

    but what about those times when you really just aren’t hungry anymore (I get very nauseous if I eat too far past being full)? this isn’t meant as a “gotcha!” moment, more of an actual question. what do you do when you can no longer eat what’s in front of you (something, again, I try to avoid by taking little; this is one reason I’m not a big fan of restaurants).

    Isabel,

    If it was a home-cooked meal, I would put away the left-overs in the fridge for subsequent meals. As the home-cooked meals are portioned for my appetite, this has rarely posed a problem. If there are any leftovers, I would put them in a fridge to enjoy in subsequent meals.

    If it was a restaurant meal, I would take the food home to enjoy over the following days. As my appetite tends to be smaller than the average restaurant meal serving, this has proven to be a great way to stretch my food budget.

    Unfortunately, many people I’ve eaten with have misinterpreted my asking for a doggie bag as “being cheap”. They don’t seem to realize it is not only less wasteful, but also a good way to stretch one’s gastronomic enjoyment over a longer period.
    Oh well, their loss. :)

  42. Nezua says:

    i dont know…the words “gastronomic enjoyment” really disturb my calm. just the sound of that phrase is like a band of rubber monkeys beating something silly.

  43. exholt says:

    Nezua,

    Sorry for the disturbance.

    My use of such a phrase was borne out of a desire to be both funny and a swipe at those who called me “cheap” for doggie-bagging restaurant leftovers.

    Speaking of a band of rubber monkeys….are you referring to any former/current pop stars/groups in particular? ;)

  44. Nezua says:

    :) it was a well-chosen phrase then.

    and me? razzin’ on former pop stars? i would never! i mean…is nothing sacred?

  45. Donna Darko says:

    evil fizz, slow food is environmentally sound and some feminists are environmentalists. the movie, super size me, claimed that the marketing for mcdonald’s and other fast food restaurants targets children so they are hooked for life and compares the fast food industry with the tobacco industry. the director did another experiment in which “slow food” burgers and fries decomposed quickly and mcdonald’s burgers and fries took five to ten weeks to decompose due to preservatives.

  46. Nenena says:

    Very fascinating post. Thanks for writing this. And your post and the comments touched on a subject that I’m deeply conflicted about, namely, fast food’s presence in public schools.

    I worked at an urban high school were over seventy percent of our student body got free federal lunch – in short, we were a poor school. Not the poorest of the poor, but still perpetually in dire straights financially, made all the worse since the introduction of NCLB. When it came down to a choice between a) letting Pizza Hut into the school or b) eliminating all art and music programs… We chose the lesser of two evils. Now we have Pizza Hut advertisements on our bulletin boards and Pizza Hut pizza for sale in the lunchroom. The kicker, though? At least the kids aren’t *eating* the damn Pizza Hut pizza. For one, most of my students think that Pizza Hut is gross. For another thing, the students getting free federal lunch – most of them, mind you – can’t exactly afford to shell out two dollars for a reheated slice of slimy Pizza Hut pizza. They couldn’t even if they wanted to. (Thankfully, they generally don’t.)

    I have my doubts that the free federal lunch that the kids *do* eat is any more nutritious than a slice of Pizza Hut pizza, though.

    I don’t work at that school anymore, but it’s still one of the few schools in its area to actually have an active theater program. That’s something that we teachers fought long and hard for, and something that the people still working there are still fighting to keep, every day. We shouldn’t have had to sell out to Pizza Hut to keep out theater program, though. We shouldn’t have had to sell out to Gatorade (vending machines and advertisements) to get *basic* sports equipment for our teams. We shouldn’t have had to rely on any of that corporate funding. As long as we live in a country with a severely fucked-up funding system for public schools, however, we’re going to still be forced to make these compromises.

    Oh, and Jamie, not to pick on you or anything – but I do have a hair-trigger defensive reaction whenever somebody mentions that public schools don’t need more money. Or that residents in poor neighborhoods just “don’t want to part” with their money. I’d be careful about how to word assertions like that.

  47. exholt says:

    Nezua,

    Thanks. :)

    This is a wonderful post which provides much food for thought. No pun intended.

    It’s everywhere. Taking the kids for a long walk instead of the playstation, taking the stairs rather than the elevator… The list goes on.

    SoE,

    Those are great ideas assuming the given family has enough free time and does not have to live in fear of their safety everytime they leave their home.

    In my old urban neighborhood, most of my classmates had parents who worked two or three jobs six or even seven days a week just to make ends meet. My parents worked 12-14 hr days seven days a week. None of our parents had the time to take us out for long walks or to exercise.

    Secondly, the old neighborhood was not particularly safe, though it was better than many others. One of my childhood friends from elementary school was killed in a crossfire between two drug gangs as he was walking home from school. Another was killed in a hit & run that witnesses said was caused by a wreckless speeding driver who ignored the red light. Not to mention the prevalent presence of crack vials and used hypodermic needles littering the neighborhood parks. Understandably, none of my classmates or their parents were fond of taking frequent long leisurely strolls in the neighborhood.

    In short, not everyone has the privilege of having enough leisure time and/or living in a neighborhood safe enough to allow for regular outdoor activities such as long walks.

    As for the healthy diet, it’s getting easier and easier. Salads now come pre-washed (I know, sometimes with chemicals) and cut, supermarkets start to stock organic produce (sometimes from countries far away), prices have never been lower.

    Prices may have never been lower, but it may still be out of the reach of many others with lower incomes and/or on public assistance. This is, of course, assuming such produce is available in working-class urban neighborhoods. From my limited survey of supermarkets in working-class and higher income neighborhoods, most supermarkets stocking fresh prepackaged salads and organic produce tend to be overwhelmingly located in middle and upper-class neighborhoods.

    The only urban working class neighborhoods where I have started to see supermarkets stocking fresh prepackaged salads and organic produce are ones which are in the process of being gentrified by young urban professionals and/or college students attending nearby expensive private universities.

  48. Isabel says:

    Exholt,

    I do try to take leftovers home when I can, though occasionally I will order something that won’t age well. That is weird that people think your asking for a doggie bag is cheap! At a lot of restaurants I’ve been to the waiters will ask you if you want to wrap your food to take home if you leave a bunch on your plate.

    Also, re: feminist issues attached to the slow food movement–this reminds me of when my roommate was writing a paper this year about the movement by the Chinese government to try to hold on to traditional Chinese culture (in this one region of China, I forget the name). Even within this movement, traditional Chinese robes are now made mass-produced, which sort of sounds like a shame until you realize that before that was possible, they were made by women, often girls, and one robe could take up to a year to make, which would leave little time for girls to go to school, get an education, etc. I think my roommate wound up arguing (this was just one point covered in a 15 page paper) that it’s good to try to keep culture alive, but everything is going to require some trade-offs–less traditionalism, more education & equality, etc.

    Anyway, so I think it’s things like that that people have in mind discussing the feminist issues of the slow food movement–I don’t think it has to be that way at all for slow food, but I think there are definitely some men who advocate for it who in their mental picture of who is doing all this work picture women.

  49. Sally says:

    Anyway, so I think it’s things like that that people have in mind discussing the feminist issues of the slow food movement–I don’t think it has to be that way at all for slow food, but I think there are definitely some men who advocate for it who in their mental picture of who is doing all this work picture women.

    Oh, I think it’s much more than that. Around the world, and certainly in the U.S., the overwhelming majority of food preparation is done by women. It’s fab that there are exceptions, but they’re just exceptions. The slow food movement may say that it wants to change this imbalance, but it has no program to do so. So this is really about creating much more work for women, many of whom are already working for pay and then putting in a second shift at home. It’s not enough to work those two shifts: you must work your home shift in a better, more arduous, less convenient way, or you must accept that you are a shitty, selfish, greedy bitch who is shortchanging your children and the environment because you have the evil fucking gall to want to sleep for eight hours every night. How dare you think you have any right to rest or leisure? Won’t someone think of the children!

  50. Nezua says:

    For myself, I am part of no “movement.” At least here, I am only discussing what I see are healthier ways of engaging our planet as well as our bodies as well as our childrens’ fate.

    I have no “program,” as such, either. But I do think there is a way out, don’t you? Or are we stuck between harmful, destructive, gross systemic practices OR women being oppressed? Is there no other ground? Only anger?

    My family life is a “fab” exception, regarding roles. I think between intelligent, honest humans we can bring more “fab” exceptions about. I believe this, at least. And I will live this way. Others are always free to do what they will, we still have choice.

  51. Kristen says:

    I have no “program,” as such, either. But I do think there is a way out, don’t you? Or are we stuck between harmful, destructive, gross systemic practices OR women being oppressed? Is there no other ground? Only anger?

    I think you have a valid point Nezua. The difficulty with many ideas that touch on a back-to-nature lifestyle is that they seem to idealize a former way of life as somehow better.* However, that way of life also had significant costs – more poverty, less freedom for women, more disease, more (of what we would now consider) child-abuse, etc. – that the back-to-nature movements don’t specifically acknowledge or address.** For individuals who have struggled against traditional roles as harmful to women, the failure to address how back-to-nature movements or lifestyles affects women is like denying there was ever a problem in the first place.

    I figure it’s the same reaction I have when someone talks about how great nuclear families in the 50s were. I just want to hurl what ever is handy at their head. Sure they may be talking about something we both agree is good in principle…like sitting down for a family dinner….but I’m thinking about the number of women on anti-depressants as the cost of those family dinners.

    *I’m not saying that’s true of you or of many others…I’m just trying explain the reaction some feminists have in response.

    **Not that it’s their “job” to do so.

  52. Nezua says:

    Sure, I do understand. I think a key point is that I do not really mean to go “back” to anything, but to go forward! Why must it be “back”?

    If we think of anything that is less industrialized or mass-produced as “undesirable”…then I say that pretty much keeps us stuck, and we certainly will not move anywhere but further along this coil that I feel is out of control.

    Here is a challenge for a sharp Feminist mind, then. Which I sort of stated in my last comment: How do we eat healthier, reduce dependence on processed and mass-manufactured food, re-introduce the relationship between humans and the earth…without oppressing women?

    Is there no way? I will not believe that!

  53. Kristen says:

    How do we eat healthier, reduce dependence on processed and mass-manufactured food, re-introduce the relationship between humans and the earth…without oppressing women?

    Well, my response is…we, as a society, cannot go anywhere without oppressing women (or people more generally). Oppression is built into the very fabric of our society. Industrialization, post-industrialization, neo-agrarian…doesn’t matter. Changing the mode of economic existence does change the reality of oppression.

    In short, (and I don’t mean to speak for Sally) what they are saying is that a “natural” mode of existence is not a panacea for all problems in society and in particular has special costs for those who are in one way or another oppressed.

  54. Nezua says:

    Well, I am not about panaceas. Just about living a way I feel is close to what my heart wants from me. I hope nobody is tacking on arguments to what I am actually saying. I don’t mean to say eating more naturally and being in touch with what we eat, and not poisoning our childs’ minds with advertising is going to cure every ill with the world! I wouldn’t even begin to know what could be a “panacea.” Looking for such a solution to me seems to fall into that whole “perfect as enemy of good” thing. I’m not out for that, nor do I mean to suggest this. Such a thing would immobilize me.

    I think what changes the reality of oppression is our hearts and our minds. That, as I see it, could change many other reliant dynamics. Such as how we eat, make food, work, treat each other….

  55. Donna Darko says:

    Revolutionary actions involve small groups and actions. Individual men make a difference by changing cultural values in their own circles. Democratic presidencies may help change cultural values but there are limitations to politics changing cultures. My brother and his wife eat a lot of vegetables and organic foods. They’re making a difference by showing us how healthy they are as a result. His allergies are gone, they look healthier and happier. He is a fabulous cook and even if she quits her corporate strategy job, he will still do the cooking and cleaning. She’s tired of the corporate world and going for a “slow life” too.

  56. Kristen says:

    Just about living a way I feel is close to what my heart wants from me.

    And I think that’s awesome. It’s fantastic that (from what I’ve read of your writing) that you live a life of acceptance and joy. I find that very admirable and inspiring.

    Criticizing the movement is necessarily criticizing any one participant in the movement. I don’t think anyone here is saying that having a more whole relationship with nature is bad…rather that it may result in some bad, unintended consequences if applied with a broad brush.

    Of course as you said above you weren’t intending to reference a movement with your post, but your post, in the context, is reflective of a movement. Ugh…I don’t know if that makes sense.

  57. exholt says:

    That is weird that people think your asking for a doggie bag is cheap! At a lot of restaurants I’ve been to the waiters will ask you if you want to wrap your food to take home if you leave a bunch on your plate.

    Isabel,

    Thank you for confirming my being weirded out by being called “cheap” by people I’ve dined with in a restaurant setting. Most of this was experienced when I started working after graduation. The diners who called me cheap were mostly acquaintances from the office where I’ve worked and their friends. Though I am not completely sure of their reasons, I surmise that part of their behavior had to do with the need to show they are financially secure enough to not worry about tossing away the leftovers on their plate. This also carries over into their showing off consumption habits such as buying new electronics every year/six months, annual replacement of household furniture, etc. And they wonder why I was unmoved when they regularly complained about their financial problems.

    As for taking things that don’t age well, I would usually consume the item within a matter of hours or one day tops as a subsequent meal or a late night snack.

    My family life is a “fab” exception, regarding roles. I think between intelligent, honest humans we can bring more “fab” exceptions about.

    Cooking was never “gendered” by my parents, especially since Dad did most of the cooking. If anything, they both felt it was one of the important basic life skills everyone should pick up.

  58. Nezua says:

    yes, it wasn’t the cooking part i meant, i guess, actually. :) and i agree about the sex assignment of a role like that. i learned to sew early and i’m very very glad. it’s a survival/living skill. like cooking.

    Kristen,

    And I think that’s awesome. It’s fantastic that (from what I’ve read of your writing) that you live a life of acceptance and joy. I find that very admirable and inspiring.

    well, i wouldn’t say that. it’s not all acceptance and joy by any means. just that people who know me know i don’t really get into ‘movement’ things, or rigid groups, i’m not a “joiner,” i refuse to be bound too long by any codified dogma, even my own. tho, i understand…at times i’ve resembled a style or genre, or Way of Being as i move through, and people wanna slot you. but i really am just feeling my way, on my own. not advocating any movement in place. i suppose i should learn about this movement, so i can defend myself better from being lumped in with it! or what i can take that is valuable from it for myself.

  59. La Lubu says:

    Oh, I think it’s much more than that. Around the world, and certainly in the U.S., the overwhelming majority of food preparation is done by women. It’s fab that there are exceptions, but they’re just exceptions. The slow food movement may say that it wants to change this imbalance, but it has no program to do so. So this is really about creating much more work for women, many of whom are already working for pay and then putting in a second shift at home. It’s not enough to work those two shifts: you must work your home shift in a better, more arduous, less convenient way, or you must accept that you are a shitty, selfish, greedy bitch who is shortchanging your children and the environment because you have the evil fucking gall to want to sleep for eight hours every night. How dare you think you have any right to rest or leisure? Won’t someone think of the children!

    Sally, I think you’re right in that there are individuals (some of them women, even) who may take that tack—that women are to have more burdens placed upon them in the name of being “natural” or “environmentally sensitive” or whatever, but this is not coming from within the slow food movement itself. Primarily, Slow Food is about defending and resurrecting indigenous cultural foods and diets for the purposes of greater diversity, ecological practice, health and quality of life. Visit the main website or the U.S. website to get a better idea of what the initiatives are.

    From a U.S.-centric perspective, it can appear as if the initiatives aren’t going to do anything to help women; many of the specific initiatives focus on farmers, which in the U.S. are predominantly male. That isn’t true for much of the rest of the world; initiatives that help farmers are directly helping women. It can work that way in the U.S. too; many of the farmers at my local farmer’s market are women who do it as a side job (which could be viewed as a burden I suppose, but for the women doing it, it’s a fun hobby that provides a significant amount of extra income).

    See, above all, Slow Food as a movement is a communal enterprise. It’s not about all of us as individuals raising all of our own food instead of going to the grocery store. It’s about putting the means of food production back in local hands, rather than in the hands of large corporations. One of the programs I find most interesting is Slow Food in the Schools and the educational gardens—teaching kids about the means of food production and healthy eating (not to mention critical thinking/decision making about food), right in the midst of Ground Zero for corporate food, the schools.

    I’ll admit, I don’t always see the issue of food being a burden for women to bear, because I’m a single mama—there is no other person to take on the load of cooking, anyway. But also, because I’m privileged in that I know how to cook. That’s what I was trying to say above—that de-skilling means fewer options. And fewer options is always going to disproportionately affect women. Making a home-cooked meal does not mean taking more time than prepackaged foods—but in order for that to ring true, you have to know how to cook—and how to cook meals that don’t take much time.

  60. Nezua says:

    Slow Food as a movement is a communal enterprise. It’s not about all of us as individuals raising all of our own food instead of going to the grocery store. It’s about putting the means of food production back in local hands, rather than in the hands of large corporations.

    ah, well that sounds right in line with a direction that suits me, too. like that explanation a lot. i have no argument with that for sure. (although i’d probably still grow my own garden on the way, and once there!)

  61. Excellent post. Thanks :)

  62. Melanie says:

    I really don’t appreciate a fat-phobic picture such as the “grotesque Ronald McDonald” (as it was so aptly described on comment #1 by lizvelrene) appearing on a blog that is usually sensitive to body image and the politics of size.
    While I understand the image was used to make a point, I don’t believe that excuses the use of a blatantly discriminatory image which uses/abuses pretty much all of the negative stereotypes of fat people (lazy, slovenly, greedy, unattractive, eating constantly).

  63. Nezua says:

    thanks, Elaine.

    Melanie, I understand your point. And I believe artists have always (and will always) use extreme obesity as a symbol of Gluttony. It makes visual and mental sense. Just as one would use a gaunt figure to represent Famine. I’m sorry you don’t appreciate its use.

  64. Sally says:

    I’ll admit, I don’t always see the issue of food being a burden for women to bear, because I’m a single mama—there is no other person to take on the load of cooking, anyway.

    I’m single, too, and I’m responsible for my own food preparation. And I guess that’s actually what’s pissing me off here. I know how to cook. I actually really love to cook. But cooking doesn’t always work for me. For one thing, I don’t have air-conditioning, and when it’s 85 degrees in the shade, I’m not going to do much cooking. But also, I know I harp about disability stuff, but food has really been my number one issue since I got sick. It is really incredibly hard to feed myself, to the point where I was skipping meals and losing weight. Getting to the grocery store was difficult. Getting around in the grocery store was incredibly difficult. Getting my groceries home from the grocery store was making me miserable. The farmer’s market is nearly impossible, because it’s really only accessible to those with a car or a bike. I’m usually up to at least rudimentary cooking, but sometimes I’m not. And while I’ve tried really hard to freeze meals on good days to save them for bad, sometimes it just isn’t happening.

    When I realized that this situation was out of control, I decided that I would have to resort to solutions that smack of “convenience.” I get groceries delivered. I’m incredibly lucky to have found a CSA that will deliver to my door, but it needs to be supplemented, so I get groceries delivered from a huge, soulless supermarket conglomerate. It may be lazy and immoral and greedy and evil to shop at the evil conglomerate, but it means that I eat three times a day. I don’t cook much in the summer: I assemble salads, I slap together sandwiches, and I get my protein from canned tuna and canned beans and other processed foods. On days when I’m not up to cooking, I make myself a peanut butter sandwich. It’s not ideal, but it’s calories, and it keeps me alive.

    Nez thinks that people like me take shortcuts because we’re greedy or ignorant. We don’t realize that there are consequences for our shortcuts, and we don’t realize that something done slowly is better than something done quickly. We use “convenience” foods because we’re just not as enlightened and moral as him. And I think that’s bullshit. I mean, it’s not entirely bullshit: there certainly are people who are ignorant about cooking. But I think that American women use convenience food because a lot of us are stretched to the breaking point, for one reason or another. I think we’re losing cultural memory about cooking because we’ve now been stretched to the breaking point for a generation. And I’m sick to death of people using moralizing language about this phenomenon, as if the problem here is just that “people” (which is to say women) are just too shitty to cook well. I know that my peanut butter sandwich is not a substitute for a home cooked meal using locally sourced, in-season, organic produce. But I’m hanging on by my fingertips here, and I don’t need to be shamed for not doing pull-ups. I really think that most of us, at an individual level, are doing the absolute best we can, and it would be nice if we could move away from the language of personal guilt.

  65. Nezua says:

    Wow.

    I take shortcuts, too, my friend. I think I know why shortcuts exist. I certainly don’t mean to heap the anger and derision and “shame” upon you you seem to take from this. I don’t think we need to fill up with negative energy or anger to make change, although sometimes it helps to get moving.

    If you feel you are doing the best you can in your life, and this post does nothing to move your thoughts in an area that is helpful to you, I say ignore it.

    I’ve had some very delicious freshly-ground peanut butter before. Amazing how tasty it can be when the peanut taste and texture really comes through, and it’s not some blend of sugars and emulsifiers and peanuts and who knows what else. I have nothing against good peanut butter!

  66. Sally says:

    I’ve had some very delicious freshly-ground peanut butter before.

    Are you listening to a word I’m saying? Seriously? If it doesn’t come in my CSA box, I get it from a corporate grocery store, because those are my only two delivery options. I can’t get freshly-ground peanut butter, because they don’t have it at the corporate grocery store. I use Jiff or Skippy or Peter Pan, because Jiff, Skippy and Peter Pan are what’s available to me. You use good peanut butter, and I use bad peanut butter. This is not because you’re good and I’m bad. This is because I have limited food options and you don’t, or at least your limitations are not the same as mine. Although actually, I’ve never had “natural” peanut butter that didn’t taste nasty to me.

    I certainly don’t mean to heap the anger and derision and “shame” upon you you seem to take from this.

    I don’t know if you’ve bothered to learn anything about feminism before posting on this feminist blog, but if you had, I think you’d realize that criticism of women’s cooking, housekeeping, child-raising and eating habits are never neutral. When you go there, you tap into a vast well of shame. Whatever we do, it is never enough. Our greediness, selfishness, laziness is always responsible for every last one of society’s ills. It is our personal responsibility to fix all those ills, by working harder, shopping more carefully, taking fewer shortcuts, being more careful and aware. We are spoiled. We are selfish. We are trash. We forget that For Every Shortcut There is a Cost, and it’s being paid by someone who counts, unlike us. And the second that any man does the slightest bit of the shit that we’re expected to do every day, on top of everything else, just because we’re women… well, he’s a fucking hero, as well as an instant expert. You have so much to teach women who have spent the past fifteen years doing every domestic task you do, as well as commuting two hours a day and working forty hours a week!

    I think there’s a lot of good stuff in what you wrote. I think this is a huge problem. But I think it’s really wrong to talk about this stuff without applying a feminist lens. If you apply a feminist lens, you realize that this problem is tied intimately to the massive burdens on women’s time and you recognize that it can only be fixed by addressing fundamental gender imbalances, as well as other issues in our society. Otherwise, it slips seamlessly into the old blaming the selfish bitches pattern, which we’ve seen a million times over the past couple of centuries.

    And yes, the fat Ronald McDonald is entirely offensive.

  67. Nezua says:

    sally, i didnt realize i was criticizing women’s cooking, housekeeping, or child-raising. i do see where you feel that way because if i am critiquing children’s lives or diet or how we as a society see or treat them….then it has to be about the mothers? i dont intend that or agree with the underlying philosophy. i stand behind my criticisms about the way kids are being exposed to advertising and used in many ways by our culture.

    this is meant to be mostly about mass-distro and handling of meat and how industrialization and convenience has polluted our thinking and our foodstores and some related thoughts, it’s true. i wander when i write often, i like to. but regardless, i’m talking about people, not women. i see some people assuming the weight of any change is on women. i dont understand why it would have to be that way. i do see why it would be wise to keep these dangers in mind, though. but knowing of potential design flaws is no reason not to try and build a new fantastic invention.

    we (and i mean US humans, i mean me, not you, not “women”) are in many ways very spoiled. yes, i do think so. i do think our laziness and greed and ignorance is the root of many ills. common every day ignorance, and yes larger ignorances. i don’t claim i am free of all of them. that is never my take. and you dont have to feel the same way if you do not want. we each will live and talk springing from a place of our own belief and experience. i’m sure the overlap can provide a good place for others to make up their minds, all our overlaps. it helps to approach in a spirit of cooperation.

    i understand a woman has a lot, in general, to be wary of in today’s society, and that there are very good reasons to be angry. i have many similar feelings and suspicions of the dominant culture and its spokespeople. but you will find no fight with me. and you misinterpret my role or stance or approach. i’m not here to “teach women” anything. just writing the way i do. when jill asked me to write here, she didn’t ask me to take courses on Feminism, or to be adept in any paradigm. she said to write as i always do. i am. you are free to criticize it as you are. so all is cool.

    there is no “feminist lens.” from what i know, there are different lenses used by women who claim to be feminists. and they do differ in approach and thought. on my personal “feminist credentials,” i do’nt claim any. many of my online friends are. in fact, many of my online friends are women of color feminists, and i have learned a lot about both their brands of feminism as well as “white mainstream feminism,” and again the overlap on my own journeys is very enriching to me. i still don’ think that educates me to the extent you intend. my wife is a feminist, as i said. and i listen to her on many things, she has taught me a lot over the years. i am sur ei dont know enough about Feminism to please you, but i’m happy with my efforts.

    this doesnt have to be about me, though. if my ideas don’t work for you, as i said, move on. if they do, take something from it. overall, i think you are misreading what i mean to say in a few areas. but then again, i do feel i understand most of your concerns in the areas you mention.

    on peanut butter, “nasty” is clearly a relative value on which you and i happen to disagree. :)

  68. Nezua says:

    there is no “feminist lens.” from what i know, there are different lenses used by women who claim to be feminists.

    sorry. let me change that to “there are different lenses used by people who claim to be feminists.” after all, i do know some men self-identify as Feminists.

    and on the “move on” thing, well. its true that so much good stuff comes out of people discussing, so i take that back. i guess i mean i’ve said all i can really say on it. at least for now.

  69. La Lubu says:

    the language of personal guilt and criticism of women’s cooking, housekeeping, child-raising and eating habits are never neutral. When you go there, you tap into a vast well of shame. Whatever we do, it is never enough

    Boom. Shot. I couldn’t agree with you more, Sally, and in fact when I guest-blogged here awhile back I did a couple of posts on all the contradictory obstacles women were supposed to effortlessly (or at least make it look effortless) navigate through in the name of Great Ideas. And how women are supposed to justify our every action and decision to all and sundry. I agree that in order to keep grassroots movements, be it Slow Food or anything else, conscious of feminist issues, conscious feminists need to be vocally involved in any way, shape or form possible. It’s not that it’s our responsibility to educate others, but that it behooves us in our own lives to elbow some room out for ourselves.

    And that includes laying the burden of guilt down. Preferably on the toes of those that hoisted it onto your back when you weren’t looking. You’re clearly doing the best you can with what you got, and so are many other folks (I think I’m one of ’em). Problem isn’t our efforts, it’s our lack of resources and options. And the fact that there’s only so many hours in the day, so no…..we can’t exactly start organizing co-ops in our spare time. Or, we do start organizing co-ops, but they don’t get off the ground. Or, there isn’t enough money amongst the group of people that are interested. Or, the co-op was once thriving, but is now falling apart because the folks who did the most to keep it running have slowly been moving out of town, out of state, and the co-op lost the war of attrition.

    We read and hear all these great success stories of organizing, yet there aren’t any guidebooks or how-tos or lengthy stories of all the failures that happened before the first drops of success fell on the lips of those involved. It’s discouraging, the level of commitment and time that goes into building grassroots efforts. Folks burn out. And I’m not kidding about the moving; a huge amount of base knowledge and momentum are lost when key people relocate. So yeah, I’m not about to be all pollyanna about any movement.

    I just wanna keep some kinda forward motion going, that’s all. I am gonna keep my hand in, or my voice in, or whatever the hell I can scrape up to deliver, because no movement is going to act in my interest without my presence. At best, my concerns will be ignored.

  70. Melanie says:

    Nezua:

    …I believe artists have always (and will always) use extreme obesity as a symbol of Gluttony. It makes visual and mental sense. Just as one would use a gaunt figure to represent Famine.

    So that makes it OK? It’s representational, therefore don’t get offended?

    Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable.

  71. Nezua says:

    i guess i don’t understand, i’m sorry. i didn’t make it, tho i’m an artist. i personally thought it was a great way to use Ronald as a symbol for the greed that is represented by the corporation. i do’nt see it as a representation of people who eat at the place, if that’s what you’re reading.

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