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  1. lizvelrene
    lizvelrene July 10, 2007 at 11:00 am |

    *applause*

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

  2. Smartpatrol
    Smartpatrol July 10, 2007 at 2:37 pm |

    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. Jamie
    Jamie July 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm |

    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. ^_^

  4. Kristen
    Kristen July 10, 2007 at 2:52 pm |

    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.

  5. betsyl
    betsyl July 10, 2007 at 3:09 pm |

    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.

  6. Matthew Cole
    Matthew Cole July 10, 2007 at 3:16 pm |

    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.

  7. Jay in Chicago
    Jay in Chicago July 10, 2007 at 3:20 pm |

    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.

  8. Jay in Chicago
    Jay in Chicago July 10, 2007 at 3:30 pm |

    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)?

  9. Kristen
    Kristen July 10, 2007 at 3:40 pm |

    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*.

  10. the15th
    the15th July 10, 2007 at 4:02 pm |

    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.

  11. Matthew Cole
    Matthew Cole July 10, 2007 at 4:09 pm |

    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.

  12. jeffaclitus
    jeffaclitus July 10, 2007 at 4:14 pm |

    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.

  13. Louise
    Louise July 10, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    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.

  14. Jay in Chicago
    Jay in Chicago July 10, 2007 at 4:31 pm |

    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.

  15. Holly
    Holly July 10, 2007 at 4:52 pm |

    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/

  16. jeffaclitus
    jeffaclitus July 10, 2007 at 5:10 pm |

    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.

  17. Holly
    Holly July 10, 2007 at 5:33 pm |

    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.

  18. SoE
    SoE July 10, 2007 at 5:41 pm |

    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.

  19. Matthew Cole
    Matthew Cole July 10, 2007 at 6:35 pm |

    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.

  20. Louise
    Louise July 10, 2007 at 7:00 pm |

    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…

  21. Matthew Cole
    Matthew Cole July 10, 2007 at 7:00 pm |

    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.

  22. exholt
    exholt July 10, 2007 at 7:33 pm |

    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.

  23. Isabel
    Isabel July 10, 2007 at 8:56 pm |

    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.

  24. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 10, 2007 at 9:09 pm |

    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.

  25. Melissa M.
    Melissa M. July 10, 2007 at 9:28 pm |

    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.

  26. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko July 10, 2007 at 10:55 pm |

    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.

  27. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko July 10, 2007 at 11:01 pm |

    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.

  28. evil fizz
    evil fizz July 10, 2007 at 11:10 pm | *

    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?

  29. exholt
    exholt July 10, 2007 at 11:30 pm |

    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. :)

  30. exholt
    exholt July 10, 2007 at 11:56 pm |

    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? ;)

  31. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko July 11, 2007 at 12:45 am |

    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.

  32. Nenena
    Nenena July 11, 2007 at 1:05 am |

    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.

  33. exholt
    exholt July 11, 2007 at 2:00 am |

    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.

  34. Isabel
    Isabel July 11, 2007 at 2:26 pm |

    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.

  35. Sally
    Sally July 11, 2007 at 2:40 pm |

    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!

  36. Kristen
    Kristen July 11, 2007 at 3:41 pm |

    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.

  37. Kristen
    Kristen July 11, 2007 at 4:44 pm |

    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.

  38. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko July 11, 2007 at 5:25 pm |

    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.

  39. Kristen
    Kristen July 11, 2007 at 5:26 pm |

    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.

  40. exholt
    exholt July 11, 2007 at 5:34 pm |

    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.

  41. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 11, 2007 at 6:59 pm |

    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.

  42. Elaine Vigneault
    Elaine Vigneault July 12, 2007 at 12:44 am |

    Excellent post. Thanks :)

  43. Melanie
    Melanie July 12, 2007 at 6:36 am |

    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).

  44. Sally
    Sally July 12, 2007 at 9:33 am |

    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.

  45. Sally
    Sally July 12, 2007 at 12:14 pm |

    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.

  46. La Lubu
    La Lubu July 12, 2007 at 7:44 pm |

    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.

  47. Melanie
    Melanie July 13, 2007 at 9:27 pm |

    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.

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