I love burritos. There is nothing not to love about a face-sized pocket of joy bursting with meat and chilli and veg. It gave me great dismay, then, to visit my favourite burrito joint for the first time in months and discovering that my gigantic joy-pockets have become gendered. This discovery came quite by accident: most of my vowel sounds are schwas, and when I was handed a disappointingly tiny joy-pocket, I was informed of my error. Instead of ordering a burrito, I had ordered a burrita.
It’s a feminine name. A needlessly feminine noun, because this is a burrito for girls. It’s smaller, see, so we won’t get terrified by the mighty mighty girth of the man-burrito.
It might sound as if I’m overreacting to the feeble portion of luncheon I was given. This is certainly a possibility, but food is gendered. Take meat, for example. Meat is, apparently, very manly. Meat is marketed at men in a way to reinforce their heterosexuality by making it as deliciously sexy as possible. Meanwhile, salad is girly. Salad is for women to eat while laughing alone.* We’re also allowed to like chocolate and cake in moderation. This photoset shows starkly just how gendered food marketing is.
It’s worth asking ourselves why this is. A few years ago, Salon magazine asked a few experts. Some of the answers are utter bollocks, involving women being more genetically predisposed to sweet things, or men needing more meat to build muscles because thousands of years ago they were definitely the hunters, or mysterious ladyhormones. Salon concludes that this is probably rubbish, and I wholeheartedly concur.
The thing is, it’s not that some food is inherently more palatable to people of a certain gender. Of course it isn’t. It’s just the symbiotic relationship between marketing professionals and patriarchy at work once again. Patriarchy instils a certain set of insecurities and expectations into people. Playing on these existing stereotypes makes the marketing jobs easier, and they can all take a cocaine break and then work out how to make women a little more paranoid about the shape of their earlobes. Marketing and patriarchy feed each other in an ouroboros of tedious stereotyping.
Eating for basic sustenance is not a gendered activity. Neither is eating for pleasure. Yet patriarchy and its PR cheerleaders make it so. I wish they’d keep their politics out of my lunch.
*Although, it is worth noting that the marketing executives might have started to worry about men getting scurvy from all the meat they’re cramming into their faces, so decided to make fruit a bit sexier.