Elle’s out this week, being awesome in another part of the country, so I hope you’ll accept a #FeministFriday post from me, for a change.
Earlier this week twitterer Rutger K (@AnotherAspirin) tweeted this photo with the caption: “Don Draper is alive and well and working at
@SPARoesterreich – where the ladies only eat about half a gentleman’s portion. Seriously, what?”
Yes, that’s a photo of grocery chain Spar’s brand of “BBQ Beef Burger,” coming in two sizes: “Ladies’ Size” and “Gentleman’s Size.” The “Ladies'” is a package of two 250g (8.8oz) burgers, the “Gentlemens'” is two 400g (14.1oz) burgers.
My comment at the time was that I couldn’t possibly explain “all the misogyny included in this one body-policing, stereotype-pandering, “ladies'” product in just 140 characters,” but now I get a chance in a longer format. So here we go.
There are a number of pathological ideas on display here.
“Women don’t need to eat as much as men” is a really peculiar yet oddly pervasive idea, and it has a lot of negative downstream consequences. The primary determinants of how much food you need to consume are body weight and physical activity. Not gender. According to Harvard Men’s Health Watch:
Sedentary people of both genders will keep their weight stable by taking in about 13 calories per pound of body weight each day. Moderate physical activity boosts this requirement to 16 calories a pound, and vigorous exercise calls for about 18 calories a pound. On average, a moderately active 125-pound woman needs 2,000 calories a day; a 175-pound guy with a similar exercise pattern needs 2,800 calories. And like women, men will lose weight only if they burn more calories than they take in.
What they don’t say (and what they should) is that a moderately-active 125-pound man needs 2,000 calories a day, and a 175-pound woman with a similar exercise pattern needs 2,800. I weigh 150lbs soaking wet. I need neither more nor fewer calories than an equally-active 150lb woman. Period.
“It’s womanly to eat less” is a toxic byproduct of this line of thinking. It caters to the forces that demand that women be thin, that “feminine” equals “small and in need of protection,” forces which delegitimize or even de-womanize truly vast numbers of women.
“It’s manly to eat more” is another troubling byproduct of this line of thinking, though perhaps less so because fat-shaming doesn’t begin at quite so low fat levels for men as for women (not that it’s not a thing, but the very existence of the phrase “dad-bod” is pretty telling). Men shouldn’t feel compelled to overeat any more than women should feel compelled to under-eat.
The very existence of these products is a message. It says that men are and should be bigger than women, that women are and should be smaller than men, that women should eat less, that men should eat more, and that size, femininity, and masculinity are intrinsically linked. And conversely, they say that big women aren’t women, small men aren’t men, and that deviation from the strict controls of the patriarchy means you’re doing something wrong.
So. Spar. Buddy. Pal.
Maybe in the future you could consider using words that don’t demean your customers, or fetishize food consumption as intrinsic to gender identity. Maybe you could try something else like “just a bite” and “feelin’ hungry” or even the time-tested “small” and “large.”
That’s all for today. Elle returns to her usual column next Friday, and don’t forget to tune in Sunday for the weekly news roundup. Peace.
Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.