Diners, Dudes, and Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture

Univ. of North Carolina. Nov. 2020. 208p. ISBN 9781469660745. $22.95. SOC SCI
American masculinity has long struggled with its relationship to consumer culture, and perhaps no area so recently as the physical consumption of food. This first book by Contois (media studies, Univ. of Tulsa) dives into the complex gender and power dynamics of food culture leading up to, and in the wake of, the Great Recession of 2007–09. Contois specifically highlights how food, media, and marketing companies were able to engage male consumers during a specific moment of economic and gender crisis by leveraging the 21st-century stereotype of the immature, physically ambivalent yet still fundamentally privileged “dude” personality. From the blatantly gendered marketing of men’s “dude food” cookbooks to the rise of dude-friendly Food Network personalities like Guy Fieri, Contois argues convincingly how consumer industries have used fear of gender contamination to manipulate food culture and shape larger gender norms. Yet, the incredible power of food is also a possible path forward for Contois, who sees in it the potential to reveal the complex dynamics of consumption, by making them literally visible on our own bodies.
VERDICT A fascinating work of cultural studies that makes evident the continued power and threat of explicitly gendered food production and consumption in the 21st century. Recommended broadly for students and scholars of fields related to gender, culture, and consumption.
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