Incorporating Gender in Food Systems Research Design

By: Wendy Short  

This presentation highlights the urgent need to consider the influence of gendered social characteristics and roles when designing research into food systems and health, particularly research focusing on the impact of dietary choices on the incidence of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCD) in low-middle income countries. Globalization of food webs, transnational media, and the increasing prevalence of multinational food conglomerates have contributed to significant dietary changes within low-middle income countries and related increases in obesity and epidemiologic changes. While often NCD progression is not contingent on biological-sex, social constructions of appropriate gendered behaviors, dietary choices, stigmas, and responsibilities, heighten disease-risk profiles for specific gendered groupings within wider populations. Based on a targeted review, literature was readily identified that considered linkages between food choices, obesity and NCD, and some of this literature provided sex-disaggregated data. However, what was not so evident was research that considered local social constructions of gender that resulted in vulnerabilities in food-system participation, or the origins in local gendered norms that contributed to diet-based NCD risk. The urgency of remedying this gap stems not only from data reporting that approximately 70% of the world’s malnourished are girls and women, but critically because food choices and advertisements, preparation tasks, and consumption priorities are gendered. Adopting a gender-lens from development of the research design allows exploration of nuanced causes of gendered dietary choice restrictions and influencers, and inequalities in differential NCD incidence among women and girls, men and boys.

Nutrition, Gender
Food, Nutrition, and Health
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Ms. Wendy Short

-, -, University of Chicago, United States
Illinois, United States

I am by positionality an educated woman of white-Australia, a child of colonialism, born and raised on land stolen from Indigenous peoples. Today I am a critical feminist anthropologist, but my trajectory has been circuitous: my mother's death at a young age, violence in my home-life, and the intensity of my engineering business career, have all been formative of the feminist I have become. Have all been formative in my commitment to ethics, transparency and collaborative knowledge creation. It is however my passion for South Asia, and the mind-exploding work I have discovered during my research to date, that are formative of the woman I am still becoming. I am by sensibility a feminist committed to mobilising my privilege and my heart to support socially marginalised Indian women in achieving their aspirations for social change and justice. I believe it behoves us as anthropologists to increase research and vigorous theoretical engagement in the study of agency within the context of the intersection of religion and gender. I say this, having learned from the work of Dr Saba Mahmood, and reflecting that we live in a time when prominent politicised reductionist depictions paint religion as irrational, while gender concerns are denigrated. It is my conviction as a feminist anthropologist that we have an obligation to create a space into which different truths can be spoken.