Thursday, March 18, 2010

FML: a glimpse into gender-based power dynamics and the social significance of diet

Although I am not a general follower of FML, in a recent stroke of brilliance (and crazy hilarity), I came up with the idea for the perfect FML:

"Today, I went on my first date with a girl I have been infatuated with for months. At the restaurant, the waiter came while she was in the bathroom. I ordered steaks for both of us. Turns out, she is vegetarian, and doesn't like it when men are "overly aggressive." She called me a cow murderer. FML"

I forgot about it until this evening, and when I saw that it had been posted, I was super excited! Then, I read the comments. All I can say is "WOW." I didn't know whether or not to laugh their absurdity, or to be horrified. In the end, I did both. Many of the comments were simply incredibly lewd remarks, which supported male-dominated power dynamics between genders (they tended to reference both sexual and physical violence). That my post provoked such strong, clearly misogynistic reactions is notable. While I hardly believe the individuals who post comments on FML to be representative of the general population (I find it necessary to point out the inability of the majority of the authors of these offensive remarks to spell "vegetarian"; notable misspellings include "vegitarian" and "vegeitairan"), and I suspect that many of these individuals posted simply to make ridiculous statements they thought were funny without thinking of the consequences (one could certainly argue that the internet is a socially acceptable forum for this behavior), I always find it shocking when such sentiments arise. Because my original post focused on dating, the reactions evidence gender dynamics in modern human mating systems; essentially, the comments expressed the opinion that males are sexually superior, and have a moral right to sexually dominate, females.

The comments also revealed the social significance of dietary choice. While I hardly expected people to really "care" that the fictional woman was vegetarian, comments such as "vegetarians are weak because veggies don't have the same proteins and minerals that's stimulate muscle growth. lack of muscle = lack of stength = weak. whereas vegans are Nazi vegetarians who have joined PETA which in itself kills animals," and "vegetarianism is a mental disease witch does not let the diseased get the fact that were omnivores, not carinvore but omnivore." Clearly, vegetarianism is heated topic. Other comments evidence that diet is so powerful a social marker as to affect mating decisions. Many expressed the opinion that "she should mention she's a vegetarian and only date vegetarians." Another individual disclosed the way diet affects his personal choice of who to date with the comment, "she sounds like a real psycho this is exactly why i refuse to date a vegetarian."

I found the following post to give particular insight into possible reasons behind this heightened attention to diet: "If everyone learned to respect each-other's dietary choices, vegetarians wouldn't go around preaching and calling people cow murderers." It seems that diet has been imbued with moral overtones. While there is certainly a historical connection between morality and diet, particularly within religion, the emergence of this debate in a secular environment is striking. I hypothesize that this fusion of diet and morality has been strengthened by growing attention to the effects of food cultivation and consumption on the environment, a prominent political and social issue.

You can skim through the original comments HERE.
- Posted By Shannon Ward, '12

No comments:

Post a Comment