Monday, November 14, 2011

Food Politics and American Elections

I find it fascinating how often American election campaigning features the cultural politics of food.
Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said in an interview with GQ out Monday that one can tell how "manly" a man is by looking at how many toppings he puts on his pizza. He also said a pizza covered in vegetables is a "sissy pizza."
"The more toppings a man has on his pizza, I believe the more manly he is," said the former Godfather's Pizza CEO.

Cain explained that "the more manly man is not afraid of abundance" before calling into question the manliness of a pizza with vegetables on it.

"A manly man don't want it piled high with vegetables! He would call that a sissy pizza," Cain said.[CBS]

Lattes, arugula, organic, wine and sushi are pretty much bad words, conjuring images of elitist effeminate un-American liberals. Fried pork rinds, barbecue, and beer - now that's a presidential meal worthy of a true American leader! See how gender, nationalism and class stereotypes are all mobilized here.

This is not entirely surprising, given how much food is caught up with issues of identity and how symbol-heavy elections (especially American elections) are. There's a long history of wheat and beef being associated with 'civilization', while root vegetables were associated with lower-order humans. (Read more on this here.) The Sociological Images blog has a number of posts demonstrating gendered food in popular culture. Notable examples here, here and here.