Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America

By Katherine J. Parkin | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Love, Fear, and Freedom:
Selling Traditional Gender Roles

The popularity of the queen of the kitchen depends largely upon her ability
to surprise and please her subjects. If she will invoke the aid of Shredded
Whole Wheat Biscuit her task will be simplified and the loyalty of her
subjects unquestioned
.

Triscuit ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, 1905

Advertisers’ most fundamental message to women, and one that underscored all others, was that food is love. In addition to more expected appeals to taste and quality, advertisers touted their products’ love value. They encouraged women to show their love for others with food and promised that women could earn their family’s love by serving certain foods. Finally, copywriters honed in on consumers’ nostalgia for the love and taste of times past, or imagined.

These positive ideals and the potential for creating pleasure were balanced, however, by advertisers’ efforts to create and exacerbate women’s anxieties. The homemaker role, with its association of selfless devotion to others, posed some difficulty for advertisers who wanted to promote the convenience of their foods. Walking a fine line, they tried to equate their products with selfishness and free time in a way that did not undermine the necessity or sentimental importance of women’s role in the home. Over the course of the century, ads incorporated women’s expanded roles and reflected some of their diverse interests and activities, but remained focused on their responsibility for caring for others. In addition to these more positive portrayals of women’s lives, advertisements also included a number of warnings that ranged from never marrying to disappointing ones’ husband to contributing to the breakdown of the marriage. The message was always the same: through the advertised food product, women could express their love to their families.

Beyond holding on to homemakers, food companies also wanted to expand their consumer base. One way they did so was to reach out

-30-

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