Modern advertising has changed dramatically since the early
twentieth century, but when it comes to food, Katherine Parkin
writes, the message has remained consistent. Advertisers have
historically promoted food in distinctly gendered terms, returning
repeatedly to themes that associated shopping and cooking with
women. Foremost among them was that, regardless of the actual work
involved, women should serve food to demonstrate love for their
families. In identifying shopping and cooking as an expression of
love, ads helped to both establish and reinforce the belief that
kitchen work was women's work, even as women's participation in the
labor force dramatically increased. Alternately flattering her
skills as a homemaker and preying on her insecurities, advertisers
suggested that using their products would give a woman irresistible
sexual allure, a happy marriage, and healthy children. Ads also
promised that by buying and making the right foods, a woman could
help her family achieve social status, maintain its racial or
ethnic identity, and assimilate into the American mainstream.
Advertisers clung tenaciously to this paradigm throughout great
upheavals in the patterns of American work, diet, and gender roles.
To discover why, Food Is Love draws on thousands of ads
that appeared in the most popular magazines of the twentieth and
early twenty-first centuries, including the Ladies' Home
Journal, Good Housekeeping, Ebony, and the Saturday Evening
Post. The book also cites the records of one of the nation's
preeminent advertising firms, as well as the motivational research
advertisers utilized to reach their customers.
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