Barbara Philipp: Gender On The Table -A research on the relationship between women and food and its manifestation in art and society

Mentor: John Heymans

External reviewer: Fatos Ustek

Enschede, 2009


Women and food are strongly connected. There are certain rules to be followed in order to prepare and give food. In the private sphere it is mostly women who still take this task upon themselves. Food preservation, transport and disposability have changed dramatically during the last century, and within these changes the social conditions of western women have also evolved. This thesis is a personal exploration on the relationship between women and food in western culture, with a particular focus on art. The direct bodily link with pregnancy and breastfeeding, and the dogma of a standardized western beauty canon form the heart of my investigation. This leads then to observations on reactions and expectations, which are related to these issues today. Consequently, these observations offer an insight to subconscious layers in society, which still follow the pattern of a patriarchal structure. If and how food artists and cooks, particularly female ones, take this thematic complexity in consideration, is traced and commented in the last part of the thesis. Their work and commitment are highly relevant for the public opinion, and influence the shaping of future perspectives towards an emancipated relationship with food. Lastly, cookbooks can be used as synthesis of a culinary and artistic experience. The gender problematic handling of this form of expression will also be touched upon in this research.