Lecture discusses effects of culture, race, socio-economic status on women's food choices

Left to right: Professor Peter Higgins, professor John Koolage, professor Michael Scoville, professor Brian Bruya, professor Lisa Schwartzman, professor Laura McMahon, and psychology major Desmine Robinson.

Lisa Schwartzman, philosophy professor from Michigan State University, read her philosophy paper “Women, food, pleasure, and Control: Beyond Choice” to philosophy students in the Student Center on Thursday.

Schwartzman lectured on how culture, race, and socio-economic status can affect food choices. She also touched on female desire and appetite. Michael Doan, assistant professor of philosophy and event organizer, feels that students can learn a lot of helpful information from the lecture.

“I feel like it’s a topic that’s important,” he said. “ Everybody is involved in how we organize our food systems. I hope that they will find ways to think for themselves by observing such an excellent model of critical thought.”

Schwartzman stressed the importance of women eating pleasurable foods and not feeling guilty for craving them. The root of the guilt and anorexia comes from media, society, and capitalism. She said that your socio-economic status can affect your health as well. Poor people might not be exposed to healthier options.

“Society is embracing people to be healthy but only providing it to the privileged,” she said. “It takes money and resources. Structures of race, and class should be shifted so women can fully express their desires. Many food justice issues are routed in global capital.”

Schwartzman discussed the history of America’s obsession with weight loss and the origin of eating disorders. She said that there is evidence that one third of dieters regained more weight than before because of higher hormone levels. Dieting can also cause health problems such as diabetes and heart problems.

A highlight of Schwartzman’s paper was her focus on how women have been taught to hide their desire for food and sex. She says that the media is to blame.

“There are no images of vulnerability or availability for women on men being desirable, women learn from western culture that men’s pleasures are more important than their own,” she said. “It’s considered unfeminine for women to eat in an unrestrained manner. They might be seen as aggressive.”

At the seminar, students learned more about the Healthy at Any Size movement which encourages people to adopt habits for the sake of their health instead of controlling their weight. Advocates believe that traditional dieting does not retain weight loss and being healthy is separate from body weight.

Adam Winbigler, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy, enjoyed learning new information about dieting and feels other students should hear it.

“It would be illuminating for everyone especially for women with eating disorders to know that all of the blame is not on them,” he said. “I thought it was a telling critique of the construction of women in society. I’ve never seen food and sex so closely linked before. I learned how poisonous the rhetoric of choice is, the idea that these are choices that you have to make, that you and only you are responsible for is really toxic.

Sarah Brucker, senior who is double majoring in anthropology and philosophy, found the seminar to be very interesting and would like to apply the information in her own life. She realized that she had a biased view of the Health at Every Size movement but happy to get more information.

“I got some interesting considerations on how I view my own health and interesting thoughts on how women’s desires are perceived,” she said. “I have an interest in food justice issues and how race and class are ignored. I think a great deal of students can benefit, philosophy can help make sense of the world because we have such a choice based society and there is not a lot of knowledge on how we are carefully presented with an array of choices.”


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