u r what u eat

How Did Men Learn Not to Eat Sissy Girly Foods?

It’s not that the taste buds of men biologically predispose them to disliking girly foods like yogurt or fish (or, for that matter, quiche). They were trained that way.

Tom Jacobs explains in Miller-McCune:

Boys learn at an early age that certain foods (red meat, beer) are associated with masculinity, while others (fish, vegetables, yogurt) are considered feminine. Eating gender-appropriate grub becomes a way of affirming one’s manliness. As they grow into men, those choices gradually become habitual.

That’s the conclusion of newly published research, which suggests the association of certain foods with masculine norms drives men’s culinary choices well into adulthood. David Gal and James Wilkie of Northwestern University conclude that for certain consumer goods, including food, men “tend to forgo their intrinsic preferences to conform to a masculine gender identity.” In contrast, women “appear to be less concerned with making gender-congruent choices,” they add in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Researchers observed men and women in different situations where they had to make food choices.

In one experiment, 163 undergraduates (51 males, 112 females) were asked to choose between 16 pairs of food items on a menu. Some had to make a choice within 10 seconds; others could take as long as they wanted. Each pair of items featured a “masculine” and a “feminine” dish. They were differentiated by ingredients (heavy gravy or white wine sauce), name (“Western salad” vs. “nature salad”) or descriptions (“hearty” vs. “luscious”). As expected, the “feminine” dishes were chosen more often by women, whether they had 10 seconds or all day to choose. But men who had more time to make up their minds were significantly more likely to choose “masculine” food than those who had to make an on-the-spot decision.

Why are dudes so susceptible to the genderization of noshing?

Gal and Wilkie note that previous research has found boys are more likely than girls to be rewarded for gender-appropriate behavior, and punished for deviating from expected standards. In their view, such evidence suggests “the path of least resistance” for boys is to “choose options that best conform to gender norms.”

It begs the question: Who’s responsible for guys learning which foods are appropriate for, uh, guys? Parents? McDonald’s? Zagats? Personally, I blame Wheaties boxes.