Thursday, August 4, 2011

Final Blog Post: Gendered Food Discrimination

The McDonald's Corporation has been part of the dominant American culture for the past fifty years. A large part of this success can be attributed to their large advertisement campaigns, and the way in which these ads relate to the public. Through advertising McDonald's has been able to subtly perpetuate the idea of gendered-food discrimination; men are entitled to large, hearty meals, while women are encouraged to eat child-like meals. By examining the images and slogans used on the McDonald's website, one can see this clear-cut distinction between different menu items, and the gender specific audiences that they are targeted towards.

While viewing the different meal options available it appears that all foods that one could assume to be feminine contain pastel colored fonts along with their images. The font choices themselves have elegant aspects to their scripts, making them appear delicate or refined. Even the actual products are stereotypically of a feminine color scheme: the strawberry shake is pink; the fruit yogurt is pink and white. Color choices, as expressed by Kirkham and Weller, directly effect the overall feminine connotation of a product: “By comparison, the pastel colours of the “female” advertisements signal softness, purity, gentleness, and innocence- features associated with babies and infants and which suggest the more delicate, passive, and soft sensibility associated with the more traditional representations of femininity.” (Kirkham/ Weller, 269) This idea of linking feminine products to babies and infants seems to have been taken to heart by the McDonald's website. Products are described with catch phrases such as “yumminess”, as seen in the triple strawberry shake ad, or “aww...they're so sweet”, as seen in the cinnamon bun description; these phrases are typically identifiable as infantile.

In direct opposition to these dainty, infantile images of feminine-geared food products, food items which are seemingly masculine are described as bold, rugged, or dangerous. The validation of masculinity is ever present in these specific ads because, as Katz states, “One function of the image system is to legitimate and reinforce existing power relations, representations that equate masculinity with the qualities of size, strength, and violence thus become more prevalent.” (Katz, 356) These powerful male traits (dark, bold, aggressive) are mirrored in the blood red font color chosen to accompany the images. The meals depicted are oversized, containing hunks of meats, and are dripping with cheese or sauces. Further affirming the qualities of size, strength and violence that Katz mentions, masculine food on the McDonald's website has word phrases such as: “tall”, “sear-sizzled”, “granting all your wishes”, and “fulfilling.” It is quite clear that the masculine foods are meant to be filling compared to their low-fat feminine counterparts. The last line used in the advertisement for the McRib, seems to encapsulate the entire message McDonald's is sending: “We're a discriminating group who don't mind getting sticky.”

-Sarah Jablonski

Works Cited:

Katz, Jackson. "Chapter 34, Advertising And The Construction Of Violent White Masculinity From Eminem to Clinique for Men." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean McMahon Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 356. Print.

Kirkham, Pat, and Alex Weller. "Chapter 27, Cosmetics A Clinique Case Study." Gender, Race, and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean McMahon Humez. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 269. Print.

McDonalds. 2010. Web. 3 Aug. 2011. <>.