Another great article from the NYTimes, Who Likes Asparagus? Men More Than Women discussing a study that analyzed eating patterns among men and women.
The study of eating habits of adults — called the most extensive of its kind — was a telephone survey of 14,000 Americans. It confirmed conventional wisdom that most men eat more meat than women, and women eat more fruits and vegetables. But there were a few surprising exceptions: Men were much more likely to eat asparagus, brussels sprouts, peas and peanuts. They also were bigger consumers of frozen pizzas, frozen hamburgers and frozen Mexican dinners. Women are more likely than men to eat eggs, yogurt and fresh hamburgers.
Studies like this, and the simple reporting that outlets like the NYTimes does upsets me for a few reasons. One, it is really that useful? Could we also do a telephone survey and find that brunettes show different trends in eating than blonds? How much does this research just reinforce our already concrete ideas about gender difference? Of course men eat more meat than women! It’s because they need more protein for all their manly activities.
The other problem has more to do with the media misuse (and abuse) of random scientific studies. There is a great article in Bitch Magazine, Mad Science, that addresses this.
Nowhere do scientific findings get more mangled than when theyâ€™re about the differences between men and women. According to the science pages, women arenâ€™t just biologically hardwired to prefer pink to blue. Weâ€™re also predisposed to backstab one another in the workplace, cry in the boardroom, and have both lower iqs and less of a sense of humor than men.
Some misleading stories come from bad science, where the study authorsâ€™ conclusions arenâ€™t supported by their own data. Others are well-conducted studies whose conclusions mutate upon contact with the mainstream media. Newspapers and websites are prone to playing fast and loose with their reports on studies, often neglecting to reveal salient facts about a studyâ€™s sample group or methodology.
And finally, there is the obvious angle missing from this piece which is the way the we are socialized through our gender. Men and women have very different eating habits most likely because they are taught (and marketed to) in very different ways. Body image, differences in standards of beauty and nutritionism, all of these things are going to have an impact on our eating habits. Yet the way the NYTimes reported the study simply implies that this is just another fascinating way that men and women are so radically different!