Stories of masculinity, gender equality, and culinary progress On foodwork, cooking, and men in Sweden
Sammanfattning: The general aim of this thesis is to use foodwork and cooking in Sweden as a way to better understand theoretical questions about men and masculinities. Paper I discusses how an increased public interest in elaborate cooking and gastronomy in Sweden, a country with a cultural idealization of gender equality, could explain why men in Sweden assume responsibilities for domestic cooking without feeling emasculated. Papers II, III and IV draw on interviews with 31 men from 22 to 88 years of age and with different levels of interest in food. Paper II shows how domestic foodwork and cooking are associated with ideas of Swedish progress in terms of gender equality and culinary skills. Paper III demonstrates further that domestic cooking is not only a responsibility which men assume, but also a way of being sociable with friends, partners and children. Thus, both papers II and III challenge the idea that men only cook at home if they enjoy it. The data rather indicate that domestic foodwork responsibilities are a cultural expectation of men in Sweden, ingrained in desirable masculine practices. Paper IV explores men’s responses to media representations of food. The interviewed men responded to these representations with indifference, pragmatism, irony, and at times even hostility. In general, the responses are based on gender and age-differentiated taste distinctions and notions of masculine and culinary excess. Paper V uses a mix of texts (81 online texts and two magazines) and observations from the food fairs GastroNord (2014 and 2016), Mitt kök-mässan (2014) and the chef competition Bocuse d’Or Europe (2014) complemented with pictures and videos. I argue that a Swedish culinary community that promotes Swedish culinary excellence is constructed by drawing on preestablished national (self-)images. This culinary community is constructed as open and tolerant, with ethical concerns for the environment and for nonhuman animals. Its culinary icons are represented by chefs in whites and the leading restaurants. In sum, this dissertation provides empirical and theoretical contributions to both food studies and gender studies that critically scrutinize men and masculinities. Food-issues are permeated by gender, both in people’s everyday life and in the gastronomic elite.
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