Thursday, September 03, 2009

Chauvinism Is a Two-Way Street

Some things just confuse me.  Like the following title: "Saccharin: Gender and Power in the Making and Marketing of Artificial Sweetener."  It's like when I read an announcement for a talk last night: "Sexuality and Socialism."  You read it once, you read it again, you still don't think you've read it right, and then you file it under "Weird Things to Be Expected at Institutes of Higher Leaning."  (And yes, the "r" is intentionally removed!).
     I'm trying to see if anyone besides Rush has coined a term for the female counterpart of a chauvinist.  (As descriptive as the word femiNazi is, I don't know whether it's quite what I'm looking for!)  Lo and behold, no new word is needed!  The word "chauvinist" isn't specific to males!  Merriam-Webster defines it as "an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex."  Well, then.  The following announcement perfectly illustrates female chauvinism. 
      Chauvinism, like racism, is a two-way street.  While the stereotypical examples of each are men against women and whites against blacks, there's many variants. 
      What surprises me most in this article is the assumption that everything's a power struggle.  Woah!  What a way to live!  I wonder if female chauvinists realize that female chauvinism exists, or they view someone applying the word "chauvinist" to a female is like a salaried trying to use a tool in a union-based plant!  Based on an extremely limited body of correspondence, this "expert" has decided that "it can be argued that diet sweet's history is as much about masculinity through scientific expertise as it is about a rising feminine imperative to be thin."
      Hmmm... am I really to believe that it's only in the period from 1955 to 1980 that females have been trying to be thin?  Has this woman forgotten that we have some record of  what happened before the 20th century?
      I should stop now, but the phrase "masculinity through scientific enterprise" is beguiling.  What in the world does this mean?  That men have historically tried to prove their masculinity by inventing things?  (So when Edison's lightbulb lit up, he said, echoing Pinocchio, "I'm a REAL man!" ?)  What in the world?  Tell me, please, that no one believes this.  Does anyone supposedly search for "femininity through scientific enterprise"?  Would this be a problem?
      This announcement raises more questions than it answers.

Saccharin: Gender and Power in the Making and Marketing of Artificial Sweetener

Carolyn de la Peña, Director of the Humanities Institute, University of California, Davis

Thursday, September 10, 2009
4:00 PM
Knight Auditorium, Spurlock Museum
600 S. Gregory, Urbana

This talk explores the ways in which gender and power influenced the making and marketing of cyclamates and saccharin between 1945 and 1980 in the United States. Using archival documents spanning the twenty-year relationship between a canning chemist at the fruit canning cooperative California Canners and Growers and sales agents at Abbott laboratories, it can be argued that diet sweet's history is as much about masculinity through scientific expertise as it is about a rising feminine imperative to be thin.  Between 1955 and the early 1980s, women entrepreneurs and mass marketing entered the artificial sweetener industry.  These women bridged invention and consumer, using their unique status as "experts" and females to help a generation of women understand artificially sweetened drinks and desserts as the best way to simultaneously lose weight and gain power.

For the men and women who developed these low calorie sweet products, self-invention was as important as product invention in shaping their definition of success. De la Peña discusses the ramifications this had for the development of artificial sweeteners, the impact this may have had on Americans' attitudes towards food consumption, and the lessons we might take away about considering production and consumption together in both food and technology studies.

Cosponsored by:
Center for Advanced Study
College of Engineering
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of History
Program in Science and Technology Studies

All CAS events are free and open to the public.

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