Dishwasher Tetris experts and excellent meal planners: How fathers and mothers navigate foodwork and gender in the nuclear family




Mills, John

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Feeding the family is a core component of parenthood. Foodwork—the labour of acquiring, preparing, and consuming food—is a key site where parents ‘do’ gender in complex ways. Through their practices of foodwork, parents can reinforce traditional norms around fathering and mothering but also challenge and transform those norms. In my thesis, I examine this complex nature of foodwork through interviews with ten parents—seven fathers and three mothers—from seven heterosexual families in the Greater Victoria area of British Columbia. I explore how fathers describe and understand the roles that they play in family foodwork as well as how both parents navigate contemporary norms and expectations regarding foodwork in a nuclear family. I identify three roles in foodwork that fathers see for themselves, each with defining characteristics. These roles can align with hegemonic masculine norms that preserve men’s privilege to opt out of feeding their families. However, I also explore situations and contexts in which fathers use these roles to engage with family foodwork in thoughtful and caring ways that disrupt hegemonic masculinity. When fathers take on responsibility for foodwork, they can relieve some of the burden that neoliberal intensive mothering norms place on mothers. Parents in the nuclear family remain overwhelmingly responsible for foodwork, with limited support from broader communities. This thesis uplifts parents’ struggles and successes as they navigate shifting norms around foodwork, gender, and family.



Foodwork, Gender, Hegemonic masculinity, Household labour, Family