How Food is Viewed in the American Culture Essay

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Most people wouldn’t deny that food is vital to everyday life, but perhaps it has more importance than just simply nourishing our bodies. According to Carole M. Counihan, a doctor of anthropology, food is so important that society has constructed rules regarding its consumption. Counihan emphasizes in her 1992 Anthropology Quarterly article, “Food Rules in the United States: Individualism, Control and Hierarchy,” that these rules serve as the “means through which human beings construct reality” (Counihan, 1992, p. 55). Counihan advocates for the importance of studying food rules by explaining that knowledge about how food is viewed in our culture can do three things: improve understanding of other culture’s food rules, allow nutrition …show more content…
These rules stem from our desire to be recognized as an individual and to maintain self control, which is evidenced by thinness. Both individualism and self-control are highly valued and applauded in our culture. Counihan puts it best when she explains that “self- control is the ability to deny appetite, suffer hunger, and deny themselves they like but believe fattening. Individual choice involves determining for themselves what foods are acceptable and consuming or abstaining from them when they wish” (1993, p.55).

Consequently, the quest for individualism and self-control perpetuates our current system of organization: a social hierarchy. Basically, a hierarchy is a system of ranks given to parts of a category that denotes worth relative to other parts of the category, and are notorious for being used a justification for discrimination. The three main categories of discrimination mentioned in Counihan’s article are classism, sexism, and racism. Classism is discrimination against a person due to their social class. Maintaining standards of thinness perpetuates this type of discrimination. Counihan comes right out and explains how: “The higher one’s class, the thinner one is likely to be” (1992, p. 60). Now, consider how thinness is equated
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