The author presents how gendered power relationships that permeate the contemporary biomedicalized food culture, in Quebec, participate in producing and affecting women’s bodies in particular ways. She discusses how « healthy » food and its related practices become the site of (re)production of feminities and of associated relationships with bodies, as well as the site of emergence of pressures and tensions linking women to their body, their health and that of others. The author also addresses how the biomedicalized food culture contributes to the production of a multiplicity of differentiated gendered bodies, following interrelated affective, discursive and material processes. and L’auteure présente la façon dont des rapports de pouvoir genrés qui traversent la culture alimentaire biomédicalisée contemporaine, au Québec, concourent à produire et à affecter des corps de femmes. Elle discute certaines des manières par lesquelles l’alimentation « saine » et ses pratiques associées deviennent le lieu de(re)production des féminités et de rapports aux corps particuliers, de même que le lieu d’émergence de pressions et de tensions liant des femmes à leur corps, à leur santé et à celle d’autrui. L’auteure explicite également comment la culture alimentaire biomédicalisée contribue à la production d’une multitude de corps genrés différenciés, selon des processus affectifs, discursifs et matériels interreliés.
In this article, I analyze various discourses held by governmental and health authorities, nutrition experts, and civil society organizations that advocate for the importance of consuming and having access to “healthy” food in order to prevent health-related risks associated with diet, such as the development of chronic diseases or conditions like “obesity.” While “anti-obesity” discourses and practices aiming to “help” the population in the fight against “obesity” connect the issue to social or even food justice considerations, I discuss how the discourse of “healthy” food plays a key role both in problematizing the fat body and in the solutions brought forward to “fix it” as well as the broader “obesity” epidemic. I argue that these two roles are closely linked together – because “healthy” food is positioned as a solution to “obesity”, it reinforces the idea that fatness can be “acted on” or solved, and thus that it should be.
I mobilize works emerging in critical food and fat studies to address how these discourses and practices contribute to further marginalizing those whose bodies do not match dominant ideas of health while creating harmful and discriminatory processes that have material and health-related consequences.
I contend that scholars should be attentive to the broad effectivities of ”healthy” food as arising from “anti-obesity”, or pro-health, discourses and practices as they contribute to further reproducing social injustices and can potentially materialize in damaging ways in individuals’ bodies and health.
Current ‘healthy’ food knowledge revolves around characterizing food by its purported direct, causal effects on the body that ingests it, following a biomedical approach informed by nutritionism (Scrinis, Nutritionism: the science and politics of dietary advice. Columbia University Press, New York, 2013). As long as the focus is on the effects given foods or nutrients have on the ingesting body, a whole array of other effects that produce differentiated bodies beyond ingestion processes receive little attention. I draw on Grossberg (We got to get out of this place: popular conservatism and postmodern culture. Routledge, New York, 1992)’s notion of “effectivities” as a way of taking into account the heterogeneous ‘effects’ that ‘healthy’ food—as a discursive construct and a material object—has, and which occur in different realms (economic, political, agricultural, interspecies, health-related). Using the avocado as a means to illustrate my broader theoretical argument, I contend that ‘healthy’ foods’ effectivities can be observed in how they materialize in differentiated—here racialized—bodies. This raises the key question that permeates the critical stance of this article: whose health matters when it comes to defining ‘healthy’ food?