Gender relations, prostate cancer and diet: Re-inscribing hetero-normative food practices
Although diet might be a valuable adjunct to prostate cancer care, men typically have poorer diets than women and are less likely to change the way they eat after a cancer diagnosis. Gender theory suggests that dominant ideals of masculinity shape men's health and food practices; however, the role of female partners in men's diets is poorly understood. Through qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews, this article explores accounts of 14 Canadian couples' food practices guided by a gender relations framework to expose how tacit performances of masculinity and femininity interact to shape the diets of men with prostate cancer. Findings show that many men became more interested and involved in their diets after a prostate cancer diagnosis, practices that might be theorized as a counter hegemonic project or 'feminization', adding to other prostate cancer induced emasculations (i.e., treatment induced incontinence and impotence). At the same time, however, couples mutually limited men's engagement with diet while concurrently reinforcing women's traditional femininities in nurturing the men in their lives through food provision. Also embedded here were women's attempts to mitigate subordinate productions of masculinity by catering to their partner's tastes as well as monitoring their diets. Most couples mutually maintained traditional gender food 'roles' by positioning women as proficient leaders in domestic food provision and men as unskilled 'try-hard' and sometimes uninterested assistants. Findings also revealed complex gender power dynamics that predominated as complicit in sustaining hegemonic masculinity through women's deference to men's preferences and careful negotiation of instrumental support for men's diet changes. Overall men and women jointly worked to re-inscribe hetero-normative family food practices that shaped men's diets and nutritional health.
Volume (Year): 72 (2011)
Issue (Month): 9 (May)
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