College offers class exploring ‘feminist nutrition’

Hobart and William Smith Colleges will offer a women’s studies course next year that plans to explore topics such as “feminist nutrition” and “the material/affective body.” 

Women’s Studies 365: Topics in Feminist Health” will be taught by Jessica Hayes-Conroy, who also teaches classes such as “Food, Feminism, and Health” and “Gender and Geography.” 

“This class focuses on a topic of current interest related to feminist health,” the course description explains, adding that feminist health topics include “the material/affective body, feminist nutrition, violence and displacement, and political ecologies of health.” 

“Readings will draw from a variety of fields, including feminist science studies, geography, public health, social theory, cultural studies, and more. The course may also count towards a minor in health professions,” the description adds. 

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While only a portion of the class will focus on feminist nutrition, the professor, Jessica Hayes-Conroy, is one of the leading academics in the emerging field of feminist nutrition studies. 

Along with her sister Allison, Hayes-Conroy served as a co-editor of the 2013 book Doing Nutrition Differently: Critical Approaches to Diet and Dietary Intervention, which is predicated on a critique of so-called “hegemonic nutrition.” 

Hegemonic nutrition, she argues, is a social regime that not only writes the “rules” of fitness and nutrition, but also serves to determine “individual fault, usually some combination of lack of education, motivation, and unwillingness to comply.” 

In that book, the Hayes-Conroy sisters contribute a chapter titled “Feminist Nutrition,” which stakes out a “vision of feminist nutrition that exemplifies the potential parallels between feminist activism and nutrition promotion.” 

“Just as the feminist movement has specifically sought to improve lives by promoting gender equality…there are also reasons why nutrition would benefit from a specific focus on issues of women and gender,” they write. 

Feminist nutrition, they assert, would focus on issues such as “decolonization” of food advice, acknowledgment of “social inequalities,” reducing “stereotypes and assumptions,” reaffirming “non-white genealogies of nourishment” and much else

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Hayes-Conroy has elsewhere critiqued mainstream nutrition, saying that it relies upon “promotion of expert knowledge regime…and the elevation of white, Western, upper-class modes of eating as morally superior to other ways of eating.” 

The Women’s Studies department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges also offers classes such as “Stormy Weather: Ecofeminism,” “Power, Privilege, and Knowledge,” and as Campus Reform recently reported, “Feminism: Ethics and Knowledge.” 

Neither HWS nor Hayes-Conroy responded to requests for comment from Campus Reform.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen