Thursday, February 17, 2011

Did independent women cause fat kids?

Awhile back, I was discussing the obesity epidemic with some family members.  We started talking about how women's liberation is sometimes blamed for it.  Moms no longer stay at home -- they are out in the workplace, and not making dinner and healthy lunches for their families.  It got me thinking...could it be true?

I mean, if you sit and think about it, it makes some sense at least.  Moms from the 1950's used to whip up homemade meals every single night.  I imagine going out to a restaurant was a treat that you rarely got to experience.  Now, you have work, soccer, homework....and McDonalds calling your name so you don't have to cook.  Even if you go to the store, all kinds of ready to eat meals are there, nice and full of chemicals to keep them from spoiling.  

Here are some interesting web posts:


I recommended this Wuesthof kitchen knife to a friend of mine whose wife is in her early 50s.......and turns out doesn't do much cooking, sewing, etc. (it's a great knife and even made in- get this- Germany for 50 bucks)
He replied that their daughter is a bit of a throwback and is the only decent cook in the house.

That got me thinking. Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, we had a "June Cleaver" conception of what a married woman should be. "Nice girls" didn't have sex before marriage (or weren't supposed to) and there was real dating and courtship. Once married, wives were supposed to be subservient to their husbands, got in the kitchen, made him a sammich, poured him a drink when he got home, cooked at home, etc. I don't recall my parents talking about dining out much during that era. Like in Norway today, restaurants were an expensive luxury then.

Fast forward a few years to the complete cultural chaos of the late 1960s. Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem, et al were defining what women should be. Women had to have a career to be a proper woman. As household incomes rose, they started dropping their kids in day care, and were too busy to cook quality homemade meals. They turned to chain restaurants and fast food, turning out cheap, processed food (that would soon be prepared by illegal immigrants) and American consumers demanded more food for less money. As an example of companies trying to maintain their profit margins by cutting costs, Coke and Pepsi started using high fructose corn syrup in the early 80s, and obesity tracks closely with HFCS usage.

As competition among "casual dining" restaurants in a growing market increased, restaurants owners had to turn to cheap labor to prepare the food, wash dishes, etc. Rocked by chaos and civil war of the early 1980s in Central America, a tide of unskilled, uneducated workers began flowing into the United States legally and illegally. White and black Americans soon found themselves "above" that kind of work. The increases in minimum wage only accelerated the illegal immigration.

Furthermore, back in pre-Women's Lib era, women were expected to stay trim and be attractive. Once they started burning bras, they declared that they could look however they wanted. Divorce skyrocketed and an increasing number of children were being raised in single-parent households (mainly divorced mothers). As women grew bigger, being overweight became socially acceptable.

Cliff Notes version: women's lib caused obesity and accelerated illegal immigration.

What says GD?


Have you noticed lately that Americans are really fat? Yeah, me too! And so have a lot of other people, even to the point where the Secretary of Agriculture has deemed it an epidemic. Now, people really like to
point fingers here, especially in the direction of fast food corporations and the makers of soda, candy and processed foods. However, its not the manufacture of these goods that causes obesity; its that people are somehow compelled to eat them all the fucking time.

What could cause this? Two words: women's liberation.

I ask you to consider a few simple trends:

1. According to the American Obesity Association, 34.5 percent of Americans are obese; a staggering figure that seems to increase every year.

2. At the same time we have seen the percentage of women, both married and unmarried, who are entering the workforce swell from thirty-eight percent in 1960 to sixty-four percent in 2000 nearly doubling just as obesity rates have during the past 40 years (an R-squared value of .968 for you stats geeks).
So whats the connection you ask? Well, back in the good-old days, women were the backbone of the American diet, cooking up wonderful meals made with fresh, healthy foods. In the modern, "liberated" world, women are too busy having careers and book clubs to concentrate on cooking, so one is left with only a few options to feed the family: 1) Fast food, 2) processed foods, 3) one could allow the kids, who will eat only candy and pizza, to feed themselves.

For some twisted reason, women are proud of this so-called liberation that allows them to work, but causes their families to bloat into jiggling tubs of inactivity. Liberation? Sounds more like being fat!

An even more disturbing trend, for those of us with a social conscience, is the disproportion of poor people who are too fat to fit in a movie theater seat (which is the FDA's standard measure of obesity). Its also
 commonly held that poor women are generaly immoral and constantly engage in premarital, unprotected sex--thusly becoming single mothers. According to the 2000 census, a whopping 73 percent of these single mothers are working to scrape out a living for their kids, and are probably eating Big Macs and pies the entire time. And I've got news for you sister! You better keep working! No one is going to marry a woman with the ultimate triumvirate of unattractive traits: kids, poverty, and fatness. It pains me to say it, but if you've managed to accumulate all of these traits, you're probably stupid too, which makes you a quadruple threat; not just to your family, but to all of American society.

So thanks a lot Elizabeth Cady Stanton, now it seems that everyone in America has a chance to be as unhappy and bloated as you were.

Do you think that women's liberation and gender equality have contibuted to a rise in U.S. obesity and how?

Additional Details


Some people seem to have assumed that the asker is antifeminist, I find this curous.

I don't see how Spurlock's hypothesis negates the question above, in fact it might support it.

Since when do you need to cite sources to make a query? If I were making an assertion that would be a different matter--Also, since when is yahoo answers a peer reviewed academic journal--I thought it was something more informal.

Some of the answerers that respond with a categorical no and segue to an accusation that the asker lacks critical thinking apparently themselves are lacking in a sense of irony.

Allegra, did I suggest I believed it to be the sole or even the primary cause?

Rio madeira and Juniper women make good points.

Best Answer - Chosen by Asker

Perhaps in some ways. I'm a stay-at-home mom. My family eats pretty healthfully, and a huge part of that is that I'm able to cook a "real" dinner every night. I think that kids who have a parent around after school might also be less likely to become obese, simply because someone is monitoring their food choices and activities. That's not to say it's impossible for working moms to cook healthy meals, but realistically, they might be too exhausted to do anything but pick up some fast food. I also get more exercise chasing toddlers than I would at a desk job. I imagine the stress of trying to "balance" everything might lead some people to overeat, as well.

EDIT: Scientific evidence? Well, a recent study links teenage obesity to excesive TV viewing. Excessive TV viewing is linked to not having a parent around. "Women's Liberation" , in some ways, is also "linked" to not having a parent around after school. Connect the dots yourself.

EDIT: I disagree that it is "obviously" a correlational argument ONLY. If the average two-adult family now works 80 hours a week instead of 40, as a result (partially!) of women being encoraged into the workforce, and that lack of time means more fast food, then it's a valid point.

Long post, I know.  And you can probably skim most of it.  I imagine there are a few issues here, advancing technology and a lazy ass society that will run around searching for a remote before they will walk to the television and turn it on is probably not helping either.  Kids who would rather play video games than play outside...  I just wonder with the whole nature v. nurture in this regard.  I am the oldest of four...and the only fatty.  We had the same basic upbringing.  Same mom and dad. 

I'm curious what everyone else thinks.


  1. P.S. On a related but kind of separate note, I also feel that a lot of men want their women to be independent and bring home a paycheck but still do the "woman's work" at home, housework, taking care of the kids, etc. You can't have it both ways, boys! If your wife is working, you better be helping out at home!!!! On the flip side, if Rob let me stay home, I'd totally be down to do all of the laundry and housework, hot meals every night, etc. We don't have kids. I have no excuses. I'd be in the best shape of my life and our house would be pristine!

  2. LOL!!! I must say I have to agree, with ALL of it. Hubby has been out of work for almost two years. At first he was great at keeping the house clean and I would just do the dishes and laundry, cause I'm anal retentive about things and they MUST be done MY WAY! After the birth of our little girl however, things started to change. Daddy is tired after a long day with the little, and since mommy started working two jobs three months after having said Little, and not really getting a maternity leave, mommy has been a big blob of GO TO HELL when she gets home. It's been hard. Some days I take Little to work with me (cause I'm the only one in the office) and when I get home I expect shit to be done! Sometimes it is, a lot of times Daddy feels like it's his day off. I'm also the only one that likes to cook. Daddy's idea of cooking is microwaving a frozen pizza. At first we just kind of dealt with it. Now that Little is almost a year old and ready to eat more "grown-up" food I am starting to worry... I don't want her growing up with the bad eating habits we have. It's hard to shop, it's hard finding time to make food, it's hard waiting for the food to cook and then cleaning up the extra dishes used to prepare the food.
    I would LOVE to say that if I was a stay-at-home mommy I would get everything done. Honest truth, I like my job, and I like working. Sure, I have felt a bit guilty at times that I like going to work. Maybe the real problem is that when I get home, I still want to do what I want to do. There are computer games to play, emails to respond to, then making sure Little gets a bath. I don't eat the way I should, but we have been working towards doing better. Our kid deserves it, and we deserve it.

  3. We should start a movement!! TAKE BACK THE KITCHEN!!!!!!

  4. I have this book called Witch in the Kitchen. It's a sort of cookbook, with a Wiccan influence. It was very "eye opening" when it comes to how we view our kitchens, and being it them. It touches on woman's lib, and the fact that women started looking at the kitchen as a prison, being "tied" to it. I guess if a wife is a husband's "ball-and-chain" the kitchen would be considered a woman's "ball-and-chain."
    It does have vegetarian recipes (not sure if they are vegan, as I am neither) but I know that it has "rituals"/things to do in the kitchen to make it OUR place. It was quite interesting. I did not do a lot of what it says, like clean/cook naked, but it did make a lot of sense to use more "green"/natural products to clean your kitchen. Why would you want to hang out in a room that smells like a sterilized hospital room? And also, reminding yourself that what you are doing in the kitchen is not a chore or a job, but preparing food for yourself and your family is an important part of you nourishment, in more ways than just eating/feeding. It's empowering, and it's about taking back our kitchens, making them the real family room in the house.

  5. That's interesting...I will check it out! It makes sense...we have kind of been cutting off our noses to spite our face!

  6. Why blame the women? If you want to point to the fading culture of stay-at-home-parenting, sure, but don't put the blame on the women. Men could just as easily take on a John Cleaver role in the home. The point of women's lib is that the role, and the domestic duties that go along with it (including ensuring nutritional and physical education, provision and supervision) are an equal and joint partnership between the sexes involved in a domestic partnership. The Women's Lib movement may have been the catalyst for that change, but it's not at fault.

  7. I don't know how I missed this comment last year. I totally agree. SOMEONE should stay at home with the kids. I don't care WHO it is. :-)