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Prime beef cuts : culinary images for thinking 'men'

Brownlie, Douglas and Hewer, Paul (2007) Prime beef cuts : culinary images for thinking 'men'. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 10 (3). pp. 229-250. ISSN 1025-3866

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Abstract

The paper contributes to scholarship theorising the sociality of the brand in terms of subject positions it makes possible through drawing upon the generative context of circulating discourses, in this case of masculinity, cuisine and celebrity. Specifically, it discusses masculinity as a socially constructed gender practice (Bristor and Fischer, 1993), examining materialisations of such practice in the form of visualisations of social relations as resources for 'thinking gender' or 'doing gender'. The transformative potential of the visualisations is illuminated by exploring the narrative content choreographed within a series of photographic images positioning the market appeal of a celebrity chef through the medium of a contemporary lifestyle cookery book. We consider how images of men 'doing masculinity' are not only channelled into reproducing existing gender hierarchy and compulsory heterosexuality in the service of commercial ends, but also into disrupting such enduring stereotyping through subtle reframing. We acknowledge that masculinity is already inscribed within conventionalised representations of culinary culture. In this case we consider how traces of masculinity are exploited and reinscribed through contemporary images that generate resources for rethinking masculine roles and identities, especially when viewed through the lens of stereotypically feminised pursuits such as shopping, food preparation, cooking, and the communal intimacy of food sharing. We identify unsettling tensions within the compositions, arguing that they relate to discursive spaces between the gendered positions written into the images and the popular imagination they feed off. Set against landscapes of culinary culture, we argue that the images invoke a brand of naively roughish "laddishness" or "blokishness", rendering it in domesticated form not only as benign and containable, but fashionable, pliable and, importantly, desirable. We conclude that although the images draw on stereotypical premeditated notions of a feral, boisterous and untamed heterosexual masculinity, they also set in motion gender-blending narratives.