Is This Lady Like? Portrayals of Single, Career Based Women’s Relationship With Food in American Sitcoms.
Exposure to popular culture is an important dimension of gender role socialization. The literature shows that there are specific gender norms that are reflected in the way individuals of a gender consumes, chooses, and thinks about food (Counihan, 1992, Oakes and Slotterbeck, 2005). In this paper, we report the results of a content analysis of six popular and influential American television situation comedies depicting a single, working woman. We are interested in the main character and the supporting cast’s eating habits and attitudes toward food. We are also interested in how the female protagonists eating habits and relationship with food changes between the first major TV sitcom starring an employed single woman, That Girl in 1966, and the most recent TV sitcom in our sample, The Mindy Project. Our findings indicate a paucity of food in TV programs portraying single working women, especially in more recent programs. Women are rarely shown eating, and when they do eat, they are shown consuming “feminine foods” such as salads. We observe a change in the portrayal of women’s domestic roles, with a gradual shedding of any domestic roles or skills in more recent programs and an emphasis on role reversal, with men depicted as more skilled in cooking and self-care. We contribute to the literature on the portrayal of women in popular culture and add a new focus by using the lens of eating and domestic roles in TV sitcoms to study gender roles.