Food and Female

My neighbor is seven months pregnant. She is putting faith in her pregnancy, and she is getting good care and nourishment. She is enjoying her road toward motherhood while receiving love and respect. Is the need for nourishment only crucial during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

We recently observed the biggest festivals, including Dashain and Tihar. Everything has changed with time, including the way we celebrate and connect with our families and relatives. But one thing didn’t change. While we celebrated at home, male family members were the first ones to receive food. The patriarchy, which bases its regulations solely on categorizing males as the prime priority over everything else. Even though women prepare all meals on their own, staying hungry for hours, they are made to wait until men in the family finish their dinner plate to finally eat. Women still eagerly await their husband’s leftovers in many homes out of love and loyalty. Vegetables, meat, and other essential portions of appetite are denied to them. It has long been a custom and practice used to win a husband’s affection and demonstrate a woman’s devotion.

 Furthermore, it emphasized the importance of the family and the importance of offering duty towards male members of the family only. I have occasionally believed that it is done out of respect for the senior family member, but if that were the case, why wouldn’t a son serve both his father and mother? Only father and son are benefited from the circumstance.  Our society has a long history of giving men preference. Women often have a mountain of housework to perform, such as dishwashing. This practice has been unnecessarily popularized in Nepalese and Indian serials and films. The idea women in these serials focus on females waiting till male members eat and finish the dishes on normal occasions including the family functions. 

My mother used to complain that despite being expected to do a lot of work, she and her sisters were consistently given lower priority. For her brother, things were different because he used to have enough wholesome meals. As created as a culture in the patriarchal society, men were meant to be the guardian of family, while women were seen as other people’s property.  The topic of food preferences and eating, in general, is also relevant to the gender discrimination issue. I’ve often been puzzled why women in human form don’t have access to rights to food, job, or education, even though we regard goddesses as a divine power showering us with wealth, wisdom, and nourishment. Women’s rights and values are frequently imprisoned inside the stone idols. 

Back to the notion that women are only given care and nourishing meals during pregnancy and lactation. This is also different for many women in rural and lower-class populations. They are entirely unaware that a woman’s body is equipped to have children from the moment she is born. If she isn’t well-fed from the start, the growing attention to providing nutritious food she receives during pregnancy won’t assist much. Menstruation is an essential part of the body’s process of maturing women’s bodies for reproductive health. Instead of giving them access to the kitchen and allowing them to eat healthy diets like cucumbers, sour foods, and dairy products, adolescents continue to be denied enough nutrient-dense food. These foods readily supply the necessary vitamins, minerals, calcium, iron absorption, and hydration. It’s sad to realize that we ignore gender-based malnutrition, such as loss of bone density in middle-aged women, malnutrition in infants, anemia in adolescent girls, various health issues after menopause, etc.

Gendered norms on the ownership of assets, including land and resources, govern access to food. Most of the time, women lack the agency and financial means to make healthy dietary choices for themselves and are instead dependent on others. Most of the time, women rely on the nutritional preferences of other family members, primarily their husbands and in-laws, and lack the agency and financial means to buy and eat nourishing food for themselves. Men also choose the meals for the household.

There is a generational cycle to malnutrition. Malnutrition and gender inequality are related. Boys are taught to value quantity and quality more as children. On the girl child’s plate, entire food groups are frequently missing. There is still a widespread misconception that girls “require” less nourishment. When women are forced into early marriages as primary carers in their new homes, relying on their husbands and in-laws for shelter, clothing, and food. The majority of the women skipped breakfast, which led to exhaustion or the development of a variety of illnesses, weaknesses, and health issues. They didn’t have breakfast because they had to take care of their family and do all the domestic tasks themselves before leaving the house. It is linked to patriarchy when it comes to access to resources, and means of subsistence. Men are still the income generating population globally whereas women are either homemakers or work on fields. Without a good income source they are reliant on male members. Also, they don’t have resources to buy food outside, and if they eat inside the home before male members, she is considered mannerless and considered that she doesn’t love her husband. 

Women are more vulnerable to slight alterations in changes in external circumstances and are influenced more than men. Men select the food for the home. According to UN estimates, women make up 80% of those displaced by climate change. Their roles as primary caregivers and producers of food  make them more susceptible during times of drought, flooding etc.

This instruction can be changed right there in our kitchen. This holds for the phrase, “a streak of fire can change a generation.” At any stage of life, women have the right to access wholesome meals. Although there has been much discussion about the over-glorification of motherhood, I strongly detest the idea that it should infringe on women’s rights and stifle them. It is essential at this time to treat women and girls’ inadequate nourishment as a problem of gender-based violence to safeguard them and our future generations.

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