Chapman Assistant Professor of Media Studies Emily Contois is an expert on the intersections among food, gender and media. This fall, she will publish her first book, Diners, Dudes & Diets, which explores gender and power in American food media and culture.
My study is “a history of our very recent past, especially the social and cultural effects of the Great Recession,” Contois remarked. “It demonstrates how and why food remains an anxious arena within our consumer culture, as various industries engage in a contest over our identities.”
Contois noted that, while most scholarship on food and gender has looked at women and femininity, her study breaks new ground by focusing on masculinity: “I hope readers take away a new understanding of how seemingly trivial media phenomena — like ‘dude food’ or the ‘dad bod’ or Guy Fieri with his bleached, spiked hair — tell deeply complex stories that deserve to be taken seriously. I also hope readers feel freshly empowered as critical consumers of food media and the messages it imparts, particularly about our gender identities, but also about race, class and sexualities.”
The art of promotion
These days, every monograph, even academic ones, require energetic publicity in order to get noticed in a crowded publishing marketplace. To help with getting her work into readers’ minds and hands, Contois collaborated with Val Hinkle, a University of Tulsa student majoring in music.
After consulting with Contois on the project brief, Hinkle designed promotional postcards that are sent out to everyone who preorders a copy of the book. “As a future graphic designer and musician, I wanted to put my creative skills to work for a professor who I really enjoyed studying with,” said Hinkle. “Professor Contois’ research and teaching are both really interdisciplinary and dynamic, so I wanted my design to reflect that.”
Hinkle and Contois worked together to design the postcards, which are being sent to everyone who orders a copy of Diners, Dudes & Diets prior to its official release on Nov. 16.
“It’s been gratifying to interact with folks as they’re preordering the book, and I’ve mailed postcards all over the United States and a few abroad, too,” Contois said. “Val’s designs are a fabulous visual representation of my book’s food media case studies: cookbooks, food TV, food and beverages and weight loss programs, all marketed to men in the last decade or so.”
If you would like to learn more about Contois’ study first hand, Magic City Books will be hosting a virtual launch on Nov. 16.