PhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Sociology Professor Shyon Baumann published an article in the Journal of Gender Studies that analyzes Canadian television advertisements and their role in reproducing ideas about gender and motherhood. They find that women depicted as mothers in advertisements were portrayed as consuming for the benefit of others, while women who were not depicted as mothers were portrayed as consuming for self-indulgence.
Kim de Laat obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy at the Rotman School of Management. She studies the interplay between culture, work, and organizations. Shyon Baumann is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His work addresses questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality.
We have posted the article citation and abstract below. The full article is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.
de Laat, Kim and Shyon Baumann. 2016. Caring Consumption as Marketing Schema: Representations of Motherhood in an Era of Hyperconsumption.” Journal Of Gender Studies, 25(2):183-199.
What can representations of women’s ‘caring consumption’ (Thompson 1996) reveal about broad cultural understandings of the nature of motherhood? We study Canadian television advertisements to gain insight into the production of cultural schemas and the reproduction of beliefs about gender and motherhood. Employing an inductive qualitative analysis of portrayals of mothers and women who are not depicted as mothers, we find that the defining feature of mothers’ consumption is a unidimensional depiction of control and caring for others, presented as self-evidently gratifying and fulfilling, in the absence of competing consumption goals. Mothers’ identity emerges solely from successful consumer choices that benefit others. Such unidimensional representations of consumption stand in contrast to the consumption of women who are not depicted as mothers, who are found to engage in hyperbolic and indulgent consumption targeted towards self-gratification. We thus provide novel empirical data which show that depictions of consumption in mothers and in women not depicted as mothers are extreme in nature. Our findings provide support for, and elaborate on, the concept of ‘caring consumption’ by helping to make sense of media representations appearing within the conjunction of the contemporary marketing context of hyperconsumption, and the parenting/gender context of intensive mothering. By examining extreme consumption in television advertisements, we gain insight into features of maternal consumption ideals that may not be observable in everyday instantiations, such as the lack of mothers’ consumption for self-benefit.
Read the full article here.
PhD Graduate Kim de Laat and Professor Shyon Baumann published an article in Poetics analyzing cultural schemas in television advertisements to determine the impact of underrepresentation of older women in media content. They argue that the degree of underrepresentation indicates a devaluation of the demographic, which may have negative social implications.
Shyon Baumann is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His research examines questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality. Kim de Laat obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy at the Rotman School of Management. Her research examines the interplay between culture, work, and organizations.
We have posted the article citation and abstract below. The full article text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.
Baumann, Shyon and Kim de Laat. 2012. “Socially Defunct: A Comparative Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Older Women in Advertising.” Poetics, 40(6):514-541.
In our analysis of a large sample of television commercials, we find that the underrepresentation of older women is more extreme than the underrepresentation of older men. We investigate the cultural significance of this underrepresentation through comparisons of cultural schemas in advertising for age and gender. Our multivariate analyses show that while there are significant gender differences, both younger women and younger men are shown in a diversity of contexts—namely in employment and a variety of domestic contexts. Older men are portrayed more frequently on the job and with more job authority than other groups. In contrast, older women lack any clear occupational or familial roles and are the only group not associated with a socially valued schema. An interpretive reading of older women as primary characters in commercials complements our quantitative results. The cultural significance of media underrepresentation emerges through the comparison of cultural schemas for men and women of varying age groups simultaneously.
Read the full article here.
PhD Candidate Athena Engman, Professor Shyon Baumann, and Professor Josée Johnston, in collaboration with Professor Emily Huddart-Kennedy (Washington State University), published an article in Canadian Food Studies. The article analyzes how motivations for ethical food consumption vary across demographic groups and types of food. The authors find that, in Toronto, motivations to purchase organic food often came from a desire to care for others, while motivations to purchase local food were more focused on the well-being of the community and the environment.
Athena Engman is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto studying epistemology, philosophy of mind, and medical sociology. Her thesis probes the experiences of organ transplant recipients. Shyon Baumann is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His research focuses on questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality. Josée Johnston is also a Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga and her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.
We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the Canadian Food Studies website here.
Baumann, Shyon, Athena Engman, Emily Huddart-Kennedy, and Josée Johnston. 2017. “Organic vs. Local: Comparing Individualist and Collectivist Motivations for “Ethical” Food Consumption.” Canadian Food Studies 4(1):68-86.
We extend prior research on “ethical” food consumption by examining how motivations can vary across demographic groups and across types of ethical foods simultaneously. Based on a survey of food shoppers in Toronto, we find that parents with children under the age of 5 are most likely to report intention to purchase organic foods and to be primarily motivated by health and taste concerns. In contrast, intention to purchase local food is motivated by collectivist concerns—the environment and supporting the local economy—and is associated with educated, White, women consumers. In addition to highlighting this distinction in motivations for organic vs. local food consumption, we also argue that the predominant “individualist” and “collectivist” framing in the scholarly literature should be reformulated to accommodate an intermediate motivation. Organic food consumption is often motivated by a desire to consume for others (e.g. children) in ways that are neither straightforwardly individualist nor collectivist, but rather exemplify a caring motivation that is intermediate between the two.
Read the full article here.
PhD Candidate Athena Engman, Professor Shyon Baumann, and Professor Josée Johnston published an article in the International Journal of Consumer Studies. The article analyzes political consumption (referring to consumption that supports a political or ethical position) and its relationship with conventional forms of politics. The authors find that, contrary to earlier arguments, political consumption has not replaced conventional political behaviour and that those who engage in the practice of political consumption are actually more likely to engage in political activism.
Athena Engman is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto studying epistemology, philosophy of mind, and medical sociology. Her thesis probes the experiences of organ transplant recipients. Shyon Baumann is a Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga. His research focuses on questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality. Josée Johnston is a Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga. Her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.
We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.
Baumann, Shyon, Athena Engman, and Josée Johnston. 2015. “Political Consumption, Conventional Politics, and High Cultural Capital.” International Journal of Consumer Studies 39(5):413-421.
This article advances our knowledge of how political consumption is related to conventional forms of politics. Using survey data collected in Toronto in 2011, we examine how different kinds of political consumption are related to a range of conventional political behaviours. We find that, contrary to pessimistic views, political consumption is strongly correlated with conventional political behaviours. We do not find evidence for a crowding out or substitution effect of political consumption on conventional political behaviours. However, our findings suggest that political consumption is an individualized and relatively exclusive form of consumption, with demographic correlates that resemble other forms of high status cultural consumption and potentially limit its breadth.
Read the full article here.
Eating for Taste and Eating for Change: Ethical Consumption as a High Status Practice
Emily Huddart Kennedy, Washington State University
UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2018-02
Keywords: cultural capital, food, ethical consumption
Under what conditions is ethical consumption a high status consumption practice? Using unique food consumption survey data on both aesthetic dispositions and ethical consumption, we investigate how these orientations to food are related. Existing research points to two relatively high cultural capital consumer identities: the ‘foodie’, who defines good taste through ‘authentic’ aesthetic standards and the ‘ethical consumer’, whose consumption is driven by moral principles. However, ethical consumption can also be practiced in inexpensive and subcultural ways that may not conform to dominant status hierarchies (e.g., freeganism, food swaps, etc.). In order to better understand the complex cultural terrain of high-status consumption, we investigate how socioeconomic status (SES) is related to foodie and ethical consumer practices and preferences. Using a k-means cluster analysis of intercept survey data from food shoppers in Toronto, we identify four distinct clusters that represent foodies, ethical consumers, and ethical foodies. Through multinomial logistic regression we find that while high SES consumers can be foodies or ethical food consumers, the highest status consumers prioritize both ethical and foodie consumer preferences. Further, we find that respondents’ reported shopping locations and meat consumption corroborate the results of the regression analyses. The highest status consumers eat in a way that conveys both culinary authenticity and morality. That is, ethical consumption can signal high status when it is simultaneously practiced with an aesthetic disposition. These results are an important addition to literature that examines how food consumption repertoires can produce and reinforce classed boundaries.
The data collection for this project was funded by an Early Researcher Award (ERA08-05-060) from the Ontario Ministry of Research to Josée Johnston.
Professors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann were recently featured in an article on the UTM News Page. The article highlights their research about the food preferences of lower socioeconomic status populations. The findings of their study was published in The Journal of Consumer Culture in July 2017. Professor Johnston is a Full Professor and Professor Baumann is an Associate Professor of Sociology, both with teaching responsibilities at the UTM campus.
We have included an excerpt of the news article below.
What’s for Dinner? New study reveals how low-income diners choose what’s on their plate
Friday, October 27, 2017 – 12:44pm
A study from U of T Mississauga is shedding new light on the complex relationship between food, culture and poverty. The study by Professor Josée Johnston and Associate Professor Shyon Baumann of the Department of Sociology investigates how and why people in low socioeconomic households make the food choices they do, and features surprising results about how low-income diners view healthy eating.
Read the full article here
Through much of human history, meat has enjoyed an exceptionally prominent position in our diet. It is both an important source of protein and a cultural product with deep significance. Nonetheless, current and projected levels of meat consumption over the next several decades promise to overtax the food distribution system, push agriculture to more and greater reliance on industrial meat production practices, and exhaust valuable environmental resources.
Professor Josée Johnston and Professor Shyon Baumann have recently begun a new research project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, to study the ideas, beliefs and practices around meat consumption in North America.
They have noted that concerns around industrial-raised meat have coincided with something of a renaissance of meat as a cultural product. Even as tainted meat scandals shock consumers and firms work to allay public fears, meat plays a dominant role on upscale food menus, and butchery skills continue to confer status for chefs and home-cooks alike. Nor has the overall consumption of meat declined.
To study these trends, Johnston, Baumann and their students are scouring contemporary and historic news stories and advertisements related to the meat industry, conducting consumer focus groups, and interviewing meat producers. Despite the growing body of evidence that North American meat consumption is a social and ecological problem, meat carries powerful meanings about class, gender, ethics and taste. In some cases, meat is connected to national identity, and to masculinity.
By understanding how meat consumption is framed in public discourses, this research will help us better understand the social contexts that shape consumer choices about the meat they eat.