Rationed Food: Experience and Memory

Saturday, January 4, 2014
Exhibit Hall B South (Marriott Wardman Park)
Kelly Spring, University of Manchester
During times of national struggle, issues surrounding the pursuance of gender roles come into focus often causing reassessment and modification of these roles to conform to the changing needs of society. In Britain, the advent of the Second World War served to emphasize the dichotomy between the ideal gender archetypes of martial masculinity and domestic femininity, and the realities of life on the home front. It also served to intensify the debate about the activities that men and women should perform with regards to the needs of the nation in war. The necessity of altered gender roles in wartime, particularly women’s roles, resulted in the destabilization of conventional gender constructs and the rise of gender tensions between men and women, and among women. These tensions were evident in many aspects of British wartime life including food rationing. Rationing acted as a site on which the multiple complexities of gender were demonstrated, tested and reworked in the face of wartime societal pressures. Through an interrogation of food rationing policies, popular culture representations, and personal experiences and memories of rationing, my research draws new conclusions about the relationship between rationing and gender on the British home front. Investigation into the areas of marriage, parent-child relationships and women’s war work reveals that gender, when viewed through the lens of rationing, did not strictly adhere to ideal forms in wartime; rather gender roles were much more diverse in scope and complexity. These findings will be highlighted in this poster presentation.
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