Why Should Men Get To Eat First At Social Gatherings? This Is Gender Discrimination

What is with expecting that women eat after men at social gatherings, and also, not eat more than what is deemed womanly? Isn't this discrimination against women?

What is with expecting that women eat after men at social gatherings, and also, not eat more than what is deemed womanly? Isn’t this discrimination against women?

Women need 2000 K calories while men need 2500 K calories a day. Fair enough! Who can argue with a scientific fact? Men being physically what they are, need more food intake than us women who are smaller and supposedly do less physically demanding work.

Yes, easy enough to understand. But do we take this knowledge too far? Sometimes – actually, a lot of times, when we look around, why does it seem like women end up with being discriminated at the dining table?

Yes, discrimination. Blatant, obvious discrimination.

Correct me if I am wrong, but at many social gatherings, the men eat before the women. Agreed they need 500 extra calories, but why oh why do the women have to eat after the men?

It seems like a rude and greedy thing to ask, but why can’t men and women eat at the same time?

At a sit-down formal traditional dinner, often, why do the men eat first, served lavishly and lovingly by the ladies, while the women eat later, served only by other women, while the men go off to loll in a comfortable place, burping and suppressing yawns!

It can be hard to control the acid regurgitating from an empty stomach while trying to serve food to others. But women being the ‘noble’ beings they are supposed to be, pretend like acidity is only for the faint-hearted, weak-willed sorts and dutifully serve food while they starve for another hour or so, by which time they lose the appetite to sample what is left of the feast. Yet, stoically, they plod on, not complaining, putting up with yet another tradition in our male-dominated society.

Even at modern buffet meals which are supposed to be informal affairs where everyone can eat at the same time, why are men encouraged to swarm to the table first, while the women coyly and politely hold back and curtail their hunger pangs gracefully….as ladylike and demurely as expected of them!

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Yes, even at posh buffet dinners or lunches, where the food has been ordered from a caterer, this seems to be the etiquette. What happened to the ‘Ladies first’ etiquette? Why do the men never say, “No, you ladies, go first….you have been running after the children, been laying out the table and so on….you go first”

No! it just seems to be the unwritten rule, that men will get to go to the table first and get the pick of the choicest foods first. Heaven forbid if the samosas are only one piece per head and a man decides to indulge in an extra samosa, then a non-complaining woman will surely not mind! I mean, why would she mind? She has been conditioned to think that being greedy is unwomanly. What is a samosa here and there, after all? In fact, she will probably console herself by thinking, “Great for my diet…..I am sure it would have made me put on an extra 200 grams!” A case of sour grapes! Or shall we say sour samosa!

Thus the self-sacrificing woman, swallows her mouthful of saliva and her pride, abandoning all thoughts of the delicious samosa!

When was the last time, you saw the ladies eating first at a buffet or a sit-down traditional meal?

Is it disrespectful to even suggest that women eat first? Is the thought so repulsive that we never even let it enter our heads for fear of being thought of as greedy?

What about equal rights? Or is the dining table one area, where we women will always bow our heads, gracefully gulp the paroxysms of hunger in our starved guts, suppress the ravenous cravings and fake a smile?

Of course, children are always given priority and fed first, often even before the men. No wonder, so many women surreptitiously grab a bite or more of their child’s food, while feeding the child. I don’t blame the woman for sneaking some food in. I mean, she doesn’t know when it will be her turn to dine and what if her other child needs the toilet, just then! Might as well eat while the opportunity presents. Little chance that the husband will baby-sit when her turn comes, so might as well calm the stomach a little, just in case!

What about equal rights? Or is the dining table one area, where we women will always bow our heads, gracefully gulp the paroxysms of hunger in our starved guts, suppress the ravenous cravings and fake a smile?

Sorry to offend the sensibilities with this scenario but often women with children use this excuse to douse the acidic fire that burns in the stomach thanks to a social system that ignores the fact that the woman has a stomach too.

Yes, she has a stomach, just like the man. It has needs. It feels pain. It cries with desperation. It needs to be satiated. At the right time, not when the food has gone cold and when there is nothing left of it.

But, being a woman, she has been taught that hunger is a mere fleeting feeling…to be controlled. The mind is stronger than a spasmodic rumble in the tummy which will not kill, but only make her stronger… a stronger woman, a more womanly woman!

If this discrimination is not painful enough, there is the very subtle issue of asking for more food.

Sorry! What! Asking for more food! How rude! A woman asking for more food!

Yes, well, women sometimes do need to eat well, you know. They work in the house (and it’s not all sitting down and doing delicate stuff), they work outside the house, they run after the children, buses, trains, they exercise, they menstruate, they get pregnant, they breastfeed, they have miscarriages, they take medication. In case nobody has noticed, this makes them hungry. And yes, a mere 2000 K calories may not be enough for a day. And yes, we women do like our samosas and we do have palates that love to be stimulated, and we do like our food warm.

Oh and by the way, we often cook the food too, but somehow we are made to feel like we should be feeling guilty when we ask for an extra chapatti or an extra helping of daal or a little more rice. And yes we like gulab jamuns as much as men do. And no, we are not on a perpetual diet and we do wish we ate with the men folk.

But why do people at a dining table not make sure the women are getting as much attention as the men are, when it comes to offering an extra helping? Why does the woman feel all eyes on her if she asks for the plate of rice to be passed to her. It has taken her all her courage to ask for it in a hushed whisper, hoping nobody will notice and think how gargantuan her appetite is. And now everyone is looking at her as if she is responsible for the food crisis in this world!

Yes, she will clear the table up after the meal while the men folk disperse and slink away ever so gracefully.

Sometimes, yes, sometimes, she wishes she could freely ask for whatever it is she fancied on the table without others judging her manners for it. Sometimes, yes, sometimes, she wishes nobody is counting how many ‘poories’ she ate and if she gorged as many as her husband did.

Oh and one more thing since we are on this embarrassing topic.

Yes, we know the extra 500k calorie rule and we agree men need more.

But when it comes to serving something like a fish curry or chicken curry where pieces of food are of unequal size and delicacy, why is it that the man gets the fleshy, juicy, meaty, fattened, coveted chicken drumstick (tangdi’) while his wife gets more bone and curry? Why does the server, usually a woman, carefully and calculatedly dole out an inferior, smaller portion of the food to the woman?

Yes, shocking when articulated in this seemingly crude, but factual manner, but true, nevertheless.

There is rampant discrimination at the dining table. Ignore it, but you cannot deny it.

Just look around and spot it.

What can we women do?

Not for a minute am I suggesting that we storm the dining tables of this world and attack the food before the men know what is happening.

But can we serve our sons and daughters equal portions of milk?

Can we lovingly offer our daughter-in-law a roti without her having to muster up courage and ask for it, hesitatingly?

Can we ask ladies with children to eat with the children, unabashedly, without stuffing their mouths with embarrassment? Especially if they are nursing?

Can we women and men eat together at the same time at buffets? Why not offer plates to the women and men together as a signal of starting the meal together? Why make the women wait unnecessarily?

The dining table is not a battleground and yet it is a place where women, whether they know it or not, realize it or not, are treated as inferior, regardless of what who they are and what they do.

Whether it is a stay-at-home mother or a high flying CEO of a company, she faces discrimination happily at the dining table or at least fakes it well. Whether it is a mother-in-law or a daughter-n-law, she knows she must take a back seat when it comes to dining with the menfolk.

Can we make a change in this practice?

Let us first acknowledge that this gender inequality exists and then work on getting our portions right. The 500k calorie rule be damned.

Image source: traditional meal at a wedding by Shutterstock.


About the Author

Vrushali Junnarkar

I love writing about anything that makes me laugh, cry, salivate, roll my eyes or pull my hair out. My book 'The Campbell Gardens Ladies' Swimming Class' published by Epigram books is now available online read more...

34 Posts | 320,462 Views

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