Why Tea Feminine in Western?
I like to drink tea and rarely drink coffee. Yesterday’s class makes me think more about these two drinks.
The lecture talked about an issue on why women do more foodwork than men do at home. This topic made some classmates brought up another interesting ideology that “masculine coffee and feminine tea”. It was a very easy-to-understand idea, however, I didn't get it very early on until I seriously thought about the arguments from the readings and material from the class. Now I’m going to explain why I was stuck there at the beginning and how I understood this idea later by connecting it to what I have learned from the class.
So, I did some research about tea. Tea was originated from China during the Shang Dynasty (1500 BC–1046 BC) (some argues the time was even earlier, it was discovered by the Emperor Shen Nong 5500-6000 ago), as a medicinal drink. Later, tea was first introduced to Portuguese priests and merchants in China during the 16th century and became popular in Britain during the 17th century. From my cultural background, drinking tea during the work or after meals is a very common habit in China, from young to old, and from men to women. Drinking tea is perfectly normal to both men and women so the idea that tea is a feminine beverage doesn’t make any sense to me. Then why did tea become “feminine” in Western?
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In the yesterday’s lecture, professor Szabo showed a video from the show “Sex and City” to us. This video leaded to a discussion about what certain food more appropriate for women and others for men. In the video, the heroine was a single working woman; she was looking for a mug for coffee before going to work. However, the heroine’s house cleaner, an old lady, offered her some tea leaf, she deemed women should drink more tea instead of drink coffee because tea is healthier; coffee is not a “feminine” beverage. Then some of our classmates added comments on this video, they thought the cause of ideology of “masculine coffee and feminine tea” is that men drink more coffee than women because men always go to work and need coffee to energize them; meanwhile, women usually don’t work outside as much as men do, they tend to stay at home and prepare meals for the family so they don't need coffee as much as men need. This unequal sexual division of labour is contributed by the ideology of “male the breadwinner and female the housewife”. Thus, coffee became a “masculine” beverage to some extent.
In addition, from the reading “‘It's Just Easier for Me to Do It’: Rationalizing the Family Division of Foodwork”, it points out that men are more likely to buy and eat junk food than women; women eat healthily and men eat what they want. Men is associated with “junk” and women is associated with “healthy”. It is women’s responsibility to supervise the health of each member of the family. Therefore, eating healthily is assigned to women. That explains why tea becomes feminine here. And consequently, in my opinion, drinking tea becomes a code of gender role that women “need” to perform.
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