Tuesday, March 14, 2006

First Thoughts: One Dozen Chicken Eggs

This is the second post in my "First Thoughts" series, where I brainstorm about a topic of interest to me and, I hope, to you. The first one, if you missed it, was on scrapbooking and feminism.

This installment of First Thoughts requires your help, gentle readers. I (probably foolishly) submitted a paper proposal to a food studies conference taking place on campus. (Food studies? Yeah, I know. Not my field! But a friend asked me to submit, and Fantastic Adviser is heavily involved with the conference.) Here's the abstract for the as-yet-unwritten paper, which I found out has been accepted for presentation in early May:
Why would a food industry promotion need to remind consumers that its product can indeed be ingested? With its “Incredible Edible Egg” marketing campaign, the American Egg Board, which promotes egg consumption in the U.S., is doing just that. The discourse surrounding eggs highlights more than just a nervousness about eating them; it also taps into the American cultural obsession with human ova. Americans’ lack of scientific literacy means that they tend to fall back on what they know--in this case the chicken egg--when they attempt to make sense of complicated phenomena such as human reproduction. Americans even discursively whisk together eggs from women and hens; for example, a recent report on human endometriosis bore the title “Scrambled Eggs,” and an advertisement calling for human egg donors graphically replaced women’s eggs with their avian counterpart. In an age of breezy conflations of the two types of eggs, Americans’ anxiety about the uncontrolled and uncontrollable aspects of human conception may be quelled in part by the smooth, perfectly uniform, unblemished appearance of white chicken eggs nestled by the dozen in their seemingly sterile styrofoam containers. Drawing primarily on a Prownian analysis of chicken eggs as a cultural artifact, but also employing textual interpretation, this paper seeks to demonstrate how the chicken eggs sold in the average supermarket are at once a site of reassurance and anxiety for U.S. consumers.

What are your first thoughts? Any advertisements, images, anecdotes, or academic resources come to mind when you read this? If so, please share! Trillwing is kind of up a tree with a paddle on this one.

Of course, I have lots of ideas, which I'll share with you later this week. But I'm not exactly sure in what direction to go with this.


Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hi. I followed a link here from Phantom Scribbler. And I'll bite.

I think the fact that advertizers use chicken eggs as a symbol for every other kind of egg, including human, because the average American is so completely out of touch with the natural world. That is, no one has ever seen any egg other than a chicken egg.

Are people squeamish about eating eggs? I don't think people think about what they're eating. They just eat.

Jeff Mather said...

In the checkout line at Stop & Shop today the woman ahead of me had eggs, and I remembered I needed to reply. When I first moved to Mass., I was amazed that most (90%+) of the eggs in the stores were brown. Everywhere else I had only seen white eggs, advertising only uses white eggs, paint manufacturers have "eggshell white," etc.

It's a white-washing of eggs.

Perhaps not exactly what you were looking for...