10 Shocking Takeaways from BlogHer19 Food
I’ve attended countless health, fitness, and food expos and events, but BlogHer19 Food was my first time attending an intimate event specifically designed for female foodies and content creators. And I loved it! I thought the value of what I received was definitely worth the money I spent to attend. I walked away truly inspired by the variety of speakers, panelists, and sponsors for the event, and thought the BlogHer team did a fantastic job with its organization. Here’s my top ten takeaways from BlogHer19 Food!
#1: 1 in 8 people living in the United States don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.
This statistic was shared by journalist & storyteller Paul Morello, a representative of Feeding America which exists as the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. When you live a comfortable lifestyle, even if it’s a very modest one, it’s quite easy to distance yourself from the overwhelming issue of hunger in America. It’s hard to imagine living day to day without knowing where your next meal is going to come from. Contrary to the conservative narrative that those who are hungry are lazy freeloaders looking for a handout and welfare, the truth is, many families in America often have to make the choice between paying the light bill or putting food on the table. They could really use our help.
#2: Sexism & misogyny in the workplace are commonly experienced by women employed in the food and restaurant industry.
It’s a very…rosy… outlook to believe that sexual harassment in the workplace is an uncommon experience, only to be discussed on a large scale when news breaks out that some celebrity has been accused of sexual misconduct. The reality is, women experience sexual microagressions everyday in every workplace, including restaurant kitchens. I was shocked and disgusted to hear professional female chefs share stories of their male superiors making penis jokes out of vegetables, of female staff having to delicately weigh the pros and cons of being social with their male counterparts, and of male restaurant staff having code names for female diners such as “rubber” for the most attractive ones, insinuating that those women are good to dump into. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is because of the long held excuse that “Boys Will Be Boys” that women pursuing professional careers have to endure this. Because the misogyny is so deeply rooted in our society, and because reprogramming the male brain to understand all that encompasses sexual harassment is slow work, women are left to figure out how we can set boundaries in our workplaces without compromising our femininity. Nevertheless, #TimesUP fellas…ain’t nobody got time for this!
#3: We are running out of food.
Amanda Little, journalist, professor, and author of the upcoming book The Fate of Food opened up the event by addressing the issue of population growth and the global food supply. It was a short talk that packed a powerful message. Here’s what I took away:
Realistically, not enough humans are willing to go vegan AND consciously live sustainably (fast enough at least) to save our planet. It might even be too late for that. Our world population is growing at an explosive rate, meaning the demand for meat is steadily rising while supply is decreasing. As Amanda put it, “Climate change is putting a lot of pressure on the food system…The food discussion IS an environmental discussion.” So what is the solution to this problem? In the future, we will rely on scientists, computer programmers, activists, and engineers to develop innovative ways to feed the world. I’m definitely looking forward to her book being released to learn more about this issue!
#4: Social Media has influenced a rise in digitally-triggered eating disorders.
Hashtagging body positivity is not enough. Content creators and media outlets need to take responsibility for the messages that our content relays to our viewers. Furthermore, we need to be innovative and disruptive in the messages that we choose to deliver so that maybe one day a post describing ‘how to feel better by tonight’ will get more traffic than ‘how to look better by tonight’.
#5: Furthermore, being obsessed with “clean eating” can lead to an eating disorder.
It’s called Orthorexia, and is “the term for a condition that includes symptoms of obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet.”
#6: It’s okay to doubt yourself. Produce your product or service anyways.
Negative self talk may be a large reason why many passions go unpursued. At BlogHer19 Food I learned that even the most successful women often question whether they’re qualified to do something. Yet, they do it anyways. When you know that you have an idea to share with the world but suffer from negative thinking, as most of us do, it’s important to develop strategies to overcome the fear of pressing “publish.”
#7: Networking gets easier after you break the ice. You just need to get out of your head and go for it.
Networking is daunting, but is nevertheless necessary if you want to grow in your industry or even just make friends with like-minded individuals. I was standing in the line for coffee at BlogHer19 Food and a voice inside me said, “Just break the ice and get this awkwardness over with, Maya!” So I turned around and started talking to the person behind me in line. Turns out, she’s from the South Bay (group of beach cities in Los Angeles) like me…and also a yoga teacher, like me! I lost track of her in the madness of a hundred female creatives trying to caffeinate before getting knowledge bombs dropped on us, but I’m grateful for that brief encounter that helped me break out of my social anxiety.
#8: Research your future partners.
While listening to Jay Sethi, VP of Smirnoff, describe the diverse and democratic roots of the popular alcohol brand, I realized the importance of researching a brand’s history before collaborating with them…or even before writing them off!
#9: Seek out conferences, events, and networking opportunities within your industry.
Attending events within your industry can spark creative inspiration you might not have had otherwise. While listening to a panel of women discuss “Food Photography, Styling, and the Making of a Cookbook”, a 30 minute discussion at most, I literally wrote an entire concept and outline for a cookbook idea that I’ve been manifesting for months!
#10: "It’s really hard to find Women Of Color for conferences.”
This was said on stage by one of the main event organizers. It was honestly tough for me to mask a massive sigh after she stated that, because in reality, it is not that hard to find women of color for conferences. Heck, I could’ve pointed out a handful of attendees in the room that were qualified to be on the BlogHer19 Food stage. Women of color have been denied equal opportunities for so long that our caucasian counterparts have had a massive head start in launching successful businesses, thus creating the narrative of what the face of wellness looks like. At this point, WOC are so tired of being excluded that we’re now setting out our own tables, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put forth the effort to offer us a seat at yours.
We exist. Qualified, educated, creative, innovative, and inspiring Women of Color exist. We exist in physical health, in mental health, in financial literacy, in education, in science, in tech, in journalism, and in food. Once I consciously started seeking out Women of Color in wellness via social media and blogs, I was blown away not only by how many exist, but also by how authentic, inspiring, and innovative their approaches are. My message to the BlogHer team that scouts speakers is simple: Do Better! Qualified Women of Color for your events exist…you just need to look. And if you need a team member that is willing to do this work, you have an excited & able volunteer right here!
Edit: After publishing this blog recap of BlogHer19 Food, I was personally contacted by the organization and was invited to discuss my views on creating a more diverse and inclusive space. Turns out, the words quoted above were spoken to sarcastically convey the excuses of many conferences and organizations who claim that women of color for their events don’t exist. Upon review, this organization is true to it’s message of using women’s collective voices to bridge cultural divides and is very proactive about becoming more inclusive in its events!