Feeding the 'organic child': Mothering through ethical consumption

Kate Cairns, Josée Johnston, Norah Mackendrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


In this article, we examine the gendering of ethical food discourse by focusing on the ideal of the 'organic child'. Drawing from qualitative focus groups and interviews with Canadian mothers of various class backgrounds, we find that the organic child reflects the intersecting ideals of motherhood and ethical food discourse, whereby 'good' mothers are those who preserve their children's purity and protect the environment through conscientious food purchases. Women in our study express the desire to nurture the organic child, and feel responsible for protecting their children's purity. At the same time the organic child represents a gendered burden for women, our participants negotiate the ideal in complex ways that involve managing emotions and balancing the normative expectations of motherhood with pragmatic demands. The idealized figure of the organic child not only works ideologically to reinforce gendered notions of care-work, but also works to set a classed standard for good mothering that demands significant investments of economic and cultural capital. We argue that the organic child ideal reflects neoliberal expectations about childhood and maternal social and environmental responsibility by emphasizing mothers' individual responsibility for securing children's futures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-118
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


  • Care-work
  • Childhood
  • Consumption
  • Ethical food discourse
  • Motherhood
  • Neoliberalism

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