Monday, November 13, 2006,2:04 PM
Chefs vs Cooks

So Food Network junkie that I am, I had to watch the Iron Chef America special last night. In Battle Cranberry we were treated to Rachel Ray and Giada DeLaurentis competing in Kitchen Stadium. (if you have no clue as to what I'm talking about... just know its a timed cooking contest show). While they seemed to think that they would be competing head to head, they ended up each being paired with one of the real Iron Chefs (implying that they were not capable of doing it themselves). What really bugged me was the self-deprecating ways the superstar women kept refering to themselves. They kept stressing that they were cooks, not chefs. At one point one of the judges actually corrected Rachel Ray and told her she was truly a chef.

While I know that this was all staged TV and that there is education and experience that is needed to be a chef, the whole thing just bugged me. Having gender issues on my mind recently, the show made me think about our culture's assumptions about gender roles. It is still often assumed that it is a woman's role to cook, but those who have mastered the field of cooking are called chefs and are generally men. Same for teaching. It is generally women who are teachers, but predominately men who are professors. (It is still somewhat true when applied to nurses vs. doctors, but gender equality seems to be leveling out at least in the doctor part of that division.) Of course there are always exceptions (we now do have a female Iron Chef), but the stereotype is still real enough to exist. I saw this in the Food Networks recent Next Food Network Star. There were a few token women in the finals, but they were cut fairly quickly so the real (male) chefs could advance. I also attended an art show once where this was an issue. In the entrance criteria no amature domestic crafts were allowed. But at the show there was a guy displaying altered books (a very common scrapbooking technique). So if a guy does it, it's art, but if a woman does it it's just a mere domestic craft?

I don't get it. Is this just a money and time thing? More men have the luxury to make it to the top of a field? Or are there still conceptions of gender roles and hierarchy of the sexes that restrict women and elevate men? Why do we still want male chefs and restrict women to being mere cooks? Why do we as a culture still value things produced by males more than we value things produced by women? It makes no sense and as much as I would like for it all to go away, it keeps popping up to bug me.

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posted by Julie at 2:04 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


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