I recently interviewed a chef who, although agreed to discussing gender inequalities in the kitchen, ended up being a complete misogynist. I was disappointed at first, especially at myself for naively thinking because she’s a female chef she would be feminist. But then I realized that I could use it as an opportunity to discuss how some female chefs contribute to their own oppression.
Erin McKelle explains internalized misogyny really well: “Internalized misogyny as the involuntary internalization by women of the sexist messages that are present in their societies and culture. Basically, that means that we hold misogynistic ideas ourselves, even though we are women. It’s involuntary because the sexism that is present in our culture is taught to us through socialization (the process of learning culture through social interaction), a process we don’t have much say in. It’s through observing, learning, and understanding society that you come to hold common attitudes and beliefs, including misogynistic ones”.
Here are some examples of internalized misogyny that I’ve encountered among chefs:
- Victim Blaming
There’s a lot of harassment and assault that happens in a kitchen. Every time a woman is brave enough to share her experience of abuse, there are always other women saying that they would have never let that happen to them. For instance, the chef I interviewed said, “I know there’s a lot of people who say there’s a lot of discrimination but it depends on how you carry yourself”. This basically means if you carry yourself in the right way, you won’t be harassed and/or assaulted. But if you don’t, it’s your fault for being harassed and/or assaulted. This is pretty much why most women won’t come forward and report abuse. By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for those actions.
- Tearing Down Other Women
The quote in my title is actually from the chef I interviewed. She explained that she hates working with women because they’re all jealous and competitive with other women working in the kitchen. This stems from society’s idea that women should be competing for the man’s attention as an ultimate goal. So I definitely don’t find it surprising that she’s had this experience with other women. At the same time, generalizing your experience to all women and saying you prefer working with men is misogynist. It’s also harmful since it stereotypes women as ‘bitchy’ and difficult to work with, whereas men are cool and fun to work with. How come when a man does something awful, they’re seen as a shitty individual, but when a women does something awful the entire gender is blamed? Your experience with a few women shouldn’t be associated with an entire gender. Also, if you can proudly say that you hate working with women, the chance of you being competitive with other women is pretty high.
- Saying You’re ‘One of the Boys’
This goes into the point above. Some chefs have said that they fit into the kitchen because they’re like ‘one of the boys’. This idea is very damaging not only because it stereotypes women as all the same, it also implies that being a woman is a negative thing. This is called the “special snowflake” complex, which is when a woman separates herself from other women by buying into sexist stereotypes. It’s the same thing as saying you’re ‘not like other girls’. By saying that, you’re implying that women are inferior. It’s so weird to me when female chefs say this since cooking is stereotyped as a feminine thing? Like haven’t you ever heard those dumb ‘women should be in the kitchen’ jokes? Oh right, because once you turn it into a business it suddenly becomes a macho man career… ?
- Ignoring Your Gender
I’ve heard quite a few female chefs saying they hate being labeled as a female chef. They’re reasoning behind it is that they just want to be seen as a chef and erase gender from the picture, “it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman it’s the food that should speak for itself”. This in theory sounds nice, and I do agree. But it’s missing the point.You’re ignoring the fact that the kitchen is a male-dominated space. So when a woman does break the glass ceiling, it’s a big deal. Not acknowledging your gender is also not acknowledging the discrimination and oppression women have had to face to get to where they are now in their careers. When too many people make the assertion that racism and sexism and all those issues no longer exist, through the argument of “not seeing X,” then it may cause some people to actually believe that, but it does nothing to solve the discriminations plaguing real people who suffer them. Worse, it hinders progress, as it asserts that no progress need be made anymore.
I’m sure there are plenty more examples, but the main point is that women contribute to misogyny almost as much as men. Another important note that’s often overlooked is that everyday people contribute to sexism. Although you may think they’re just harmless jokes or comments, they build up and become apart of how we think. And it’s not our fault, society taught us to think this way. Like the chef I interviewed was actually very kind to me, and I’d like to think she has no idea that her thoughts and actions cause violence towards women. It takes awareness, time, and effort to unlearn all the things you originally thought were truths. These people just need healing, but in order to do that we need to spread awareness and call people out people for their misogynist behaviour.