So there was just an ad on for grills and grilling accessories, featuring men grilling. No women in sight. Meat, sunshine, comraderie, smoke. Since the sound was off, I could not hear the voice-over, but I suspect it was deep, gruff, and manly, as is typical for these commercials.
But not a women in sight for the whole of 30 seconds.
This reminded me of a roommate I used to have. He and most of our
friends had a code: women do not grill. They do not touch the grill.
They do not touch meat on the grill. If there should be a few vegetables
on the grill for some traitorous friend who believed that a meal needed
more than meat and starch, they were not to touch that either. Not the
tools, not the sauce, not the charcoal, not the lid. The grill was a Man
Zone. On one memorable occasion when a woman picked up tongs and turned
a nearly-burnt chicken breast, four voices hollered, “She’s touching
the grill! She’s touching the meat!” And my roommate came bolting out of
the apartment, turned the chicken back over, and told her not to touch
it, that he had just turned it, and that women were not allowed to touch
For the record, I don’t care who touches the grill, as long as the food is cooked.
Since I saw that ad, I’ve been thinking about other ads I’ve seen for
grilling, and cooking in general. If it involves the kitchen, common
kitchen tools, family meals, desserts, good, wholesome nutrition—it’s
going to feature a woman, almost every time. If it involves grilling,
tailgating, campfire cooking, BBQ—it’s gonna be a man. Healthy or pretty
food—women. Junk food, sloppy food—men.
Once again, thank you, advertising, for reinforcing outdated stereotypes.
Plenty of men love (or at least like) to cook and be in the kitchen,
and at least some will admit it. I thank the rise of celebrity chefs for
that. BAM! Plenty of women cook out, and there are more than a few
female teams on the competitive BBQ circuit. Men are completely capable
of cooking full meals, packing lunches, baking cookies, handling
nutritional needs, pouring cereal, converting bread to toast, everything
that women are seen doing in commercials.
So why don’t we see more of this in popular media?
My guess is that many of the people running the advertising are still
locked into the idea that woman are the primary shoppers and decision
makers in a family, and that they will mirror what their own do. That
they trust their own. That they connect with their own. Ditto with men,
assumed to be the primary consumers of grills, steaks, and brats. (We’ll
ignore for a moment the lack of ethnic diversity in commercials.)
Maybe I’m crazy, but if a cereal or soup or a frozen-in-bag meal or a
set of pans or tools looks good to a consumer, I doubt that they would
not buy it because of the gender of the person in the commercial. A
company might even pick up some customers if they turned things on their
heads and gave a woman some meat tongs and a ribeye and a guy a big
steaming bowl of mac-and-cheese or a homemade birthday cake.
And I might be going out on a limb here, but maybe some men who are
reluctant to pick up a whisk might do so if they saw more of themselves
doing it. Not just one on a cooking show, but in everyday,
shown-repeatedly-everywhere commercials. Let’s trade in some of the
emaciated slacks and shirts modelmen in guy’s magazines and replace them
with burly, bellied, bearded dudes making toaster pastries for their
daughters, or a guy in coveralls using some good olive oil in his pasta.
How about Mr. Shirt-and-Tie extolling the virtues of how this dish soap
works great on the glass dish he baked a lasagna in, or how these are
the easiest, tastiest break-and-bake-cookies ever (while a bunch of his
buddies devour them).
Heck, maybe, just maybe, he pulls a Mrs. So-and-so’s apple pie out of
the oven while a women hollers from outside that the burgers are ready,
and could he please grab the ketchup?