Male Privilege in the Kitchen

I'll be the first to say up front that, going on four years spent in professional kitchens, I'm still relatively green in the restaurant industry. That said, based on personal experience and anecdotes from friends and co-workers, I feel comfortable making a few generalizations about the biz:

1. Bakeries tend to be female-dominated.

2. Restaurant pastry teams are more evenly split along gender lines.

3. The head chefs in both scenarios are typically male.

4. Savory programs are predominantly male.  

5. The more men you have together in a room, the more drastically the collective maturity level drops. To my knowledge and experience there is no correlative phenomenon amongst groups of women. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If all restaurants had competent HR departments, the cook shortage would be exponentially worse than it already is. Kitchens across the globe would be zombie apocalypse-level empty, albeit probably with less blood smeared on the walls.

It's not easy being in a male-dominated field that attracts narcissists and breeds [borderline] misogyny, chauvinism, and the sort of "locker room talk" that Donald Trump famously attempted to normalize. I hear a lot of things at work that I wish I didn't. Sometimes I keep my head down and ignore it. Other times I play along and muster up some fake laughter. More rarely I call the guys out on it. As a feminist I should really do it more often but, when you have two X chromosomes, you need only speak your mind once or twice before being labeled and written off as a bitch.* 

The comments are never directed at me** but, as far as I'm concerned, if you offend a sister, you're offending me. We do not exist simply for your viewing pleasure or for you to judge us; we do not owe you anything.

I've been told to my face that I'm 'territorial' and 'prickly.' Who knows what gets said behind my back?

But also: who cares?

Multiple times in the past week I've heard the guys use #metoo as the butt of a joke.

I've been sexually assaulted. There is and never will be anything remotely funny or entertaining about those experiences.

Obviously, I didn't laugh. But I also kept my mouth shut, because I assume that people who make rape jokes are not very sympathetic toward those who have, you know, been raped.

Sorry, is the reality of what it's like being female too awkward for you?

Savory cooks only come to the pastry section when:

1. They want to borrow equipment (that will undoubtedly return dirty, broken, and/or smelling like onions; that is if they come back at all).

2. They want to use the oven.

3. They're hungry.

4. They're 'voluntelling'*** us to do something because obviously it's our job to make up for the incompetence of other departments.

Example: A hotel guest's room not being ready in time for check-in translates to 'let's send them some complimentary chocolates.'

In the kitchen we use the French term mise en place (MEP) to refer to everything needed to prepare a dish or recipe (e.g. portioned and scaled ingredients, rinsed and chopped fruit, ground spices, garnishes, etc.). 

On multiple occasions, savory cooks - and chefs, even, have come up to my station and started eating my MEP. Despite my protestations and telling them to stop, it happened again. And again. And again.

Imagine you have a desk job and are in the middle of emailing a client, when your co worker or manager comes over and starts messing with your keyboard; adding words, deleting words, inserting a poorly timed dick joke, hitting send, etc.

Even if I have the extra to make up for it (which I usually do because I trust no one, and also shit happens), it is the principle behind the action more so than the action itself that is the problem. Because taking without asking is a classic behavior rooted in male entitlement and privilege.

As a character in Top of the Lake China Girl mansplains to Elisabeth Moss' badass detective Robin, "There's a 'yes' no, and a 'no' no." In other words, men tend to assume that they're charming and irresistible - so much so that us asking them to stop is somehow, in their minds, flirtatious and not, like, us actually saying 'no.' (Side note: the perpetrators in question here are almost always in allegedly serious, committed relationships, but that's a thinkpiece for another day). Shall we take it a step further and tie it to #metoo? No means no. As in the opposite of yes.

The apology, if and when it comes, is perfunctory at best - sheepish and tinged with that 'this is me throwing my hands up in the air because you're a woman overreacting' that all ladies ever who have dealt with men will understand.

At a previous job I was actively sabotaged by a male colleague.

But I was told that I was the one who had to try and salvage some kind of professional relationship with him, which I did. I initiated multiple conversations with him outside of work, in which I asked questions like, 'what can I do so that we can work better together?' Everyone else had accepted that he was incapable of change, I guess, so I was the one who had to adapt instead.

Womanhood: doing 100% of the emotional legwork for 70% of the profit.

Some days it feels like an all-around lose-lose situation, and that women in the kitchen essentially must fall into one of three categories:

1. A pushover.

2. The Cool Girl.

3. A bitch.

I get a lot of comments about my face, e.g. 'what's wrong?' 'why are you mad?' Or, in the wake of The Dark Knight, 'why so serious?'

I never hear my male colleagues quizzed about the deeper meanings behind their facial expressions. (Or is that because there are none?)

Having a vagina and some ovaries doesn't mean that I owe the world a smile every second of the day. (Again, as a woman, I owe nothing to anyone).

If my face contains traces of distaste, disgust, disdain or distrust, it's probably somehow connected to the daily onslaught of microaggressions that I have to deal with, including men asking me about my fa-- oh, wait. Consider this: maybe I look the way I do because you, sir, are the problem.

*Fact: bitches get shit done.

**I made peace long ago with the fact that I'm not conventionally attractive and, at best, considered "cute." It saves me from the unwanted attention that I see foisted upon my "hot" friends, makes solo travel so much easier, and makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that the people who want me around do so because of my skill, intellect and sass. Cue Rebecca Solnit: There are things men do that are the fault of women who are too sexy, and other things men do that are the fault of women who are not sexy enough, but women only come in those two flavors: not enough, too much, and it is the fate of heterosexual men to endure this affliction. Let me play you a song on the world's tiniest violin.

***Voluntell (verb) To pretend that someone has a choice in doing something when they actually don't.