Top Chef Canada “Battle of the Sexes” Begins

Posters for Top Chef Canada

by Jarrah Hodge

I am a sucker for cooking competition shows. Usually (with occasional exceptions) as a feminist the main thing I notice is the general underrepresentation of women and visible minority contestants and judges. But then I got the heads up that Top Chef Canada’s Season 4 was being marketed as a “battle of the sexes”.

Ugh. The fact that we were finally going to get 50% women contestants on the show didn’t feel like such a victory anymore.

The posters (above) were harshly criticized around the blogosphere because of the overall grossness of the marketing ploy, as well as the difference between the captions on the two posters. The women’s poster reads: “Is that all you got boys?”, which is seemingly directed at the men in the competition, challenging them to step up their game. It’s gendered but not as bad as the men’s poster, which says: “This kitchen is no place for a woman”, attacking women as a group.

Huffington Post Canada said it wasn’t sure what the show was trying to accomplish: “They may have been trying for tongue-and-cheek, but for the most part, it’s widely known there is a huge imbalance between the number of male and female chefs in professional kitchen. On top of that, suggesting a place for a woman is in the kitchen is one of oldest sexist jokes around — and was never really funny in the first place.”

Sarah Ratchford at Vice explains her issue with it: “The imagery suggests that the kitchen is too fierce, too dangerous, too competitive for a woman. She better stay out, where it’s safe!”

Top Chef Canada unsatisfactorily defended its marketing choice with the following statement (h/t Eater):

The fourth season of Top Chef Canada showcases the Nation’s best chefs and, for the first time ever, an even number of men and women face off in a culinary battle of the sexes that challenges them mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Food Network Canada’s marketing campaign plays on this year’s theme by using two opposing posters. One showcasing the male competitors and the other featuring the female competitors – both teasing the battle of the sexes angle. The competition may start with men vs. women, but in the end the person with the strongest kitchen skills will be named Canada’s Top Chef!

The response doesn’t really acknowledge the deep concerns people had with the wording on the posters, as well as the overall idea that it’s in any way meaningful or productive to pit “the sexes” against each other. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Trigger Warning for Happy Fun Ball?

Safety sign reads "Warning: Unpredictable Triggers"by Roxanna Bennett

A few years ago I signed up for an Artist-Educator class. I was working at an art gallery teaching kids and wanted to learn to write a more structured curriculum. I was super stoked about taking the class. It was a ten-week night school course, the class size was small, entrance was competitive and tuition was expensive.

The instructors were warm, friendly, and knowledgeable. The other students were creative, interesting, and passionate about the pedagogy of arts in education. The coursework was engaging and intensive. There was nothing not to like about having the privilege of being chosen to be a student in this class.

But five weeks in, I was forced to quit.

I have Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,(C-PTSD) which differs from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in that the trauma that caused my condition is not one single event but a lifetime of multiple traumas beginning in early childhood.

C-PTSD is chronic and can mean a lifelong struggle with symptoms like hypervigilance to threat, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty achieving REM sleep, dissociation, depersonalization, depression, and a host of related issues such as eating disorders, self-harm, identity disorders, paranoia, hallucinations, agoraphobia, and selective amnesia.

One of the hallmarks of anxiety and trauma disorder are panic attacks that can be triggered by outside stimuli. Triggers can vary greatly from person to person. While it is simple to assume survivors of, for instance, sexual assault, would be triggered by watching a violent television show or reading about a similar incident in the paper, this would be disingenuous. Triggers are subjective, intensely personal and can appear innocuous.

At the time I signed up for the class I had been in therapy three to four times a week for several years and was transitioning off of Long Term Disability. I had worked very hard to develop a skill set that would get me out the door in the mornings and allow me to manage panic attacks, a medication regimen to regulate my sleep and a lot of support from friends. I felt in control of my life, positive about my future and excited at my prospects.

Imagine my shock when I experienced a sudden, full-blown panic attack during a simple group game during my class. There were eight of us in the room, standing in a circle, tossing a volleyball back and forth in an example of a warm-up exercise that we could use with future students. Read more

Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Feminism Leave a comment

FFFF: My Gimpy Life Season 2 Finale

Friday Feminist Funny FilmIf you haven’t been watching Teal Sherer’s webseries My Gimpy Life, you have been missing out. The series follows “the adventures of a driven actress trying to negotiate Hollywood in a wheelchair.” It’s funny, geeky, thoughtful, and I’d argue feminist, especially in its depictions of female friendships and body diversity and challenging ableism.

The Season 2 finale came out yesterday and I wanted to share it here, but if you need to catch up first, you can find all the previous episodes on YouTube.

Warning: a little bit of NSFW language:

For watchers who need it, closed captioning is available for the video.



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The Round-Up: March 11, 2014


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Starting a Conversation on Bisexual Women and Mental Health

bisexual female symbolby Lola Davidson

Over the past few years several studies have shown that bisexual mental health issues are some of the most serious and overlooked health problems.

Bisexual women regularly deal with stigma and shaming from several different communities due to the intersection of biphobia and misogyny. Research shows that bisexuals have the highest risk of anxiety and depression, as well as the lowest level of social support out of any orientation group. I wanted to talk about why that is and how that ties in with the gender issues bisexual women deal with.

Something I’ve noticed that happens to both lesbian women and bisexual women is intense anger directed towards us for not entertaining the idea that our sexuality exists for men. There is still a lot of hypersexualization that happens to women when they’re with other women, and that hypersexualization can quickly turn even more violent when these women make it clear that they are not okay with their identity being seen as a fantasy. This violence can have a huge negative effect on women like bisexual women, who already receive a lot of social stigma for our orientation.

Bisexual women have the lowest overall mental health, which leads to loneliness and suicide attempts (in fact, 45% of bisexual women have considered or attempted suicide). The struggle of bisexual women has been marginalized for too long because of the way we are dehumanized as sex objects and because bisexuality is often delegitimized as a sexual orientation.

This also explains why severe issues of bisexual mental health are commonly overlooked. It becomes a vicious cycle, because the trivialization of these issues adds to the anxiety and depression which bisexual women face, and which women in general face after being told that their struggles are not legitimate struggles.

Being LGBT is tough and being a woman is tough, and being both can sometimes make you a constant target for scrutiny and harassment. I want this cycle to break and I think with March being Bisexual Health Awareness Month this is a great time to talk about how serious of an issue this is, and I truly believe that starting this discussion is the best way to start to end this stigma.

(bisexual female logo via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by Lola Davidson in Feminism, LGBT Leave a comment

FFFF: Frozen’s Elsa Teaches the Other Disney Princesses

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoMichelle Cameron stars as Elsa from Frozen, who teaches the other Disney Princesses that they don’t need to spend so much time worrying about landing a Prince.

Also featuring: Elizabeth Oldak (Belle), Tanja Nagler (Cinderella), Molly Gallagher (Ariel), Tiger Darrow (Snow White), Dominique Roberts (Aurora) and Celeste Hudson (Jasmine).

Note: The video is subtitled so I’m not including text of the lyrics here, but full text is available on the YouTube page in the video description.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Sister: An Unflinching Look at Maternal Health Worldwide

Title still for Sister, showing the word "Sister" over a world mapby Roxanna Bennett

“Pregnancy is a normal physiological event,” states Goitom Berhane, a health officer in residency at a rural hospital in Ethiopia. “This is not a disease. It is only that society is not organized enough to handle it, to appreciate its risks. It has risks whether it’s in Europe or Africa. Wherever you are, pregnancy is always a challenge.”

An unflinching look at the stark and bloody reality of infant and maternal mortality, the new documentary Sister follows maternal health care workers in Ethiopia, Haiti and Cambodia. Beautifully shot, Sister captures both agonizing and ecstatic moments in birth and delivery. from a woman whose fetus is dead inside of her, to a successful emergency Caesarian operation.

In the U.S., one in 4,800 women die from childbirth-related causes. The statistics in other parts of the world are staggering. In Haiti, one in 48 women will die of childbirth related causes. In Cambodia, one in 44 women will die of childbirth related causes. In Ethiopia, one in 27 women will die of childbirth related causes – that’s 55 every day. Sister is the story behind the statistics, putting a human face on the very real suffering and death of women and infants across the planet.

Photo of Madam Bwa, maternal health worker in Haiti

Madam Bwa, photo by Alexandra Swati Guild

Madam Bwa, a 65 year old TBA (Traditional Birth Attendant), living in Haiti, started delivering babies when she was 12 years old.

“I have delivered about 12, 000 babies,” she boasts. While she has no formal medical training, she provides the the majority of primary maternal and prenatal health care and education in her community.

“God blessed me to serve the people in this community,” she says, “Mostly to prevent them from dying during delivery.”

“Shada is the most miserable part of the city,” Madam Bwa says as she navigates the narrow alleyways between rickety shelters, “It’s badly built. If you have to transport a sick or pregnant person there are no roads in Shada.” Read more

Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Feminism Leave a comment