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