This article originally appeared on lipmag.com
MasterChef Australia released a promotional video for its new season that has caused uproar among fans due to its blatant gender stereotyping. The 2013 season is set to play out in an old-school “battle of the sexes” format. How original. The clip is awash with pink, blue and heteronormativity. Not only is it sexist against women, playing on traditional ’50s house-wife stereotypes, but it is also sexist against men, depicting them as barbequing, knife-wielding, flanny-wearing beef-cake. The set looks like a ’50s game show. There’s even women pushing pink shopping trolleys and men with comical blue barbeques, all underscored by cutesy jazz music. And of course there are cup cakes. So many cup cakes. The latest symbol of kitsch consumer capitalist hyper-femininity (http://jezebel.com/fuck-cupcakes-475125988).
The video not only oozes gender essentialist barbie-ken dichotomies, but it also places labels on the contestants within this gender binarism. There’s ‘The ’50s Housewife,’ ‘The Cattle Rancher,’ ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ and ‘The Tiger Mum’ to name a few. The either/or mentality of the clip is reinforced by back and forth ridiculous claims about men and women from the opposing side, the kinds of sexist generalisations that would probably get you in a bit of trouble with the HR department if you made any of these statements in the workplace. The clip opens with ‘The 50’s Housewife,’ an attractive late 20s/early 30s lady, claiming that ‘the average woman cooks a thousand meals a year. Men can’t compete with that!’ I just did a little bit of math and 1000 meals a year is 2.7 meals a day. Sure, 44% of the Australian population live in couple families with children (http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2011/quickstat/0), however the rates of childless-ness and living alone are rising. And therefore so are the rates of Mi Goreng consumption. The use of “average” here seems to not only represent that, statistically, a large number of women do the majority of unpaid household labour which includes cooking, but that “normal” women do the majority of unpaid household labour. And love it. Excuse me while I get my husband’s slippers. Next, ‘The Cattle Rancher,’ a generic Aussie bloke in a blue flanny points out that ‘if you look at all the top chefs in the world they have one thing in common: they’re all men.’ Thanks for that, buddy. Just drum in the point that while women do the majority of unpaid household labour, including cooking 2.7 meals a day, they’re not quite up to scratch to get paid for it, or for it to be culturally valued.
The women also make scathing remarks about men, perpetuating stereotypes that position men as childlike incapable buffoons. ‘Men are a one trick pony: they have one dish they’re good at, and that’s it’ says ‘The Tough Cookie.’ My word processor is already telling me that the grammar of that sentence is wrong and it doesn’t have a bachelor degree in women’s studies. Neither men nor women are a homogenous group that can be generalised about in this way. Sure, my housemate loves to fry himself up a chicken schnitzel every day, however my dad cooked multiple and complex meals every night of the week throughout my childhood. Diversity, people!
At least by the end of the clip, I get to have the cathartic experience of watching a cake get squashed into the face of judge and host Garry Mehigan. In that moment if I take off my glasses and squint really hard I can almost imagine it’s me smashing the patriarchy, burning a flanny or stomping a cupcake under a heavy Doc Marten boot.