Tag Archives: Alcohol

“The Kitchen is the New Garage”

13 Apr

In my continued effort to move away from the advertisements, here’s a lovely article published on 4/11/11 on MSNBC: “Home Kitchens Heat Up as More Men Start Cooking.” According to the article, men spend thrice the amount of time in the kitchen today as they did 40 years ago, and are developing new interests in cooking. To meet men’s new cooking needs, some interesting new resources are popping up. The article features three:

  1. Food Republic‘s mission is to “[explore] the new culture of food through stories, interviews, global conversations, and experiences. This is the site for men who want to eat and drink well, and to live smart.” Its “philosophy” section claims: “men are underserved in today’s conversation about food,” “a good drink is as important as a great dinner,” and “entertaining will enrich your life.”
  2. Man Tested Recipes offers “grilling tips and recipes for all types of meaty, greasy goodness,” according to the article. Indeed, the site’s homepage is a smorgasbord of chili, ribs, chicken, pork, burgers, pastas, bacon, shrimp, tacos, and pancakes. Of the 61 “top tags” (categories/descriptors attached to recipes), 25 contain the word “easy” (e.g., “easy chicken recipe”), 4 contain the word “football,” and only 2 vegetables appear (corn and carrots). The word “family” appears once.
  3. Cook To Bang, new book and website, offers tips on cooking and seduction, linking the two in a symphony of misogyny. The author suggests, “Food and sex have been linked since the dawn of civilization,” and that all men should learn to cook, for three simple  reasons: “1. Cheaper than a restaurant. 2.They’re already in your home. 3. You’re dessert.” The site also contains ads for AshleyMadison.com and recipes such as “Garlic (My Balls) Bread”, “Ho’s May Blow-Tatoes”, “Lick My Zucchini Stick”, and “Reverse Cowgirl Eggs”.

The article goes on to make some pretty bold statements. Some of the gems include:

  • Food Republic offers “man-friendly topics such as how to cook a rib-eye steak or make a Rob Roy cocktail”
  • “Because if there’s anything every man is obsessed with, it’s gadgets”
  • “The kitchen is the new garage”
  • “Food Republic offers recipes that are fast and easy to execute, using seven ingredients and taking just 20 minutes — leaving plenty of time for cocktail-making”
  • Reasons for men’s increased interest in cooking include: “single guys needing to fend for themselves and, of course, their need to impress the ladies”

The article and all of the sites it promotes are bewildering in their ignorance. In so many ways, they shove men into the same boxes that we see over and over: men should be able to drink; men should be tech-savvy; men are simple-minded; men are obsessed with sex; men are the life of the party. These stereotypes hurt men by creating unrealistic expectations, both for themselves and for others. They deny of any man who does not live up to them his masculinity, thereby threatening his self-esteem and the respect of those around him. The man who cannot drink alcohol, is not interested in sex, is boring, or is emotion is demoted to the status of un-masculine (or, feminine).

What’s even more enraging about this article is that it plays at promoting social justice. According to the creator of Food Republic, “Traditional gender roles have been turned upside down, and now being a well-rounded man means knowing about food, too.” The article attempts to trick its readers into believing that it is good for men and women. Men – because it will get them laid. Women – because “Relationships are growing stronger as they cook alongside their mate.” Yet in reality the article is an attack on masculinity by defining it in the same way it has always been defined.

Sadly, in less than 36 hours, the article has already received 82 reTweets and 77 Facebook recommendations. Its popularity is a testament to its appeal – people want to believe that men are becoming more “feminine” and that the genders are become more “equal,” when in reality this is simply more of the same. I’m afraid that too many people reading this will not be shocked by the stereotyping it commits, especially since it’s coming from a reputable news source – MSNBC.

Double Whammy of the Day: Booze and Homophobia

21 Mar

This blog has seen its share of offensive ads over the last two months, and this beauty out of Brazil is no exception. Cachaça, if you didn’t know, is a popular South American hard alcohol. In Colombia it’s called aguardiente, and both are made from fermented sugarcane. Cachaça is the main ingredient in delicious caipirinhas, and – apparently – strong enough to console you if your son is gay.

Green: Your son; Blue: You son’s buddy; Purple rectangle: Brokeback Mountain | If you gotta be strong, we gotta be strong. – Cachaça Magnífica

What’s incredible about this advertisement is that it perpetuates not just one, but TWO of the strongest and most harmful male stereotypes out there: that men must drink booze, and that to be gay is the greatest sin a man can commit. Even the language (“You gotta be strong”) and the architectural theme of the ad reinforce this notion of male toughness, intellectualism, linearity, and stoicism. They imply that every man should be a Howard Roark – a strong, brave, confident soul fighting a sea of slings and arrows. What’s brilliant (and devious) about the ad is that replicates the same societal traps that we’re all lured into; no man should ever refuse the offer to “be strong,” because that’s what being a man is all about. Thus, no man can resist relating to the ad.

The more obvious oppression that this ad perpetuates is homophobia. It suggests that a father (or mother) may need to “be strong” in a time of despair — that time being when his/her son and his buddy are watching a gay love story. Why should one be driven to the bottle by such a mundane act? Because nothing – not even watching a movie – is mundane when a man’s sexuality is on the line. In this world, male homosocial interaction signifies homosexuality. And according to our heteronormative culture, to be gay is to wrong, backward, not “straight” (crooked? as if any aspect of any life follows a truly linear trajectory), unclean, unholy, untouchable. The only solution? More booze.

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On a side note, what’s also interesting about this ad is that it subtly includes a classist/racial phenomena that is – to my knowledge – unique to Central/South America and the Caribbean. Bedroom #1, adjacent to the kitchen on the left side of the blueprint, is not a room that few of us (Americans/U.S.A.) would choose to live in. It’s an irregularly shaped room, more like a hallway, with a 6″x9″ space for a bed and a shelf(?), and a bathroom which is only accessible from that room – small even for New York standards. This room, based on my travels and admittedly limited knowledge of cultural norms, is where the empleada (“employee”) lives and/or works.

The empleada, also known as the criada, sirviente, servicio, or interna, is the a maid, housekeeper, or nanny (ignore the flagrant soft-pornographic photos in a Google Images search for some actual images). 90% of empleados are women (empleadas). They are regular fixtures in many Central and South American houses. They are rarely related by blood to the employing family, but often come to hold family-like positions in the household, particularly for the children, and may stay in a household for years or decades, yet they may be fired for any reason.(More than once I’ve heard stories of empleadas being fired for allegedly stealing). They are rarely contracted or receive any formal benefits, and pay is traditionally low. They are typically responsible for cleaning, cooking, laundry, childcare, and other household tasks. The bathroom in the back is normally reserved for laundering tasks, or for the empleada only. They are almost never invited to dine with the family, but rather eat in another room, or at a separate table. It’s no coincidence that the empleada’s quarters are attached to the kitchen and only accessible through it, or that they are as physically removed as possible from the employer’s sleeping spaces.

In my experiences living in and visiting South America and the Caribbean, empleadas tend to come from low-class backgrounds and have tended to be darker-skinned than their (often only slightly less dark-skinned) employers. While this is a deeply engrained element of many Latino cultures, many, such as the International Domestic Workers’ Network and other human rights organizations, feel that the empleada tradition is equivalent to slavery. That this element would show up in a Brazilian advertisement is, in retrospect, not surprising, since it is a normal part of that culture. However, to a North American or European audience, the leftmost part of the blueprint may not make complete sense. That’s why I noticed it.