This is less of a response than it is a prompt for my own exploration of her point.
It reminded me of something I realized as a child, that I had to turn to my mum and voice it out loud such was my incredulity. That realisation was that men and women who cook on television are presented very differently – they’re even referred to as different things.
Have you ever noticed that the female cook is referred to as a ‘cook’, and a male cook is referred to as a ‘chef’? It seems that the moment a process becomes professional or prestigious, men snap it up and snap up the better name for it, too. Suddenly women don’t belong in the kitchen if that kitchen is a 5-star restaurant or food critic job. Chef. How crisp is that to say? A chef can remind you of a proper, paid person who cooks in a big restaurant and knows all of the awesome meals. A chef wears a white hat and jacket and is in charge of a kitchen. A cook, on the other hand, is a person who runs the school cafeteria; chunky, rushed, red-faced and serving cole-slaw and suspicious meats to children, because women and children go together don’t they? A cook is also found in the kitchen of a home, perhaps big breasted and homely, cooking in a big pot over a fire and is very much a woman. Calling a man ‘cook’ just doesn’t fit as well.
Perhaps it’s just me, but the imagery of these words has come from reality. When I worked in a kitchen, the male chefs ate lunch together and left the female to herself to run the kitchen. When they had finished (there wasn’t really a time limit) they’d saunter back and take over without a word to her, and she would then take her own break with an allocated time period. Plus, the television thing.
To some readers, this kind of a post would seem nit-picky and pointless – bloody feminists being so feminsty and kicking up a stink over nothing, right? – but the issue isn’t precisely the words, it’s that we have the response to use these words. It’s not ‘chef’ or ‘cook’, it’s saying that one is better than the other even if the salmon is cooked the same. It’s how the same job is automatically seen as being more professional when a man does it, because men are, of course, worth so much more.
This ties into the entire workforce and the demand for equal pay and equal opportunity and equal respect, all of it. Language is part of this society and world and it has a subtle but real place in all of things. Those who belittle language don’t seem to realise that language does have meaning – after all, that’s why we invented words, so we could convey meaning.
Perhaps it isn’t majorly important, but I really just find it interesting. A kind of ‘oh’ moment that makes you have a think about how the construction of society takes place even in our vocabularies. What’s wrong with commenting on that? Does everything have to be extremely important or else not written at all? If that were the case, a lot of our blog content would be removed immediately. Except for my post about a dog, which was obviously ground-breaking news for everyone.