Masculinity in the Kitchen: Gender Performance in the Culinary Arts Industry

Mariel Cano, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

Men are still far more likely than women to occupy top positions in corporations, governments, agencies, and organizations. Furthermore, when women do occupy a top position they tend to feel uncomfortable with doing or saying anything that may impose on the dominant male culture. An interesting window into understanding gender inequality in the labor force and the issues brought by it is the culinary world. This is because it has become a masculine trait to show authority in all areas of the kitchen and to show a need for creative culinary potential. Despite the traditional role of women in household kitchens, men are constantly seen as the authority and some are even perceived to be a type of dictators. Stereotypes representing the kitchen usually portray femininity at home, but there are some symbols related to food employment and masculinity that allow male chefs to become immune to the femininity this space represents. Nonetheless, two major themes tend to pop up the most. One theme is the role of the media in reproducing social expectations related to cooking. The second theme is the dichotomy of food as care vs. food as employment and how gender has become embedded within this dichotomy. This study includes four central research questions (RQ) to answer throughout the research: RQ1: How is gender performed in professional kitchens? RQ2: How do men and women chefs perceive the role of gender as a part of their labor? RQ3: Are there any aspects of this performance that reinforce gender inequalities? RQ4: Do any of these aspects challenge gender inequalities? The intent of these questions is to understand and explore the main issues of gender inequality inside the culinary field in the El Paso region, the Southwestern border of Texas with Mexico. This thesis contributes to the research related to gender and masculine domination in El Paso, Texas. This study is important as it dissects gender performativity as a symbolic system within the culinary industry following a social hierarchy in a minority-majority city, with the Hispanic/Latino population comprising the majority of the population. I present data collected through interviews with male and female laborers in the culinary field in El Paso. A feminist lens allows me to make gendered comparisons in exploring my research questions and developing my analyses and conclusions. It primarily concentrates on presenting and analyzing data collected through interviews with male and female chefs and cooks within the culinary industry. The focus of this investigation addresses three specific research areas, primarily through the eyes of Latinos in El Paso: 1) gender performance in the kitchen; 2) the gendered perceptions among those who labor within the culinary world; and lastly, 3) the aspects of performance that reinforce gender inequality or that challenge it.

Subject Area

Sociology

Recommended Citation

Cano, Mariel, "Masculinity in the Kitchen: Gender Performance in the Culinary Arts Industry" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13886662.
https://digitalcommons.utep.edu/dissertations/AAI13886662

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