America’s Duded-Up Kitchens

Martha Stewart Living/Home Depot via AP

As more American men started to cook at home, companies started redesigning kitchen appliances with tough, clean steal and black-matte, and they quit coding designs for females. For instance, “Crock pots” became “slow cookers.” As Ashley Fetters writes at Curbed, this is big a change, because appliances were designed and advertised exclusively to women during most of the 20th century. Unfortunately, by bro’ing up appliances for customers big on their beards and flannels, Fetters shows how companies simply maintain outmoded stereotypes about manliness and femininity, and maintain gendered spaces.

There’s a pervasive notion that when women cook, it’s a chore, and when men cook, it’s an art. Like child-rearing abilities, cooking skills seem to some people to come standard in anyone hoping to ever be a capable wife or mom, but they are perceived as a special extra feature in men—a notion no doubt reinforced by a celebrity-chef culture dominated on one end by high-strung male food auteurs and on the other by friendly female cooking coaches determined to turn you into the most efficient and people-pleasing cook you can be.

Friedman, professor of American art history at Wellesley, has often asked her students to talk in class about the gendered spaces in their homes. And when they do, she said, “There’s a very big difference between the way in which kids say, “My dad really loves to cook and so we have a big kitchen’ and how they say, ‘Well my mom really loves to cook.’

“I think there’s much more of an honorific quality,” she said. “It’s more of a hobby, a leisure activity. The mom has to cook. The dad does not have to cook, according to traditional roles. ‘She has to cook. I’m glad she loves to cook because she has to do it anyway.’”

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