Be A Man (A Feminism Friday Post)
Right after they leave the judging room to wait to find out who has been eliminated (both were ranked in the bottom four), Howie and Joey get involved in a detailed argument about the meaning of masculinity. (OK, they don't think that's what they're doing. But, dude, it so is.) Joey has just said in front of the judges that Howie should go home, because of a previous (serious) mistake and because he was in the bottom four again. Between them leaving the judges room, the editors have inserted a clip of Joey saying "My blood flows red, and competition brings out the animal in me." When they get back out to the waiting room, Joey yells at Howie to "step up and be a man."
What, precisely does "be a man" mean here? Cooking is simultaneously a feminized field (the proper domain of the housewife, the private sphere par excellence, the location in which to be barefoot and pregnant), and a masculinized field (knives, fire, people yelling at each other, military metaphors, a lot of cock-measuring, pun intended). So clearly, to "be a man" is to force the act of being a chef into that masculinized field, to abolish the gender ambiguity. Joey is attacking Howie for being insufficiently aggressive. In front of the judges, Howie apologied for his work being not very good and vowed to do better. This was too feminine for Joey; he wanted Howie to be aggressive, defensive--to enact a sort of violent masculinity.
Howie responds to Joey in equal volume, and with an equally aggressive tone of voice. He says to Joey, "You've been blaming everybody else for your bullshit. Shake somebody's hand to be a fucking man. You be a fucking man." Here, he argues that masculinity is not about aggression. It isn't about being mean enough or loud enough. Instead, it is about responsibility. Joey does not take responsibility for his mistakes in cooking; his statements in front of the judges, and in general, show a disregard for the opinions of others. Howie is willing to admit his mistakes (his inability to get one of his proteins plated in an earlier challenge, for instance) and to own up to them. This, in his opinion, makes him more of a man than Joey. If he had been eliminated, he says "I woulda been a fucking man about it, but you wanna bitch like a little girl" about the possibility of elimination. At this point, Joey recedes into an adolescent sulk, and we cut back to the impossibly beautiful Padma Lakshmi leading the judges.
I think that Howie's version of masculinity is the better; I also think it 'wins the argument,' for lack of a better term. In any case, Joey gives up. But I also think that's the problem of Joey's masculinity--it only works if you get people to acquiesce to it. When Howie says, "no, MY masculinity, asshole!" Joey can just go, "whatever, dude." It's like how Eddie Izzard says--when someone yells "Bloke in a dress!" at you, they don't cope well when you say, "yeah, and?"
What do you think--about masculinity and kitchens or about this season's Top Chef?
(The Feminism Friday concept comes to us courtesy of Thinking Girl. Why not reserve some space in every week for a little gender revolution?)