I regularly read David Thompson’s blog, and like many of his postings, this recent one pokes fun at a Guardian article, this time a piece by Mike Power, complaining about the alleged sexism of barbecues. The outdoor cooking of meat is bad, because men think that this is men’s stuff!
Thompson copies and pastes Power asking the following:
But, as several thousand years have passed since men had to kill our protein, make a fire, cook it and eat it, why is barbecuing seen as something women don’t or can’t – or, more accurately, shouldn’t – do? How – and why – do men continue to claim this sacred fire-space as a male-owned sanctuary where women are not permitted?
My immediate reaction to reading this quote at Thompson’s was that Mike Power was confusing a comedy routine with a seriously held idea.
I recall enjoying a TV show that happened on ITV4 TV a couple of years back, called Richard Bacon’s Beer and Pizza Club. Series 1 was particularly good, I thought. Series 2 got a bit above itself and happened in a bigger studio and with a bigger budget, and the guests became less quirky and amusing, and I didn’t enjoy it so much, but it was still great fun. The basic agenda was a bunch of blokes sitting around discussing their man-ness, with a mixture of genuine pleasure at often decidedly daft male rituals but also a healthy dose of self-mockery.
I recently caught a repeat of one of these shows, in which comedian Rufus Hound described how a typical male stunt, namely doing something that looked dangerous but wasn’t actually that dangerous, had become truly dangerous. It involved him putting a small puddle of something flammable in his hand and setting fire to it. His story of how this had all gone very wrong, on account of him making the puddle too big and then the setting of it on fire being delayed until the fluid had seeped between his fingers, won Hound the round where they were taking it in turns to recount their worst injuries. That his injury was self-inflicted while pursuing manly fun was central to why Hound was victorious. Doing it to yourself trumps anything that merely happens to you. How manly is that? In both a good way, and a ridiculous way.
The Beer and Pizza Club regularly featured shots of women in the audience, creasing up with laughter at the various masculinities that were being thus both enjoyed and mocked. Ah, men.
And, getting to back to the original point of this posting, I recall another Rufus Hound fire-based comedy moment on the B&P Club, when they were each describing their idea of a perfect day. Hound’s perfect day involved him cooking meat out on his patio and inviting the neighbours round. He said something like: “Nothing says manliness like cooking meat, out of doors, over a naked flame.” Much audience laughter, from both men and women. And from me. “Bacon” being a good name for the man genially presiding over this meaty mirth.
This is the kind of thing Power was on about. But what he misses, probably on purpose because he’s such a puritan, is that … it’s a joke! No, says Power. It’s not funny, I tell you! Stop enjoying yourselves!
And guess what, David Thompson agrees with me, although really he said it first and I am agreeing with him.
He quotes Power again:
This grilled-food gender split is ubiquitous, odd and unacknowledged.
And he responds thus:
This may strike readers as a bold, indeed preposterous, claim to make. One of the rituals of the barbecues I’ve attended is the good-natured parodying – one might say acknowledgment – of precisely those conventions. “Man make fire. Man cook meat,” etc. But perhaps we’re to imagine that only the keen social observers who write for the Guardian have ever noticed such things or found them worthy of amused comment. More to the point, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Power that quite a few people, male and female, actually enjoy the role-play opportunity of the barbecue – the theatre, the ritual, the fun. Even – heresy! – gendered fun.
Gendered fun. Spot on. Can’t have that.
I particular like Thompson’s invention of:
The Plastic Spatula of Oppression.
Not that men oppressing women is always and everywhere such a joke. That other favourite blogger of mine, Mick Hartley, recently did a posting about how a woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by her male relatives for the crime of possessing a mobile phone. What does Mike Power make of that, I wonder? My guess (please prove this wrong if you can) is … nothing, on account of him being (I further guess) an anti-anti-Islamist. It’s not that stoning women to death for having mobile phones is right, you understand. Merely that complaining about it is wrong.