Charlotte Hannah
April 10, 2013

Are Women Afraid of the Barbecue? Probably Not.

We may have made a lot of strides toward gender equality in the past few decades, but one place gender-based stereotypes are still undoubtedly alive and well is in the realm of food preparation.

How often have you been to a dinner at which the women are the ones both preparing and serving the food and cleaning up afterwards? Even among folks you’d normally consider “progressive,” or at least not totally barbaric, this weird throwback to the ‘50s still goes on. The kitchen is, sadly, still seen by many as a woman’s domain.

Now, outdoor cooking – that’s a different story. Ladies may be the masters (mistresses?) of the stove and the salad tongs, but when it comes to cooking juicy slabs of meat over an open flame in the great outdoors, it’s all about the dudes. Grilling is a man’s pursuit – no girls allowed.

It’s this kind of thinking that resulted in Margaret Wheeler Johnson of the Huffington Post receiving a press release from Land O Lakes Deli Cheese about the company’s new initiative aimed at getting women interested in barbecuing. According to a survey Land O Lakes conducted, “more than 84 percent of women would be at least a little nervous or afraid to use a barbecue grill on their own.”

Makes sense. The fact that using a barbecue requires the user to be in fairly close proximity to a controlled open flame makes it pretty much the skydiving from space of cooking. And of course, as this helpful article points out, women who use a grill face the ever-present threat of “burning their boobies.” (Yes, this is a real thing I just read).

So, to get women out of the kitchen and into the backyard (or, more accurately, to get them into both the backyard and the kitchen), Land O Lakes is holding a Women of the Grill event, hosted by Grill Grrrl blogger Robyn Medlin Lindars. The event will purportedly give women “the confidence to man the grill.”

Presumably the event will feature helpful tips on choosing a pair of heels that are both sexy and sturdy enough to hold up on uneven, grassy terrain, matching your halter top to the color of your designer barbeque and holding a spatula without damaging your manicure.

But seriously. I, like Margaret Wheeler Johnson, find the assertion that women don’t grill because they’re terrified of barbecues pretty dubious. In all likelihood, it has more to do with the fact that “men are in charge of the barbecue” has been the story for so long. Look to the vast majority of barbecue advertisements for proof of this.

And, like Wheeler Johnson says, ultimately it’s not really a big deal. The idea that women rule the kitchen and men rule the barbecue needs to change, because the thought that the act of preparing sustenance is/should be a gendered activity is laughable. But presenting grilling as empowering (overcome your fear of the big, bad barbecue) or even counter-cultural for a woman (Grill Grrrl, a take on Riot Grrrl)  is equally so. It’s cooking food on a grill, not demanding equal pay or speaking out against rape culture.

Has reading this given anyone else a huge craving for steak? Yeah, me too.