If I see a piece in Vox or Slate or Salon or Slatox that tut-tuts about something men do for the usual stupid unexamined manly reasons, I always check the byline: if it’s a guy, it’s often someone whose twitter bio has pronouns, pissy egotistical snark for the last line, and a picture of himself - glasses, always black-rimmed glasses - making an expression of faux joy and surprise - if it’s about games or movies or comic books or other . . . youthful pursuits, shall we say. That sort rarely ventures out of the pop-culture bubble, though. When it comes to Cars or Steaks or Guns they’re usually out of their element.
If the byline suggests the author is a woman - you cannot be certain, and off to Twitter jail if you assume - then I am filled with red rage. How - how can they presume to know? How dare they femalesplain? Do they not know that membership in one gender absolutely forbids you from making assumptions or statements or observations about the other?
I mean, it’s not like we’re all humans, with similarities so great the minor differences are the source of contentious nitpicking; it’s not as if years-long observation of other people who do not have the same groinal arrangement and have a different hormonal profile tells you anything. You (clap emoji) simply (clap emoji) can’t (clap emoji) tell (clap emoji) anyone (clap emoji) of (clap emoji) the (clap emoji) other (clap emoji) gender (clap emoji) what their actions mean, because you have no standing. You’re a Venusian trying to extradite a Martian at the court in Le Hague.
Anyway, BARBEQUES ARE GENDERED AND WE NEED TO DO BETTER
It’s why if this summer you will be attending an event at which someone will be preparing grilled meat outdoors, that person will likely be a man. It might not be; I don’t know your life! But even with the knowledge that gender is fluid, and that the differences between men and women are largely social constructions, we still presume men are the ones in charge of prepping the burger part of the cheeseburgers but not necessarily the toppings, and that they are the ones who get to recite dorky ’90s advertising slogans to each other and debate the ideal way to light a grill.
We are so stuck in the Fifties, it’s a miracle women don’t attend Fourth parties in dresses and pearls.
Like carving the turkey on Thanksgiving, who gets to man the grill determines who’s the biggest boy at the party, the setter of the general vibe. And the reasons why, and how we talk about it, are complex — and relate to thorny themes of gender essentialism. But data may suggest that jokes about grill guys are more prevalent than the grill guys themselves.
In other words, this piece has no point, and it’s telling you right off the bat. Bats! Long hard objects! See? I can’t help it
People have been debating men and grills on the internet for a very long time.
This is not an argument to be made for The Internet.
In a defining piece on this very subject for Forbes in 2010, Meghan Casserly
Again with the woman! What can she possibly know? Unless she has a degree in these things, of course; then we're in Expert Town, population Her!
explains why men love grilling thusly: Grilling is sort of dangerous (there’s fire!), it lets dudes hang out together while also providing some sort of neutral entertainment (getting to watch one guy do stuff and possibly also criticizing him while he does it), and requires minimal cleaning (self-explanatory).
Crackling mind, this Casserly person. Note the little crack of the whip on the way out: self-explanatory, because they're lazy and also bad at it.
Casserly also notes that this is a particularly 20th-century American phenomenon — in early hunter-gatherer societies, cooking meat over a fire was largely women’s work, and in most of Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Serbia, for instance, it still is. The reason we associate grilling with men is, like many stubborn gender stereotypes, a product of the 1950s and suburbanization.
Have men stolen a traditionally female job - and they would, the brutes - or relieved them of work? Anyway suburbs boooooo
Suburban homes with backyards led to the popularity of the backyard barbecue, and parenting books at the time stressed the importance of present fathers who’d spend time with their families, when in an earlier era they may have spent that free time at the pub with other dudes.
Qualified yay, I guess. But I came here for confirmation of my preexisting opinions about rigid toxic gendering, and I’m worried where this is going!
Meanwhile, she writes, “Marketing and advertising at the time made a big push to drive home the connection between grilling and masculinity. [Christopher Dummitt, an associate professor of Canadian History at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario,] uses an example of an early advertisement for a Canadian home goods store that features an older man cuddling a buxom young blonde while serving her a big steak off of the grill to illustrate his point.
Before that ad appeared, men had no idea they would want to make a steak with one hand while the other contained a voluptuous woman. They’d never put it together. But then THE AD APPEARED, and men across the Dominion were suddenly horny AND hungry, and this, this, this was revelatory.
In the Telegraph in 2014, Chris Moss proposes a more cynical theory: “The barbecue is a superb example of justified idling,” he writes. “It involves lots of standing around ... and allows a male to appear busy while women/guests/kids run around making salads, laying tables, cooling beers and generally doing everything.”
I regret to inform you that Chris Moss probably did not get instantly lucky the moment that piece hit the newsstands, his best efforts having gone for naught. I also suspect that Chris Moss is not a grilling man, and that many women who read the piece wondered which planet he was describing, were kids were making salads.
“I’ll be here scrutinizing the cooking of 17 pieces of meat, hon,” the husband says, the wife fuming, thinking: you just do that, you lazy bastard, while I’m in here cooling beers.
All these reasons that grills and men are culturally linked have one thing in common: They rely on gender essentialism.
Or, they’re culturally linked because men like to grill, and it’s a division of labor based on preferences and skill sets? Nay nay:
It’s the idea that all men share certain traits, like loving fire and danger and being lazy, and that all women prefer baking and cooking and running around being busybodies, for instance (and also that “men” and “women” are the only two genders).
That last sentence is like waving proof of inoculation when the Gender Theorist Inspectors knock on your train compartment door and bark “papers!”
I should also note that in my past experience, the women involved in our Fourth parties are all supremely accomplished people who enjoy baking and cooking and running around making sure everything is right, which would be held up as a positive attribute except it's a manifestation - sorry, personifestation of Gender Essentialism.
Only when women cease to enjoy baking and cooking, and prefer to stand over a fire while all the men are inside making catty remarks about improperly sliced peppers, will we begin to glimpse the great new world that is just within our grasp.
In his 1993 essay “Why Do Men Barbecue?,” which isn’t really about barbecuing
And hence a boundless source of wisdom about why men barbecue
the anthropologist Richard Shweder discusses the origins of male and female spaces in different cultures. In contemporary American urban society, we wrestle with Western gender norms at the same time as we reject them.
No wonder modern cook-outs are such frayed, contentious events. Cue the Jerry Lee piano-pounding number: Come on over, whole lotta wrestlin’ goin’ on! But as we wrestle we reject, because everyone’s oiled up, and just as you get ‘em in a pin they squirt right out of your grasp.
“One harbors the suspicion, however, that when settled sensibilities and nomadic sensibilities live side by side in the same sensibility, as they sometimes do, they do so unhappily or a bit uncomfortably,” he writes
To which one might add, one harbors the suspicion that the author knocked his smelly pipe against the ashtray and regarded the cat, and thought “one might entertain a belief that living with a domestic animal that does not, one might say, exhibit the conspicuous fidelity of a dog, is attractive to one type of personality, but less so to another, yet in the end the sense of projected love and anthropomorphized project creates a tension resolved by familiarity - oh, I’ve let myself go in my drawers again.”
Cutting some drivel; then
nearly every time I’ve attended an event where meat has to be grilled, not only are the men the ones doing the grilling (regardless of their actual meat-preparing prowess) but someone is always pointing out the fact that the men are doing the grilling.
Because your social group consists of educated professionals who must broadcast their sociological “insights” to announce their enlightenment, which absolves them from their own crappy personal behavior when the men cat around or the women turn into harpies, and both think they’re really better people because they voted for Bernie.
We love to talk about men and grilling maybe more than men actually love to grill — because these stereotypes may be increasingly less tied to reality.
It’s the exacting specificity of language that makes these pieces so persuasive. I remember when I was on the bridge of a massive cruise ship, and the engines engaged, and the First Officer asked the captain if the lines had been disengaged from the stanchions on the dock, and he mused “the lines are increasingly less tied,” and everyone relaxed.
As Newsweek posits, noting that what we now consider grilling culture incorporates much more than meat:
Such cultural shifts prompt wonky questions from social scientists that tend to go like this: Are the production decisions involved in modern barbecue practices, in which the diffusion of gender coding in food activity may be reflected in the growing presence of vegetables on the grill and more complex and varied meals, introducing a new cultural coding into the time-pattern allocation of female dominance of indoor home-related activities?
Translation: Are women and their efficiency making the backyard barbecue a better meal?
Well if women are taking over the space, I think that goes without saying, especially if those vegetables are now subject to diffuse gender coding.
It’s an interesting thought, but one that, much like popular discussions of men and barbecuing, relies on traditional gender stereotypes — that women are better at multitasking and care more about eating balanced meals. Whether there is there anything wrong with acknowledging that sometimes there are differences between men and women is a deeply rooted debate within feminism and the social sciences and does not need to be dissected here, but it’s part of what we talk about when we talk about men and grills.
And here we have the problem: something is better if women do it, duh, but . . . but are they better because they’ve been socialized? We can debate later whether there’s anything different about men and women, like we can debate whether Pluto is a planet or not, but if women are better at something, where does that come from?
An innate difference, you might say but you'd better check the room before you do.
A 2015 essay for Slate by Jacob Brogan functions almost as a mea culpa for his love of grilling. “I’m uncomfortable with the pleasure I take in something so conventionally masculine,” he writes, which is very funny whether he means it to be or not. “Looming over the coals, tongs in hand, I feel estranged from myself, recast in the role of suburban dad. At such moments, I get the sense that I’ve fallen into a societal trap, one that reaffirms gender roles I’ve spent years trying to undo. The whole business feels retrograde, a relic of some earlier, less inclusive era.”
Here is a picture of the author, being uncomfortable with his pleasure.
His twitter bio: "Rumpled linen suit, brought to life by a witch’s spell. Editing for Washington Post’s Outlook and PostEverything. Nominal doctor." Okay.
She concludes with the correct prescription: something must be forbidden.
The Brits have the right idea, banning “stereotypes” in ads from now on.
Bad ads brought us to the point; proper advertisements will solve our problem.
All the grill makers should run ads this summer that show women doing the grilling. It doesn’t reflect reality but it reflects how it should be, and if there are enough ads, it will send the right message, and men will no longer cluster around the grill, talking and enjoying each other company, but will be dispersed amongst the party population, cooling beers and making salads.
tl:dr: grilling is a male space, and we really have to do something about that.
The fizzled Fourth:
Sometimes they’re wet and cold. That’s because of weather. I think that dock is still there, but the lake looks better; the shores are more attractive than you see in that old picture.
The Goldfine story:
Llewelyn Sherman Adams (January 8, 1899 – October 27, 1986) was an American politician, best known as White House Chief of Staff for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the culmination of an 18-year political career that also included a stint as Governor of New Hampshire. He lost his White House position in a scandal when he accepted an expensive vicuña coat.
Adams was forced to resign in 1958, when a House subcommittee revealed Adams had accepted an expensive vicuña overcoat and oriental rug from Bernard Goldfine, a Boston textile manufacturer who was being investigated for Federal Trade Commission violations. Goldfine, who had business with the federal government, was cited for contempt of Congress when he refused to answer questions regarding his relationship with Adams. The story was first reported to the public by muckraking journalist Jack Anderson.
||What the hell is the matter with people
Doesn’t he look exactly like the type? Shouldn't he be sitting in a bathtub with a typewriter on a tray?
Sherman was a drama and music critic for the Minneapolis Star. He had also worked as books and arts editor for the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune and authored three books: 'Music and Theatre in Minnesota History,' 'Music and Maestros' and 'Sunday Best.’
He died in Minneapolis after suffering a heart attack in his office.
The newspaperman’s way to go, if one must. And one must.
Ginny Sims, previously with Kay Kayser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge.
Don McGrane put out at least one album, which was recorded at the Flame Room. You can still buy Flame Room coffee, too.
The icicles were intended to remind you that movie houses were cool in the summer - although this wasn’t a great selling point for this run of days.
Ten North Frederick was something of a dud, if memory recalls; some people like it, but I recall it as being big and stiff.
Note how the “Golden Age of Comedy” typeface is old wild west-style. It’s already being repositioned to the distant past, more aligned with the 90s and Oughts than the Machine-age 20s and 30s.
||The family appears in the news for the first, and last, time.
MAD times at Hi & Lois’ house:
For the Beetle Bailey to work, you have to suss out the planet’s orientation, and realize it’s “upside down” from our usual orientation. And you have to do so immediately, or the joke fizzles.
Let’s conclude that the joke did, indeed, fizzle.
That'll do; see you around.