Crap Word of the Week: Gastrosexual

// 25 July 2008

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We’ve seen the so-called metrosexuals and ubersexuals (courtesy of the trend experts) and now we have the food company PurAsia commissioning a report on the apparent “Emergence of the Gastrosexual.” We’re told (click on the PDF on the left of their page) this is a term used to describe

…masculine, upwardly mobile men, aged 25-44, who are passionate about cooking and the rewards that it might bring – pleasure, praise and potential seduction.

Aside from the glaring traditionalism suggested by their unquestioning use of the word “masculine,” this all sounds very compelling but is making the whole thing sound like a sex craze involving the contents of people’s stomachs really the most honest way to demonstrate their findings? I know “sex sells” and all that but it sounds to me like some branding expert considered the seduction part and decided the public would only be able to muster up any interest in the phenomenon if they forgot all the other factors and focused on the sexy bit.

The background is this: PurAsia are just about to launch a new Asian cooking product. They say they commissioned the report because they realised they needed to consider men more when looking at their “target market.” Sounds fair enough. However, it looks like there’s no need for gender traditionalists to worry that such inclusion will challenge the status quo because the report frequently refers to how these “unabashedly male cooks” approach their cooking in a so-called “male” way (whatever that means). Oh. So, in case we were wondering, these guys are not at all like women or anything shocking like that. No way.

To be fair, it’s not all retrogressive stuff. Professor Melanie Howard is quoted saying:

Cooking is an efficient contribution to the house given the time you spend … it means that you’re a good modern bloke and you’re playing your part…

But no! Wait! She also says “it is actually a more rewarding and creative form of domestic contribution” (more rewarding than the bits women can still expect to do?), along with this:

Many celebrity chefs are conspicuously masculine, red-blooded men. There is no suggestion that cooking is anything less than manly, which I think does make this field more attractive to men – and can actually also appeal to women.”

The message coming through here is that men will only take an interest in something traditionally seen as “feminine” if they have macho role models to show them it’s still “manly.” Isn’t that rather insulting to men? I’d say yes because, even today, it seems they are widely assumed to be so utterly misogynistic that their every move must be informed by reassurance from other men that they are still part of the gang and still very different from women. How sad.

On the one hand, we are being told this is a case of men being progressive. On the other, it is being admitted that it’s macho. Either way, there have certainly been some contradictory messages contained in the reporting on this issue. On a more positive note, there were guests* on BBC Breakfast this week, arguing that the matter is “more of a new man thing than a macho one” but this was slightly soured by the admission of one guy in their vox pop that he “leaves the practical stuff” to his girlfriend. Much as I’d like to be optimistic, I would say this sounds very much like the scenario one my boyfriend’s chums described when she said her boyfriend loves cooking so it is her job to do the clearing up. Each to their own when it comes to private arrangements in relationships but it sounds to me like he got the better deal there.

In keeping with the argument that this is an all-too-common state of affairs, the presenter Sian Williams suggested women are often expected to multi-task and undertake a number of domestic chores, while men are given more opportunity to choose one job they can take pride in. Interestingly, one of the guests replied that it doesn’t matter that some men don’t like to clear up because we have dishwashers now and that means “everyone can have fun.” I guess he actually meant to say everyone who can afford a dishwasher can have fun. Oh well. I suppose those who can’t will just have to battle it out if no-one wants to clean up. Someone’s going to have to buckle aren’t they? But, surely, when it comes to domestic work, whoever does it and however dull it is, it’s still important?

The trouble is that we seem to still be living in a world where work only becomes worthy of respect if it predominantly becomes “Men’s work” and understood as something that does not detract from “manliness” if a man does it. Sadly, I’d say this study is a symptom of that.

Photo by McBeth, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Please note that no-follow tags were used for the link to the PurAsia site.

* I didn’t catch the names of the guests who appeared on BBC Breakfast this week to talk about men and cooking so if you know who they were, please get in touch!

Comments From You

aimee // Posted 25 July 2008 at 5:22 pm

Anything to excuse men’s so called ‘feminine’ behaviour, eh? It seems as though these men are threatened by the prevalence of ‘men doing girly things and not being ashamed by it’, and therefore have to make up silly words to equate this behaviour with male sexuality. How sad.

chem_fem // Posted 25 July 2008 at 5:52 pm

The lengths some folk go to to get the men in their lives to do some housework!

I’m awaiting the vacuumsexual and laundrysexual movements with baited breath.

Shev // Posted 26 July 2008 at 12:41 pm

I have to say, this is of absolutely no surprise to me whatsoever. Cooking is pleasurable, creative, and results in praise and adulation – if you are a male (celeb) chef that is. Then, you can splash around expensive ingredients, wield sharp knives, play with gadgets and then leave all the clearing up for someone else. At uni, I lived with a bunch of guys who were really into Jamie Oliver – new men, if you like, but cerainly still lads. They’d have a ball cooking, whacking a bit of this and slinging a bit of that into the pan, and then slinging the pan itself into the sink – where it would remain for weeks (and weeks and weeks, or at least until one of the girls had got fed up and done a whole load of it). Cooking is NOT a helpful activity when it creates more mess that will be left for the partner who gets to do the rest of the housework. And as for the cooking that our mums did – stretching a few veg to feed 6, with leftovers for tomorrow – well, that’s not realy cheffing, is it? That’s what women do because they have to. No creativity there, no joy or praise – because it’s *just what they do*. Whereas men – well, cooking may be macho, but they still get lauded for their selflessness in showing us how to do it properly (and that, more than anthing is what turns me off cooking programmes – the idea that all these men are showing me what to do with fresh veg and why I should do it, when I grew up in my mum’s garden picking stuff and eating it practically with the mud still on).

I love cooking. I don’t like washing up. That doesn’t mean that I get to do all the cooking, and get all the praise, and my grlfriend washes up, with perhaps a word of ‘the kitchen looks nice, sweets’. That just doesn’t sounds like a fair and equal division of labour to me.

Aimee // Posted 26 July 2008 at 3:15 pm

Haha. I’d like a ‘washingupasexual’ and a ‘bringsmebreakfastinbedasexual’ please.

Lindsey // Posted 28 July 2008 at 9:35 am

Weird coincidence: I got this year’s catalogue of further education and evening courses the other day and they are going to run a “cooking for men” class. I am curious to know both what they teach and if I would be banned from signing up…

Marians // Posted 3 August 2008 at 7:04 pm

Yay! Interesting…

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