FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Where Are the Women?

Time-MagazineThe November 18 issue of Time magazine includes lists and “family trees” of the movers and shakers in the global food industry in a piece titled “Gods of Food”. Everyone from those who create food, cook food, distribute food, to companies that provide food were considered for this issue. With such a dense empire to scour for the brightest and most influential, barely any women were recognized. “Gods of Food” editor Howard Chua-Eoan described to Eater how the lists were put together and why women were not really part of the conversation.

Chua-Eoan admits that there is still a boys’ club in the culinary world, but that there are “very good and terrific female chefs” out there. He says the magazine “did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef,” and used the age-old excuse that there just aren’t enough qualified women (and perhaps those who are recognized are merely tokens). Chef Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy also talked to Eater and provided a comical response, suggesting that Chua-Eoan just isn’t seeing qualified women because they’re not within his social bubble and he “can only include what he knows and…that he can’t get out into the world like the rest of us and see what’s actually going on.” Maybe Chua-Eoan should sit down with former Governor Mitt Romney, who apparently has binders full of women and could tell him a thing or two about qualified women.

In his reasoning for why women were not included in the chef “family trees”, highlighting especially exceptional and influential chef networks, he states that women’s networks are not as strong as men’s networks because men take care of other men. Women, on the other hand, rarely have anyone to “take care of them” (read: mentor, connect with opportunities, etc.) since there aren’t other women already in more senior positions to help them up. Plus, they’re up against the boys’ club, and instead of challenging this brick wall of men on men on men, or proposing that maybe men forget gender and help bring women up with them, Chua-Eoan’s comments suggest that if ladies can’t figure it out for themselves and break through the men’s network, they won’t amount to much (at least, not enough to be included in this issue of Time; better luck next year, ladies!).

Chua-Eoan shamelessly admits that he doesn’t “think the media has to advocate for anything”, and that it’s really someone else’s job to talk about the gender divide among chefs. He dismisses the media’s responsibility to this issue, meanwhile, these lists were created from his and the other editors’ visions of  “the basic realities of what was going on and who was being talked about.” Considering this, isn’t “talk” really another word for media? If media is creating the conversation of who is important and deciding who has the “reputation and influence” to be visible, then shouldn’t media be held accountable when something as tired and ill-considered as gender bias is at play? Especially when that gender bias is being played out in a major publication that itself has enormous influence and impact on culture?

Women aren’t tokens or pages in binders. The media that neglects to highlight the talents of women should be responsible for questioning why that is, and challenging what they find.