The Grilling-Man Stereotype, and How Not To Fulfill It
BBQs, outdoor grills, smokers, charcoal. These are all items within the kingdom of the male grillmaster, the sovereign of steaks, the high priest of hickory-smoked-anything.
With these items, the grilling product advertisements say, a man can lord it over everyone else with his masculinity, all because he knows how to light a fire, smoke salmon and chicken, and yes, even put veggies on a skewer—alongside his beef, chicken or pork of course. Because eating meat in itself is supposedly a masculine thing to do, let alone grill the stuff.
Summer after summer, these TV and magazine advertisements get rolled out, letting men know they are the kings of the backyard patio, with a bowl of BBQ sauce in one hand, and their basting brush in the other. They are the wizards-in-the-making with the ability to work grilling magic on the choicest cuts of meat to satisfy their primitive caveman, meat-eating urges. And in no way do these advertisements show women cooking on a grill, either, sharing in the summertime cooking fun.
Logic and reason should tell anyone of any gender that this is a seriously crazy stereotype, but it’s one that many men do buy into and fulfill.
Unless you happen to be men who actually do not buy into and fulfill that stereotype. This is a group of men that actually still happen to carry the masculine vibe, but don’t do as Madison Avenue dictates, just because Madison Avenue dictates it.
These are men who, thanks to whatever astrological alignments they have, or some other personal quirks they possess, have no real desire to align themselves with this “grilling machismo” vibe that much of Western society thinks men typically have, or ought to have, if they don’t already.
I personally know two of these men. In my universe, actually, I know far more of these men than I know their polar opposite. One of them, thanks to a set of very sensitive taste buds, prefers beans, veggies and rice to steak and pork. If he eats meat, he’s more of a fish and poultry kind of guy.
He likes grilling out, don’t get me wrong. But he grills because it’s a healthy way to cook food. He grills because it’s fun. But you will never see him eating steak or pork. He actually gets sick to his stomach smelling raw cuts of those specific meats. Give him grilled fish, shrimp or chicken instead and he’s all over it like a hungry cat.
And in no way does he subscribe to the notion that he’s “macho” because he likes grilling out. Not when he would rather write computer programs or paint pictures and watch “Doctor Who” than watch ESPN. He merely sees the grill and all its accessories as tools to cook food. That’s it. They’re a means to an end: feeding his enviously high metabolism so he can get back to being his uber-geeky self.
The other of these men is my crazy-artistic and musical dad. He likes grilled food too, and back in my childhood days, he sometimes pulled out the grill to serve up some yummy awesomeness in the form of chicken and fish. Unlike my best buddy, however, my dad likes steak.
The only thing that comes between my dad and a grill is this: the grilling season is mostly in the summer, and being built a bit like Santa Claus most of his life, he’s never been too fond of the heat and humidity of Midwestern US summers. And he’s a good deal older now, and not in as good a shape as he was back when he did use the grill, so if anyone cooks on the grill, it’s been me—his equally artistic and musical daughter.
But here’s the thing—even if he were in super-perfect shape, all healthy and fit with six-pack abs showing, he would be much like my best buddy: grilling for the love of it, and not because he has to fulfill any “asinine stereotype.” And yes, those are the words my dad would use.
My dad willfully—and wonderfully—tosses out certain societal conventions like the somewhat-hippie he is. I say “somewhat” because he’s not quite a “Baby Boomer.” But on the other hand, he did come of age in the ’60s, and he’s participated in a few social demonstrations, so by that definition, yes, I’d call him a hippie. And he’s got the hippie-like wisdom that you don’t have to be a certain way to be thought of as a “real man.”
So the “machismo of grilling” that grilling product companies like to push onto the masculine half of the population? My dad wants nothing to do with it. And neither does my best guy friend. And as I’ve said, I’ve got other guy friends who think very similarly.
They still grill out. Oh yes. They’re likely very good at it because they like to do it. They’re just a heck of a lot more logical and skeptical about advertisements that try to tell them what kind of men they should be. They’re likely the first to show women like me the ropes of how to cook on a grill, if we ask, instead of adhering to how the advertisements show: the grill is a “boys-only club.”
And the men who cook and eat food with those ubiquitous hickory smoke flavors, all the while mocking Madison Avenue are the kind of men that, in my humble opinion, are the real gurus of the grill.