Do you ever go out in your driveway, fire up your grill, grab yourself by your balls, and just howl at the sky, fully taken over by your own caveman essence and the general awesomeness of being a man? Well, if you’re me you don’t need the grill to make this happen, it’s just a normal part of Saturday afternoons. For Jacob Brogan in Slate, the grill is a necessity. Of course, as he explains, this is problematic.
“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.”
I bet he doesn’t even grab his junk and howl at the sky. And he just keeps going. “Gathered around the coals with beers slung low, we’re all but enacting a myth of the American man, telling a story in postures and poses. No longer mere Ph.D. students, we have become bros.”
The Subtle Patriarchy of Friendship
Aww, crap, man. That’s terrible. Hanging out with your friends, telling stories, enjoying a few cold ones, enacting a myth (albeit one that actually happened): you might as well don your women in burqas and pick up your official patriarchy membership cards. Contact me for details. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your PhD advisors. Although I may tell them about this. They may want it added to your dissertation.
“They enable what scholars call homosocial contact, a kind of same-sex intimacy that deflects the supposed dangers of sexual contact between men but allows them to confirm their masculinity by excluding women. Grilling, in other words, allows these characters to cozy up to one another while still maintaining their understanding of themselves as truly manly men.”
What in the actual fuck, man? On what planet do men struggle with that? Sure, men have long had activities they pursue absent women. Just like women also have activities they pursue without men. I hate to break it to you, but men and women are different. I know, social constructs and all that, but maybe, and I realize I’m talking crazy here, those “social constructs” arose out of the fact that men and women are different.
Katy Perry, Is That You?
This is probably hard for you. We see the subtext. Maybe you don’t, so I’ll be of assistance. Re-read your piece and replace every instance of the word “grilling” with “kissed a girl.” Hope that helps you realize the real problem is you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being a man, of being masculine, of accidentally adhering to some role that women not-so-secretly like.
But I do have to applaud you for going all-in on this, for really getting into the deep cultural problems with grilling. Most men just think, “Ahh, grilling, I enjoy that,” while the other men join them outside for beers. The women think, “Whew. It’s hot. I’m glad they’re out there standing over a roaring fire in August.” Not you, Jacob Brogan, you’re really putting some heavy thought into grilling. As a totem. As an emblem of the bad old days and gender inequality. Of barefoot and pregnant.
“The putatively masculine quality of grilling may derive in part from the old public-private gender split. In that sense, it shares a common cause with the belief that women belong in the home.”
On that, we almost agree. Almost. There are some activities that definitely tend to fall along gender lines. Remember this really problematic commercial from Summer’s Eve? Why in the hell would a company that caters to women—to women!—embrace such outmoded gender roles?
Oh, because they’re true. I know this sounds unpossible and that I’m repeating myself, but men and women are different. Grilling is a glorious reflection of that difference. Plus, you’re cooking instead of making the women do it, so, I don’t know, give yourself 15 Enlightened Feminist points and call it a day instead of going down the path you’re currently on.
Fire Is a Social Construct
Dr. Bro, you should spend less time worrying about the subtle social constructs of fire, the gender patterns inherent in who grills versus who makes the side dishes, and the subtle patriarchy of men being outside in the oppressive heat while the women enjoy the sweet air. Instead you need to look deep into your own heart and question why you see a grill and immediately start thinking about oppressing women. Because if you see a grill and start feeling conflicted about your feminist bona fides, the problem is with you, not society.
Your journey to redemption will be long and difficult, but you can do it. You can learn that men standing around a fire in August have nothing to do with social constructs and everything to do with choice. As a feminist, you know women have agency (especially at your place), and that they could demand you march into that kitchen while they take over fire duties. Yet they don’t. BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT THINKING ABOUT IT. You’re the only one thinking about it.
And if that doesn’t work, you can always go outside, grab yourself by the balls, and howl at the sky in a righteous showing of your own caveman essence and the general awesomeness of being a man. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. If nothing else, even if that doesn’t remind you that it’s okay to be a man and enjoy manly things, it will at least give you something even more problematic than grilling to feel guilty about.