Times are changin; and it’s about damn time! I almost feel like it’s an injustice for me to write this piece. Luckily, I’ve been surrounded by some powerful women my entire life. From my Vovo (grandmother in Portuguese), my mom, sister, and my two awesome little nieces. So I do not take writing this piece lightly and really want to talk about the incredible shift in our society’s culture where women are finally starting to get the respect they’ve had coming for far too fucking long.
As I sit with Katherine Rainville over coffee, I am humbled by her knowledge and perspective. Because we as men have no fucking clue what it is to be a woman in this industry and succeed. We can talk about how it’s 2018 and that things are on the upswing but we still have a responsibility to change our culture and our perspective so that we do not fall into the shitty patterns of the past, and can look forwards towards an equal future.
As a society, we need to stop thinking we can ask our waitresses to,“Smile, honey”. Let’s leave this behind and never look back. Walk into a place that has an extensive cocktail menu, watch a man behind the bar with a towel over his shoulder, fixing up a drink in his shaker, a serious look on his face and the perception is that he knows what he’s doing and he’s taking it seriously. Put a woman in the same situation, and she comes off as bitchy. You might even question if she knows what she’s doing if she doesn’t shake or stir ‘the right way’. She’s rude and probably doesn’t want to be at work today, ‘but if you just smiled hun, you’d look so much prettier’. While we may not always witness or even notice this in the moment, the subtle condescension of these words are what make them common microaggressions for many women in this industry.
A woman comes up to a table and suggests a wine. She goes through the flavour profiles and how it matches with some of the menu items. Then the questioning begins, “Oh but is it a VQA..” or “You know I heard the opposite though..” in a painfully slow tone because women are also apparently hard of hearing or need words to be slowed down when spoken to. But when men have the same approach they already have that credit and trust, “Oh you’re good! You really know what you’re talking about.” When trusting the decision to be made for you because it was coming from a man (whether you realize it or not), this is bullshit. It’s time to unlearn, dismantle, and change these antiquated behaviours that are informed through centuries of social conditioning.
The locker room talk in a kitchen is archaic. Women Chefs shouldn’t have to feel the need to compete with, or even tolerate that language anymore. It has to become extinct. It’s hard enough to be a woman in the kitchen with that kind of shit still happening. And what happens in a lot of these cases is that women get tired of the same old stupid routine of having the boys club run the show; having conversations and jokes that women can’t be a part of because you know…’they just won’t get it’. A lot of good places are changing this which is amazing but it’s up to every kitchen and restaurant to do more and make sure that we are becoming more inclusive. We need to create environments that allow women to feel empowered and safe to be who they are so we can stand next to them as equals, regardless of how different or similar we may be.
As I’m talking to Katherine, all the dots are beginning to connect for me. Working in the kitchen, I’ve come to see variations of these microaggressions throughout my career and fortunately for me, I’ve worked with teams that have been more progressive than others. For Katherine, and many other women out there, they see, hear, and live these experiences while being expected to just deal with it. All that bullshit needs to end. It takes talking to Katherine to open my eyes up and see that the fight is far from over. As a society, we need to look at inclusivity and respect for others no matter the sex.
As well, the LGBTQ+ communities are becoming stronger and they are starting to have a greater presence in our society, but they still deal with many unfair stigmas. As people become more socially conscious of what they consume and where they’re consuming it, we have a major opportunity as industry leaders to do our part in showing how welcoming we are of everyone. Being a voice in the industry, Katherine has been pushing an amazing, positive agenda at Social for over the last 5 years. From Queers in the Courtyard, Queers and Beers, and Taste for Life, it is truly inspiring to know that she is spearheading so many great events, for so many great causes and bettering our community by making it more inclusive. I use that word a lot here because it’s about damn time we have that mentality.
Food and drink brings all walks of people together and is exclusive to no one. We need to remember this as we move forward and own our voices and platforms to show our support to a changing world that accommodates for everyone. We need to start taking these responsibilities seriously or we’ll be left in the dust. Talking with Katherine is always such a pleasure because when she speaks, she does so with a strong deliberate voice that is fair while bringing forth an inspiring perspective to the table.
Love is Love.