I’m loving the new season of MasterChef Australia, a show that I probably haven’t watched consistently for at least three years, for various reasons that I’ve discussed previously. However, the new judges and returning contestants (not to mention a whole week with Gordon Ramsay) have breathed fresh air into the show. My friends over at The Washing Up did a preview with Elena Duggan, which you should listen to. Something that came up briefly was a discussion around Tessa from last year, and how she was viewed by the audience as arrogant, when really she was just quiet and focused. Elena mentioned that she got the same feedback when she started to knuckle down in her season. Newsflash: that’s how she won.
One of my favourite MasterChef contestants of all time is Emelia Jackson from Season 6, who often got the same criticism. Why do audiences perceive confidence, focus and determination in the show’s female contestants as arrogance? Probably because they’re not allowed to be these things. We should be celebrating women who know they’re capable, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. So, without further ado, I present a list of things women can and cannot be on MasterChef (please don’t take this too seriously, I certainly haven’t).
Allowed (to be practised in moderation)
Friendly: All women should be friendly, otherwise they are threatening. But they can’t be too friendly, because that would mean that they’re not getting through based on their talent. Talking is an expected aspect of friendliness, but of course women cannot talk too much, otherwise they can become annoying (not allowed)
Attractive: But not too attractive. Cute is acceptable as a subset of attractive as it is non-threatening. A woman however can’t be too “sexy” (a completely subjective quality), because apparently incredibly attractive women can’t also be skilled or talented. They only know how to get where they are by sleeping with someone. See also: Friendly.
Funny: But in a non-threatening way. Is there a threatening way to be funny? The closest thing I can think of are bigoted comments that are “just jokes” and not actually funny.
Smart: But like, don’t show it off, ladies. You’ll never get a man that way (as if that’s the point of a cooking competition show).
Capable: But you have to be demure about it.
Quirky: But in a cute way.
Confident: this could be perceived as arrogance.
Quiet: means you are not friendly.
Focused: means you are not friendly and could be perceived as arrogance.
Ambitious: this trait is apparently what made all of Slytherin House evil. Women are allowed to have dreams, but shouldn’t be seen to pursue them, otherwise they want things too much.
Emotional: Friendly/happy emotions are allowed as long as women are not too friendly. Crying is sometimes allowed, if the woman is attractive. But be careful you’re not emotionally manipulating anyone! Anger is not okay, which seems harsh, because there are only so many things a woman are allowed to be, and that gets frustrating.
Opinionated: If you have an opinion, make sure it is the correct one and doesn’t challenge any existing societal norms.
All the caveats mentioned in the “Allowed” section
The exception to all of this of course is Season 1 runner-up, Poh Ling Yeow, who is a delightful human being and gets to be anything she wants. I have met someone who didn’t like Poh, so they exist, but they’re rare.