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The Great British Row Off
October 26, 2013 4:08 AM   Subscribe

"The criticism ranged from the gently cynical to the downright obnoxious, but as the series went on I noticed an increasing degree of personal vitriol and misogyny. We (female) finalists are supposedly too meek, too confident, too thin, too domestic, too smiley, too taciturn … If I see one more person used the hackneyed "dough-eyed" pun I will personally go to their house and force-feed them an entire Charlotte Royale." -- Great British Bake Off runner up Ruby Tandoh speaks out against the sexist criticism aimed at the show's female contestants by people like tv chef Raymond Blanc.

On Twitter, Raymond Blanc dismissed the show with:
The Great British Bake Off. Not much skills, female tears and a winner so thin who makes me doubt of her love for great cooking, baking.
Which Tandoh dismissed with:
'female tears'?! And what has anyone's size got to do with it? I don’t care if you're a patisserie king – don't be an idiot."
Meanwhile the Daily Mail went a step further and speculated that Paul Hollywood, one of the two judges on the show and who had just left his wife, was sweet on Tandoh and favouring her while also in the Daily Mail, celebrity chef Nigel Slater, amongst others, was accusing the show of being biased against male contestants anyway.

Both Ruby Tandoh and Paul Hollywood were quick to deny any speculation, with Hollywood saying that he fancied Tandoh's fellow finalist, Kimberley Wilson

As for why people are so set against Tandoh, The Guardian's Sarah Ditum has a suggestion:
Here's why I think people are so free with their dislike of Tandoh: because they follow the same narrative the media does, and they know that when a woman does well, step number two is always to give her a pummelling. Leave your high-achieving female in a warm place to prove, and once well-risen, knock her back with both fists. And Tandoh has committed the terrible crime of caring visibly about the competition, when it's widely agreed that women are silly things and baking is a silly, woman-y thing. Imagine crying about the consistency of the mousse in your Charlotte royale!
Oh, and in the end? Over nine million saw Frances Quinn win the series, whom it seems nobody had spread any saucy rumours about.
posted by MartinWisse (68 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Raymond Blanc waded in on the commentary to so helpfully deride the "female tears" on the show. (What are "female tears", anyway? Are they more fragile and delicate than male tears? Do they wear pink?) Kimberley's self-assurance – a character trait so lauded in men– has been rebranded as smugness, cockiness and even malice."

I love GBBO, and it really depressed me to see people managing to turn a show that literally could not be sweeter into something much more bitter. "He only put her through because he fancies her...Her tears are so manipulative..." Really people? In 2013? On a BAKING show? Lord.

Little shout-out though to the genius of Mel and Sue. On your marks, get set, ... :D
posted by billiebee at 4:36 AM on October 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Sarah Ditum's theory doesn't explain why Tandoh should be disliked rather than the two other women, who had done equally well and seemed to me to care at least as much.

Part of the reason may be Tandoh's irritating manner. Every time she baked something she whined about how it was a disaster, no good, she might as well throw it away, when anyone could see it was OK. Tenth time round that gets tiresome.
posted by Segundus at 4:38 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Plenty of the other candidates did the same, including the men. But those didn't have that sort of slightly fragile prettiness that Tandoh has, so were less irritating?
posted by MartinWisse at 4:42 AM on October 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I love GBBO, and it really depressed me to see people managing to turn a show that literally could not be sweeter into something much more bitter.

Yes, this exactly. I love the show because it's so good hearted. The contestants seem to respect each other and there is never any bitchiness or manufactured drama. Just a focus on actual baking. It's so refreshing, whereas the backlash is just tiresome.
posted by shelleycat at 4:46 AM on October 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Columnists and pundits need something to columnise and punditate about, and because most them are working within the limited palette provided by the media outlet they're contracted to, any subject they chance upon is going to be squeezed into one of the templates through which they filter the world. GBBO is reality TV, which brings its own templated formats, but it's charming, eccentric and upbeat reality TV, and despite the fact that this is its fourth season, the commentators are still trying to reduce it to a vernacular they feel comfortable with.

The previous series had an all-male final, and the prettiest boy won. I don't recall any bitching and whining about that.
posted by Hogshead at 4:55 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The prettiest boy also cared visibly about the competition, so I'm not sure that critique holds up.

In fact it's pretty clear that *all* the contestants care about the competition.
posted by pharm at 5:03 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


(My boys *love* Bake-Off & got up especially early on Wednesday mornings so that they could watch the previous evening's episode on iPlayer.)
posted by pharm at 5:04 AM on October 26, 2013


The previous series had an all-male final, and the prettiest boy won.

The prettiest boy also cared visibly about the competition, so I'm not sure that critique holds up.


Yes, but isn't the point that even pretty men are allowed to care about something without being derided?
Men crying - what a demonstration of his passion!
Women crying - oh dry your bloody crocodile tears, love.
posted by billiebee at 5:20 AM on October 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


Columnists and pundits need something to columnise and punditate about, and because most them are working within the limited palette provided by the media outlet they're contracted to, any subject they chance upon is going to be squeezed into one of the templates through which they filter the world.

And in this case the filter they chose was mysogyny and sexism. Which is why I find it so tedious.
posted by shelleycat at 5:27 AM on October 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's doe-eyed. As in doe, a deer, a female deer.

But then I never get puns....
posted by three blind mice at 5:34 AM on October 26, 2013


Caring is not irritating. Crying is not irritating. Whining and pouting is irritating.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 5:41 AM on October 26, 2013


I've never heard a man who said "That's no good, I should have done better" described as "whining and pouting". Weird, that.
posted by billiebee at 5:43 AM on October 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


three blind mice - that's the joke. it's doe eyed, but they were talking about baking, so they made it dough eyed. jokes!
posted by nadawi at 5:45 AM on October 26, 2013


Yes, but isn't the point that even pretty men are allowed to care about something without being derided?
Men crying - what a demonstration of his passion!


From my largely American perspective, there's a lot of weirdness around masculinity in Bake-Off. Normally, no, men aren't allowed to cry on television. It doesn't show you care, it shows you are effeminate, but being on a baking competition is already challenging normative masculinity to a degree that perhaps changes the rules.

(I'm feeling the need to disclaim this as an American perspective--my British grandad knitted and did needlepoint when he was able to see well enough and was into elaborate cooking for a while (those chocolate cigars in episode one that I watched last night? totally the sort of thing he would have tried) and those things seem much more normative for him than something like knitting does for me now in the US. But then he's my grandad, so of course his hobbies seem normal. I could write an essay on gender and knitting. It's a weird dynamic.)
posted by hoyland at 5:45 AM on October 26, 2013


Normally, no, men aren't allowed to cry on television. It doesn't show you care, it shows you are effeminate,

I'm not sure I agree with that. I'm sure I have seen blokey-bloke blokes shedding a manly tear from time to time in a lot of TV scenarios, from veterans to new fathers, and others (all of which escape me now, obviously). I really thought we were moving away from the "big boys don't cry" stereotype, but maybe that is just a British thing? Which seems strange in itself as Brits have the "stiff upper lip" mantra still hovering around, while Americans always seem to be much more in touch with their feelings. Maybe I watch all the wrong shows...
posted by billiebee at 5:52 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


i'm also an american - i watch a lot of international reality shows, and i'll say that i was a little surprised by how openly men from the uk and australia cry on them. i agree with you, billiebe, that men are shown to cry in certain situations, but i think the US still has a pretty strong "men get angry/women cry" in our reality programming.
posted by nadawi at 5:57 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think the "stiff upper lip" has been a real thing this side of 1900. Men crying is relatively normal.
posted by Thing at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was very surprised to see this "also in the Daily Mail, celebrity chef Nigel Slater, amongst others, was accusing the show of being biased against male contestants anyway." since Nigel Slater usually comes across as a very reasonable person, and is also a long-standing writer for the Guardian, so is not someone whom I'd expect to see producing some kind of sexist diatribe in the Daily Mail.

What the Mail article actually includes is one tweet from Slater, about the last male contestant voted off, saying ‘I SO didn’t want that to happen. #GBBO so disappointing such a lovely man!’. That sounds like a fan regretting the loss of a contestant they particularly liked, not an accusation of being biased against male contestants. The Mail journalists threw it in after a string of genuinely sexist comments from others such as Should be re-named “Great British Bloke Off” but if that tweet from Slater is all they have, I think he's being misrepresented.
posted by Azara at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


i think the US still has a pretty strong "men get angry/women cry" in our reality programming.

That dichotomy is always interesting to me, that most men don't realise that a woman's tears are often a way of expressing anger, rather than sadness.

"As a socialized, behavioral display of women’s anger, tears offer a solution to the puzzle of how bring anger into relationship in ways that do not threaten the other person and provide a safe means to express anger without violating social norms regarding how women “should” behave interpersonally in a nondominant manner."
posted by billiebee at 6:11 AM on October 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


It was pretty bloody embarrassing seeing the Daily Mail's particular brand of snickering, holier than thou jeering leach into twitter during the course of the show, only to be met with a host of back pats and retweets. God forbid you ever commit the mortal crime of Achieving While Pretty.
posted by lucidium at 6:11 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Daily Mail misrepresenting someone? Shome mishtake, shurely?
posted by billiebee at 6:14 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree with that. I'm sure I have seen blokey-bloke blokes shedding a manly tear from time to time in a lot of TV scenarios, from veterans to new fathers, and others (all of which escape me now, obviously). I really thought we were moving away from the "big boys don't cry" stereotype, but maybe that is just a British thing?

Thinking back, I think the bloke who made it to the final of the American version (maybe he even won, I don't remember) did cry at least once, which felt decidedly atypical. It's been a long time since I watched it, but I don't think men cried on Top Chef (maybe on Project Runway).

I do think the British one presents baking by men as much more normative than the American one. It felt like the American one tried to introduce the men in ways that made them seem as normatively masculine as possible, which doesn't seem to be happening in the American one. That said, episode one does goes out of its way to mention Ali is the only man in his family who bakes, which as a throw-away seems to be playing to our stereotypes of Pakistani gender roles, rather than the start of a deeper exploration of whether he experiences different pressures than the other men.

(Also, a sentence you'd never hear on the American one: "So-and-so lives with his husband in [wherever].")
posted by hoyland at 6:16 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Normally, no, men aren't allowed to cry on television. It doesn't show you care, it shows you are effeminate

I disagree with this; I think that because men aren't "supposed to", it means when they do it must be a big deal so male tears are taken very seriously. For example, on reality shows I've seen, if a man gets kicked off or whatever and he cries, it's because he was so passionate and invested and everyone respects that (and sometimes, you get people respecting a man strong enough to cry and stuff). When a woman cries, it often demonstrates that she's emotional. Basically, at least in some cases, it feels like when men cry they are taken MORE seriously because wow, he must be really invested! Whereas when women cry it feels like they are taken less seriously because she's pretty emotional and probably can't really control herself. Poor dear.

It seems to me like it often boils down to male tears being seen as a demonstration of passion and female tears being seen as a demonstration of emotion. These things aren't actually all that different in practical term but if they are interpreted in these ways it really changes how seriously we take the person shedding them.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:28 AM on October 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


don't realise that a woman's tears are often a way of expressing anger, rather than sadness.

oh heck yes. i'm a big angry cryer - have been my whole life - and it would make me so flippling mad when people would react like i was sad and i'm all like, "no motherfucker, you better take a step back!" i also cry when stressed or overwhelmed or embarrassed. and i ugly cry. i was also very heavily socialized as a subservient woman.
posted by nadawi at 6:30 AM on October 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


I really thought we were moving away from the "big boys don't cry" stereotype, but maybe that is just a British thing?

I think we are, but we're still moving, not there. In addition to death of family member/beloved pet, we have now added birth/wedding of own child, severe injuries to friends/family, patriotic remembrance, and heroic self-sacrifice in general, and more rarely, filmic depictions of the above, but mostly if it's Clint Eastwood doing it. Grief, joy and awe are now approved.

"I'm sorry, it's just this whole thing has been so stressful and upsetting," is still an unacceptable excuse for male tears, I'd say.
posted by Diablevert at 6:31 AM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Firstly, I would dismiss anything the Mail says. It loves nothing more than to have women disapprove of other women. Well, that and cancer.

Like all other reality TV shows, the GBBO needs a narrative to keep viewer interest. This becomes more the case from the second series onwards. I translate some of these criticisms as fatigue with the show. That isn't to say they aren't sexist or misguided. But why now? Fatigue. All reality shows suffer from it.

I can't remember where I read it, because I don't think it is original to me, but an almost unbreakable rule of TV is that the longer shows go on the verge towards soap opera. This is true of reality tv, comedy, drama, detective shows etc.

Show producers will and do edit a show to find the narrative when the core subject - baking, trucking, gardening etc is not enough. I think viewers recognise this and instead of criticising the format criticise the participants, fade the subject matter into the background and look for the soap opera.

Ironically, the baking in the GBBO gets better every year, as the cooking does in Masterchef. The first series had a mixed bag of abilities with clear winners and losers. By the second series some of the contestants were putting together things that would make a journeyman pastry chef blush.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:38 AM on October 26, 2013


If you've watched Raymond Blanc's cookings shows on the Beeb you will notice that being a bit of an incompetent idiot is part of his shtick. If it were not for his assistant Adam he would not be able to make toast.
posted by srboisvert at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reality tv participants always seem surprised when audiences don't like them. And when they do like them. Schtick.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:45 AM on October 26, 2013


These shows are not an objective, fair assessment of humanity, of anyone's behaviour, emotional response, mental state. The contestants are selected for how the producers of the show feel they can synthesize drama from them, and the shows themselves are, obviously, cut and manipulated to this end. I really don't know how much you can read into anyone's analysis of them. You'd be giving the producers way too much credit.
posted by Jimbob at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2013


I've never heard a man who said "That's no good, I should have done better" described as "whining and pouting". Weird, that.

Classy! But wrong. Plenty of other contestants over the last 4 series, male and female, have been insecure and self-critical. Ruby (at least the one crafted for television by all-too-obviously manipulative editing) had not just self-doubt but a sulky affect, which, sure, was likely just a self-deprecating act. Is it understandable that someone who is nearly a teenager basically acts like a teenager? Of course. That makes it no less irritating to watch.

Obviously the vast majority of comment made about her has been transparently misogynist and undeserved. And her article does a brilliant job of skewering most of it. But I maintain that the character of Ruby presented in the show was objectively off-putting and reject your suggestion that mere sexism makes me think so.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's doe-eyed. As in doe, a deer, a female deer.

Baking with doe's eyes is just wrong. Unless, perhaps, you are feeding this cake. Of course, doing anything with eyes made out of dough is going to be difficult.

Food has become divided and gendered, torn between the serious sport of haute cuisine and the supposedly antithetical world of women pottering around in home kitchens.

Yeah, I agree with this. I am a modestly talented home cook, but I find the extravagant praise I sometimes get to be off-putting, especially since I rarely see the like given to equally- or better-talented women cooks. (Unless it's in the sort of weird "oh, she'll whip up something; she's a great cook" approach to "volunteering" someone.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyway, the real problem with this year's series was Paul being a colossal ass (beyond the point of it being entertaining) and the constant boring refrain of "style over substance" like they had circled it on the whiteboard in the production office every morning.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I adore presenters Sue Perkins & Mel Giedroyc and really enjoyed the first and second series of GBBO because of their warm humour, the way they worked with the contestants and for the interesting mini documentaries on the history of ingredients and baking that the show used to contain.

What I can't stand is Paul Hollywood and what must be the worst editing/production team in the BBC because if one believes the tweets/articles of the contestants, they have been misrepresented by the show itself (don't get me started on what the Daily fucking Mail says because it is irrelevant, malicious muckraking and should not be part of any serious Mefi post).

I have seen enough of this series (in trailers and much of the last two episodes) to dislike Ruby Tandoh (mostly for her Princess Diana style "oh poor beautiful me" looks to camera) BUT I suspect that some of that comes from the editing so I'm trying hard to keep more of an open mind on her.
posted by humph at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


These shows are not an objective, fair assessment of humanity, of anyone's behaviour, emotional response, mental state.

They are modern day gladiatorial arenas. We have evolved and no longer force contestants to kill each other. Instead, we merely judge them and hang our judgement, good or bad, around their necks for all to see.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:13 AM on October 26, 2013


I have seen enough of this series (in trailers and much of the last two episodes) to dislike Ruby Tandoh (mostly for her Princess Diana style "oh poor beautiful me" looks to camera)

I wonder how much of that reaction to Ruby is gender divided, because I can understand how her looks and persona might feed into that whole "helpless little princess" stereotype and get other women's hackles up.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:17 AM on October 26, 2013


"As a socialized, behavioral display of women’s anger, tears offer a solution to the puzzle of how bring anger into relationship in ways that do not threaten the other person and provide a safe means to express anger without violating social norms regarding how women “should” behave interpersonally in a nondominant manner."

This is interesting. I cry when I'm frustrated, but almost never when I'm angry-- unless I'm really, really angry-- but maybe "frustrated" is just a way of saying angry? It's involuntary though, definitely not calculated.

I wish I were watching this show (and not reading any of the commentary)-- I think I'm going to go back and do so.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:31 AM on October 26, 2013


I maintain that the character of Ruby presented in the show was objectively off-putting and reject your suggestion that mere sexism makes me think so.

I'm not arguing whether people found her off-putting or not (I found her quite endearing myself) but rather that the descriptors "whining" and "pouting" are not normally applied to men.

I was surprised that (otherwise sane, respectful, non-Daily-Mail-reading) women I knew seemed to hate her so much, and the "poor little me" attitude seemed to be what they saw. I just saw her as a young woman with not much self-confidence. It's strange that women are socialised to be helpless* and then despised when they appear to be so.

*generalisation alert
posted by billiebee at 7:32 AM on October 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I disagree with this; I think that because men aren't "supposed to", it means when they do it must be a big deal so male tears are taken very seriously. ... Basically, at least in some cases, it feels like when men cry they are taken MORE seriously because wow, he must be really invested!

Recognizing that we're talking in generalizations and you're mentioning reality shows specifically as the context, I still think the popular reaction to John Boehner's displays of emotion are an interesting counter-example.
posted by nickmark at 7:45 AM on October 26, 2013


I've been watching baseball playoffs on BT Sport while at work. Commercials with an "effeminate" man as a punch line are very common. So I don't think this is strictly an American thing.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:09 AM on October 26, 2013


Actually you've just reminded me of a good one - no matter how "manly" you are, how many trees you can chop down with your bare hands or beers you can down in one sitting, you're allowed to bawl like a baby if your sporting team loses. But then my pet theory is that men are allowed to experience all kinds of "banned" emotions through sport. Great big man-hug, anyone?
posted by billiebee at 8:24 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't recognise a couple of things that are being said in this thread.

Yes, a reality show is always going to be somewhat created in the editing suite, but no one in GBBO is doing it for their dead mum, no one is unexpectedly brought back from an earlier round, there's not very much, if any, false jeopardy. That's why I love it. It's about people who are good at baking and enjoy baking, being asked to bake things for baking experts in an elimination contest. The drama is all about how well they bake things.

There must surely be a temptation for the judges to play up their good cop/bad cop roles, but they don't really. I don't really know much about baking beyond what I've gleaned from the show, but the criticisms seem fair and Paul Hollywood, while he clearly enjoys being the twinkly-eyed gruff greying baking man, doesn't play it up too much and is no Simon Cowell.

I may have been guilty of a bit of exasperation at Ruby, but her competitors in the final were two confident people who very often produced visibly impressive bakes. I know I would have probably panicked and wept.

GBBO is now just a victim of its own success - once something is popular enough, the number of arseholes in that audience increases , and the bigger the audience, the bigger the proportion of arseholes. Many of us will have seen a band one year on tour, then note that the audience in the bigger venue the year after seem to be bellowing for the band to play their big hit. This is the same, except in the audience now are the loudest and most obnoxious audience members of them all, the tabloid press. They want their X Factor moments, and if the editors of GBBO won't create them, then by gum they will.

The really lucky people are Cathryn, last year's panicky baker, and Brendan, who was difficult to warm to and had a past that looked like it might fill a page or two of the Mail.
posted by liquidindian at 8:49 AM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


All of this just makes me think that, in terms of audience manipulation, Andy Kaufman was completely ahead of his time. If you've not read Bill Zehme's biography of Andy, I completely recommend it.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2013


Which I guess brings me to my next point, to save me editing my original comment: while Andy involved only a select few to his pranks to wind up an audience, this new genre of rigging the game during production editing to "find the story" involves real people who, while they might be told this stuff goes on, are participating in good faith, but are so far out of the loop that it makes this whole side of "reality tv", imo, tragic and grotesque.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2013


Tandoh wasn't targetted because she cried or "whined". She was targetted because she displayed levels of vulnerability that were completely at odds with her ability and her position within the competition.

She had power, and she acted as if she had none.

The relationships between audience perceptions, her behaviour / self doubt and the genders of all involved is interesting, and TBH I've yet to make sense of them, but I think one of the problems we're all struggling with is how to describe what happened on screen without getting swept up in a gender based narrative.

Part of this is caused, no doubt, by the intellectual paucity of commentators (myself included) who are incapable of describing things outside of there own stereotyped world views. They know they didn't like a specific behaviour, but they have no way of describing that behaviour without falling into the trap of describing a "dough eyed pretty girl who whines until daddy gives her a pony" and a "lecherous old man who is happy to give out preferential treatment in the hope of spending more time with a pretty young thing".
posted by zoo at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


She was targetted because she displayed levels of vulnerability that were completely at odds with her ability and her position within the competition.

She had power, and she acted as if she had none.


I'm fairly certain there are studies that discuss this in terms of gender roles. To wit: women socialize by leveling themselves and thus the more power you have or the more of a standout you are, the more you downplay it. And if you just say "Yes, I am good at this," you get called arrogant so fast it makes your head spin. I'm sure as a pretty girl, Tandoh has had plenty of experience playing down her good features.
posted by dame at 9:36 AM on October 26, 2013 [13 favorites]



If you've watched Raymond Blanc's cookings shows on the Beeb you will notice that being a bit of an incompetent idiot is part of his shtick. If it were not for his assistant Adam he would not be able to make toast.


Blanc was also the ones that picked a pair men that could not cook to save their lives as the winners of his cooking reality show to open a restaurant with them. He really shouldn't be the one throwing stones at other cooking reality shows.
posted by gyc at 9:39 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


it would make me so flippling mad when people would react like i was sad and i'm all like, "no motherfucker, you better take a step back!"

As a man who has been on the receiving end of that way of feeling, I'd like to say that it is or should be very easy to tell the difference between sad and angry crying. Angry crying is audibly a sword of Damocles. Those tears are going straight into the boiler and pressure is rapidly rising to the bursting point.

Sweet mother of potatoes, how can people associate that sound with weakness?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2013


I'm sure you're right dame, but I'm wary of expecting rational non-socialised responses from her detractors and then not expecting the same from her.

There may be reasons for her problematic behaviour, but this doesn't stop the behaviour from being problematic. It doesn't stop it from provoking conflict, and it doesn't mean that we can't highlight it as an area that needs improvement.
posted by zoo at 9:46 AM on October 26, 2013


Dammit. I did not expect the winner of this show to be spoiled here. Was waiting for a moment of down time to watch the last episode. Guess I'll go watch the tension-free drama now.
posted by weeyin at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


They know they didn't like a specific behaviour

No, I don't think so. I think a lot of the venom aimed at Tandoh was because she was pretty and young and being insecure and anxious over the mistakes she made baking was interpreted as playing the sex card -- she's different with boys -- which wouldn't have happened had she been just another middle aged contestant.

It's not that her behaviour was objectively bad, it's that people, women especially, judge young pretty women much harsher than not so young, not so pretty women.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:58 AM on October 26, 2013


WRT men crying: I have a hypothesis that this is really why people are so into Deadliest Catch. All the fishermen are men, and not just male human beings but the most rootinest-tootinest examples of traditional masculinity that the Patriarchy could ever have dreamed up. They work hard, they play hard, they have tattoos and addictions and loving wives raising children far away, they go out and risk their lives and bring home positively titanic sums of money. They are smart and skilled and hard-working, and the boats -- at least the one the show follows -- are exclusively male.

And they CRY. They weep, they holler, they shout; they fret and worry, they get scared half to death and then sob with relief that everything's going to be ok. It's really rare in American media and American culture for men to have straightforward, honest emotions outside of the context of a woman, whether it's their mother or their girlfriend or their wife. I once asked a group of men "How many of you have ever cried in another man's arms?" and got back a bemused, uncomfortable silence. I think the honest, raw depiction of Men Feeling Things is something that we as a culture are hungry for, but just like only Nixon could go to China, it took the crab fishermen of Alaska to bring it to us in a format we couldn't impeach.
posted by KathrynT at 10:11 AM on October 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's not that her behaviour was objectively bad, it's that people, women especially, judge young pretty women much harsher than not so young, not so pretty women.

I think that is an idea peddled by the patriarchy, and not all women have internalised it, thankfully. The "women don't like other pretty women" line is offensive in its own way. I adore a whole host of beautiful women of all ages, known to me and otherwise.
posted by billiebee at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There may be reasons for her problematic behaviour, but this doesn't stop the behaviour from being problematic. It doesn't stop it from provoking conflict, and it doesn't mean that we can't highlight it as an area that needs improvement.

We clearly have different approaches to people doing things we don't like. And different views on the desirability of affecting the behaviors of strangers.
posted by dame at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2013


I think that is an idea peddled by the patriarchy, and not all women have internalised it, thankfully. The "women don't like other pretty women" line is offensive in its own way. I adore a whole host of beautiful women of all ages, known to me and otherwise.

Case in point, I've adored Ruby the whole way through. And Kimberley. And Francis. I want each of them to be my sisters/BFFs and bake non-stop with me.

Of all the contestants on all the seasons in all iterations of the show, I actually found last season's winner on the U.S. version, Brian, was the whiniest I'd come across. How strange (not really, of course) that a show will equal numbers of male and female winners is being attacked this way.
posted by weeyin at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2013


As to how tears are judged as annoying/emotional if shed by women and gravely important when shed by men, I must share this Yale University study (as described in Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender) Emphases added.
...students evaluated one of two applicants (Michael or Michelle) for the position of police chief. One applicant was streetwise, a tough risk-taker, popular with other officers, but poorly educated. By contrast, the educated applicant was well schooled, media savvy, and family oriented, but lacked street experience and was less popular with the other officers. The undergraduate participants judged the job applicant on various streetwise and education criteria, and then rated the importance of each criterion for success as a police chief. Participants who rated Michael inflated the importance of being an educated, media-savvy family man when these were qualities Michael possessed, but devalued these qualities when he happened to lack them. No such helpful shifting of criteria took place for Michelle. As a consequence, regardless of whether he was streetwise or educated, the demands of the social world were shaped to ensure that Michael had more of what it took to be a successful police chief. As the authors put it, participants may have 'felt that they had chosen the right man for the job, when in fact that they had chosen the right job criteria for the man.'
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


I've adored Ruby the whole way through. And Kimberley. And Francis. I want each of them to be my sisters/BFFs and bake non-stop with me.

See also Nicole Scherzinger, The Most Beautiful Woman In The WorldTM, who I just want to hang out with and stroke her hair.
posted by billiebee at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2013


Of all the contestants on all the seasons in all iterations of the show, I actually found last season's winner on the U.S. version, Brian, was the whiniest I'd come across.

He was awful. Interestingly, though, I wouldn't have used 'whiny' to describe him for whatever reason. At least aside from the part where he complained about not having been star baker in every single episode. That was whiny, but I tended to think of that more in terms of him having an inflated opinion of himself.

I'm definitely self-deprecating in a way that sometimes gets parsed as whiny, as is my brother. A teacher once told both of us off for whining one after another, but I didn't read my brother as whining at all, which suggests the teacher was misreading us (there was a cultural element in that situation, I think, but also a personality element). A couple of minutes into the second episode, that's sort of what I'm getting from Ruby--self-deprecation and a lack of self-confidence, which is a combiniation people sometimes really misread.
posted by hoyland at 11:05 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


 I did not expect the winner of this show to be spoiled here.

Why not? The final was aired several days ago, the winner has been all over the media, this is a thread specifically about the show, why wouldn't we talk about the winner? US shows get spoiled the minute they air all the time, I don't see why this is expected to be any different.
posted by shelleycat at 1:20 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, the rule is that if you don't want be spoiled, you should avoid the internet, particularly threads about the show.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:11 PM on October 26, 2013


I did not expect the winner of this show to be spoiled here.

Why not?


Avoiding the "more inside" is easy enough, but Tandoh was described as "runner up" above the line and therefore on the main page of Mefi. It's pretty unusual to encounter spoilers for British reality TV shows on the front page of this US-dominated site, so I doubt many UK Mefites would expect to see them here. "Would have expected", now.

I learnt my lesson last year when GBBO series 3 was spoiled for me by a sidebar link on a completely unrelated BBC News story. The lesson being "watch the thing on iPlayer within hours of broadcast, maintaining Internet silence until then, and yes that especially means you, Twitter".
posted by rory at 2:49 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dammit. I did not expect the winner of this show to be spoiled here.

To be fair, only the runner-up was spoiled on the front page. You still had to click through to this thread to have the winner spoiled.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:53 PM on October 26, 2013


Yeah, it wasn't upsetting or anything, just surprising. I don't ever see anything about the show in my social media bubble and just didn't expect to see it here. I had no idea, before this thread, about the brouhaha going on about it. And it was more a matter of spoiling who didn't win, rather than who did, since I was rooting for Ruby.

But that's really irrelevant because this is an interesting conversation about gender and media, and gender and the culinary arts. I thought Ruby's article was very well-written and am glad to see the topics, and the show, discussed here.
posted by weeyin at 3:24 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those dismissing this as a Daily Mail thing, I'll just point out that I read a vast number of incredibly vile comments on all the Guardian articles about GBBO, increasing in frequency as Ruby went further and further in the competition and reaching an apex after the semi-final.

I'm surprised nobody has been discussing the mental health angle on this. Ruby acts the way people act when they have very poor self-esteem*. A lot of people get very angry and frustrated when they see people having 'wrong' or excessively negative reactions, or reactions that don't seem to them to make sense. For some people, this triggers an extreme irritation, or an angry disbelief that the person's displayed emotions are genuine. I think we need to develop ways of talking about the frustration that comes from talking to or observing someone whose beliefs don't seem to be tracking reality, in such a way that that frustration doesn't end up turning into fury or malice. I understand that it's difficult for a lot of people to even conceive of feeling that bad about what are fairly good cakes, but it happens. I know for a fact that I've been that apologetic about my own, less good but arguably quite adequate, baked goods. For me it was a symptom of depression, but for others it might be chronic poor self-esteem or anxiety. We need to stop celebrating self-confidence as a moral virtue, because doing so is a form of Calvinism that damns a whole swathe of people straight out of the gate.

*To be honest, I don't think I care at this point whether or not Ruby was putting it all on - I just know that as someone who definitely isn't putting it all on, the comments I read were viscerally upsetting. There is a horrible trapped feeling you get when you realise that (1) You are shit, and (2) Everyone also knows this, and (3) You want to tell everyone that you at least understand what it is not to be shit, and (4) If you don't let people know this, they will regard you as a delusional fool, but (5) If you do let them know this, they will regard you as irritating, and (6) Knowing this makes you understand that you are even more shit than you had realised.

I can talk about this with a certain detachment now - I can even call it 'poor self-esteem', rather than 'being a complete failure as a person', which hasn't always been possible - but I still felt myself sinking back into that impossible circle as I followed this storm in a teacup.

Here's the thing: when you judge people on TV, and do it publicly, you are letting everyone know what you regard as the Standards for Acceptable Human Behaviour. Even if you think you are talking about fictional beings created by the editing process, you will still have an effect on actual humans. It is probably a good idea to think about what this effect might be.
posted by Acheman at 1:30 AM on October 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I was raised in a home where pride was considered the deadliest of all sins (well, second only to waking Daddy up when he was working nights). We lived that old joke where the response to all A’s on the report card was, “Why aren’t these A-plusses?” “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” “There’s always room for improvement.” I was in my late twenties the first time a member of my immediate family made an unqualified positive comment about something I had done, and I’m STILL working with my therapist on accepting praise without pointing out all the flaws before someone else has a chance to. I had no idea that kind of upbringing was so unusual.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:26 AM on October 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


…accepting praise without pointing out all the flaws before someone else has a chance to.

And I’ve seen plenty of men do the same thing, both in real life and on TV, and I’ve never seen anyone have a problem with it or describe it as “whining” or “pouting.”

Whenever there are several women with different personality types in an ensemble TV cast, be it drama or reality, it always provokes arguments among the audience. I sometimes wonder if it’s because those of us of a certain age were raised on shows where there was rarely more than one major female character at all, if that. There are certain shows I avoid message boards for, because it’s so discouraging to keep hearing the message that there is (and apparently always was) only one worthy type of woman to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:56 AM on October 27, 2013


If you watched the finale episode, they checked in with the families of the finalists. Ruby's mom went on and on about how, even as a child, Ruby was never satisfied with her output. Always striving to do better, nothing she did was ever good enough. I absolutely see how that meshes with her personality as 20 year old Ruby, especially in the context of a competition.

And I think that's a main reason I liked her so much. That was/is totally me. I vacillate from knowing I'm the most awesome person on earth to knowing nothing I have/will ever do is good enough. I can't imagine faulting someone for genuine insecurity mixed with the need to succeed--and succeed well. Ruby comes off as highly intelligent (the hosts regularly mentioned how impressed they were with her philosophy studies) and I see these kinds of personalities in the more intelligent--or at least self-aware--people I'm acquainted with. The frustration of knowing what you're capable of, but not meeting that capability or the frustration of setting high goals because you've always been or are always expected to be high-achieving, but falling short. Fear of imperfection (especially in public) perhaps?
posted by weeyin at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the widely held assumption out there is that since GBBO is a reality show, it must be heavily scripted/rigged/faked and therefore a young attractive ex-model female contestant must have been cynically introduced to manipulate the audience and attract more male viewers. This assumption helped certain people feel OK about saying nasty things on Twitter etc. , but the assumption may well be unfair. Maybe it just is a baking contest, and Ruby got to be contestant from winning pre-show selection baking contestants, and the fact that she's a good-looking ex-model was irrelevant - but this is difficult for most to believe in our jaded reality show ridden world
posted by Bwithh at 2:31 PM on October 27, 2013


"... I think the honest, raw depiction of Men Feeling Things is something that we as a culture are hungry for, but just like only Nixon could go to China, it took the crab fishermen of Alaska to bring it to us in a format we couldn't impeach."
posted by KathrynT at 1:11 PM on October 26

I think there is also some heavy duty selection bias operating here, KathrynT. Tough crab fishermen crying make good television because it is so apparently playing against type, but we have no real evidence that the kinds of guys who go into that line of work, are entirely normal emotionally, and considerable evidence that many of them have problems off the boats, that they bring on to the boats, where the additional loneliness, boredom, and fatigue further dispose them to visible emotional displays. After all, watching crab crew after crab crew eat and sleep, on top of working crab pots, would be a lot more boring than cutting in the most emotional dialog and reaction shots and the shore back stories that set all that up.

For most American men I know, crying is a pretty rare phenomenon, because frankly, crying often makes men feel a lot worse, for some time afterwards. I know it does me, and I think the reasons are chemical and maybe hormonal, more than emotional. The few times I've cried as an adult man, I've felt nothing like a release of emotion, and just acrid, awful emptiness, that carried over to a stuffed head, and a sick, uncentered feeling for a couple of days afterwards. I'm generally OK within minutes if I just get misty eyed, but if I actually brim over into tears, I immediately feel nearly sick to my stomach, with a sour or bitter mouth, and often feel depression and emptiness crash over me, like a wave taking me uncontrollably down. I absolutely hate crying, and the ensuing days of feeling terrible, that inevitably follow it. I'd rather have explosive diarrhea, than cry, really. At least I'll feel better when I quit having the trots.
posted by paulsc at 4:51 AM on October 30, 2013


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