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Amazon's 'Dream Kitchen' Giveaway - Are Cooking Gadgets Only For Women?

By October 14, 2009

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Amazon.com, that online retail behemoth that once focused on books but now sells everything including the kitchen sink (5o different makes and models in fact), has a 10-week-long sweepstakes event going on to celebrate 10 years of offering customers the opportunity to post their 'wish lists' on the website.

As I write this we're in Week 2, and the prizes revolve around the "Dream Kitchen Prize List" which includes major appliances, handheld gadgets, pots, pans, knives, a standing mixer, food processor, espresso machine, and practically anything a foodie, amateur chef, or cooking show aficionado could want.

So here's the big question.

We have the Food Channel, Emeril, Bobby Flay, the Iron Chef, and endless top chef-style reality shows featuring hand-to-hand combat over a hot multiple-burner professional range. Many of these kitchenistas are men. So has cooking become a gender neutral sport? Is 'the kitchen' no longer the place where women were kept barefoot and pregnant in domestic servitude, slaving over that aforementioned hot stove? Has it evolved into "the trophy kitchen" - a place where men like to show off and take great pride in their work?

I ask this because of a heated discussion that broke out on Amazon.com in the past day or so about this particular grouping of prizes. Under the heading "Why is this sweepstakes only for women?" I.G.H. begins the food fight with the comment, " It's mostly kitchen stuff, I mean...for real?"

GRD responds, "Let's see -- Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchico, Jacques Pepin, Bobby Flay, Tom Douglas, Alton Brown, to name just a few. Need I say more about men and kitchens?"

Amber Hathaway says, "Hah. I think the question here is "why do you assume that kitchen supplies only apply to women?". I'm more worried about you being sexist than Amazon treating one gender preferentially."

Ashley E. Schaff notes, "When I mentioned to my husband what was up for grabs he got more excited than I did. He spends much more time cooking than I do because he enjoys it and he would LOVE to have any of the things on this list. Please...pull your head out of your...I guess I can't say that on Amazon."

And A. Holden adds, "What a moronic sexist statement. idiot. This guy cooks and loves it :o) "

Why am I so fascinated by this discussion? Because it reveals a hugely significant shift in attitude.

For generations, men have been chefs and women have cooked. When a fine dinner was prepared in a restaurant, the chef was praised. When the same thing happened at home, it was just another meal the woman of the house was expected to put on the table piping hot -- just another thing to check off the daily 'to do' list.

Women have long fought against being tied to the stove, but little progress was made to get women out of the kitchen...until recently.

Lo and behold, two things happened. Men came into the kitchen when semi-professional and professional-style ranges became the rage in American homes. And women who worked the same 9-5 schedule as their husbands either didn't feel like cooking during their 'second shift' at home, or didn't know how and had little interest in learning. Cooking stopped being an assigned gender role, and more and more men embraced the idea of meal preparation. (The advent of many shiny food prep tools and gadgets probably didn't hurt, either.)

So the online fight that's broken out at Amazon. com reveals a fascinating cultural shift -- men who freely admit that they love to cook, and women who aren't spending time in the kitchen the way their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers did...and have no guilty feelings associated with not wanting to cook.

At least that's my own take on this whole "Dream Kitchen" situation. But what do you think?

Was Amazon promoting gender bias when it offered a "Dream Kitchen" list of prizes? Or was the perceived sexism merely in the eye of the beholder -- namely the guy who saw this as a "sweepstakes only for women"? Who cooks in your home? And do you see a shift taking place, or is it just wishful thinking on my part?


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