Gordon Ramsay is known as much for his culinary creations as his foul mouth. There are few subjects that the famous chef feels unqualified to comment on, forgetting that his speciality is cooking and not sociology. In his most recent tirade he decided to insult Australian TV host Tracy Grimshaw.
In the name of fun, in front of an audience of thousands at the Good Food and Wine Show, Ramsay displayed an image of a naked woman on all fours with multiple breasts and a pig’s face and then stated, “That’s Tracy Grimshaw. I had an interview with her yesterday – holy crap. She needs to see Simon Cowell’s Botox doctor.” He then went on to call Grimshaw a lesbian.
Given that Ramsay specifically requested that Grimshaw not question him about his personal life (read: lecherous behaviour), the fact that he felt empowered to speculate on hers speaks volumes about the degree of arrogance and patriarchal privilege that Ramsay operates with. Though many posit that we have reached a post-feminist world, men and women are often subject to different rules socially.
Demeaning a woman based on her physical appearance is one of the many ways in which men maintain privilege. Ramsay’s language and behaviour were both sexist and abusive. A pig Photo-shopped onto the head of a nude female body is an insult to all women. Comedy is often used as a cover for sexism, as though it does not spring from a well of misogyny specifically created to ensure a divide between the sexes.
Though Botox has become a common form of physical alteration, it is not a procedure that should be entered into lightly. How is having botulism injected into ones face for the appearance of youth related to journalism? Ramsay could offer no critique of how Grimshaw performed her duties and therefore, as it is often the case with professional women, insulting her physical appearance was the way to go. Men are seldom demeaned in a way that specifically assaults their masculinity.
Even if his assertions about Grimshaw’s sexuality were true, what purpose did publicly outing her serve? Other than to shame her and thereby maintain the gay/straight binary wherein a lesbian identity is understood as less than, that is? In a world in which lesbians often face loss of employment, rape and even murder for being open about their sexuality, Ramsay placed Grimshaw at undue risk. Many still operate under the false belief that a lesbian simply needs to have sexual intercourse with the right man to change her sexual orientation. Sex is often conceptualized as something men do to women and therefore lesbians are viewed as a threat to patriarchy.
Comparing Grimshaw to a pig and then accusing her of being a lesbian is typical heterosexist behaviour. It’s obvious from this episode that Ramsay, as a man of not only gender but race and class privilege, has become accustomed to wielding his power coercively.
Though Ramsay considers himself to be a champion because of his promotion of female chefs, his often misogynist commentary erases the benefit of his actions. If one must suffer humiliating commentary while in the labour force, achieving a position of authority is meaningless. He can quite often be heard on his famous television show “Hell’s Kitchen” referring to the female contestants as “bitches and cows”.
Ramsay’s language at the Good Fine and Wine Show cannot be accepted as a simple comedic routine, because it rife with heterosexist and patriarchal privilege. Ramsay has a history of demeaning women publicly and therefore his insinuation that his commentary was nothing more than a harmless joke between friends holds little merit. The marginalization of bodies is how we maintain a social hierarchy in which women and invariably deemed inferior. If we are to have any hope of achieving the equality we give lip service to, such behaviour cannot ever be deemed acceptable.