Girls Can Grill Too, So Why Don’t They?

Women have made great strides in climbing the corporate ladder and breaking glass ceilings. But there is still one stubborn place where gender parity escapes them:  the backyard barbecue.  

According to ButcherBox’s Kitchen Confidence Report, only 5% of women stated the grill was an appliance they felt confident using. Considering a study exploring sex distribution in meal prepping in the United States shows 80% of women do most of the planning or preparing of meals in the family, why does the kitchen remain the creative domain for women? What happens in that final step, walking out to the backyard and firing up the barbecue, that seems to be a barrier? 

Why Do Men Grill More?

Grilling and barbecuing are often associated with outdoor activities, which traditionally were male-dominated. This perception may have influenced expectations that assigned outdoor duties to men. Some believe the desire for men to claim the outdoor grilling space can be traced back to prehistoric times when men were the hunters and gatherers of the family. There is something about starting an open fire that returns to this stereotype’s core. Of course, it also helps that barbecue cooking tools even look masculine as they are typically larger, almost tool-like in their form. 

Some women also view the barbecue as similar to a tool so powerful that one false move igniting a gas grill will lead to disastrous results like a flame high enough to singe their eyebrows. 

Although women are obviously more than capable of starting a barbecue, the media has also played a part in convincing women that men are the bosses of the barbecue. 

The Media Perpetuates The Stereotype

The media, including television shows, movies, and advertisements, further reinforces the stereotype by mainly portraying men in charge of grilling the meat. These depictions continue to shape society’s perceptions of gender roles. 

Christie Vanover is the owner and pitmaster of “Girls Can Grill” and recently appeared on Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl.” Vanover says that the media didn’t always place men in front of the grill.

“If you look at BBQ company ads from the 1950s-1970s, you will see women featured as grillers. Over time, marketing shifted, and women faded from those roles. For decades, marketing and advertising portrayed grilling as the man’s domain.”

As a result, many assume that men have expertise in grilling that women can’t attain. But Vanover also raises an interesting point about women being the target market for grilling ads a few decades ago because they may have always been involved in outdoor cooking. Scientists found evidence destroying the myth that men were the hunters while women gathered. Researchers discovered that women were equally involved in hunting and cooking food over an open flame. 

Is It More Than Lack Of Confidence?

Although the ButcherBox study cites a lack of confidence as a big reason women hesitate to grill, some women happily relinquish cooking duties to men. There’s a “let ’em have it” thought process – the idea that it is one way for spouses to be productive members of the households since women are mainly doing the meal planning and preparation. For these women, the issue is not gender parity, as they are more than happy to have their spouses contribute to the family’s food production. 

Flipping burgers and roasting corn outside also helps keep their kitchens clean. This may be another stereotype, but men tend to have a bad rap for leaving a trail of mess behind after cooking. 

Are Women Stepping Up To The Grill?

Vanover says that she’s seen a shift in the stereotype over the last 5 to 10 years. 

“TV shows and barbecue and grill companies have started including women in their marketing and programs. In 2010, the TV show “BBQ Pitmasters” premiered, highlighting BBQ cooks as they competed around the country. The series featured female pitmaster Lee Ann Whippen. Seeing her on TV in that role inspired me. She has since been inducted into the BBQ Hall of Fame.”

Is It A Social Thing?

Grilling food on a barbecue is often the cooking of choice for social gatherings, family get-togethers, parties, and sporting events. Men usually like to take on the role of grillmaster as a way to socialize, bond, and show off their culinary skills. 

But women are just as capable of taking on the role of grillmaster. Whether they feel uncomfortable operating a barbecue or are happy to let the men cook dinner outside, gender roles are changing, and the lens is widening. 

If there was any way to bring men inside and hand them that powerful beast of a vacuum cleaner, women would likely be more than happy to step away from that chore, too. 


This article was produced by This Mom is On Fire and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.