Speaking of Women's Rights: Dancing around sterotypes

Friday, September 4, 2009

Dancing around sterotypes

Kari Brunson switched careers recently. The way that she’s being portrayed in the media hints at the way men’s jobs vs. women’s jobs are stereotypically perceived.

Brunson, until recently, was a ballerina with the Pacific Northwest Ballet. She made a bit of a splash when she pursued her interest in cooking by taking an unpaid position in the kitchen at a Seattle restaurant, and an even bigger one when she quit her dancing gig to cook full time.
Take a look at how she was photographed at different stages of this process.

March 2008 – still a dancer

(Mike Urban / seattlepi.com)

It’s a cute photo, of course – it’s flattering, as is the accompanying interview. But the gimmick doesn’t do justice to her considerable culinary interest and talent.

It suggests something like, “Isn’t she cute? She’s a ballerina who likes to cook – what a neat hobby! I thought ballerinas didn’t eat anything. She’s so tiny that she fits inside that giant pot! ” The takeaway – this photo is a joke, not intended to make the viewer take Brunson very seriously.

(By the way, being a ballerina? NOT EASY. Anyone who can do this has got to be in incredible physical condition.)

September 2009 – now a chef

(Joshua Trujillo / seattlepi.com)

Another flattering portrait, yes, but the tone of it is totally different. She looks serious and professional here – like a “real” chef.

When Brunson was primarily affiliated with professional ballet – a field very much dominated by women – she was photographed as a darling dilettante, lounging around in her cookware. And now that she’s primarily affiliated with the restaurant business – a field dominated by men – the portrait is suddenly all business.

The gender stereotyping dynamic in stories about Brunson is subtle -- like, say, a hint of cumin in your ratatouille -- but it’s definitely in there.