Burger King’s International Women’s Day tweet has sparked controversy

Burger King UK's tweet to

Burger King UK

Burger King UK’s tweet to “represent women in culinary professions

Burger King UK’s recent tweet has brought controversy that has spread from platform to platform. Their approach to celebrating International Women’s Day started with a tweet stating: “Women belong in the kitchen.” After a minute of letting the tweet sit in public, they responded with the statistics of professional chefs that are women being only 20%.

Similarly, this isn’t the first time they’ve taken this perspective for awareness. A commercial for their Vietnamese chili burger being eaten with giant red chopsticks has been aired as a clickbait strategy. This provokes customers into creating more public media for the company. Their design for identity appeals has proven time and time again to be unsuccessful, yet they still continue to use sexism and racism to draw attention to their company.

Burger King attempted to justify their tweet with the cover-up of comparisons of “award-winning kitchens.”

With “women should stay in the kitchen” being a term that is widely used among misogynists, there seem to be so few actually in culinary arts as it is a mostly male-dominated field. While people would still view chefs as males, the gender gap doesn’t help oppose this case either. A gender gap is when there is a difference in opportunities between men and women, which has been shown in many circumstances other than culinary professions. 

Though society continues to change, women still have to fight for equality and normality in the workforce. This view started long ago when society decided that men should make the income by working jobs while women were made for taking care of children and cleaning the house. Food writer Sybil Kapoor, for example, has said she’s been denied culinary opportunities because she is a woman. 

I never came across any direct problems, but I would ring up for a job, and they’d say that the job has gone, and you would know it was because you were a woman,” she said.

Though society continues to change, women still have to fight for equality and normality of “a man’s job”.”

Many modernized concepts have been taken over through media with networks of male-influence. “Food media has been doing wrong by women for a long time; not just the men of the industry, but female reporters, female editors, and female readers who share blind spots and biases that favor men” (Meghan McCarron, The Chefs We Don’t See). 

The Burger King spokesperson stated their mission of the tweet was to bring awareness to the fact that there is a small percentage of women actually in professional culinary careers. This, in fact, was not the outcome. First impressions are important, and for a multinational fast-food chain to promote their name by creating controversial topics at the time of celebrating the social, economic, and cultural achievements of women, it can be considered by many to be unnecessary and uncalled for. 

In a U.S. census from 2020, it is reported that the average pay for women in this field is significantly less as well. Some women have spoken out about being the only woman seen in the kitchen alongside the adversity they faced. Chef Nancy Longo shared stories about her experiences in the beginning of her career where male owners would denounce her and show physical and verbal harassment as she attempted to move up the ranks (The Baltimore Sun).

The stereotype of men being chefs and women being bakers—making up 80% of that workforce—has become more distinguished, however, according to StarChefs salary report, male pastry chefs still receive 27% more pay than women. Media representation has caused the ideology that domestic cooking has been distinguished and separated from professional kitchens. “The association of cooking with women’s domestic roles has created a ‘feminization threat’ that male chefs may still experience, leading to the exclusion of women in kitchens” (Harris and Giuffre, 2015).

This may go in hand with gendering food and the fact that many comfort food preferences for women have been candy and chocolate—a sweeter, more feminine style—while men’s have been foods such as meat, a heavier category of food (Wansink 2003). 

Burger King later tried to defend themselves by deleting the original tweet and counter-arguing their statement by expressing their original purpose was to show people the statistics and announce their scholarship program H.E.R. (Helping Equalize Restaurants). Many people after seeing their first tweet conveyed their thoughts by vowing to never eat at the restaurant again. Niki Winters, a former enrolled intern at culinary school, voiced that while their gesture was thoughtful, she doubts it will make a dent in helping out as the tuition for enrollment starts at around $30,000.

“I’d especially like them to all commit to paying a living wage to their employees because that’s going to lift people up far more than a couple of scholarships,” she said.

Business researcher, Tami Kim, revealed that most women tend to stay away from marketing tactics such as these. “What many businesses fail to realize is that, while they intend to promote these ideas by relying on the issues to fuel their start, it’s up to the consumer to decide the view of it” (Hannah Denham, Washington Post). 

As modern society tries to distinguish itself from the past, there still seem to be similarities within gender inequalities around simple things that still haven’t been solved despite numerous uproars around them. Judy Joo from Iron Chef UK mentioned it’s become a norm for her to be asked why she didn’t look like a “real chef.” “Do we have to lose our femininity to work in kitchens? There’s no more that I need to prove to anyone else. I just hope to maintain a viable business and to make nice food. Don’t give up, but be prepared to work really hard” (Spoon University).

While there has been more and more female representation in culinary careers, there’s still progress that needs to be made as well as bringing respectful awareness to speaking out about situations similar to these.