The Great British Bake Off is an amalgamation of fairy cakes, bunting and pastel all in a country setting. Yet some viewers were far more sour than sweet in their response to the show as Ruby Tandoh, GBBO finalist, commented in the Guardian this week.
Perhaps in avoidance of appearing “whiny” or too defensive, as she has been accused, her response is perhaps less critical that it needed to be. However, although she is very all-inclusive in who she says was criticized, bar a few comments directed towards Kimberly’s ‘smugness’, it was her who received all of the berating.
It is strange to think that in a competition contestants would be panned for showing they care. Yet Ruby has been subjected for just that, labeled insincere and manipulative for crying or self deprecating when a bake had gone wrong, as if it were impossible to believe that someone could genuinely care about the success of a bake.
Of course female and male contestants cry all the time on Masterchef but as Ruby notes, it is a “culture of frilly baking versus macho Michelin stars, of real chefs versus domestic goddesses.” Food, as everything, has become gendered and different foods have been assigned differing values as sexist stereotyping come out to play.
Ruby received comments “[accusing her] of being ‘filthy slag’ based solely on [her] being a woman on a TV screen”, something which she should never have had to deal with. In a illustrative article the website Bad Housekeeping also highlighted the disgusting misogyny that was being leveled at Ruby across Twitter where she had become “that slut Ruby” in a number of tweets for no other reason than that she is pretty and that she, apparently, held judge Paul Hollywood’s favor (though it is undeniable that she was also a favorite baker of Mary Berry’s – how else would she have got through?). The sexism in this is undeniable, but what is even more sexist is that is it Ruby who, in this theorized situation, is criticised on manipulating and seducing with no repercussions on Paul Hollywood. As Ruby says “I’d rather eat my own foot than attempt to seduce my way to victory, and even if I had any intention playing that card, it’s insulting to both the judges to suggest that they’d ever let their professional integrity be undermined in that way.”
What people seem to ignore is that Ruby won ‘Star Baker’ three times, more than any other contestant. There was a roar of complaints in regard to her getting through with a less attractive opera cake in the semi-final, yet ultimately any bake is about the flavour and – whilst Ruby’s was not as beautiful as, say, Frances’ cake – it was far better flavored than Becca’s, whose opera cake tasted of artificial bananas, something the judges were simply not looking for.
Ruby concludes her article with an assertion that she will not put up with the misogyny that she and the show at large has received. It is a genuine worry that the move of the show from BBC Two to One will only increase the volume of misogyny the show garners. However, as Ruby states, “it’s not something I’m willing to tolerate… I’m going to have my cupcake and eat it, too.” Hopefully many more will find their voice to assert their lack of toleration too.