The issue of sexism and institutional misogyny in the restaurant industry isn’t especially new, and it probably isn’t going away anytime soon. From famed sushi master Jiro Ono’s son knocking women’s ability to taste during menstruation to the lack of serious restaurant films featuring female leads, it’s no secret that the industrial kitchen has not exactly been kind to women.
What about the home kitchen? The Atlantic reports that in heterosexual couples, women cook 78 percent of dinners and generally do this cooking in standardized rooms originally designed to fit the ideal housewife. The article explains that engineers looked to make working in the kitchen less “back-breaking” 100 years ago by adjusting the heights of counters and sinks. This information suggests that: (a) what women needed was a one-size-fits-all kitchen, (b) all women came in one height and (c) men were always too tall for kitchens, so it’d be silly to even think there could be space for a man there. The standardized kitchens almost sound like they would scold women for growing taller than the average height of 5 feet, 6 inches. Being too tall or too short? That’s mighty unladylike.
What these standardized, man-made sinks and countertops amounted to, essentially, is a man-made mold for a wife to reside in: a Stepford kitchen for your Stepford wife.
Yet despite all the advances in women’s rights over the years, this oppressive kitchen-design status quo somehow remains unchanged.
The Atlantic is now calling for a movement toward the customization of the kitchen. What it fails to point out, though, is that people already remodel kitchens to their preferences. Sinks can be made deeper or shallower; countertops can be raised or lowered. KitchenAids come in different colors — it all just takes money. In that regard, kitchen design isn’t all that different from any other customization issue. People who cannot afford to get their clothes altered by a tailor stick with what the stores give them.
While the idea of a kitchen for people of all sizes, regardless of gender, is just peachy keen, it’s not totally feasible. Not all at once, at least. We can’t wait for the day where we can jump up and down shouting, “The standard does not exist! The standard does not exist!” But until then, it’s a slow-simmering process.