gender stereotypes alive and well. huzzah!

August 27, 2009

dearest readers,

it’s no secret that one of my favourite games on the nintendo ds is the addictive ‘cooking mama’ ™. for those of you who haven’t heard of or played this game yet (try to keep it that way, you will be glued to the console for hours upon hours otherwise), i have provided a clip of the gameplay here. also, try not to play it in front of your roommate/parent/guardian/partner, or else you will be tasked with answering the question of why you will play this game but refuse to cook a proper meal.

don’t make cooking mama angry. you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.

let’s clarify: there’s nothing wrong with a mama that cooks (there might be a problem with one who’s got that gleam of insanity in her eyes, though). i get it, she’s the game’s eponymous ‘mascot’. it makes more marketing sense to have one mascot than two – ‘cooking mama’ sounds a heck of a lot catchier than ‘cooking parents’. at least she isn’t portrayed in the game as barefoot and pregnant. plus, all the slicing and dicing action gave me excuse to ignore the gently prodding question in my mind of why it was a mama and not a papa.

…that is, until yesterday.

yesterday at an electronics store, i was browsing the games section for the ds with a friend and came across this doozy:

don’t smile at me like that. it’s not going to make things better.

aside from unearthing the hilarious fact that chemistry is (to the chagrin of scientists who still harbour sexist views) quite similar to the domestic labour that cooking is often perceived as, science papa really rubs me the wrong way. sure, some of you will say, ‘it’s supposed to be einstein*, nitwit. are you going to argue that einstein wasn’t a male?’ to those of you, i will retaliate with two questions:

  1. who is cooking mama ‘supposed’ to be, then? julia child, or a big fat gender stereotype? (i’m casting my vote for gender stereotype because i’ve never seen a picture of julia child in a kerchief. by the way: meryl streep, you are fantastic. please adopt me as your god-child.)
  2. why was it einstein and not, let’s say, marie curie? let’s face it, activision (who produced ‘science papa’) is pretty much unabashedly riding on the coattails of cooking mama ltd. (producers of ‘cooking mama’) – they might as well just have produced a ‘science mama’. just replace the apron with a labcoat! and don’t even try to give me that crap about appealing to a male demographic with the same game formula. i’ve seen guys bent over the ds, furiously stirring the stew for cooking mama dearest. and on a purely gaming note, the ‘science papa’ gameplay seems much too similar to ‘cooking mama’ – replacing the frying pans and spatulas with beakers and test-tubes doesn’t make for much of a change.

as a last resort, some of you may say, ‘science is traditionally a male-dominated field of expertise, anyway.’ to that, i say, yes. it is traditionally male-dominated, but dominated only in the sense that scientific contributions and findings from women were ignored or labeled by their male counterparts as useless in previous generations. and how is cooking not male-dominated anyway nowadays (in the public sphere, at least)? go to any restaurant of your choice and take a peek in the kitchen – unfortunately, almost all males. and of course, we have that international treasure, gordon ramsey. that guy would beat the ever-loving snot out of you if you called him ‘domestic’.

all i can say is, no wonder cooking mama seems rather unhinged if you burn the soup. it’s because science papa wrote the formula for the glass ceiling. now if you’ll excuse me, i have some onions to chop.

yours truly and truly yours,


* on a side note: i know einstein would whoop your ass thoroughly if you even had a caricature of him with hair like that. it looks too much like an explosion, and even though it’s not that characteristic atomic mushroom cloud, i think we all know he’d be pretty dang sensitive about that.


3 Responses to “gender stereotypes alive and well. huzzah!”

  1. chench Says:

    Okay, Science Papa is HILARIOUS. How it’s, like, any different from Cooking Mama remains to be seen. Also odd that he doesn’t appear to have a gleam of insanity whereas Mama does.

    So far as I can tell, Science Paper is not just stereotypically male, he is a specific male stereotype. Your friend is right about Einstein. Isn’t this, then, not a feminist problem so much as a general problem? Doesn’t it say that all scientists are eccentric, weird-haired, somewhat unathletic, glasses-wearing males, and not just “males”? Isn’t that sort of saying “if you want to keep your social skills, don’t be a scientist”?

    Looking at it another way, crazy mom or crazy prof/dad may be teaching you, but YOU can be anyone you want: young, old, male, female, white, not white, etc. Since you’re the future (and science papa looks a few years shy of becoming an emeritus), doesn’t that mean anybody can cook, or do science?

    Oh, and haven’t we noticed that not only are the parents white (or Japanese-white, i.e. Americans with Asian bone structure and blond hair), but so are all the guests? Where are the Africans? Indians? South Americans? Arabs and Persians?

    I’m sure either Einstein loved or didn’t care about his hair. If he hated it, why did he keep it like that?

  2. Matt Says:

    The big headpiece, the grey-haired air of patriarchal authority, the serenity of conviction… perhaps this is not Science Father but Science Pope??? It would be a brilliant deconstruction of what the public believes science to be.

  3. chench Says:

    Apparently Science Papa is a really bad game. Critics are calling it a “Cooking Mama ripoff”…

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