Picture this: you are in an upscale restaurant in New York. Your server comes over and takes your order and a few minutes later, delivers the best appetizer you’ve ever had. You ask to speak to the chef to give your compliments.
What gender was the server? What gender was the chef?
If you thought of a female server, even though I was specific not to use the term waiter or waitress, then you are in the majority. But if you thought of a female chef, you are in the minority.
Why, in a society where “Women belong in the kitchen” jokes are prevalent, do we assume that the chef is male? Because it’s not about the woman making the food, it’s about the power that is represented behind it.
In our minds, the server is someone who is low-man-on-the-totem-pole, doesn’t really matter, can be replaced, etc. However, the chef is someone who is in charge and commands respect and praise for a job well done.
If you google teacher, the following image appears:
But if you google professor, you get these results instead:
These two jobs are basically the same, so why does one search result pull up women and the other, men? ( I will give Google credit, one member of the opposite sex appeared in each search. They’re trying.)
It’s simple. It’s not just about the job at hand, it is about the implied power behind it. A teacher is seen as a matronly figure who graduates a college of their dreams and goes on to impact the minds of young students, but a professor is seen as someone who has to have much more discipline, much more schooling, to be better.
Of course this affects the gender norms that a child believes to be true. When you grow up hearing that girls will be vets and boys will be surgeons, you start to believe that your place in society is deemed upon what genitals you possess. It’s not about who is the smartest, who got the best education, who deserves to be paid more- it’s about who we, as a society, have been conditioned to see as someone in that position.