I Am a Grill. Please Don’t Politicize Me.

Hello. I am a grill. I am the one who chars your meat, or your veggie dogs, to crispy perfection. Given my life experience as an outdoor cooking apparatus, it follows that some of my best friends have been dudes. Bros, even. I love these guys. But on days like today I hate that I love them, because I hate that these dudes are taking over the feminist conversation to the extent that that they’re even politicizing me. A simple grill.

Now, I am also a feminist (isn’t everyone these days?).  But a sophisticated feminist analysis that dialectically and critically absorbs hooks, Greer, Friedan, and Lorde, with a dash of Dworkin and a dab of Paglia, will tell you the following truth: Wait for it… wait for it… no one cares about your flipping (or non-flipping) grilling habits, bro!

Sorry for blowing my lid here! (Get it? Lid? One thing you should understand about the cultural heritage of grills is our deep love of barbecue-related wordplay.) Let me circle back (or charcoal back, as we like to say in the grilling world) to tell you a story about myself. Look outside. It’s summer. Normally, I live for weeks like these — this is the moment I wait for under that tarp covering, huddled in the corner, during the ceaseless snowy months of despair. When I emerge, I’m supposed to be happy and ready to shine as everyone gathers with their families, biological or chosen, to call upon me and my brethren. Maybe they have a backyard. Maybe they have a park. As a socialist-feminist grill, I particularly love shared public space, but that’s besides the point.

It’s been hard to do my job this summer, because lately it seems that every time I open my iPhone to ketchup on news (haha!) I find more and more posts about being a “feminist man.” A feminist man looking for dates. A feminist man in an open marriage. Then there are the men who would probably call themselves feminist, being total racist, sexist bratwursts (hi, Piers!).

And now, we’re hearing from a feminist man who has a tortured relationship with me, his grill. Now, I get that this guy is in a pickle, because, yes, gender is a social construct. Yes, binaries like barbecuing vs. cooking, and taking the garbage out vs. doing the dishes, have arbitrarily been assigned gendered designations. And, yes, we should absolutely try to shake those things up when we can, marinate them even. Yet not to beggar the point (or burger the point), but there are just so many bigger fish to grill out there. There’s a massive pay gap. There is no paid maternity leave in this country. There is rape culture. There is an out-of-control racist police state.  Families being broken up at the border, kids hurt by transphobia and homophobia, and so much more more. And there are women who are writing about all this stuff, really well. Yet you, my dude, you and your ilk, are smothering the fire of this urgent conversation. What I’m trying to say is: this is not about you.

Does this mean men can’t write about feminism? Hell, no. In fact, it’s all good to skewer (get it? I’m killing with these puns)  traditional masculinity, which is what I think you were trying to do. That’s an idea that has sizzle, real heat. Men can call attention to feminist books and films, and lift up the voices of feminist writers. But you know what? They can also grill. They can pop open a beer, and call it a brewski (although maybe not entirely unironically). They can have a literal sausage fest upon my very back if they want, and still keep those feminist cards — as long as they’re “doing the work.”

Maybe this makes it sound like I’m espousing “choice feminism,” but nah, bro. What I’m saying is, let’s not let the endless feminist guilt cycle contaminate every flipping thing we do. If women can wear heels and be feminists, men can grill and be feminists, as long as they step back once in a while, both with the tongs and (ahem!) in the public conversation. Take a lesson from me: I lie dormant eight months a year. It’s called being an ally, bro.

I’m just a grill. Yes, I’m only a grill. But even I know that the best way for men to subvert the dominant paradigm is to chillax, listen carefully to women and non-male-identified folks, and pass the goddamn spicy mustard once in a while. Seriously though, do not bogart that mustard.

As told to Sarah Seltzer