Sushi, who doesn’t love it? At least, I do. Delectable bites that are packed with flavour, often shaped by the hands of a sushi chef. However, have you noticed that similar to professional cooks, most sushi chefs are men? That is because the art of sushi making is also shaped by gender.
‘Traditional’ sushi chefs give many reasons to explain why women should not be ‘allowed’ to make sushi. One of the most common reasons is given by famous sushi chef Yoshikazu Ono who stated that because women menstruate there is an imbalance in their food taste, which prevents them from achieving the perfect balance of flavours that sushi-making requires.
Another common myth is that women’s hands run too warm, which allegedly heats the rice too much and harms the fish. I say allegedly because actual studies show that women’s hands actually run cooler than men’s hands. Where is the former ludicrous idea coming from then? Well, I guess we will never know. Others say that women’s cosmetics get in the way of their sense of smell, which jeopardises their ability to select and handle the perfect fish. Even if we accept that wearing make-up may negatively impact your ability to assess the quality of a fish, anyone regardless of their gender identity may wear make-up and not every woman does anyway.
Moreover, even if they manage to break the glass ceiling of sushi making to become sushi chefs, women often face sexist discrimination and harassment from both within the industry and customers. Since most sushi bars are open with the chefs preparing the dish right in front of the customers, there is an increased chance of chefs who identify as women to be at the receiving end of derogatory and sexist statements.
However, slowly but steadily, change is coming. In 2010, a restaurant by the name of Nadeshiko Sushi opened up in Japan. This is a sushi restaurant that is now completely run by women. Hopefully, this paves the way for more people with a passion for sushi making to become chefs, regardless of their gender identity.
So, let’s make sushi rolls and not perpetuate sexist gender roles.