Anthony Bourdain, the culinary bad boy, is now pivoting to a culinary woke-boy persona. In an interview with Slate, he discussed how he’s been reexamining his career. Bourdain is intimately connected to the case, as his girlfriend Asia Argento has accused Weinstein of raping her. (After speaking out, Argento left Italy following a media backlash.)
“I guess I’m looking back on my own life,” he said. “I’m looking back on my own career and before, and for all these years women did not speak to me.” Here, he means women that he knows personally who did not talk to him about their experiences with harassment and assault. He called this lack of trust a “personal failing.” Per Slate:
But I had to ask myself, particularly given some things that I’m hearing, and the people I’m hearing them about: Why was I not the sort of person, or why was I not seen as the sort of person, that these women could feel comfortable confiding in? I see this as a personal failing.
I’ve been hearing a lot of really bad shit, frankly, and in many cases it’s like, wow, I’ve known some of these women and I’ve known women who’ve had stories like this for years and they’ve said nothing to me. What is wrong with me? What have I, how have I presented myself in such a way as to not give confidence, or why was I not the sort of person people would see as a natural ally here? So I started looking at that.
He also acknowledged that many times he was an asshole (his word) but, like most men, he hopes he didn’t make anyone uncomfortable.
Look, I like to think, I like to think that I never made … Look, there was a period in my life in the kitchen where I was an asshole. I was. I would do the classic, throw plates on the ground. If waiters or waitresses for that matter displeased me I would rail at the heavens, curse, scream. But I like to think I never made anyone feel uncomfortable, creeped out, or coerced, or sexualized in the workplace.
But he began to self-examine anyway. And what did he find? The bad-boy persona, coupled with the particular moment he arrived on the restaurant scene and his way of sexualizing food may have fed into “bro culture.” He also says he never was comfortable with catcalling (or people being rude to waiters). His journey takes him through his days at Vassar (where the women “spoke like sailors” and “I was like the only guy at the table and these women were like predators”) to working his way up through the restaurant industry, including its hazing rituals during the English guild system.
But, look, I accepted when the book came out, that I was the bad boy. There I was in the leather jacket and the cigarette and I also happily played that role or went along with it. Shit was good. People said a lot of silly things about me. People actually used the word macho around me. And this was such a mortifying accusation that I didn’t even understand it.
You know, to the extent that I was that guy, however fast and however hard I tried to get away [from] it, the fact is that’s what my persona was. I am a guy on TV who sexualizes food. Who uses bad language. Who thinks our discomfort, our squeamishness, fear and discomfort around matters sexual is funny. I have done stupid offensive shit. And because I was a guy in a guy’s world who had celebrated a system—I was very proud of the fact that I had endured that, that I found myself in this very old, very, frankly, phallocentric, very oppressive system and I was proud of myself for surviving it. And I celebrated that rather enthusiastically.
I mean, I became a leading figure in a very old, very oppressive system so I could hardly blame anyone for looking at me as somebody who’s not going to be particularly sympathetic. They say something to me about someone I know, and maybe I would tell them.
Maybe Bourdain will now venture into leading reformed-machismo seminars.