Meat’s meat and man’s gotta eat
Despite the crackle of excitement and promise in the air since Barack Obama entered office, some stereotypes still refuse to shuffle off this mortal coil, as exhibited by a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Wall Street trader in New York this week. Ryan Pacifico is suing his ex-boss, Robert Catalanello, for creating a hostile work environment, taunting Pacifico for being a vegetarian and accusing him of being homosexual during fits of juvenile bullying.
Catalanello’s alleged abuse is the meat of the nine-page complaint, which accuses the boss of saying, “Who the f— cares?” when another trader questioned what Pacifico would eat during an outing to a steakhouse.
“It’s his fault for being a vegetarian homo,” Catalanello is accused of saying.
The suit also charges that the boss crudely poked fun at Pacifico last March during a conversation about steakhouses.
“You don’t even eat steak, dude,” Catalanello is accused of saying. “At what point in time did you realize you were gay?”
Pacifico was eventually fired for what was described as a “minor infraction.” His story has been burning up the interblags these past couple of days, and reaction to it has been mixed. Righteous indignation on Pacifico’s behalf has been seen, but so has a sort of hapless shrugging and “Well, that’s what men do, they call each other ‘faggot,’ what are you gonna do?” One commenter at Pandagon insisted that trading and investment banking is typically the profession of choice for frat boys who never grew up, where testosterone hangs in the air like dust motes, and that Pacifico shouldn’t have taken a job there if he couldn’t handle the environment. Commenters at other sites have been downright hostile, referring to Pacifico as a “wimp” and a “pussy,” with one even suggesting that he should have given in and eaten steak with the boss, “just to fit in.” Conclusion: hostile work environments are only a problem for women, while a man experiencing it should just laugh it off, perhaps with a round of fist bumping and “Whoa, good one, dude!”
I already left this comment elsewhere, and I’ll repeat it here: it’s my belief that Catalanello, the ex-boss, is so far in the closet he’s about to enter Narnia. The kind of hostility exhibited towards Pacifico is usually rooted in self-loathing and projection, not to mention that Catalanello seems incapable of recognizing the difference between a professional workplace and a high school locker room. I accept that many men do indeed poke fun at each other over their sexuality, mostly to prove how manly they are, however I do not accept that this is common and generally overlooked at the office, particularly a white collar office. I certainly can’t imagine myself, or any other woman, approaching a male co-worker in a break room and asking him “Why are you wearing that faggoty polo shirt, faggot?” without risking a trip to the HR department, or quite possibly even getting kicked out on my ass; I have even more trouble believing that this isn’t the case for other men. I suppose it’s possible that investment banking really is a sausage fest where common courtesy and maturity is tossed out the window in favor of dick waving and “funny” harassment of one’s co-workers–it certainly explains why Wall Street is now crumbling into the Hudson River. How could anybody get any work done, what with all reenactments of the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene from The 40 Year-Old Virgin over and over again, only without the humor.
I’m not surprised that Pacifico being a vegetarian was viewed by Catalanello as strange and exotic (read: gay). We still exist in a society where manliness is asserted by how much meat you eat, and consuming any other vegetable besides a potato is usually only done under duress, due to a nagging wife or girlfriend who is concerned with your health. I wrote about this on another blog three years ago, around the time TGI Friday’s served a single meal that consisted of a steak, baby back ribs, sausage and barbecued pork. Let me repeat: that was a single meal, as in meant for one person. The commercial for it was an exercise in subtle symbolism, with one of the men in it reinforcing his masculinity by holding up a dripping sausage on a fork. Around the same time Burger King ran an ad that showed men of all ages and races marching and declaring that they were no longer going to eat “chick food,” which apparently means anything that isn’t made of meat and covered in sauce and cheese. Since then Hummer has used a similar campaign appealing to men who have been emasculated by their spouses’ demands that they eat healthier, claiming that the best way to reclaim their identities is to buy one of their vehicles. The long-standing joke that men who buy unnecessarily big trucks or overpriced sports cars are compensating for small penises seems to have been embraced by the auto industry, and they are now marketing to male consumers who are too stupid to realize that they’re the punchline.
While they no longer appear to serve the giant pile o’meat mentioned above, TGI Friday’s continues to try to appeal directly to men by using professional chef and all around incredibly irritating humanoid Guy Fieri as a spokesman. Fieri, who inexplicably hosts not one, not two, but three different programs on Food Network, specializes in “man food,” such as Buffalo wings, fajitas and steak (he also makes a dish called, hilariously, ‘Baltimore Bad Boy Beef,’ which sounds like gay porn, but maybe it’s just me). Everything you need to know about Guy Fieri can be gleaned from the photograph below.
Mmm, you can just smell the Drakkar Noir from here, can’t you? Fieri is over 40 but dresses like an 18 year-old surfer dude, and while his overbearing, high-fiving “What up, brah?” personality is like nails on a chalkboard to me and most other sensible minded people (one blogger referred to him as “Bleachblonde McChinpubes”), he seems to be quite popular with everbody else. He’s a dreadful amalgam of every obnoxious male stereotype, loudly describing things as “That’s so money, yo!” when he’s not shoving enormous amounts of greasy, fatty food into his gullet. He may be a perfectly decent person in real life, but on TV he comes off as a cast member of VH1’s Tool Academy, and yet he’s one of Food Network’s most popular personalities. Clearly he is hitting the pulse of a key demographic, and that demographic can only be young men, probably the 18 to 35 contingency, who want to learn to cook, either because they’re single or their mothers won’t do it for them anymore, but don’t want to learn to cook any of that weird, pansy shit, like broccoli or fettucine Alfredo. These are men like Robert Catalanello, asswipes who are so insecure in their own masculinity that even the slightest step outside of “traditional” male roles, such as refraining from eating so much meat your heart bursts out of your chest is a grave offense, worthy of disrespect, harassment and ostracization. This isn’t “boys will be boys” behavior. It’s sad, and it’s disgusting, and shame on the advertising industry for capitalizing on it over and over again.