Bil Browning

A1 steak sauce: Sexism is that important

Filed By Bil Browning | January 03, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: feminism, It's that important, sexism, sexist advertising

I realize that the picture is a little fuzzy since I took it with my cell phone, but this bottle of A1 Steak Sauce shocked me for it's blatantly sexist wrapper. (You can clickety to embiggen the picture.)

A1steaksauce.jpgThe bottle features 1950's clipart of a man silencing a woman with his finger while he gulps down a steak under the tagline, "This is no time for conversation." Under the graphic is A1's slogan, "Yeah, it's that important."

I may not be the most versed in feminist theory, but, Good Lord Almighty, this one is glaringly obvious. Someone had to have realized, "Maybe this isn't what we should be portraying..." Then again, I'm sure their target audience is the whole "meat and potatoes" manly man, so perhaps they think it's a grand idea.

Apparently, "Shut the f--k up, bitch. I'm eatin'," wasn't available.

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i LOVE A1 Steak Sauce but this is definitely REPUGNANT! Don't they know we have moved into the 21st century already?! That is so 19th century anyways! LOL!!!


Explain to me how this is sexist. I don't get it.

The man is silencing the woman so he can eat "in peace." As Alex says below, "those woman, they're always yimmer-yammering and never serving food fast enough."

From the 1950's clip art and the fact that she's not eating, we can infer that she also cooked the meal for him. But she's not good enough to talk to him while he eats?


Th' target audience is fer the Real Amerikins, the ones that doesn't live on the liberal coasts.
It's fer dems dat live in Real Amerikin towns like Wasilla....

Because you know those women, they're always yimmer-yammering, and never serving food fast enough!

Well, if she really wanted to get his undivided attention, she should have covered herself in steak sauce.

But hey, what do I know? After all, I have no interest in men or meat, being a strict vagitarian. :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 3, 2009 11:48 PM

Bil, I see a plate in front of the woman and she is not wolfing down her food, but it is there... I suggest they are out on a date and the guy is having his first bite. Or perhaps he is choking!

Where was this? St Elmo's Steak House perhaps? :)

"Better" steakhouses love this stuff. I used to sell to the Morton's steakhouse chain and every new opening meant an automatic $5,000.00 order for me. The majority of customers are men at lunch, couples at dinner, but increasingly female execs come anytime as a group. It is the closest thing to a hetero Gay bar I have ever seen. The women who frequently run, manage and waitress these locations do it all with style knowing that they are providing a fantasy atmosphere that the old coots, and businesspeople are willing to pay for and tip well to get.

I fondly remember Lawry's Steak House in Chicago. Not just the quality of the prime, but the card that came with every baked potato:

"There is no need to act discreetly,

I've been rubbed, I've been tubbed,

it is perfectly fine to eat me completely."

I thought of making that into a calling card. :)

It is tongue in cheek humor that begins and ends at the entryway door of the place. It certainly sparks more conversation than it inhibits and lends itself to a fun but expensive evening.

How about the iconic WWII poster showing "Rosie the Riveter" with a bent arm showing a muscle entitled "We can do it!"

Does it imply men can't?

And as to "who silences whom" in any household anywhere I think the award goes to anyone's mom.:)

I think there are times when we should not take these things sooo seriously.

A "fun" evening, for whom?

And I don't really get your Rosie the Riveter point. The poster was supposed to encourage more women to join the war effort. Implicit in the poster is that men have been "doing it" (it being everything in the public sphere) for ages, but that women needed to be allowed/encouraged to enter the public sphere. (Of course, this assumption is also very much raced and classed, as there have always been women working outside the home, but that's another conversation.)

As Alex pointed out, sarcastically, above, women are often (negatively) portrayed as being too loud, noisy, talkative, obnoxious, whiny, nagging, shrewish, carping, etc. And the person who gets to determine when a woman has crossed that line from talking "just enough" to talking "too much?" The man, of course. And, as we're all supposed to "know" and understand, when a man is eating his A1 steak sauce, a woman should not be "allowed" to talk.

The ideas underlying this advertisement, even if she hasn't prepared his food for him, presume that 1)women talk too much and 2) it is a man's prerogative to silence a woman if he so chooses.

Now, I get that you think this isn't all that important, but the really gross and crappy thing about sexism (and all the rest of the *isms, for that matter), is how insidious and seemingly "minor" things can be. Take the mere act of bringing this up, for example, if it'd been me (a ciswoman), rather than Bil, who brought this up (ignoring the fact that I'm not a contributor), I wouldn't just be risking dismissal for taking something so seriously, I'd also be opening myself to sexist criticisms about not having a sense of humor, being a ball-buster, being a harpy, etc. Just having the gall to speak up and point out that sexism exists means opening yourself up to *more* sexist BS.

Something as "minor" as this label serves to reinforce sexist ideas that contribute to larger societal dynamics. One of the two underlying ideas that I mentioned earlier was that it is a man's prerogative to silence a woman if or when he so chooses. Now, this isn't just a crappy, sexist way of thinking because it's rude to tell someone to shut up, but also because it is part of the social and cultural environment in which rape is tolerated, in which a man can silence a woman if he doesn't like it that she's protesting the sex he wants to have with her. It is part of a society that regularly marginalizes and dismisses womens' voices, and in which there is a woefully inadequate rate of representation in women in the top-tiers of professional spheres and in government.

The acceptable silencing of women isn't just about a steak sauce, it's also about who gets to exercise power and control - everywhere from Capitol Hill to bedrooms and back alleys around the country.

Very well put, Jo! *applause*

Thank you for expressing this much more eloquently than I was able to, Jo.


Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 5, 2009 5:00 AM

I would suspect the very secure women I know would look at this graphic from the "50's" and laugh. They surely would find no offense in it and would remind any men around that this is not the way it is today. The men would smile and agree.

You can take offense at one side of an ridiculous exaggeration but "Rosie the Riveter" escapes you? By asking the question: "Does this mean men can't?" it should be clear that anything can be annoying to someone if they try hard enough.

I have never liked Campbell's soup labels. They look like a communist flag!

Why is it "Mr Clean" when women do more cleaning?

Who decided "Just for Men" was just for men?

Who is "Uncle Ben" and who decided he should sell rice?

Does "Aunt Jemima" really want to make those pancakes or is she secretly hoping you switch to Bisquick?

Is "Land o Lakes" margarine offensive to American Indian Women. Look at the label.

"Red Man Tobacco?" Need I say more? Much ado about little.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 7, 2009 7:38 AM

As I explain below Jo, if you work hard enough you can become offended about anything. I am also told my "privilege" is showing because I state that I know very secure women who would laugh at this. I think a sense of humor is vital to living well and I wish you well in all your future endeavors.

Your privilege is showing ...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:33 AM

Or my common sense based upon a lifetime of separation of what is important from what is trivial.

BeccaTheCyborg | January 12, 2009 11:07 AM

Thank the little gods you're here to tell us what's important! All of us would have no differing real-life experience to say otherwise after all!

"How about the iconic WWII poster showing "Rosie the Riveter" with a bent arm showing a muscle entitled "We can do it!"

Does it imply men can't?"

Oh shut up.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:36 AM

Do you same people remember when the Repubs boycotted Heinz Ketchup, just because of Teresa?

This is as trivial and dumb as that was.

Jerry Weiss | January 4, 2009 12:42 PM

OMG, get a life.

From steak sauce to paragraphs on feminist theory?

I'll show you my gay card if you insist, but let me say that I've sat through many a dinner which some female members of my family have made very unpleasant by covering me with their own loggorhea sauce, an endless litany on the minute vicissitudes of their day, gossip, complaints, recapitulations of conversations with other people, everything that they saw or experienced that day, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

I hold my tongue, always remembering that I have to understand that oppressed people can behave badly, but I sure feel like I'm paying a price for the privilege of eating.

I can see the fingers typing out replies accusing me of being a misogynist even as I write this. Do your Pavlovian thing if you must.

I love women who have freed their minds and moved from complaint to liberated strength.

Fire away...

Just a reminder Jerry;
We went from complaint to liberated strength by complaining and protesting. Our leaders, here and in Europe, we were locked up repeatedly for complaining. Look up Emmeline Pankhurst or Alice Paul, or for that matter Sojourner Truth and Susan Anthony.

I won't call you a misogynist, Jerry, I'll leave it as "ill informed.

And I've been boycotting A-1 for years; I prefer Heinz.....I use it mixed with a touch of cider vinegar for a marinate, Polar...but go over the meat with a fork first to allow it to enter it well...

I won't call you sexist, I'll just say that it makes me a little sad that as a gay man you don't "get it" a little more than you do and that I'm happy my card-carrying homosexual male best friend is a more sympathetic person.

Bil, thank you very much for pointing this out. I'm vegetarian, but I like A1 with Boca burgers, seitan, and portabello mushrooms. And my wife likes it with steak and hamburgers. Think we're trying a store brand for now. It makes me happy to see men who *get it*!

Jo, I can neither add to nor subtract from what you said, so thank you as well.

As for you, Jerry, it is blatantly obvious that you "love" women in about the same way that Focus on the Family staffers "love the homosexual struggler".

I was going to point out to Jerry that being gay was no guarantee against misogyny, but thought better of it and decided to educate him a bit instead.

It makes me happy to see men who *get it*!

While I appreciate the compliment, Jayelle, I don't know that I can claim that I "get it" yet. I've said plenty of stupid things on the blog too... :)

But I'm trying.

I've always preferred Heinz '57', or perhaps just some Lea and Perrins worcestershire. A properly marinated, seasoned, and grilled steak should require no sauce, anyway. Yes, I found the ad overtly antifemme.

Meat without sauce is like cake without frosting.

call me a gastronomical heathen, but gross.

I don't eat much meat anymore, but when I do, I don't like any sauce on meat. I want to taste the meat, not the sauce. Also, when I eat, I want to eat, not talk. I'm too busy shoving food into my mouth! :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:40 AM

This is a true American!

As a woman, i get both sides of this debate. We must remember there was a long period in our human history where women were not created equal. Misogyny still does exist today and those who do not recognize that are in denial.

Yet, at the same time, these are old ads and must be understood as that in their original context, as horrible that may be.

BUT, we must also NOT perpetuate negative stereotypes so being appalled at them is not a bad thing. We do not like negative stereotypes about our LGBTQ community to be perpetuated, like we are all sex-crazed perverts who molest children.

So, let's all agree to try and see each others perspectives.

Best Wishes!


Isn't this a modern ad but done in an old style, as opposed to an old ad? Therefore, its context is now. Otherwise, how could Bil take a picture of the bottle with his camera phone?

Great point. It is a modern ad - either using retro clip art or a design they created just for the wrapper.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:42 AM

See above where I mentioned "Old Coots."

The morons. Their ad doesn't even make any bloody sense. He's eating, so she can't talk? Do they not have any friends? Usually when you're out to eat with someone, the person who's not eating at the moment IS the one who talks! Otherwise, you obviously can't talk very well with your mouth full, but if you also can't talk while the other person is eating, you're just gonna end up having one hell of a silent meal. Idiots.

And to answer the question of why this shit is important, it DOES affect the way women and men interact in the world when we have this view that women are blabbing all the time and men need to shut them up -- take a look at this:

5. Talk time. Men take up more time and space at meetings, while women try to make sure there is more equality in the room. Despite stereotypes to the contrary studies have shown that men talk more then women. Men interrupt women and talk over them much more that women interrupt men. All of this can lead to the type of miscommunication based on assumptions of why member of the other sex are using certain verbal and non-verbal behaviors. These miscommunications can result in team breakdown, people not listening to each other and loss of good ideas.

I also like this classic article from PBS which directly refers to the myths of how much women talk; I find all these to be extremely true in my own life -- you can have a group of women and one men, and the guy will do all the talking, will interrupt, will change the topic to things he knows more about, and it is frustrating as hell to be in a conversation where you feel completely irrelevant and talked over. Luckily, my guy friends now aren't like that, but it's funny to watch when new guys hang out with us and often their heads just about explode when they realize that they have to participate in the conversation rather than control it.

"Wait a minute here, please don't ask anything to which you expect me immediately to reply, for as you see, I'm stuffing three ounces of beef into my mouth just now."

ButteryGoodness | January 5, 2009 10:39 PM

Meh, I like it. I would also like one in the reverse. I hate when people (including husband) freaking bother me when I'm eating.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 6, 2009 8:48 AM

I knew eventually the American tastebuds would dominate. It is annoying to have to rush a mouthful of food to answer a question. I generally talk like a magpie while carving my tiny forkful of a premium beef meal. It is a rarity. It is a luxury. It is a pleasure and this label underscores that in a comic relief form.

I can't find another occurance of such an A1 sauce label ANYWHERE on the web. Searched Google images, every advertising archive I could find and NADA on such an A1 campaign. Can anyone else find anything other than this camera photo?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 15, 2009 1:46 AM

It is a vanity label offered to restaurant users by the company. You won't find it on a store shelf. I guess it is the restaurant owners "freedom of speech" to choose to display it.

Jerry Weiss | January 8, 2009 10:50 AM

As for you, Jerry, it is blatantly obvious that you "love" women in about the same way that Focus on the Family staffers "love the homosexual struggler".
Bullfeathers. So you identify with being a complainer? To move on from that would be to no longer be a woman?

Freedom is never given. Freedom is taken.
Liberate yourself. Push the macho pigs out of the way. Know who they are, and who your friends are, and don't waste your time on petty crap like this A-1 thing.

As the saying goes, "F**k the fame, where's the money?"

True victory will come when there is no longer any need for "feminism" or "gay liberation" or "black power" or "left-handed egg crackers civil rights" (to quote Swift)etc., etc., because the battles will have been won and all people are accepted for who they are, categories consigned to the dustbin of history.

Jerry Weiss | January 9, 2009 1:29 PM

And another thing..

Why are we devoting time to this when equal pay for equal work legislation is at a critical point (days) in Congress and needs phone calls, emails, personal contacts with your senators (more crucial, as the vote in the Senate will be closer) and representatives?

I have to say thanks for bringing this out man. I have been saying to people for AGES that A1 is EVIL! I have looked at some of the facts considering how A1 is MADE and MARKETED and it is THE MOST EVIL PRODUCT EVER. This is a good example. OVER AND OVER they say in their advertisements that NOTHING MATTERS but A1!!!!!!

GOD HELP US because it is OBVIOUS that they MEAN IT. Did you see the one where a man was eating the A1 and his life was in danger but he KEPT EATING ANYHOW? Clearly that is FALSE ADVERTISING. Because WHO would eat A1 if his life was in danger.

When I was complaining about this a couple of my friends said it was SATIRE, an EXTREME silliness to show the "IMPORTANCE" of A1. But if A1 is willing to say that a man would rather DIE than live with A1, how can we expect anything less than this MOST DISGUSTING label that you pointed out. THIS IS NOT SATIRE!!!!!!!!!! They ACTUALLY MEAN IT!!!! Men would DIE if they could not eat A1 and women do talk!!!!!!!!!!! OMG SAVE ME HELP NO A!

You people are numbskulls.

Funny, I took the same pic today at an Outback Restaurant durinng a private lunch meeting. Sexist? No one would be crying if they were poking at the male gender. What a double standard. I'll post my pic on Face book. cj