When Anthony Bourdain passed away in June 2018, the #MeToo movement lost a long-time supporter and role model. The former chef and accomplished writer stood up for women who told their stories of harassment and abuse — and called out the men who hurt them.
Bourdain saw firsthand how damaging harassment and assault can be, and vowed not to stay silent about it. Find out what motivated him to speak up — and how he acted as an ally toward women long before the #MeToo movement began (page 6).
Anthony Bourdain never joined in on the ‘locker room talk’
- Overhearing conversations between men, about women, always made him uneasy.
Despite the “bad boy” image he adopted after releasing his book, Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain always loathed misogyny. Even when every man around him participated, he never did.
He admitted, “I never wanted to be part of bro culture. I was always embarrassed. If I ever found myself, and I mean going way back, with a group of guys and they started leering at women or making, “Hey, look at her. Nice rack,” I was always, I was so uncomfortable. … [I felt] ashamed to be a man.”
Next: But he also stood up for women by calling other men out.
He called out his male friends
- He didn’t have anything kind to say about the possible “return” of Mario Batali.
When fellow celebrity chef Mario Batali faced sexual assault and harassment accusations, he faced the consequences. But Bourdain had harsh words to share about the alleged incidents.
“Retire and count yourself lucky,” he said. “I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him.”
Next: He saw firsthand what women have to put up within the workplace.
He took the Weinstein allegations personally
- Bourdain gained empathy toward the movement from an unexpected companion.
When Bourdain’s girlfriend, Asia Argento, accused Harvey Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, things got personal. His support went beyond cooking dinner for a handful of Weinstein’s accusers.
Through it all, though, he always kept his focus on the women who were hurt and wronged. After Argento came forward, he tweeted: “I am proud and honored to know you. You just did the hardest thing in the world.”
Next: He also took responsibility for his own role in giving toxic masculinity a voice.
He openly admitted his own failures
- He said there were parts of his book that made even him uncomfortable.
He admitted that certain parts of Kitchen Confidential, the language he used, and other factors may have played a bigger role in the culture of toxic masculinity than he intended.
Bourdain said, “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 … People actually used the word macho around me. And this was such a mortifying accusation that I didn’t even understand it.”
Next: He remained honest, even when he could have stayed silent.
He spoke out against ‘meathead culture’
- Bourdain feared he was at fault for helping take “bro culture” too far.
In an interview with Slate, Bourdain spoke about the culture of “meatheads” to which he feared his book had given a platform to stand on.
Having lived and worked in so-called “bro culture,” Bourdain began questioning his own mistakes. He recalled: “I’ve had to ask myself, and I have been for some time, ‘To what extent in that book did I provide validation to meatheads?'”
Next: Bourdain knew harassment when he saw it — and he took action decades ago.
He never tolerated inappropriate behavior in the workplace
- He instantly fired anyone who couldn’t behave professionally in the kitchen.
Twenty, 30 years ago, many employers would have looked the other way when men harassed their female co-workers. Bourdain had a zero-tolerance policy.
He told Slate, “I’ve certainly fired people, even back in the ’80s: If somebody was taking their personal business out on a female employee, or creeping on an employee, they were gone.”
Next: He let women speak for themselves — but also added his voice to the conversation.
He tried to explain why many women don’t speak up
- He believed many women stay silent because they don’t have a safe place to tell their stories.
After rumors surfaced that celebrity chef John Besh’s company ignored its employees’ sexual harassment claims, Slate asked Bourdain to share his thoughts on the change that began when women started speaking up — specifically, why many don’t.
Using Besh as an example, he said: “There was not a credible avenue, no trustworthy credible office or institution in this big company for women to report or to complain with any confidence that their complaints would be addressed … You just don’t feel like anyone is going to do anything but punish you for telling the truth.”
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