If you want to marry well, first learn to cook.

While this questionable advice may seem straight out of the 1950s, it is, in fact, the tagline for a new TVB cooking programme that has come under fire for perpetuating sexist stereotypes.

The show’s title, which translates to “100 dishes women must learn”, premiered on July 27 on the Hong Kong television channel.

With new episodes every weeknight, the 25-part series aims to turn its viewers into “kitchen goddesses” and equip them with the cooking chops to “lock down the stomachs of men“, according to a preview posted on TVB’s YouTube channel on July 26.

The programme, hosted by celebrity chef Kitty Siu and artiste Elena Kong, also features the tagline “able to cook, marry well”.

Additionally, Siu parroted the advice in her Facebook posts promoting the show, asking those who “want to get married out” to follow her recipes.

In an op-ed published on Stand News, an online news website, one angry viewer said the title and tagline perpetuated “backward” gender stereotypes of women belonging in the kitchen.

“Even if we don’t discuss equality between men and women, it doesn’t fit the reality of Hong Kong today,” she wrote.

“How many couples both work? Do you think women are responsible for cooking?”

Many Facebook commenters echoed her sentiments, with one noting that the programme reflected a mindset from “the late Qing Dynasty”.

The discontent with the show also hit Twitter, where users called it “glaringly sexist” and questioned why it was only marketed towards women.

This isn’t the first time the broadcaster has been accused of perpetuating harmful and sexist stereotypes.

Back in 2012, Bride Wannabes, a TVB reality show featuring five single women in their 30s outraged viewers with its unconventional advice aimed at finding the women husbands.

The tips from the programme’s “experts” included leaning forward at a 45-degree angle while talking to men and not showing excitement.

Despite the backlash Bride Wannabes received, TVB later created a spin-off in 2014 titled November Girls, a reality show centred around making over underprivileged women, described as “have-nots”.

Criticism of the spin-off included accusations of discrimination against disadvantaged women — one participant was described as a “peasant” — and accusations of normalising the judgement of others based on their wealth and appearance.

Text: Kimberly Anne Lim / AsiaOne / July 2020
Additional text: Sally Manik
Featured image: Screengrab / YouTube