How this MasterChef contestant became a feminist hero in Brazil

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When Brazilians tune in to see what's cookin' in tonight's finale of their country's version of MasterChef, it's more than just culinary skills they'll be looking for.

That's because reality show finalist Dayse Paparoto, a 31-year old chef with crooked glasses and a toothy grin, has suddenly become a symbol of feminist resistance to Brazilian machismo.

Like many female professional chefs, Paparato spent much of her career as the only woman in the kitchen. She currently works as the chef of a restaurant in a wealthy neighborhood in São Paulo, but before that she worked in a restaurant with 25 other male chefs. It was real-life training that prepared her to handle the challenges of competing against a kitchen full of men on MasterChef. The rest of Brazil, however, was less prepared.


As the season went on and the competition grew increasingly fierce, machismo flourished in the kitchen. For many Brazilian viewers, the machismo was palatable in small doses. But when one viewer combined all the clips into one machismo highlight reel on Brazilian social media, it set off a wave of outrage among viewers.

In the montage, the clips are spliced together in a relentless wave of sexism that makes eminently clear the degree of machismo Paparato, like many women in Brazil, has to endure on a daily basis.


In one scene, Paparato is assigned to work on a team with two other male chefs. During the competition she tells her teammates that they've forgotten to include a pork leg in one of the preparations, but is ignored until the judges criticize their meal at the end. “Four times I said it, Paparato protests, to which another contestant responds, “We didn’t really listen to her.”

In a private interview, one of Paparato's teammates says, “With a woman in the kitchen, you have to be more delicate because they are more fragile.” As the preparations continue, the male contestants literally box her out, leaving her with nothing to do. “The boys do everything,“ she says, throwing her hands up in frustration. “OK, I’ll just stand back and watch,” she says.


“Why don’t you grab a broom and sweep the floor,” one male contestants suggests.

Though this kind of explicit misogyny is not uncommon in Latin America, the machismo super clip of Paparato's ordeal in Masterchef has set social media ablaze, spawning hashtags of support such as #VaiDayse (Go Dayse).


Paparato, for her part, has leveraged the attention to her benefit with a series of memes, funny pics and social media trash talk. Her Twitter account, which was started only in October, already has over 23,000 followers. Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s finale, Paparato has already shown Brazil that she take the heat in the kitchen, and dish it right back.

Shannon Sims is an independent journalist writing for Forbes, NPR, and the Washington Post.