My wife brought me home a catalog for The Pampered Chef...they sell good kitchen gear. From what I gather, it largely follows the Tupperware model of home parties and catalogs, all being run by some ordinary person who's been co-opted into being the company's sales force.
They look like they have good stuff...no problem there. My wife even got me a citrus peeler and a plunger measuring cup, both of which will come in handy.
They tend to only have women pictured using the products. This is a little bit more of a problem for me. Lots of men cook, even (according to my brother) a large percentage of construction workers. Does The Pampered Chef not want their business?
It reminds me of when I had a subscription to Cooking Light magazine. I loved the recipes...about 85% of them worked...but I got tired of paying for 100+ pages of women's health advice. It was also a lousy feeling to know that the magazine, rather than looking at me as a customer, kinda treated me as an interloper on women's domain.
The worst thing about The Pampered Chef was that it seemed to only have a women's workforce. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm glad there are options for women who need employment. But why does this style of employment have to focus on gender-specific products? It's another home care product (like Tupperware), or it's beauty (Mary Kay, Avon).
Women get the ability to sell women's products (even when they're not really for only women) to women only. And it strikes me as slightly regressive that they're pushing The Pampered Chef employment as perfect for women because they can still stay at home! There's even a testimonial from a former schoolteacher who became a sales agent...because teaching was apparently too much like a "job" that took her "home." Yes, even though she was doing what's traditionally a woman's job (cough), she still wasn't where she belonged.
Granted, it is better than no women employment opportunities, but this kind of work still reinforces the "housewife" stereotype...and if they gotta work, they should be allowed to have a job which lets them keep their feminine duties up.
I've been of the mind that the main problem with society is that people seem to be bound by rules, regulations, and expectations, and that these are generally based on power hierarchies...in this case, the man works and the woman stays at home. And I've also been of the mindset that society isn't going to change unless we nuke these expectations and fundamentally change the way society operates.
Companies like Mary Kay and The Pampered Chef don't want to change anything. If the world requires that females work, they seem to argue, at least let's let them stay as close to "womanly" duties as possible. And this strikes me as very stupid.
Imagine trying to convince a male construction worker to give up his trade and sell razors and nostril hair trimmers at guy parties...how far would you get with this suggestion? How often would you get beaten up?