Interesting piece from Ruby on the sexism toward her and her fellow contestants in the Guardian.
The Great British Bake Off: why did our show attract so much vitriol? Ten weeks of frenzied baking culminated in a great pastel-coloured explosion of flour, bunting and puns. Within the confines of our little picket-fenced tent, we threw ourselves into the challenges of picnic pies and pretzels, shaking, terrified, dosed up on adrenaline and Rescue Remedy.
Of course it is the hyperbolic silliness â€“ the make-or-break trifle sponge, custard thefts, and prolonged ruminations over "The Crumb" â€“ that makes The Great British Bake Off so lovable. It is your nan's biscuit tin, a village fete and picnic in the park. It converts banality â€“ the efforts of a gaggle of amateur bakers in a tent in Somerset â€“ into a national spectacle.
That's why I am surprised at just how much nastiness was generated from the show. Despite the saccharin sweetness of the Bake Off, an extraordinary amount of bitterness and bile has spewed forth every week from angry commentators, both on social media and in the press. Many took to Twitter decrying the demise of the show, voicing their hatred for certain bakers, and asserting (week after week!) that they would "never watch it again" if X or Y got through that episode. Online hordes massed, brandishing rolling pins and placards, ready to tear down the bunting and upturn the ovens. How did a programme about cake become so divisive?
The criticism ranged from the gently cynical to the downright obnoxious, but as the series went on I noticed an increasing degree of personal vitriol and misogyny. We (female) finalists are supposedly too meek, too confident, too thin, too domestic, too smiley, too taciturn â€¦ If I see one more person used the hackneyed "dough-eyed" pun I will personally go to their house and force-feed them an entire Charlotte Royale.
I am tired of defending myself against the boring, inevitable accusations of flirting with Paul Hollywood, of emotionally manipulating the judges and of somehow surfing into the final on a tidal wave of tears. I'd rather eat my own foot than attempt to seduce my way to victory, and even if I had any intention playing that card, it's insulting to both the judges to suggest that they'd ever let their professional integrity be undermined in that way.
Of course this is TV â€“ it is meticulously manufactured â€“ but the judging was always fair. Much of the groundless criticism and claims of cupcake conspiracy are the inevitable consequences of Bake Off's success with viewers.
But I think there's more to it than just this â€“ so much of the criticism levelled at the bakers is gender-specific. My self-doubt has been simultaneously labelled pathetic, fake, attention-seeking and manipulative.
Raymond Blanc waded in on the commentary to so helpfully deride the "female tears" on the show. (What are "female tears", anyway? Are they more fragile and delicate than male tears? Do they wear pink?) Kimberley's self-assurance â€“ a character trait so lauded in menâ€“ has been rebranded as smugness, cockiness and even malice.
There have been the sadly predictable comments on the bakers' weights (as though it's unfathomable that anybody could enjoy food and yet be slim), and charming debates on which of the finalists is the most "shaggable".
And then there's the broader background of misogyny and gender politics against which this has all played out. It's a culture of frilly baking versus macho Michelin stars, of real chefs versus domestic goddesses. Food has become divided and gendered, torn between the serious sport of haute cuisine and the supposedly antithetical world of women pottering around in home kitchens.
Even within baking there's the view that a spelt sourdough is somehow more sincere than a miniature macaron. It's all nonsense, of course, but as long as this needlessly gendered rift is maintained, both men and women will suffer for it. Of course Bake Off is silly, and of course there's nothing life-or-death about making trifle in a tent. But it is no more frivolous than any other reality TV cooking show, and its contestants are no less serious about what they do.
Well, I'm done with apologising. I have apologised for my bakes, and I have apologised for apologising. I have shied away from the more decorative side of baking for fear of being dismissed as silly.
I've served every bake with a side of self-deprecation as anything more than total meekness may be mistaken for the sort of confidence that other bakers have been lambasted for. I have defended myself against accusations of being a "filthy slag" based solely on me being a woman on a TV screen.
If a show as gentle as Bake Off can stir up such a sludge of lazy misogyny in the murky waters of the internet, I hate to imagine the full scale of the problem. But it's not something I'm willing to tolerate. Sod the haters. I'm going to have my cupcake and eat it, too.
I agree with a lot of what she says, apart from when she labels the criticisms of Kimberley as sexism. Speaking for myself, I had been avoiding comments on Twitter and here this year because I always seemed a few days behind so I was plesantly surprised to see that people felt the same way as I did when I did catch up. But more than that - Kimberley also reminded me of James last year, who I also found smug.