A Great British Bake-Off finalist has spoken about how she was told to ‘know her place’ by viewers who did not like the way she was portrayed in the hit BBC Two series.
Kimberley Wilson, from south London, said that the ‘two-dimensional’ way she and other contestants were depicted had a knock-on effect on viewers’ reactions.
But, despite suggestions that an all-female final may have prompted sexist responses, she said that the harshest critics were themselves women.
Fellow finalist Ruby Tandoh has already spoken out about the ‘extraordinary amount of bitterness and bile’ directed at the finalists both by commentators and on social media websites like Twitter.
Now Kimberley has told BBC Radio 4’s World at One how she was sent messages telling her that ‘I was too self-satisfied, I was too confident and cocky and cocksure and I wasn’t showing enough vulnerability, I wasn’t showing enough deference, I wasn’t being gracious enough’.
She said: “I read comments which said I should know my place. That was really quite an interesting response to what I went into thinking was just a baking show. It felt political.”
Kimberley said she believed the response was ‘partly’ framed by the way in which different aspects of participants’ character were portrayed in the show.
“What you got was a kind of condensed, slightly two-dimensional representation of what happened,” she said. “Nothing was fictionalised, but it wasn’t fully nuanced.
“What happened was that I was presented as kind of uber-confident and uber-competent, which is probably just not human. That becomes a bit of a problem in terms of viewers watching it because it becomes a little bit unnatural and there was a little bit of repercussion for me in terms of that…
“People not liking you isn’t very nice, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Part of our ego says that we all want everybody to love us all the time. That’s not realistic.”
She added: “I would say the harshest critics of the guys on the Bake-Off – women and men – would be women sat on their sofas talking to each other saying ‘She looks a bit fat in that’ or ‘I don’t think she’s done a very good job of her jam tarts’. I think it’s women who are actually the harshest critics.
“There’s a danger when you talk about a gender bias, you imagine it’s men attacking women, whereas I think actually women can be the real damage to a kind of perceived sisterhood that never existed.”
Kimberley suggested that her professional training may have affected the way she appeared to viewers.
“When I was on the show, one of the producers did say ‘You don’t seem to be too riled by some of the things the judges say, you don’t seem to get very upset about things. Is it something about your job which means you have a thick skin?'” she said.
“Actually, I think it’s completely the opposite. I’m a psychologist, part of my job is about taking criticism every single day. I sit in supervision and my work is taken apart line by line verbatim in sessions. I’ve sat in therapy and I’ve looked at myself and I understand myself.
“It’s about not just pushing criticism away in a kind of defensive stance. It’s about partly understanding what’s being picked up on and, painfully, is there any truth in it, is there any reality in it and if so can you deal with that? But it’s also partly about understanding the social context and understanding where it’s coming from, what people are responding to in you, what that says about themselves, what they are projecting into you. It is quite complex.”