Last year I wrote a book about ten women in ‘non-traditional’ jobs. It came from the realisation that women weren’t entering these ‘masculine’ jobs precisely because of that - they’re considered masculine. And females are feminine, right? No, not necessarily. Males should be masculine? No, not necessarily. I believe our reliance on gender roles is unhelpful to general society on a number of levels. Women are considered the weaker sex, based on what? This article breaks down these myths in a very thorough, easy to understand way. I don’t actually have much to add, except for how it relates to my own experience of interviewing women in such jobs.
For the work I’m making, it’s important to role model the women who are already in these jobs and tell their story, but it’s also so important to talk about what discrimination and sexism they’ve faced. It’s easy to leave this gritty stuff out because it offends people and strikes a chord, but ethically it’s more important that the work educates young women about the workforce they’re potentially entering.
To not talk about the sexism would be doing my readers a disservice. I also want to talk about how each woman has dealt with the discrimination they’ve faced - Sas, a firefighter I interviewed and photographed last year told me this:
“Most women who enter the service will react in three different ways. The first type play on the fact they’re female. We’ve had a few of those. They flirt and play on their femininity. Or you get the opposite. The ones who become very, very masculine. That’s definitely what I did early on. The third type of women is awesome to behold. She is self confident and assertive and knows exactly what and who she is. I regret not being like that initially. I used to think that I had something to prove. I always had to be better, stronger, smarter and faster. Over time, I’ve learnt to be comfortable with myself. I’m happy with that.
These days, more and more women are joining the service. It’s really interesting to notice that most now fit the third mould. I’m pleased. The younger guys are more accepting now too. They’ve grown up seeing women in different jobs, so it’s normal for them. Whereas with the older guys, some have never seen a woman in the workplace, apart from the receptionist.”