This morning I made my cup of tea and switched the TV on while I had breakfast. The grey pool of the screen came to life with colours and I was poised to turn over to the news channel when something stilled my finger mid press. It was not a program I would normally watch but I was riveted all the same. As I watched, my early Sunday morning fugue became infused with disbelief and then anger. What caused this heightened emotional state? Well, a program following the everyday goings on at an airport of course.
Now I usually avoid these programs like the plague as I usually end up getting annoyed by them. I get annoyed sometimes by the jobs-worth people following process rather than applying customer service but mostly I get annoyed at idiot passengers who are trying to take too much luggage on and then get shirty, or forget their passports or something and get shirty as the airline won't hold the flight, just for them. (My views on customer service and bad customers are a whole other topic!).
No, this time I was angry as there was a qualified pilot on the show and she was executing some training flights. Note please the use of the words "she" and "her". Now let me share with you two pieces of the program:
First the Captain who was to supervise her gave his opinion saying that there weren't many women commercial pilots but the ones he had come across "had to be at least as good as the men and in fact were often better". The Captain seems to be a fair minded chap eager for his protégé to do well, but let's examine that sentence: the women have to be at least as good as the men. The phrase is intrinsically sexist and I don't mean that the Captain is a sexist man, rather it is the reality of the situation. A commercial pilot is traditionally a 'male' job so the rhetoric applied is from this perspective. It still annoys me that women are singled out as special or different but this will be the case until the status quo is addressed.
Meanwhile, let's not detract from her achievement. I know what it is like to work in a male dominated profession. I worked as a theatrical technician for years and was the only woman backstage until the dressers joined for the shows. I did have to be better than the men around me, I did have to work harder and I was still not treated as an equal. I was not given the same training opportunities as the men unless I pushed hard for it and I was not given the choice jobs that attracted premium pay (theatre work is often casual or short term contract). Lets be clear, it was definitely not because the men were better than me. I know because time and again I was singled out as being good and given difficult cues by visiting crew and when I left this particular theatre the theatre production manager came and presented me with a bottle of champagne which was unheard of.
Back to the TV program. Having singled a woman pilot out as a novelty, the interviewer then proceeded to tell some of the passengers about her. Predictably, the majority of the men voiced concerns about 'women drivers' (because we all know what perfect drivers ALL men are and how well qualified they are to make their critique). In particular two men, said that had they known, they would not have got onto the plane. Now thankfully, these particular individuals are not ever going to be CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, but this attitude is prevalent and women have to put up with it every day in greater or lesser ways.
My last post was humorous. It is hard to think that within living memory, women were thought of as being not good enough to handle a job when they were clearly juggling running a home and raising a family as well as looking after a husband. The point of view that women are inferior in any way is a bigoted and narrow minded point of view. Let's be completely clear about this. I am not a feminist, I am not some sort of lesbian either for having these views (I have been accused of this!!!), I simply want an equal opportunity in life and want people to see beyond the bumps in my T-shirt to what I am able to do and what I can achieve.
Someone commented on my last post that part of the problem is a lack of female interest in traditional male professions. My answer is simply this: when you are a woman, society and school unconsciously push you towards traditionally female roles. If you think I am wrong just look at the toys that are made for girls and for boys. Notice the difference? If you dare to push the boundaries you are in for a difficult time. For a start you have to be at least as good as the men. I disagree, in my experience you have to be better than your male counterparts to be seen as being at least as good. We have come a long way as society since the article in my last post was published, but we still have far to go.
(Please note that I do not just believe men are responsible for this trend. Women are equally responsible, at least in that respect we are equal. Also, as ever these are my views which are of course coloured by my own experiences).