A few weeks ago, the fire brigade turned up at work after our fire alarms went off. As we all stood at the fire assembly point, huddled together like cattle, one of my co-workers pointed out that one of the firefighters was a woman. It seemed odd to me that she had pointed out the firefighter’s gender so I asked her why it mattered. She told me that she didn’t think it was good that there was a female firefighter because she wouldn’t be able to carry someone, such as myself, to safety. I disagreed instantly firstly on the basis that we didn’t know the woman’s strength or capabilities but secondly because a male probably wouldn’t be able to lift me either.
An argument frequently used to oppose feminism or gender equality is men and women are different genetically so therefore certain tasks, jobs and responsibilities are more suited to a certain sex. On the surface this statement is true; men and women are different and our bodies differ in a variety of ways. However, does this mean certain jobs should be off limits to particular sexes?
Take for example, the job of a mid-wife which is typically associated with women. What would make a woman more qualified for this position than a male? Some may argue that a woman may have had children before so could empathise more with the mother throughout the process. However, there is no reason why a woman would be able to deliver a baby any better than a man. The job is genderless, as both men and women can become qualified in midwifery should they choose to. and both genders are capable of empathy.
Another interesting example to consider is the job of a chef. Why is it a male-dominated industry? We have all heard the tiring joke that women “belong in the kitchen” so why are there far more male chefs than female, if society suggests women should naturally be more suited to cooking? Whilst on an individual scale there may be a whole host of reasons as to why a woman may chose not to pursue her passion of cooking could the generalisation be made that women are discouraged to become chefs because they wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of a fast paced kitchen? Personally, I don’t agree with this notion as I don’t buy into the stereotype that women cannot handle pressure without becoming emotional. I’m sure many male chefs have become emotional during or after stressful shifts and perhaps even more would if society didn’t teach men that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness or damaging to your masculinity.
I guess my main point is, men and women are capable of doing the majority of jobs to the same ability. Fundamentally the issue lies with what careers society encourages men and women to pursue. Returning to the female firefighter analogy, what if my colleague had made her comment in front of a young man or woman considering a career in the emergency services? Could a comment, with no intentional malice or agenda, play its part alongside other information and opinions to discourage an individual from pursuing the career they want purely because of their gender?
It’s an interesting one to consider. Let me know your thoughts!