Can Women Be Firefighters?

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!

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Why #LikeAGirl Remains A Brilliant Campaign And Message

Over a year and a half has passed since Always released their #LikeAGirl campaign and it remains one of my favourite marketing campaigns. The advert brilliantly demonstrates how it has become normal for society to associate feminine qualities with weakness by showing different generations portraying what they think it means to do an activity ‘like a girl’.

The campaign aligns itself perfectly with their target market of women, managing to tackle an important social issue whilst subtly promoting their brand. By positioning themselves as compassionate and supportive for girls and women, the viewer is prompted to place trust in the brand and the products they have on offer.

It is interesting to see the young boy’s reaction to the interviewer when asked if he thinks he insulted his sister; ‘No, I mean, yeah… insulted girls, but not my sister’. This adds another thinking point to the campaign making the viewer consider who it is they could be damaging or limiting when making a derogatory slur towards women. A professional in work may make a rude comment towards their female colleagues and think nothing of it however would they react differently if they witnessed their mother, sister, wife or friend belittled or patronised because of their gender? The campaign, whilst promoting Always, manages to guide the viewer to think about the issue in a bigger context.

Always have also taken a step in promoting feminism as an approachable movement. The opening sequence sparks interest in the viewer to see what direction the advert will go in and shows them how a comment that at first may appear harmless, or even normal, can actually be damaging to a woman’s confidence and development.

It is rare that you see a company tackle social issues without an overbearing feeling that they are only doing it for the good publicity it may bring. Always seem to have found the perfect balance through their clever positioning and gentle, relatable approach.

Why I Am A Feminist

I recently saw a video by the Huffington Post about white feminism and it raised a lot of important issues that need to be considered. I saw the video on Facebook and unfortunately looked through the comments and so many people were posting comments like “We should work towards equality instead of feminism” or “Feminism is the problem”. The world feminism for many now is seen as a negative and it’s core values are so frequently misunderstood or dismissed.

I think one of the main issues is the way the media has portrayed feminism. Extreme feminism is more frequently documented, alienating the cause and misconstruding what feminists believe in. It is no secret that there are a lot of issues in the media with how both men and women are represented and feminism strives to understand and better these representations.

A common misconception of feminism is that it fights for women to be in power over men. This simply isn’t the case. Google defines feminism as:

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

However this is not to say that feminists do not care about the treatment of men. Feminists understand how gender roles can be damaging to both men and women and how society puts pressure on both genders to conform.

I think feminism should be taught in schools from a young age. The Always #LikeAGirl advert shows how early sexist remarks that seem harmless can actually impact young people and begin damaging self esteem and confidence. I believe children should be taught media literacy so they can understand the messages and examples they are exposed to on a daily basis. I believe this will benefit young people and equip them with the knowledge they need to make better strides to a more equal society.

If I had to sum up why I am a feminist I think one of the easiest ways is to explain that I have a mum, sisters and female friends. I would never want those people to miss out on opportunities just because they are women. I want them to feel valued and have the same opportunities anyone else has throughout their lives and careers.

I am considering doing my dissertation for university on something around women in the workplace and whether they get the same opportunities. I might write more about feminism as I continue to develop my blog as it is such an important topic that really interests me.

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