Dangerous Jobs For Girls, Dubious Fetishism For Women, and Sheer Blinding Hatred…

// 29 July 2008

I see there’s a programme on T.V next week called ‘Dangerous Jobs For Girls’ and, to be fair, I have no intention of watching it, but, having seen the adverts for it and read some blurb on it in listings mags, I can’t help but feel a sense of deja vu. Surely we’ve seen this kind of programme several times before? Wouldn’t it be slightly more challenging and slightly more interesting to do a programme about female dominated professions for a change, and perhaps examine why certain jobs in certain sectors are so female dominated? rather than do a programme about girls taking on the boys in big macho professions? how about why men aren’t catering assistants, or why men do so few MRI scans in hospitals? or how the role of secretary has become a female dominated profession, and how the switch from male clerks to female secretaries saw a corresponding dip in wages and diminishing respect for that profession, and why this happened?

On a different note, and at the risk of coming over all Glenda Slagg, ‘Saving Britney Spears’ is another documentary that’s on this week, and will apparently focus on the various people who seem to be enjoying her breakdown far too much. Possibly interesting, but surely, by its sheer existence, it will encourage what it appears to be challenging? In a similar Glenda Slagg vein, when will the press possibly stop running pointless Amy Winehouse stories? Isn’t it telling that two of the most talked about women in pop at the moment are being talked about almost entirely in their capacity to not remain in control of their lives? would they be as interesting if they were fully in control of their lives and their careers, and are we fetishising this notion of the damaged pop star, yet again? It’s the whole grown women as children thing, and I for one am sick of it.

Another sickening thing: cyber nationalism, intelligent piece about the phenomena of hate groups online here. Depresssing reading, but oh so telling in oh so many ways.

Comments From You

Soirore // Posted 29 July 2008 at 1:42 pm

I think the Dangerous Jobs for Girls looks ok. Apart from being for “girls” instead of women. I think you were missing the point a bit in your dismissal. These are jobs steeped in misogyny and sexism. Women are sent to do them and succeed. Hurrah for them. They will prove doubters wrong.

Nobody thinks that men cannot be good secretaries, or cleaners or catering assistants (chefs have to start somewhere after all) they just expect women to do them because they’re badly paid jobs that earn their workers little respect. There just aren’t any jobs in the world from which men are entirely barred as the jobs in the programme are denied women.

I would like to see your ideas for programmes though.

Sabre // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:19 pm

I saw the trailer for this, and it made me wary. This was because the trailer voice-over man said something like ‘some jobs are so hard and dangerous that only men have ever done them’, and came up with examples like cowboy and hunter. Not that there could possibly be other reasons women don’t tend to do these jobs, it’s because they’re too damn scary for us pretty things. The use of the word ‘girls’ made me suspicious too, and I have a feeling that it all basically will result in the ‘girls’ being humiliated and awed, men rolling their eyes and tutting and possibly one successful token story where a ‘girl’ does really well.

Ooh looks like I’m having a cynical day!

Soirore // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:33 pm

I haven’t seen the trailer just read the review in Radio Times of there being

“several chauvinistic comments and bits of macho game-playing that these women – a management consultant, a barrister and an Olympic show-jumper – have to swallow, and the way they lasso cows, help to castrate a stallion and endure a gruelling cattle drive is impressive, whichever side of the corral fence you sit”

This is what made me think it may be worth watching. I too would have been turned off by such a trailer.

Qubit // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:34 pm

From the trailer Sabre, I agree with you. It seems the women are going to fail and it will prove there are things women can’t do when men can. The fact ‘high flying’ women are going to used seems from the trailer to give the impression that women just aren’t as good as men. This of course all fails to take into account the average male office worker couldn’t be a cowboy/hunter etc.

I think given there are likely to be women already in those jobs, just a rarity, it is going to be an insult to them as well. Then again maybe the show is far better than the trailer makes it look.

Somehow I have been so put off by the trailer I can’t watch it. Watching women fail at a job they have had no training at and no reason to have the skills for and then to be told this is because women aren’t up to the job is depressing.

Sian // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:49 pm

I think Qubit’s hit the nail on the head there.

It’s interesting what the article says about secretaries; my own soon-to-be profession, that of veterinary surgeon, was for years thought to be too dangerous, gory and muddy and needing upper body strength for women to do it. But over the last 20 years that’s changed, and now students are overwhelmingly female (approx. 90% at my uni). So what do some men now say when I say I’m a vet student? Patronising things about girls and their ponies, and fluffy bunnies. We really can’t win.

UKShell // Posted 29 July 2008 at 2:56 pm

Sabre said “and I have a feeling that it all basically will result in the ‘girls’ being humiliated and awed, men rolling their eyes and tutting and possibly one successful token story where a ‘girl’ does really well.”

That’s exactly how I felt when I saw the trailer. I guess I’m going to have to actually watch it to find out if this is true or not. But I definately sensed an air of “look at the poor girlies….they really can’t do a men jobs after all….look how badly they fail….look how squirmish/pathetic/scared they are”

To get any real perspective on this would be to follow some [honest?*] men starting out in these professions for the first time themselves (for example, a male accountant who has sat behind a desk most of his life in a cosy office). I’m sure they would go through all the same anxieties the women in the programme do, especially if a camera is following their every move.

*men who are willing to drop the “I’m having to act macho/not scared because there is a camera following my everymove, and I can’t look vulnerable in any way ‘cos I’ll get laughed at by other men” image

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 29 July 2008 at 3:09 pm

Quite true as Qubit pointed out – these women will have had no extensive training but instead will be expected to learn within a very short time how to engage in so-called dangerous work. How many men would succeed I wonder if they were suddenly thrust into this type of work – very few I suspect. Programme from the trailers appears to be another misogynstic one wherein ‘girls’ cannot possibly undertake ‘real men’s work.’ Strange because did you know women flew aircraft during WWII despite claims that flying was a ‘real man’s job’ because it was so dangerous and needed superior intelligence. Such claims are made all the time and of course once women enter male-dominated fields in large numbers the work becomes down-graded and devalued. Women cannot win because work defined as ‘male’ must always but always be far highly valued and respected than anything a ‘girl adult can do.’

daniel // Posted 29 July 2008 at 4:15 pm

If cowboy is one of the proffessions (can’t remember the trailer very well) then it seems a waste of time as I’m sure I read recently that their has been an explosion of women in Australia moving out into cattle country to try their hand successfully at it.

I too think it would be more interesting looking at men in predominantly female jobs, if nothing else because they are far more widespread. I’m not entirely sure what this program can tell us when these jobs arent exactly ones men jump at either and I imagine employ very few Brits anyway

Miriam // Posted 29 July 2008 at 7:26 pm

I think I’d like to see men teaching in infants schools, nurseries, and so on. Actually, make that *white straight middle class* men doing Health Care Assistant work.

Men doing executive PA work. I can’t think of anything women do that men haven’t done first…

Stephen // Posted 30 July 2008 at 12:41 am

Perhaps what the programme is trying to address is the fact that women are still greatly under represented in certain manual labouring sectors such as construction, oil working, agriculture and dock working to name but a few. Sure, the women will find it difficult just as a man with a cushy office job would but surely the women will succeed and by doing so send a positive message that women can do anything men can do, Hurrah! I can see women queuing up to work on building sites now!

Ruth // Posted 30 July 2008 at 12:53 am

Well, Miriam, meet some of my several male colleagues doing one on one support work with people with learning disabilities. They may not be quite “middle class” enough, on account of the lousy pay (they are mostly being supported by their higher earning female partners), but they are all straight and white…

Sabre // Posted 30 July 2008 at 11:26 am

Dangerous Jobs for Boys

– pregnancy and birth computer simulation (with actual pain!)

– teaching screaming vomiting nursery children all day for minimum wage (or being a nurse) then going home for shopping, cleaning and cooking

– working in a women’s refuge shelter (maybe disguised as a woman) hearing tales of suffering

– ‘The glass ceiling’, spend a week at a male dominated workplace where the men routinely pass over your suggestions, ask you to make coffee for the team and discuss work while you’re gone and snidely comment on your lack of commitment for going home early to pick up kids even though you’ve done all your work.

I do like the pregnancy simulation one! There’s something the men have never done, and it’s a most dangerous job!

Helen Milne // Posted 30 July 2008 at 11:26 am

Hello all- so pleased I found this blog!

I am one of the ‘girls’ appearing in the second leg of this series- I went logging in Canada. I am also a feminist and I was attracted to the show for exactly the same reasons you all mention above; to change preconceptions of 1. the men, 2. the tv company and 3. the wider public.

You all hit the nail on the head ref the tactics used by the tv company to make us fail!! But we did just as well as anyone starting a new job with new skills and I really hope that comes across… In fact, the ‘loggers’ admitted that we even did better than many of the men who start out logging, and considering we only had 2 weeks to learn it all.

One thing that really bugs me is the notion that women don’t do dangerous jobs already- in my team we have a Captain in the Army and in South Africa there was a woman from the Navy… also bearing in mind that globally women have always done hard, dirty dangerous jobs.

I will be appearing on Richard and Judy this afternoon (5pm, Channel 4). I hope I can get my point across and I will reiterate many of the views here.

Please watch it though- I hope you will be pleasantly surprised!

Angela Pearce // Posted 30 July 2008 at 2:11 pm

Hey, I am also in the programme, i am the Navy girl who learns to cull, I’ve always had the view, like many women, that i could do any job i wanted and so really wanted to go out there and show the world that, and maybe prove that to myself, i really hope you watch, especially the ones of you that are worried we would fail, It’s great to see such sexist men have to suck it in and admit we are good. I even got an invite to go back to South Africa and work with them! Praise indeed!!!

Laura // Posted 30 July 2008 at 3:02 pm

Hi Helen!

I was in the cowboy programme, and it was sold to us as a serious documentary, but as soon as we got out there odd things were happening. It soon became clear that for the ratings they wanted to present one woman as doing really well, another as managing quite well, and another as having failed. From my discussions with people like Helen (who I met on Monday) it would seem that each of the programmes were like that. In fact on ours, we all did really well, but I know I will be presented as the ‘failure’ by selective editing! Just watch and see!! I know they have edited out a really key scene. No doubt it didn’t ‘fit’… I think it’s a real shame, as a serious documentary exploring why women don’t/haven’t done these jobs would have been very interesting. Also, the men may be presented as chauvinistic, and that’s what our production team kept saying, but they really didn’t seem chauvinistic at all and (all but one) really wanted us to succeed.

Qubit // Posted 30 July 2008 at 3:55 pm

I am really glad that the show sounds better than the trailer makes it sound. I did think there would be some dodgy things going on to make up the story they wanted. I hope you all come across well in the show and the it is a fair and accurate representation of your achievements.

Laura // Posted 30 July 2008 at 4:39 pm

Incidentally, the title is a play on the title of the book, ‘Dangerous book for boys’, which is why it’s ‘girls’ rather than ‘women’…

Nine // Posted 30 July 2008 at 8:12 pm

Hi Laura, this is your sister. I’m at a friend’s to watch the show and I thought I’d see if any blogs/etc were previewing this. Nice to see you here! Good luck, I hope it works out better than you think. Either way well done for having actually done it. x

Laura // Posted 30 July 2008 at 8:29 pm

Thanks 9! I hope you don’t cringe too much! (I’m still at work, but will make it back home to watch with some friends shortly)

rose_hasty // Posted 30 July 2008 at 11:15 pm

Just watched the show and I was impressed!

I can see what you were saying about the production team trying to give it a particular narrative and editing the show to fit their storyline – so common in ‘reality tv’.

However, the main thing that shone through for me was that, although all 3 women could ride horses they picked up an astounding amount of skills in a very short time and, at the end, the mentor pointed out that they had picked it up faster than HE had – BRILLIANT!!

It’s not a sound test (as has been pointed out earlier, there could have been a comparison group of city ‘boys’ etc) but it does showcase some awesome, strong, capable, multi-talented women. I’m inspired!

Nicola // Posted 31 July 2008 at 12:15 am

Hi girls, I too took part in one of these programmes. It was sold to me as a serious documentary, but I think anyone would be foolish not to recognise it is also ‘reality tv’ and to expect a certain amount of editing to fit storyboard, as frustrating as it might be. It is a series rather than a one off documentary so each programme must somehow fit a similar format. I can assure everyone the 24/7 challenge was genuine, as was the effort we all put into meeting it. Gender aside, its a celebration of people experiencing an unfamiliar challenge in an unusually short time span with varying degrees of success, and its this challenge that attracted me. It’s so tempting to add comments to all your posts but after putting so much effort into the programme I really want people to just watch, enjoy and form there own opinions. Great to see your interest guys, watch them all, remember, each episode involves a totally different team of local experts and also has its own director.

Laura // Posted 31 July 2008 at 9:26 am

Hi Rose,

Thank you for your comments – I’m really pleased it came across that way. It really was tough to try to learn everything in such a short space of time, and quite artificial obviously. But I do think that apart from the men having an advantage of physical strength there would be nothing to stop women doing the job just as well with a few more months’ experience. I’m looking forward to the other programmes!

Barbara Felix // Posted 1 August 2008 at 12:40 pm

Whilst I’m pleased, and surprised, by the level of interest and type of comments this post has received, I just want to make a point that appears to have been missed in my original post. Namely, whilst men may not be quite as obviously discrimated against professionally as women, there are subtle forms of discrimination that do exist. As a woman who has tried out a number of female dominated professions, I’d like to point out that I once worked as a Catering Assistant, and, yes, it was low paid but was at least unionised. All the chefs were men, all, bar two, of the catering assistants were women. Of the two men, one was forced to do the job to get benefits, the other one was doing the job by choice. So rare were male catering assistants that, unlike the women, they didn’t even have a uniform. Similarly, in public libraries, men can still be pretty rare, though it is changing, possibly because they tend to be more actively recruited – sort of unnofficial positive discrimination if you like. I have anecdotal evidence of this, and I’ve also seen it with own eyes. In a very different area, both my parents work/did work in the NHS, and men have a hard time getting to do MRI scans because it involves the patient being naked from the waist up and having to put electrodes on peoples chests. Whilst it seems to be O.K for women to do this to men, its not O.K for men to do it to women, so men trained to do MRI scans don’t much get to do them, and are likely to get more opportunity to do the ones involving the electrodes on the head, which is a procedure I can’t remember the name of. Any NHS staff, feel free to mercilessly pull me up on this one, but I still stand my ground where Catering Assistants and public library staff are concerned.

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