05 October, 2013

Women at work

Last week, my blog post was about potential sexism towards men. This week, I have some observations about potential sexism towards women.

We were recently travelling home by plane from the south of France. When the captain gave the usual introductory spiel prior to take off, I was pleased to note that she was a woman. I don't know why that pleased me -- it shouldn't really make a difference. But I guess I like to see a woman doing what has been traditionally construed as 'a man's job'. I also feel unaccountably safer -- something to do with women being less likely to take risks, I think. Probably rationally untrue in this situation, but, anyway, that's how I feel.

One of the cabin crew was a rather jokey male. When we were up in the air and he was pushing the drinks trolley down the aisle, he inadvertently banged into someone's seat. With a grin, he apologised to the (male) passenger: 'Terribly sorry, sir...but you know how it is with these female drivers!' The plane was flying very smoothly at the time and the steward was laughing. He was clearly making a joke.

I smiled to myself, but then got thinking. Was this in fact a sexist remark, even though it was said in jest? Have we yet advanced far enough away from sexism towards women in the workplace that this was acceptable, rather than offensive? And then there was the fact that the remark had been made by a black man. Is it more acceptable for people from groups who have been suppressed in the past to make jokes about people from other similarly repressed groups?

It seemed like I'd entered a quagmire and there was no clear cut answer in sight. Not that I was looking for one, to be honest. I took the remark in good humour and that's how I believe it was meant. Interesting material for a blog article, though!

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