Don’t complain: Surviving in a hyper-masculinised industry

There’s an article in today’s Sunday Life magazine liftout of the Sun Herald newspaper about women chefs. I always find it ironic that ‘women chefs’ are anomalies in the male-dominated industry of cooking, when in most societies, women spend much more time cooking than men….in non-commercial settings thus recieving little kudos and no money.

Anyway, Karen Martini and some other female chefs were interviewed for the article and a couple of comments they made, as well as the general tone of the actual article, caught my attention for their implication of ‘oh well, I chose to enter a masculinised industry and that’s my problem’ attitude. For example, Martini related a series of sexual harrassment incidents she encountered at the beginning of her career – including being ‘fondled’, which the article called a ‘sneaky trick’ (a sneaky trick? how about an abuse of power and down right sexual harrassment?). Immediately after this recounting of silly pesky behaviour from male colleagues, the article commented that Martini’s female colleague Sibley, had ‘never felt repressed by her sex’. This is then followed by more accounts of incidents, such as a senior chef taking his penis out and placing it on her shoulder or someone putting a plateful of maggots down her top. Not repressed by her sex? I don’t get it.

I really wish that women in hyper-masculinised industries would call a spade a spade. And also that their voices were heard more frequently. We always hear about the women who have ‘broken through the glass ceiling’ and the sacrifices they have had to make to survive, but where are the voices of the women who don’t survive? Where are their stories- the stories from women who decide it’s not worth it. The sexually discriminatory culture within those industries will never change unless the people who speak out against them are heard.

Here is another doublespeak excerpt from the same article:

But Sibley was always clear in her ambition to excel. ‘I’ve always been one of the lads’, she says. ‘It’s about character, not whether you’re a boy or a girl. If you’re sooky or pouty, you’re not going to do well. I’ve seen boys in tears as much as girls’

Hang, on Sibley….you just said you were always ‘one of the lads’. Clearly then, it does matter whether you are boy or a girl – you have to be a boy. A lad, specifically.

This is what post-feminism is all about. It’s about saying that sexual discrimination and harrassment doesn’t happen anymore because we (as a post-modern society) are past all of that –  ‘sexual harrassment is unacceptable’ as a policy in an organisation suddenly means it just doesn’t happen! It’s about turning a blind eye to what has been happening for centuries because we mistakenly believe that now, as women have  ‘equal rights’ with men everything is hunkydory. That’s why post-feminism is no good for women. It denies the reality women’s continued oppression.

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2 responses to “Don’t complain: Surviving in a hyper-masculinised industry

  1. Good insight.
    My baby sister (yeah, I still call her that even though she’s 23) is a chef. She has been frequently asked if she’s ‘on the rag’ and admonished for being ‘too emotional’, has been sexually harrassed by Maitre Ds and dishwashers, and got a nasty talking to for refusing to do something in her workplace which was downright dangerous to her health. She’s tough as anything though, and has her mum and sisters championing her to take no crap from the boys club, so she’s made it through four years.
    I admire her but I wish it wasn’t so damn hard – as if the hours they work aren’t bad enough, women chefs have to prove themselves at every turn.

    • womanvsfeminist

      Yes that’s right, ‘proving’ themselves is something that women constantly have to do in male-dominated industries. Because of their small numbers, their abilities are doubted, and they consequently seem to be under more pressure than the men who somehow ‘belong’ there automatically. good on your sister for not buckling, and on you and your mum for encouraging her.

      I believe in the ‘role model’ effect and hope that eventually as more women enter male-dominated fields, even more will feel they can make it too. And with more women will come the destruction of the masculinised culture of those industries. Unless of course, the women who join those industries just assimiliate to the culture….and adopt bullying and aggression tactics, then there will be no change. One can only hope. But I know I wouldn’t want to be one of those women carving the way for others in masculinised industries. My skin’s not thick enough!! All power to people like your sister.

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