Our washing machine has been on the fritz, so last week I was on the phone to have someone come and look at it.
Afterward, I was telling Betsy that in spite of all the stuff we say about gender equality, I still assume – if I hear a woman’s voice – that she’s probably going to schedule the inspection, and – if I hear a man’s voice – he’s probably the one who will actually come look at the appliance. Betsy said she assumed the same thing, and we were laughing about that a little.
Not that we think men or women are more or less competent at either job, or “should” have either job; we don’t. But we do make assumptions about which job a man or woman is likely to have.
And these are not unreasonable assumptions, generally speaking, as long as you keep that word probably in there. We all know that many jobs, statistically, skew heavily toward one gender or the other (whether we’d like them to or not). In such cases, you might wish that the odds of a woman having one job vs. another are 50-50. But if you think the odds actually are 50-50, I’m afraid that says less about your ideals and more about your mathematical ability (or lack of it).
So Betsy and I were laughing about how, stereotypes aside, we both knew that the person who came to inspect our washing machine would be a guy.
The appliance guy came yesterday. She was, of course, a woman.
I read an article once that said that one of the most gender-unequal jobs, at least in New York, is apartment building doorman. At that point, at least, every doorman in Manhattan was male, with one exception.
She, the female “doorman,” said that it was pretty common for people to pass her, stop, and turn to look back, apparently realizing that she was the first woman they’d ever seen with that job.
Probably part of the reason nobody really thinks about it is that it’s not really an aspirational job. I don’t imagine there are a lot of girls who grow up with frustrated dreams of being a doorman.
That could be a pretty hilarious short story though.
“Mom, someday, I want to hold doors open for people.”
“Honey, we’ve talked about this. That’s men’s work. You have to give up these crazy dreams and aim for something a woman can do, like running a Fortune 500 company.”
“Someday, Mom, things are gonna change.”