Benjamin2003-03-14
Theater
I had almost forgotten how much I love the theater community, and how reliable it is for finding Good People. I've been reading Raising Cain, by Kindlon and Thompson, and so I'm even more acutely aware of gender politics than normal. It struck me that in all of my experience, the gender balance for theatre tech is surprisingly equal. The work itself it absolutely of the 'male' tradition, like car mechanics and construction workers. While women are certainly capable of handling the work, female construction workers are still fairly rare. The skill set is just about the same in theater, however, and yet few of the carpentry crews I've seen are worse than 60/40 male/female.
The work involved is 'masculine' -- lifting heavy objects, risking physical injury, calculating precise measurements -- as is the environment. Most master electricians are more likely to tell a bawdy joke than to discuss their feelings... and yet most (by a slim majority) of the master electricians I've worked under have been female. I've seen several female TD's, carps, electricians, &c. I don't know the national statistics, nor the unions ones, but there seems to be plenty of women involved.
Compare this to computer science. To an outside observer this would surely be a gender neutral field. It is too recent to have an established tradition of gender, like blacksmiths or weavers, say. (Or CEO's and company presidents, perhaps) It doesn't require strength, bravery or stoicism, traditional 'masculine' attributes. Finally, it requires education and can be performed in isolation, meaning the the workplace environment is less likely to be discriminatory.
And yet the statistics for programmers are abysmal. How did theater manage to be so much more balanced? Both fields typically involve a lot of education (most of the theatre folk I know have spent some time in college, many have a BA) but perhaps the intractable association with Art has something to do with it? The day to day exposure to literature might give off a certain residue that erodes bigotry? Or perhaps the women that enjoy scenic carpentry are also more self-assured than the women that enjoy computers, and are therefore more likely to remain in the field?
Regardless, anyone who has worked in the theatre would, I think, be hard pressed to give any credence to familiar sexist arguments about what women can or cannot do.
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