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January 26, 2022

Why Women need to Fight to Hold on to Women-Centric Professions.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the author and cannot possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.
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A while back, I encountered this scenario on a plane:

“Ma’am? Can I take your suitcase? I can put it up for you.”

The flight attendant was kind and immediately came to my aid when they saw how much I was struggling to fit my carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment. Due to my sad, almost nonexistent height (I’m 5’ 1.5”), it’s always a struggle for me when I travel, especially since my carry-on is often a tad heavier than the typically allowed 7 kgs. I usually end up doing a little jig when I lift up my bag—my body tilts from side to side and I almost always crash into someone in front of me or behind me, repeating “I’m sorry” a thousand times.

So, when the flight attendant picked up my suitcase and shoved it in the overhead bin, simply and casually, I was extremely grateful. And not just because of said help but also for their turning a blind eye to my carry-on luggage, which was seriously overweight.

While watching this gracious flight attendant help me, a female passenger in front of me said, “Good that there are male flight attendants, no? Unlike women flight attendants these guys can pick up heavy luggage so easily.”

Then a few days ago, this happened:

I was walking by my neighbor’s apartment when I heard loud shrieks and yelling, hands clapping boisterously, and a potpourri of some of the choicest cuss words being hurled around. I rolled my eyes because my neighbor’s family was watching a cricket match—and Indians love their cricket. My neighbor asked me to step inside for a quick second, and after shooting the breeze for a bit, I turned to the TV with surprise as I heard a woman giving ball-by-ball commentary for the cricket match.

Can you imagine Monday Night Football where the announcers are women? Not the side commentators but the main ones in the commentary box? This was a similar situation. My eyes and mouth were wide open when I saw that an extremely male-dominated industry had allowed a woman to do ball-by-ball commentary for a cricket match.

But soon enough, I also noticed something else. Every time the woman did her spiel, my neighbor’s family and friends groaned, sighed, yelled, cussed, and generally got angry. Some of them snarled, “Why are women being allowed to announce the match?” and “They should stick to announcing women’s cricket matches. Leave the men’s games alone!” Even the women watching the match got into it, booing the TV screen. “There are some jobs that women just shouldn’t do,” said one of the aunties to me privately.

It reminded me of a time when a dear driven and whip-smart female friend (with whom I’ve now completely lost touch) told me that as a Christian she just did not approve of women pastors. “That is just not a woman’s job, Roopa,” she’d said, over a decade back. (And as most Catholics already know, only men are allowed to be ordained as priests, bishops, or deacons.)

Back to the situation on the plane:

I was genuinely grateful to the young, male flight attendant for coming to my aid.

And thinking about that incident made me recollect the times when I traveled regularly. Remember those times, everyone? Sigh. I’m an inveterate traveler, and before COVID-19 I’d averaged at least one international flight journey every few months. And in all of the sectors and different airlines I’ve traveled in, even five years back, I’d only come across maybe one male flight attendant for every five trips I took. Now, this is just my own experience. I’m not quoting any empirical evidence here and, even anecdotally, this is entirely my experience only. So yes, I’ve often received help from flight attendants—but they were always women.

That’s not the case anymore. And that beyond bothers me.

So, when the woman passenger said, “Good that there are male flight attendants, no? Unlike women flight attendants these guys can pick up heavy luggage so easily,” I was pissed. The plane was too crowded and busy for me to tell her that this wasn’t my first rodeo, that I’ve always overpacked my carry-on luggage and every single time I’ve had dainty-looking female flight attendants who hustled, picked up my heavy carry-on quickly and efficiently, and shoved it in the overhead compartment.

I wanted to tell that lady, “No, ma’am. It’s not good that this flight attendant is a guy. It’s not good that one of the few job markets that used to be a bastion of women is now being usurped by men. It’s not good that at this moment there’s probably a woman somewhere doing a job she hates because the airline decided to give a flight attendant position to a man.”

I don’t mind admitting that this bothers me. Or that it bothers me that a huge number of famous chefs on the planet are men, but woman are still often expected to cook in the home.

Or that there are still professions throughout the world that aren’t open to women or have only just opened to women—and this list is just the tip of the iceberg:

Did you know that in Russia women cannot be firefighters, miners, or divers and in fact, up until 2020 there were 456 jobs they were not legally allowed to do? That list has since dropped to 79 jobs.

It wasn’t until 2018 that women were allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

In the United States, a woman wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for cinematography until 2018, and women make up barely 10 percent of the construction industry and less than 8 percent of aerospace engineers.

And the list goes on.

Circa 2022, women are still getting paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that’s in Western, first-world countries. That number is beyond skewed against women in developing countries.

The fact is that women aren’t allowed to do so many things, even now. But it seems that the few jobs that were ours, that were women-centric, are now being slowly eroded as men join the ranks as well. But God forbid women make inroads into traditionally male-dominated fields, like giving ball-by-ball commentary for a male sporting event or becoming a religious leader, and forget it—men and women come out of the woodwork ranting about how we should stay in “our place.”

I’m sure there will be many who say that I’m discriminating against men the same way men have discriminated against women for centuries.

Well, maybe I am. Maybe I am being discriminatory toward men. But with the way things still are in the world today, I don’t feel guilty about that. Because what I’m actually fighting for is for women to hold on to the jobs we’ve made our own. But it’s slim pickings indeed when women have to fight to not have these positions taken over by men.

Unless the world becomes truly equitable to all—and that includes all minorities throughout the world—I’m urging women to hold on to the few professions left in this world that are or were once dominated by us.

There’s an anonymous quote that says, “Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women who have her back.”

Ladies, let’s have each other’s backs, shall we? Because if we don’t, no one else is going to do it for us.

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