A woman in a man's world - how are women supposed to act

(23 Posts)
kim147 Wed 11-Jun-14 22:06:39

Posted this in Chat by mistake.

This was on Thinking Aloud on Radio 4 today. Talking with a woman who worked in a betting shop. Seen as a male world - but the cashier normally female. She was describing how she was supposed to act like the perfect woman for them - not having opinions. laughing at their jokes, agreeing with them and being the target of propositions.

Is this the same for women in other male dominated areas? Such as the pub and the bar staff? Very much a male dominated area and more often than not, the young woman behind the bar?

Hazchem Thu 12-Jun-14 01:43:53

Yep!

I've spent time in male dominated industries and have found the best way to get shit done is be the "perfect" women particularly when dealing with things like hard wear, big tools, heavy machinery. Sometimes it can be down to OH&S stuff for example a women's single load lift is less then a man's. So Sometimes you might need two women to lift something when a man would be allowed to lift it by themselves.
Other examples for me is I find the gentle feminine host works better to clear a room then more direct methods.
I'm also inclined to male dominated hobbies sometimes too and I find the winning is easier if I am more womanly.

I would hasten to add I feel my most "womanly" when I am actually being the opposite of that. Lifting heavy equipment, tying knots, using power tools, sorting out technical problems. When I do the opposite of what society suggests is womanly behavior I feel most in touch with my femaleness side because it is the strong, capable part of me I enjoy the most.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 12-Jun-14 01:50:25

Not for me. I have worked in male dominated industries. I have found that when you assert yourself, even in small ways, the amount of respect gained is inproportional to the amount of effort put in.

Hazchem Thu 12-Jun-14 01:58:34

I am just wondering now if it's different when you are spending longer times within your roles. So when I am working with a group on men on a longer projects I'm more how Dione described but if it is short term interaction I'm more how I described.
Also I probably think it has a lot to do with personality rather then just my sex or gender.

Hazchem Thu 12-Jun-14 02:25:25

With risk of just "talking" to myself, I wonder if age plays a factor.
I haven't worked in male dominated area for maybe 10 years and in some in stances closer to 15. So maybe the behaviours for me are more related to that early adulthood sex exploration rather then what I would do now.

captainproton Thu 12-Jun-14 02:52:51

I've worked in a male industry now for 14 years. About 5 years ago I was promoted to team leader of about 10 men.

No one made an issue out of it. I am not one for being one of the lads, no crude jokes or drinking like a fish for me. But on the flip side about 10 years ago I stopped wearing make-up, heels, anything too sexy because in my experience this can distract some men. I wanted to be judged on my work not my appearance.

I just think that if I am to be treated the same I shouldn't be wearing all that stuff. I've never played the girl card to get a man to help me either.

I've perfected the art of a withering put down, and I never flirt.

I can't say I've never had an office romance as I'm married to a colleague. We did however get engaged fairly quickly, we were both adamant we were not wrecking our careers by messing around.

Our boss takes a dim view of colleagues fooling around with each other. He judges both parties not just the women. I've seen him tear strips of a colleague who fooled about with a female client.

I suspect part of how well I've fitted in is because my boss is not sexist. In the last few years we've been employing more and more women trainees. Slowly the male environment is changing, and weirdly the men seem a lot more focused and professional.

Gone are the days of office cricket matches and racing about on chairs.

kim147 Thu 12-Jun-14 08:56:59

This was a bit different - the males were the "clients" in the bookies so the woman was saying she seemed to be expected to behave in a certain way to keep the clients happy.

Hazchem Thu 12-Jun-14 09:27:41

I think any customer service role requires you to be a bit of what is expected of you. My customer service roles have required detailed knowledge so no flirty girl work necessary.

scallopsrgreat Thu 12-Jun-14 13:14:37

So what you are saying captainproton is that you had to become more masculine to gain respect. Is that any better? It is affirming the gender hierarchy in much the same way as kim describes from the betting shop. Men as the default. How they behave determines how women behave.

I work in IT, which is fairly male-dominated. I certainly don't act all 'girly' to fit in with anyone's expectations, and I don't act like 'one of the lads' either. I'm just me, and my colleagues seem to cope with that.

But the environment you're describing is quite different in that the woman is not dealing with the same small team from day to day, but members of the public. And there, I guess it may be easier to fit in with what makes them happy rather than 'challenging' them, just because you want them to be comfortable and happy and keep coming in to spend their money.

But maybe she could start being more 'herself' with the regulars, who are maybe more likely to accept her as a real person, and build up from there?

kim147 Thu 12-Jun-14 13:28:44

That's the question I was trying to ask - I suppose it's the same where you have mainly male customers such as the local pub or a bookies and you are the only female around.

It was a sociological study on such environments. Masculinity and betting shops.

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0460j01

rosabud Thu 12-Jun-14 19:56:12

I think with customer service roles it's about getting money out of the customer, isn't it? People in general are more happy to part with cash (in shops, restaurants, betting shops, pubs etc) when they feel comfortable and people feel very comfortable with gender roles being outlined by society and everyone sticking to them, as has been their experience since birth. So, for women working in pubs, it means laughing at the customers' jokes etc, as you say. However, it also means that everyone working in service roles, to an extent, is playing out a comfortable, expected stereotype - you aren't going to risk upsetting your client and losing out on his/her money by deciding to announce that you're a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Worker's Party and you hate the Queen, are you? I think you make a valid point, OP, that gender stereotypes are an important aspect of that. The question is, is it worse? For gender stereotypes, I mean? Is it worse that women have to laugh at men's jokes when working in a pub - that, ultimately, they are "selling" their goodwill to men, than a male taxi driver who is fullfilling the stereo-typical, "nice, chatty, working-class bloke" stereotype to please his male and female passengers? I suspect the gender stereotype is worse, in a way, but I can't articulate why.

kim147 Thu 12-Jun-14 20:16:54

Thinking Allowed is always interesting.

The anthropologist initially hung out in betting shops. But she felt like she was an outsider and was treated with suspicion. Then she trained as a cashier and observed "men performing masculinity. She spoke about how she was supposed to behave in such an environment. Lots of what is spoken about on here. Spoke about being propositioned by men, being told to cheer up, being followed home etc.

I like Thinking Allowed. It has lots of programmes where people have just observed or spent lots of time with people to gain an insight,

Twobusyboys Thu 12-Jun-14 20:24:58

I have worked in a male dominated industry. I find basically acting like a moody cow and not being girly is the best way to get them to take me seriously! It makes for a really unenjoyable workplace though!

Raskova Thu 12-Jun-14 20:26:19

I have been wondering this myself as I currently split my day with warehouse in the morning and quality control in the afternoon.

I get rather annoyed at not being allowed to do stuff which they say is nothing to do with me being a delicate female but I'm sure is.

I'm not very girly anyway so not sure my opinion counts. I wear makeup and reasonably girly clothes (and did think about getting a pink hi vis) but I generally have a laugh with the men. I argue against any sexism or sexist comments tho.

I do feel like I get a lot of unwanted comments about my appearance but never really feel uncomfortable as such.

museumum Thu 12-Jun-14 20:33:10

Would be interesting to compare the cashier in the bookies to say a male women's hairdresser. He is also expected to perform in a certain way to please the customers - flattery and mild flirtation (if not plaing a camp gay persona).

Raskova Thu 12-Jun-14 20:36:12

When I was young and worked in a bar tho, it was horrific.

I remember a conversation where the boss (60) and his mates were asking me how women managed to give blowjobs without teeth getting in the way. It was... awkward.

I remember...

people touching my bum
Asking for my number
A regular customer trying to take a picture up my skirt on New Year's Eve fancy dress night (as a jokehmm)
The boss must have slept with the majority of the staff (the son of 60 yr old) actually him and his brother were sleeping with one of the waitresses years ago and she had a child that was put upfront adoption, the men were obviously twats about this

I'm sure I'll remember more hmm

kim147 Thu 12-Jun-14 20:41:34

That must have been hard. As someone who works there with clients, you have to keep them happy / live up to what they expect.

I would hasten to add I feel my most "womanly" when I am actually being the opposite of that. Lifting heavy equipment, tying knots, using power tools, sorting out technical problems. When I do the opposite of what society suggests is womanly behavior I feel most in touch with my femaleness side because it is the strong, capable part of me I enjoy the most.
I quite agree, hazchem. I live alone and it's not easy getting all household/garden tasks done while working 50+ hours a week. When I get tough tasks done, eg putting together my industrial type petrol strimmer and mowing my "field" I feel more womanly and strong than ever!

EBearhug Thu 12-Jun-14 20:50:11

I think it probably is more difficult when you're in a male dominated place where you're automatically not equal. I work in a male dominated job, but I am equal to most of them (obviously there is still a hierarchy, but there are men and women in that hierarchy, at least if you go high enough.) If you're behind a bookie's counter or behind the bar or whatever, you're automatically not equal, because you're there to serve, and I think that's where it's going to be different, as this thread suggests.

kim147 Thu 12-Jun-14 20:53:29

"If you're behind a bookie's counter or behind the bar or whatever, you're automatically not equal,"

Exactly. I shudder to think of how women etc in such positions are expected to act for their customers.

noddingoff Thu 12-Jun-14 21:21:20

My first vet job was in mixed practice way out in the sticks. Almost all of the farmers were male but I didn't feel obliged to be a girlie girl. This is also a "service industry" but I suppose there were a few differences to the betting shop scenario. The farmers were generally a pleasant, well mannered lot and were impressed by knowledge and skill. If I could drop a halter on a cow, work out why they had been unable to calve it, then calve it myself (or directing the combined effort of me plus farmer) and finish off with an injection of painkiller into the vein, I was doing a lot of things that they could not do. It's hard to cop an attitude when somebody is helping you do something that you couldn't do yourself. Especially when you are both face down in the muck holding ropes. Even when there was a gang of young lads in their teens and twenties helping at a calving or TB testing, the craic was good and they would do as they were told to help get the job done without getting arsey. The only time I would exploit the girl factor was when I was dehorning a big bunch of cattle and there were several fellas there. Inevitably, once I'd done a couple, they'd want a go at sawing the horns off, which I would let them do once I'd given the local anaesthetic. As the first lad was finishing his first beast, I'd remark, "Oh, you're much faster than me!" and smile at him. Result - I didn't have to do any more sawing as the spirit of competition kicked in and they'd be practically fighting each other to do it.

captainproton Thu 12-Jun-14 21:32:28

No scallop I just couldn't be arsed dressing up in uncomfortable footwear, clothing that flattered but not necessarily felt comfortable or apply a load of muck to my face. Because it my mind I equate wearing that stuff with trying to attract a mate. I'm a strictly take me as I come girl. Why should being comfortable be masculine?

Once you stop caring whether men or women find you attractive and just be yourself it becomes a whole lot easier.

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