Monday, September 19, 2011

Men at Work

Last Friday, I was driving to a conference on Educational Disparity and Minority Youth, and passed this sign:

I was really surprised by how blatantly sexist our road signs are.

To be honest, I have never really noticed how gendered these signs are before (which means I should probably be paying more attention to my surroundings while I drive instead of putting on epic country music concerts for my Hyundai). Apparently, however, there are federal laws saying that the signs must be gender-neutral, and some cities have taken them down and replaced the gendered ones once people complained. I highly encourage you to do this if you see sexist signs in your town!

Because women do construction work too. And these signs only make that work invisible and perpetuate the myth that construction is a male-only field. Moreover, they perpetuate the idea that men are the only ones capable of doing physical labor, and to an extent convey the notion that men are the only ones capable of doing labor outside the home. The only time I've seen signs that say "women at work," they're sold to be hung in a kitchen or they say, "mom at work" and are meant to be hung somewhere in the house. They assert that the home is the space where women work, and they claim that space for traditionally feminized work such as mothering and cooking. We're left with a paradigm where we see "Men Working" signs in public spaces, and "Women Working" signs in private.

Certainly, work within the home is work. But women also can and should do work outside the home (I'm late for that very work this minute!), and some of the women who work outside the home happen to work in construction. As of 2007, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 1.1 million women were employed in construction, about 9%.** These women deserve for their work to be recognized and made visible - just like all women's work, both outside the home and within it.

**I know I should have a more recent statistic for you dear readers, but have I told you yet that I'm late for work?

1 comment:

  1. This is great! And I know that many people (especially men) will say this is silly. To them I say..."Then, let's change all the signs to say, 'Women at Work.'" To which they will most likely reply, "That's ridiculous." When you ask "Why?" their answer is the same reason it shouldn't say "Men at Work". Simple. It is often the subtle things in life...the things we don't even notice (like this sign) that really impact our thought pattern.