Let’s talk about Sex(ism) !

with 5 Comments

This is a link to an online questionnaire posted by a university student exploring sexism in the backstage environment. It’s an interesting topic, and Crewclass has replied to it.

But is sexism too strong a word? As it infers actual prejudice? Of course there is gender inequality and, sadly, casual sexism on the crew, but no more or less than one would find in any male dominated working environment. Surely it’s a “given” that any woman who opts for a career at the practical end of the production industry will have a thick enough skin to cope with any casual thoughtless, frankly stupid, remark or assumption made by her co-workers?

If it starts getting beyond a joke and strays into the realms of bullying or harrassment then the course of action is simple:- you take it up with the management. If you feel that their response is unsatisfactory, you quit and take the case straight to PSA or BECTU.

One would like to think that the industry across the board is not institutionally sexist, but there are pockets where it undeniably does exist.

So can we conclude that the industry remains surprisingly conservative, and gender inequality is a reality. However, surely “talent will out”. If any person proves their worth on the crew they will be accepted, valued, and indeed promoted equally.

What are your thoughts? What are your personal experiences?

Post your comments here.

5 Responses

  1. Darryn

    As a woman working in the live music industry I’m kinda of tired of this question. I get students sending me questionnaires for their dissertations all the time wanting me to expose the horrors of sexism in the industry. From my personal experience, there is no active sexism. There are indeed casual remarks that may offend some people, but frankly I also call blokes “babe” and “sweetheart” when I can’t remember their names. But I have never felt “passed over” for being a woman, except when it comes to lifting things that really are too heavy for me, for which I am grateful. In the same breath I have always done as much of the physical stuff as I am capable of, and if it comes to things that really are too heavy, I find something else useful to do in the meantime.

    Occasionally someone may have addressed the male singer of the band standing next to me as though he were the engineer and I the singer, but the person doing so was incredibly embarrassed and apologetic. Then I found myself doing the same thing one day, and realised it’s not sexist, it’s just reaction to a norm. There aren’t that many women in the live sound industry, so it IS unusual and therefore easy to make the mistake. Mistakes cannot and should not be classed as sexism.

    The fact that there are fewer women than men in the industry is more, I feel, a result of women not wanting to do the work than men excluding us from it.

    • Simon Lovelace

      When I posted the original version of this blog on a purely rock&roll forum, I was of a simlar opinion to Darryn’s. IE that the industry is not institutionally sexist per se.The response was immediate and vengeful!

      A lot of concert touring crew are of the firm opinion that active sexism is rife in their branch of the industry. One person commented that he’d heard a production manager say that he will not have women on his tours because A – they “won’t” share hotel rooms, and B- they “will” cause a problem on the bus as he can’t trust the male crew to behave! This is assumption based purely on gender. This is sexism.

      The there is the story of an aspiring rigger named Sam, who got as far as an interview before her gender became apparent. The interview was brief, polite, and went no-where. She was waved off from the building whilst other, male, candidates were still deep in discussion.

      These are two examples of gender based assumptions negatively impacting on job prospects. This is far more insidious than language like “babe” and jokes about the menstrual cycle!

      It’s interesting that Darryn’s point of view comes from someone from a predominantly rock&roll background. The feedback I got suggests that this is a minority view.
      I’d be very interested to hear more opinions….

  2. Splodge

    I have worked in the in the entertainment industry for 15 years, when i started there really wasn’t many women on the scene. As much i was a teenager with a determination to become a technician before i had left high school, i was taught by men, and i did find my self taking on some mannerisms. But i soon realised i could be my self, and just learn from them instead. For a while i was the only female on the crew. but that didn’t mean i did any less, i just knew what my strengths were and when to ask for help and not be embarrassed about it. whole point of a crew…more than 1 person there!
    On a few occasions i have witnessed sexism, when it came to diving up jobs on an in me and another female crew member (some of the more experienced on the crew) We were told to go and put all the nuts and bolts together (American tour crew) “while the guys do the real work” with a bit of a witty come back (Americans don’t always get English humour) we did the task. But then relocated to another team.
    I find there can be hostility between the females on crews, especially if new. But no one should be alienated or made to not feel welcome the whole point of a crew is to have each others back.
    The guys and girls i have worked with over the years have become good friends, now i don’t do so much of the crewing side, when i do get called it is great to see them all we have banter and flirting,it helps the flow, and yes like Darryn i call them luv.
    I find the guys are better at taking orders from women on crew’s. But then i always start with a please and end with a thank you, i always have and always will. That is no bad on any one else, its just how i go about it. I have never had any bad feedback on it.
    I think sexism is still about, but it depends how you deal with it…….
    personally i couldn’t give to hoots if the touring crew don’t say girl/ladies, when calling the guys. Im there to work, i know my strengths and have respect for all on the crew male or female.
    If some one does have a “sexist view” then more fool them for having tunnel vision.
    Be the bigger person and let it go. Its never going to go away.

  3. Sorcha Doherty

    Thank you for posting this Simon, unfortunately I have closed my survey so I can analyse the huge amount of replies I have received. However if anyone would like to share their opinion on the topic of Gender roles and Sexism within Technical Theatre with me please feel free to email me at sorcharoise@btinternet.com, I would love to hear any of your opinions or stories about this topic.

  4. Georgie Mason

    I am also currently writing my dissertation on the gender imbalance in technical theatre, and am using Simon’s interview in The Theatre Careers Handbook 2013 as a reference point.
    It is my belief that the gender imbalance is far deeper than an active sexist attitude, but rather that it extends back to the way in which men and women pass through the education system and the way in which they view their ‘worth’ in the working industry.

    I would be very interested in discussing this further with people, as I would be curious to gather evidence as to how people were introduced to technical careers.

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