Emma Rickman’s column, Diary of an Engineer, gives us a window into the male dominated workplace. And in her latest entry, 'A Nest of Vipers' (Solidarity 585), she gives us a window into the minds of the men who work there.
Such a workplace as depicted here, and there are many of them, is a safe space for those men who are threatened by world events to air their prejudices. It is a place to exaggerate, moan, entertain their mates and laugh in the face of their own weakness.
You know, reading Emma’s column, that S did not tell his wife to “fuck off” in bed. He’s an idiot for bragging to his mates with his lies and, if he did say it, he’s an even bigger idiot. A lose-lose situation for him. You also know that the joker who wants to turn 95% of sexual abuse of women to 100%, telling his mates that they are slacking, is polite to the woman in Lidl’s checkout, obediently waving his card over the reader on her instruction without so much as a misogynistic murmur. No, he’s bigging himself up, and thinks this is the way to do it. Another idiot.
The pressure on the one woman who is there listening to this is intense, especially when you know that a lot of it is being said precisely because she is there, and also because everyone then looks at her and expects her to be the one who challenges every little piece of crap that’s said. My experience of this taught me to pick my battles. If you try to respond to them all, you get labelled the moaning woman… by the moaning men.
Is working class solidarity really possible across genders? It does make you wonder. Except, when the chips are down, men and women workers tend to find whose side they are on!
A lot of this shit gets blown away in the heat of a struggle. I am reminded of the Notts striking miners who, on hearing that a bus load of Greenham Common women were on their way up the motorway to support them, said that they didn’t want any bra-burning lesbians in their village, thanks very much. That’s the idiot talking right there. After one day on the picket line where the Greenham women stopped the scab lorry getting in and took on the police in a fearless fight, the idiot had turned into the respectful comrade: “She’s staying at my house”.
These are the times when voices dismissed by mysogynistic society get heard sometimes for the first time. And it is at times such as these that men who have gone along with the crap for years, assuming it to be “normal”, revise what they said, what they did, feel embarrassed, and change.
It is hard to remember that when you’re the lone woman in a male dominated workplace. So in the meantime, Emma, solidarity sister!
Jean Lane, Sheffield