First To Solo Challenge

So, this happened.

There was an award presentation, with several awards today. One for St. Andrews Airport for being the most women friendly airport for sending over 600 women and girls up for rides during the women in aviation week events, one for a helicopter pilot that took up something like 300 women and girls that day, and one for me for being the first of the women who participated to fly solo after the event.

It was also the day that they were doing the discovery flights for any girls who signed up for that at the event in march, so my instructor was there doing some of those, and she got to do the presenting of my snazzy new headset (fancy expensive one – it’s so nice!) and said nice things about me while people snapped pictures. I was nervous, and I had kind of wondered if I was supposed to say something but no one had told me I should have anything prepared. So when someone from the crowd called out asking if I would say a few words, what came out was entirely on the fly. I froze up at the camera flashes at first too, horribly nervous – I’m not a crowd person. But once I found my words, I think there must have been enough emotion in my voice that it wouldn’t have mattered what i said. Afterward, two different people came up to me to tell me that I made them cry, so even if I was nervous, it sounds like I still got my point across.

I also got introduced to a woman from Calm Air, who’s invited me to come out to Winnipeg International Airport to their facility for a tour to “check out what kind of job prospects are in my future.” I’m not sure I would know if I was being scouted, but it would be awesome if that’s what it meant. And of course I jumped at the opportunity. In any case, I’ll meet people, and make connections, and that’s what gets one jobs in aviation, apparently.

Nathan, my husband commented on the positive vibes surrounding the event. He often feels a little bit alienated by feminism (even though he is, by beliefs, a feminist himself) on the internet, because of the negativity that comes out there, but that’s largely because the anonymity of the internet brings out a lot of men who feel the need to tear down women, and the women are reacting to that. Here though, there’s very little of that men tearing women down, and when there isn’t that, and there is instead men supporting women, then the atmosphere is very different. That helicopter pilot was a man given the title of “Most supportive male pilot”. Here, instead of women being forced to point out where they are being mistreated, they have the opportunity to point out and celebrate where men are being supportive and welcoming women to come stand by their sides as equals. And we feminists really do wish we could do more of that, because feminism is absolutely not “anti-man” – it’s just women wanting equality. And it’s important to bring attention to men who treat women as equals and hold them up as examples.

I am proud of myself. And being the centre of attention that way was such an unfamiliar feeling. I remember being a young woman, and going to events like that where someone was getting an award – times where I was supposed to look up to that person as a role model. Now there was a crowd consisting largely of women and girls who had just flown an aeroplane for their first time, and I was the accomplished one up front, supposed to be leading the charge that people pointed to saying “see, you can be like her.” And I felt, not so much an obligation, but a responsibility if you understand the difference, to say something to them. And I wanted to even though I was afraid. I always say, fear is a terrible reason not to do something. Everyone said how inspirational I was when I took the microphone, and I’m glad because if I said anything that helped give any of those girls and women the confidence to pursue aviation if that’s what they want to do, then it was worth the stage fright and letting everyone see me nervous!

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8 responses to “First To Solo Challenge

  1. Congratulations! That must be so exciting. And it’s amazing that you get to start being a role model so soon after starting your flight training for other girls and women.

    I can understand your husband’s feelings about the alienation he sometimes feels from feminism. I was reluctant to call myself a feminist for the longest time because of that extreme of feminism. It took me reading the book “How To Be A Woman” by Caitlin Moran to make me proud of say I’m a feminist. And then now training in a male dominate field makes me even push harder from a feminist side.

    Again, congratulations! I bet you can’t wait to get your license now!

    • Indeed, and I’m not that far from the test now. My instructor figures I could have my license by the end of the month. I’m supposed to go on my first solo cross country tomorrow.

  2. I can also understand your husband’s point, and I still sometimes get irritated by advertisments that are sexist against men! But the event you describe here reminds me that just beign in and enjoying a positive affirming environment is good for everyone, male and female.

    I wonder whether the things you are talking about here, good in themselves, also point to something more. You are an inspiration to other women, other girls, and that’s got to be a great thing. But maybe as well some of the men who know you might allow themselves to be inspired by you as well, now I tihnk that would be a really good place to get to! So for example I look at what you’ve achieved these past few months and think: ‘Wow, Lindsay has done all of this, what could I do?’ I don’t want to fly a plane, but that doesn’t matter, in my dreams I’d kick the day job in to touch and write for a living, you’ll understand that more than most people. But the fact that you are female in this context doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’ve acheived a balance of ambition, courage, and responsibility, and gone after something you want to do – and I can learn from that.

    We all look to people of our own sex as role models, but there’s also something great about setting gender aside and thinking ‘that person inspires me, I can do it too’ – that’s a sure sign we really are getting over the sexist thing.

    A

    • I get where Nathan’s coming from too, and we’ve had some really good conversations about male privilege, whereby he eventually realized that the term feminist didn’t mean what a lot of men think it means, and what it actually means, makes him a feminist himself.

      And you’re right – my sex shouldn’t matter, but the fact that I do stand out among pilots just being a woman just shows up the fact that we’re not quite at that point where gender no longer matters. I believe we’ll get there, and that we’re on our way, and that people like you and like my husband, and the men who have welcomed me into the world of aviation with open arms will be part of what gets us from women making up 3% of commercial pilots, to 50%.

      You’re also right though that there’s no reason I shouldn’t be an inspiration to men and boys as well. My cousin is a motivational speaker, and he’s posted on facebook about how cool he thinks it was of me to decide to do something and just plough headlong into it. I should bug my mom (a teacher) and see if she wants me to talk to her students about it – that would be fun.

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