One of the forums I keep an eye on is the 99’s mailing list, and a little while ago, a subject came up that was honestly kind of sad.
A fellow 99’s posted a story about how when she was time-building, her instructor had proposed pairing her up with another student, so that they could fly together and have two heads in the plane for safety. But later, the instructor came back to her and told her that unfortunately wasn’t going to be an option.
The other student’s wife didn’t want him sharing a plane with a woman.
And this wasn’t even the only such incident for this one woman. Later, she had a mentoring relationship with a more experienced pilot who gave her career advice. That pilot’s wife also contacted her and forbade her to contact her husband.
She said that with all the resources of the 99’s available, female pilots shouldn’t need advice from someone’s husband.
Where’s that .gif of the stick man bashing his head into a bloody pulp onto his keyboard when you need it? What year are we in now? Ugh.
Seriously, I have no words. To explain why it’s stupid for a woman to forbid her significant other from associating with other women would be a pointless rant. This is nothing more than women being territorial and insecure.
One explanation was brought up though – the tendency for women taking a professional interest, or networking, being mistaken for personal interest. I think that stems from women not being seen as professionals and equals to men.
As Captain Steacy found on a flight in 2014, that sentiment can often be more up-front coming from outside the aviation community than from within. Steacy’s company and her flight crew spoke up in support of her. It was a passenger who came out with the blatant 1940’s sexist opinions.
So far in my experience, the male pilots I’ve met and spoken with have treated me with respect and thus far I couldn’t say I’ve had anyone from within the aviation community so much as imply that I didn’t belong there because of my gender. Perhaps it’s because I’m up here in Canada – I hear the sexism in the states is far worse – but the stories I do hear are far more often sexism coming from people who know nothing about aviation.
Even in other areas of my life, I’ve dealt with sexism. I’ve been in tech support for years – my co-workers know I’m good at my job, but when I have a customer on the line, they hear a female voice and they interrupt me, they refuse to believe me when I tell them my instructions will fix their problem. They cling to incorrect information provided to them by an new trainee earlier when I try to give them correct information. When I tell them I can’t get them a tech out first thing tomorrow morning, the earliest is the afternoon, they think it’s because I don’t have the authority and they demand to talk to a supervisor. I know when they say “I want to talk to your supervisor” what they really mean is “I want to talk to a man.”
And it’s not just men who do this. I’ve had a woman literally tell me “You’re not going to be able to help me, I need to talk to a man.” I’ve heard little old ladies whisper in the background that “The boys seem to be better at this than the girls, don’t they?” to their husbands when they think I can’t hear them. Women are at least equally guilty – possibly more often guilty of it, because them men usually know better than to go overboard and the women think they’re not capable of sexism because they’re women.
Let me tell you, women are more than capable of being sexist.
Multiple male co-workers hearing these stories have told me these things don’t happen to them.
It’s just terribly sad and wrong that I should feel like I need to be careful about the way I converse and network with fellow pilots, not even because the male pilots might mistake professional networking for flirting, but because they might have a wife who’ll assume I’m a home-breaking hussy.
We can do better ladies. Other women are not your enemies. We face enough struggles as women and as human beings – lets put supporting one another before petty insecurities.