A Note From David In 12E (rant warning)

So, there are still people like this in the world, and in Canada no less.

I’ve said before, that the welcome I’ve got once I got into the aviation community was overwhelmingly positive. There’s been no one within the industry that has shown any hint that they disapproved of women flying. And I’ve said before, the dissent and discouragement does not come from people who know anything at all about flying.

I have to say, that discouragement was one of the reasons I didn’t take it up earlier in my life. I knew it would be there. I think I’ve been lucky not to have encountered more than I have – my close family has been behind me a hundred percent, as have my friends. Also, I have to keep in mind that the airport I fly out of hold the title of “Most Female Friendly Airport” that they won last year during Women in Aviation Week.

Ultimately, I decided the sexism I would encounter would be no worse than what I encounter at work in tech support every day. Again, not from my colleagues or supervisors, but from the customers who don’t believe women can be good at technology. Little old ladies whisper to their husbands “The boys seem to be better at these things than the girls, don’t you know?” when they think I can’t hear them. There was one woman, not even an elderly one, who told me “No offense, but I would like to speak to a man.” That one was a pretty epic call, because I made her apologize. I told her “You can say ‘no offense’ all you like, but I am very much offended that you think I can’t help you because I’m a woman.”

Some people are excited to get a woman tech support rep, and pleased. Some people know women tend to be friendlier and more patient, and are happier to work with a woman. But more often than that, when I answer the phone “Tech support, this is Lindsay, how can I help you?” a customer answers “Oh, I thought I’d called tech support.” Because they’re confused. They’re talking to a woman, and therefore they must not have reached tech support. Yes, even after I begin the call with “Tech Support.” They explain their issue and I say “I can help you with that,” and sometimes even after that I still get, “No, no, you don’t understand, I need to talk to tech support.

There are a lot of men out there that just don’t believe this happens. They think it must not be true because they don’t say those things or believe those things. They treat women as equals, or at least they believe they do, therefore it must not be happening. The law, for the most part, treats women as equals.

But even with all of that (and we do appreciate you men who do treat us as equals and encourage us to spread our wings, so to speak) we run into sexism like this every day of our lives. Men don’t see it often because it’s not directed toward them. If a woman is with a man, in fact, her man’s presence will often stop it from happening. Though, on the other hand, I’ve known some men to brush off a woman if she’s with a man, and speak to the man instead of the woman even if it’s the woman who is in charge or making the purchase. That’s another thing men don’t notice, because they’re not being brushed off themselves.

These people are the reason we still need organizations like the Ninety-Nines, and Women In Aviation International. It’s why things like the C-FLUG project are important.

But the nastiness in that letter to Captain Steacy…yeah, I’m with her and the flight attendants – I don’t know what to say. This guy needs to drag his sorry butt out of the eighteenth century. If someone walked up to me and said something like that, I would be looking at them like they had a squid on their head.

And then I’d be pulling out my smart phone and asking him to say it again for the camera so I can put it on youtube, because that shit is hilarious. I bet this guy had no idea how fast sexist buffoonary like his can go viral on the internet. I saw two different articles linked from two different social media sites, within hours of the articles going live on the news sites. I hope someone makes sure he knows how hard people are laughing at him right now.

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Being A Female Pilot

I’ve dealt with sexism a lot in the line of work I’ve been in for the last 9 years. That being technical support over the phone. I’m good at what I do. I get higher than average customer service scores, but I still get little old ladies that I overhear whispering to their spouses that “The boys do seem to know a little better than the women when it comes to these things” while I’m troubleshooting something with them. I’ve had women get on the phone and tell me without me saying anything but “Thank you for calling, my name is Lindsay, how may I help you?” that they didn’t want to speak to me, they wanted to speak to a man. And it’s always women saying these things. I’m sure the men think it, and it’s probably the reason I get more resistance from men as well as women than do my male colleagues, but they won’t say it out loud. I get called “Honey” and “Sweetie” by men on the phone. I think I got a marriage proposal once, or he might have just promised to come to my wedding, I can’t remember. That was when I fixed his TV after he swore at me for a half an hour.

Anyway, I’ve had a request for thoughts on my experiences being a female pilot. Well so far it’s not near so bad as being a female in tech support. But then, so far, I’m not dealing with the public. Like in tech support, my fellow pilots don’t doubt my abilities. Or, well, if they do, it’s legitimate because I’m still pretty new to it. I may have my licence, but I’m about as skilled a pilot as a kid that just got their drivers licence. They’re fine to drive as long as they’re careful and pay attention to what they’re doing, but you don’t so much want to see them headed straight for downtown in the big city the moment the papers are signed. They joke that you have a “license to learn” but it’s not really a joke. But that’s not sexism.

But fellow pilots have not treated me with any disrespect. In fact, it seems like once you get into aviation, fellow pilots crawl out of the woodwork, almost – people you knew a long time, but didn’t know they’d had their private licence at one point. And they’re all automatically your friend. One of the first people to encourage me to pursue it was one of the guys at work. When he mentioned he’d done a private license, and I wistfully commented how much I’d love to learn to fly, he said, well there’s a school I hear is good, you should go check it out, and suddenly it was a real thing, not abstract wishing anymore. There was a place, and a name of a school, and a person who it didn’t occur to him to think I couldn’t do it.

And then there was my dad, with his worrying that no one would hire me because I’m a woman. This is a man, keep in mind, who has been self employed his entire life, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what the phrase “affirmative action” means. He did agree to help me with co-signing student loans, though, so I like to think that his little outburst was a panicked oh-god-my-little-girl-is-going-out-to-do-something-dangerous-but-I-can’t-admit-I’m-worried-for-her-safety thing.

So, among people who know aeroplanes, things have been pretty amicable, short of one of the newer dispatchers asking me what he could do for me, in a way that made me think he thought I must be lost despite me walking confidently and purposefully toward the plane I was about to check out and take flying. But he might have said that to anyone he didn’t recognize – I can’t say, so I give people the benefit of the doubt.

Of course, my experiences so far are going to be coloured by two main things.

First, that I’m still in flight school and 99% of my interactions are with people getting paid to be nice to me. Not that I think any of them don’t believe in me as much as they do my fellow male students. It’s just when someone says, “Well obviously they’ll say that, they’re making money off of you,” I can’t deny that’s true.

The other thing I have to keep in mind is that St. Andrews recently won the title of “most female friendly airport”. It would be kind of sad if I were to be training at an airport with a title like that (and I understand Harv’s air was very much involved in that) and got slammed with sexism at every turn. So I also have to recognise that my experiences at St. Andrews may very well be more welcoming than at other airports.

So a lot of the anecdotes of sexism I know of come from other pilots. One, Cessna Chick, had a post one day about the reaction she got from some friends when she told them she was taking flight training. She’s dating a pilot, and these were the girlfriends and wives of his pilot friends, and their reaction was to smile and say “Oh, I went through that phase too.” Ugh.

The female instructors I’ve talked to all laugh about older male student who, the first time they showed up for lessons with them asked, “So where’s the instructor?” Sandra also told me about people asking her what she does for a living. When she says “I fly aeroplanes,” they have a tendency to answer “Oh, that must be exciting. What does your husband think of that?”

I’m sure I’ll get more of this stuff in the future. When I do, I’ll know how to deal with it – I’ve dealt with it before in tech support. But so far it’s been great. I’ve never been in such a supportive environment in my life.

Week Three Update: Throttling Back

So, basically I’d be soloing pretty much now, if it weren’t for waiting on my medical, which is waiting on a doctor’s appointment, so that I can get a referral to a psychiatrist, so I can get a psych report to send them. *le sigh* That could take weeks, and already has, but I have a doctor’s appointment on Monday at least.

I’ve only flown two days this week, but I still have to study for the PSTAR (student pilot exam), so a bit of extra time helps with that, plus I worked Sunday and Tuesday. Then today we got grounded by fog, so we did ground work, learning about precautionary and forced landings, and navigation.

Flying was more circuits this week, but Sandra says I’m pretty much good on landings and ready to move on to something else. That last flight on Wednesday, I got a couple of really good ones in a row, convincing her I’d caught on to the flare thing. We also did runway changes on Wednesday early morning. When the circuit’s busy, runway changes requested by an instructor for their student to practice can be a hassle for ATC. At 8:30 am, at a small airport, with no one in the circuit, it’s a license for ATC to have some fun with you. He had us doing 180 degree turns to land on the same runway we just took off from, for a touch and go in the opposite direction.

Oh, and the trend of my instructor pushing me to the edge of my abilities continues. On Monday, my instructor said, “By the way, I should warn you; now that you’re getting the hang of things, every once in a while, I’m gonna randomly try and kill you.” (It went something like that, anyway – and I totally need to work that line into my novel; I know exactly the character to utter it.) Then in a climb after a touch and go, she pulled the throttle to idle and said “Okay, where ya gonna land?” (We didn’t actually do a forced landing at that point – she just had me check around and pick an acceptable place that we could have landed. We will be doing actual forced landings away from our home airfield soon, and we did do a couple forced/power off landings from mid circuit where we could still make the runway.)

I should talk about the people in aviation too. Sandra, my instructor, is, as I’ve said before, awesome, I don’t feel self conscious around her at all. But it’s not just her. I’ve been told by people familiar with both, that the aviation industry is like the horse lover’s community – tight knit and everyone knows one another. That worried me, because I don’t do well in cliquish sorts of environments, but it hasn’t been like that at all. I suppose it could still just be the school I’m going to, and the sort of people who hang out at the restaurant at the school, but so far everyone I’ve talked to has been welcoming and helpful, whether they were employed by the school or not. While I sit in the restaurant studying, random people with no actual affiliation with  Harv’s Air, have stopped by, asked me where I’m at in my training, and told me if I ever need advice or help with anything, to just ask.

I was talking to one older gentleman and the topic of sexism came up, and he expressed frustration at the favouritism shown to women by the government, professing that the sexism it’s meant to counter doesn’t exist in aviation. I don’t have the experience to say for certain how close to the mark he is, and of course I have to take into consideration that he’s a man and will have never been subject to the sexism that I have. But he told me a story about a time when a young woman he was training accused him of failing her because she was female, and he went to his records to point out that he’d failed a higher percentage of males than he ever had females. I’d like to believe that I’m going into an industry where I’ll be judged based on my abilities un-coloured by my gender. I hope it’s true. I suspect the reason that only 6% of people in aviation are female maybe not be because of discrimination coming from people within the industry, but rather because of attitudes and discouragement from people outside of the aviation community. It’s certainly been true for me. The influences that had stopped me from pursuing a career in aviation were entirely outside the aviation community – once involved in aviation, there has been no one who hasn’t welcomed me and encouraged me (regardless of whether or not I was paying them).

Anyway, next week I only have two days of flying scheduled, and a couple days of work, but I’m working on getting that medical straightened out, so wish me luck on getting a psych appointment quickly. That and I’ll be working on getting ready for the PSTAR exam, so that I’ll be ready to solo when the medical comes through.

PSA: Sexism and Women in Tech Support

*sigh* I was discriminated against today.

This post is not at all writing related, but it’s about sexism and the ridiculous places it comes from sometimes.

I work in internet, TV and cell phone tech support, and sadly, today was not by a long shot the first time I’ve had such a call: Lady gets on the line, has already worked herself up into a tizzy, and when I answer, and give my name, she says she wants to speak to a technician.

I’m a technician, I say, I can help you.

And then she says “No offense” but she wants to speak to a man.

In the past I’ve argued with these people, and eventually got them to hang up, but I figured I’d try something different. After failing to assure this woman that I could help her as well as any man, I let her rant hoping I could get enough information to help her anyway (at my company, we’re often nice that way, even if you’re being a douche – our bosses like to see it, it’s a job — we’re professionals).

Then when I got a chance to talk, I told her I was sorry she’d had so much difficulty with her service, but (in a very firm and level voice, not my nicey nice voice) that I was indeed very much offended that she didn’t believe that I could help her because I was a woman.

It can be really fun calling people on bullshit – she backpedaled then and said she was sorry, she shouldn’t have said that. We’re Canadians, and if there’s anything we can’t abide, it’s offending people.

Again, it’s sad that I get this “I want to talk to a man” as often as I do. And I honestly don’t recall ever getting it from a man. That’s the screwy thing, it’s always women who will come out with that. I’ve talked to men who didn’t think I could help them, and I could tell they had been expecting and hoping to talk to a man, but they won’t say it out loud. Women will. We’re shooting ourselves in the female empowering foot, ladies, come on.

And I’ll let you in on a secret. Those ladies may think that the girl doing tech support isn’t as capable as the guy, but it’s actually likely to be the opposite, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not because women are smarter than men. No, it’s because of those closed minded individuals who give women such a hard time working in the industry (not my coworkers, not my supervisors – they know I know my shit – it’s the customers on the phone who lack faith in the XX chromosome). It’s because there is so much more tolerance from customers for a man who hasn’t a clue what he’s doing, than there is for a woman. Which means, the only women who stick around are the ones who *really* know what they’re doing. They’re typically above average in know-how in the call center, just because if they weren’t, they’d get twice the abuse a man would take.

And this is why it’s still hard to be a woman these days, with all the laws made to protect us from discrimination, there’s still the asshattery that laws can’t stop people from committing, and other women are just as guilty of holding us down as men.

*sigh* Going back to writing now.  Gonna type out the edits on that chapter where the brothel madam complains about how men oppress her.