The Trouble with “Men”

Gender at Work

The other day I saw a woman on TV describe her job as “Troubleman,” and my heart leapt a little. Troubleman is a job title in the utility industry for the guys (I mean people) who go out in the field to restore power, and those who do such work are highly regarded. (I know this because my father worked for the power company.)

It’s heartening to see a woman doing this kind of work: exactly the kind of well-paid and physically demanding work women have been excluded from.

But what pleased me most was that the job title had not been morphed into “Troubleperson.”

I realize it is sacrilegious for a woman like me who came of age in the 60s and 70s to say such things, but I regret the fact that I never had the opportunity to be chairman of a committee. To my ears, chairwoman, congresswoman or mailperson sound awkward, second-class and apologetic.

I see myself as part of mankind, not womankind or humankind. Part of my mindset comes from my general dislike of neologisms especially clunky ones. But also it springs from my hope for a world where people are not defined primarily by their gender.

I can hear the howls from my feminist friends already: Women and their accomplishments need and deserve recognition and validation; it’s offensive to women to default to male pronouns and titles; using titles that include the word ‘man’ implies that the position isn’t open to women.

But I am not persuaded. I still want to be a chairman. But in a larger sense, I think it doesn’t help the cause of equality when a disenfranchised group focuses on what makes them different rather than what makes them equal.

So while I may never be a chairman, at least I know I can still be a troubleman – that is if I could scale a telephone pole in a fierce storm – or wanted to.



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