I recently came across a calendar from a safety supply company: Condor. It depicts workers in various occupations, from construction to dentistry. Most of the images depict manual-labor jobs (lifting, working with hazardous chemicals, or operating dangerous machinery). The small sample of images speaks to the ways in which we rely on simplistic categorizations to share messages about safety through commonly-held beliefs about who will need it most.
The most interesting of these twelve calendar images is the one that depicts a woman wearing safely glasses. Even though she is pictured in the calendar with men working various manual-labor jobs,
Although we may observe changes in favor of more diverse work settings, this calendar exemplifies the ways in which intersections of race (no black individuals in the calendar) and gender (one woman working but not seen performing manual labor) are artificially represented (or not) as participating in “masculine” or “white” work settings.
This gendered and racialized encouragement system is readily studied in sociological examinations of the media, and has recently been a topic of debate in the realm of gendered toy choices for young boys and girls (see “Goldieblox” toys discussion here and here, and a discussion on race and occupations here).
As Joan Acker (here) found, even if women enter the same job as men, they may be doing work completely different and for different opportunities and wages. The single image of the woman with safety glasses is a wonderful example of Acker’s findings. She’s in the calendar, but not in the same way as the men. She’s wearing safety gear, but she’s not depicted as using them or even as participating in any kind of work that might necessitate their use. The images in the calendar limit our understandings of workers’ skills to gender-based and race-restricting assumptions about ability.
*Peter Rydzewski is a senior sociology major at The College at Brockport. He’s currently applying to graduate school to study gender and sexual inequality in families and the workplace.