Monday, February 24, 2014

Blue jobs, pink jobs

 I first heard the terms "blue jobs" and "pink jobs" when we started working on our sailboat Whisper. As we planned our trip to the Caribbean, Hans and I knew that it was important that we could both handle all the systems on the boat. We didn't both need to be experts at everything, but if one of us fell overboard or became sick, the other person needed to be able to take over. Then I started hearing about blue jobs. And that is why I became the official anchor weigher.

weighing anchor. "put your legs into it!"

We outfitted Whisper with a 26 pound Delta anchor with 100 feet of chain and no windlass. Damned if I was going to be at the tiller every time because I didn't have the upper body strength to hoist it on deck. (Of course fellow boaters didn't know of my resolve and probably saw Hans as the a**hole for having his wife up on deck doing the heavy work while he simply steered and adjusted the throttle to the engine.) There would be no blue jobs and pink jobs aboard Whisper. After learning how to change the oil on our diesel engine and helping Hans clean the carburetor on our dinghy engine, I started to rethink my stance on pink jobs and blue jobs. Pink jobs: cooking, laundry, dusting. Blue jobs: engine maintenance, bilge cleaning, electronics repair. "Oh honey, what do you want for dinner tonight?"

Eventually we divided the tasks on Whisper based on who was best suited for what particular job (and personal interests). Hans worked on the engine because he likes taking things apart and putting them back together; I hung the laundry out to dry because I love drying laundry in the sun; I did mast and rigging work because it was easier for Hans to hoist me up the mast than vice versa; etc. But, to an outsider, our jobs were divided down the color lines. That divide exists on our new boat, m/v Rhumb Line.
rolling out Swedish meatballs on Whisper.

Whisper from above, taken by her unofficial rigger, yours truly.
Hans cleans the engine with a toothbrush.

I have zero, I repeat ZERO, interest in the two gas guzzling engines under our main cabin sole. "Hans!" Hans has no interest in washing our clothes while I still marvel at the electric washer (you would too after washing clothes by hand in a salty environment for almost 3 years). I dust and vacuum; Hans power washes the decks; I sew curtains and cushion covers; Hans replaces burnt out fuses and bilge pump alarms; I clean the toilet; Hans replaces the macerator pump when it breaks. (Yes! Score one point for the pink team!)

Hang on, re-read that last paragraph. What year are we living in? 1956? No, it's 2011. Have we really divided our married boat life down such gender-typed lines? Are we doing what works best for our respective talents and interests, or have we fallen victim to the stereotypical pink and blue jobs? And now for the major question: If we continue to divide our skills as we are doing, and if Hans works as a doctor and I work from home part-time and take care of our kids the rest of the time, how will we raise kids to be thoughtful, progressive, feminists who have never heard the terms "pink jobs" and "blue jobs?" How will we teach them that men can stay home and do laundry and art projects while mom goes to work and brings home the bacon when we are modeling such old-fashioned gender based roles in our own relationship?

Freja: there are no blue jobs and there are no pink jobs. There are only jobs.

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