That was the month that was… September

Rebecca Dalton

by Rebecca Dalton

The London Fire Brigade has criticised a game on the ITV2 show Love Island called the ‘Fireman Challenge’ for perpetuating the stereotype of the ‘muscle-bound’ male firefighter – and for using the term ‘fireman’ which was abolished by the service in the early 1980’s.

The brigade’s highest ranking female officer Dany Cotton argued that getting rid of ‘lazy clichés’ would change the public’s attitude and encourage more women to join the service. Currently only 6% of firefighters area women.

So, which other workplace stereotypes are more than ready for retirement?

How about ”Harassed Working Mother” apparently constantly in the midst of some crisis or other, both failing and flailing. I’ve never met her, have you? I mean, I know lots of working mums, and don’t get me wrong, boy are they busy. But they also tend to be more organised, more efficient, more totally together than anyone else on the planet.

Or what about “Lonely Female Boss” who’s sacrificed everything for her career just so the rest of us can sagely nod and agree you can’t have it all. Nope, don’t recognise her from my contacts list.

And, Oi! You lot over there: “Blonde,” “Essex Girl,” “Sassy Working-class Loudmouth (with a heart-o’-gold.)” Give it a break will you? Come back onto our screens when you can manage three-dimensions.

And now here’s my heroine of the month, someone working in four – or possibly five -dimensions: astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell who has been awarded the Breakthrough Prize for Physics, for her work in discovering radio pulsars. It’s a mere 44 years since her two male colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for the same research. Dame Jocelyn’s work had been vital in identifying these tiny neutron stars that spin across galaxies far, far away, but her name was left off the citation. Now she’s finally had her contribution recognised, Professor Bell Burnell will donate her £2.3 million prize money to a new scholarship for groups currently under-represented in physics such as women, ethnic minorities and refugees

Perhaps working in so vast an arena as the universe, tracking objects that are possibly billions of years old, and light years away, has helped Dame Jocelyn remain sanguine about earthly setbacks. She said: “I feel I’ve done very well out of not getting a Nobel prize. If you get a Nobel prize you have this fantastic week and then nobody gives you anything else. If you don’t get a Nobel prize you get everything that moves. Almost every year there’s been some sort of party because I’ve got another award. That’s much more fun.”

My kinda girl.