By Billy Shears, 180 Degrees News
With more than 99.99% of refuse collectors in the UK, or aptly commonly known as ‘binmen’ being males, this remaining bastion of obvious discrimination against female emancipation received overdue attention today with the call for a protest rally in Trafalgar Square, London. However only 2 people and a dog turned up. One of them was the organizer, a male binman, Brian who carried a sign saying BINMEN NOW!, with the ‘MEN’ scored out and replaced by ‘PEOPLE’. The other was a dreadlocked activist called Gizmo who misread the announcement for the protest, thinking it was about refugees. The dog was a stray mongrel who seemed to find Brian’s smell to be of interest rather than having a genuine interest in gender mainstreaming in the refuse collection sector.
We asked Brian why he felt it was important for him to protest against discrimination in Britain’s most male dominated job. Brian replied ‘I just think it is scandalous in this day and age, 100 years after the suffragettes protested for equal gender rights to find such an imbalance in opportunity within one of the biggest employing sectors in the UK. Yes, I am on the minimum wage, and get up at 5am each day and do back breaking, dirty and smelly work often in the freezing cold and rain, but there are unexpected perks. I got a really nice sofa the other day, yes it might have had a bad yellow stain and a pungent aroma, but after a rub down with a damp cloth and a full can of air freshener it’s perfect for my front room.
I just think it’s about time we removed the barriers to discrimination within this almost absolute bastion of male domination and provided equal opportunity to women, who would probably jump at the chance to enter a profession with such perks. I’m really disappointed that no women showed up today, last week 25,000 women marched to push for a balanced representation of men and women on 6 figure salaried positions as directors of government departments. I can’t understand why no one would show up today? Inequality in our sector is much much worse. I had this great idea for a direct action protest to speak about today, where women could jump onto bins as they are being collected each morning, refusing to let go, until this profession opened its ranks to our sisters. I don’t even get criticised when I refer to my job as being a binman, rather than a binperson. Not a single criticism on social media. Imagine if I used the term chairman? All hell would break loose. Refuse collection needs genderfication urgently, is that a word?’
180 Degrees News contacted a leading women’s empowerment organisation to ask why they think such blatant gender discrimination in the refuse collection sector stubbornly persists 100 years since many women got the vote in the UK. Lead coordinator of the NGO Women Equality Now, Sarah Burns, who prefers to be referred to as a ‘they’, rather than a he or she, responded that, ‘The problem is that there are not enough suitable female role model kick-ass refuse collectors in films or TV dramas, and this boils down to the fundamental problem of not enough female senior executives at the top of the food chain in the television or film industry’. They went on to say, ‘Also where is Bin Barbie? She could have lots of accessories, overflowing bin, soiled nappies to scoop up off the pavement, a dead pet etc. and again if you look at the fundamental problem, too few high paid executives in these toy companies are women’.
To get the view of women on the street, we ask a passing lawyer, Jane, why she thinks the turn out for the refuse collection equality protest was so small, even 100 years after the suffragette movement. She stated, ‘Equality doesn’t mean every job has to be 50/50 men women, it rather is all about equal choice and natural talent, women choose not to be refuse collectors. If men choose to be binmen, good luck to them, you would never catch me doing work like that or any of my female friends. I think it is just one of those jobs that men are naturally talented in, like sewage work. Men love that kind of work, don’t they? I don’t think women should disempower men by encroaching on what is clearly their professional natural habitat’.
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