Thomas the Tank Engine, you sexist bastard!

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hands up who used to watch Thomas the Tank Engine when they were younger? To say it’s a programme that started in 1984 (I was born in 1986) it should probably have been on my radar growing up. I knew it was on, and I think I might have watched an episode or two, but I definitely don’t remember it being one of my favourites. When I grew up I was into Transformers, Thundercats and, later on, Power Rangers and Spider-man. Even at the grand old age of 27 I still watch the odd children’s cartoon, not because I have kids of my own (I don’t) or any nephews of godchildren (I don’t) but because they offer a sense of nostalgia. In the last couple of years there have been new versions of Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while Power Rangers has steadily been churning along for nearly 20 years now. So why the focus on Thomas?

Well:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10532989/Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-needs-more-female-trains-Labour-MP-says.html

Apparently, the much loved tales of the blue tank engine are massively sexist and, as normal, are damaging and exclusionary to young girls. This boils down to the idea that it’s harder for women to break into more ‘male oriented’ due to overwhelming discrimination and hatred of women. It couldn’t possibly be down to the fact that women choose not to enter these professions because, shock horror, they don’t actually find them interesting.

The whole idea of women (and men, though we don’t like to mention that dirty word when talking about discrimination) being forced into gender roles is something the feminists absolutely love to get into a fit about. If it’s not ‘boys club’ professions like banking and law, then it’s gender neutral toys or TV programmes enforcing sexist stereotypes. The things that  I find laughable about the whole thing is that, once again, there is absolutely no consideration for why more men are in the train profession, or why certain toys are marketed to girls and boys. It never seems to occur to these people that, perhaps, there are more men in the railway industry because more men simply choose to be there. For whatever reason men and women simply enjoy different things. There will never be a day (or at least I hope not) that every job profession will be split 50/50 between men and women. People like different things, it’s as simple as that.

A lot of what goes into making these programmes is appealing to the audience that is likely to watch them more. Despite what feminists say there is a lot to be said for biology. Studies have shown that girls and boys naturally go to stereotyped toys. It’s nothing to be worried about, absolutely nothing to be worried about. Biology has a big part to play in the way people grow up and develop, despite feminist claims to the contrary. A little tidbit of information about me – I still, at the grand old age of 27, spend money on statues and action figures. Admittedly, they are very expensive statues and action figures, but still, I consider myself a collector. I don’t do it because I was forced into it as a child, I don’t do it because I feel like I need to do it to reaffirm my masculinity, I do it because the items I buy look fucking awesome. Actually, my hobby is looked down on by a lot of people, it’s still seen as childish, still seen as buying ‘toys’, despite the fact these pieces can cost 10 times the price of a child’s toy. I can count on one hand the number of women I know personally who share my hobby. I’ll give you a big clue, it’s zero. Going online was the only way I even knew there were women who shared my hobby.

The point is, people enjoy different things. The things I buy are marketed towards an extremely male audience, an older, mature audience with disposable income, those who can afford £100+ on a single item. 90% of the people in my hobby are men. What on Earth would be the point of making the stuff I collect gender neutral? There wouldn’t be a point, it would simply be change for changes sake. And for those who have just spat their tea (how English!) all over their screen at the thought of spending over £100 on a ‘toy’ tell me, honestly, you’ve never spent that much on a pair of jeans, or a bag, or a pair of shoes, or even spent that much on 3 pairs of jeans, or spent that on a meal with your other half or spent it on a night out drinking. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, my money goes on my collection, it makes me happy and makes my living room look fucking awesome!

Anyway, back to the point. Thomas the Tank Engine is not sexist. It caters to an audience, an audience that is likely to watch it and enjoy it. Enjoyment of a programme doesn’t necessarily influence career choice, if it did I would either be a Power Ranger, a Ninja Turtle or would have attempted to irradiate a spider and then let it bite me a long time ago. If it does influence career choice then that’s fantastic, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that that career will definitely happen. I remember when CSI first started I wanted to be a SOCO (scene of crime office here in the UK), then I looked at the requirements and saw that I was in no way scientifically minded enough to become one. Sometimes, life sucks. Sometimes, no matter how much you want something you just can’t have it. I’m 5’8, simply due to genetics there are some things I will never be good at. Some things I can’t do because of my height, no matter how much I want to. That’s just something I have to live with. Yeah, it sucks a big one, but I can’t do anything about it, so I just have to accept it, accept it and move on. Life isn’t fair.

But what’s this got to do with that sexist pig, Thomas? Sometimes, professions just happen to be done by a larger percentage of one gender. There are loads of reasons you can apply for this being the case, sometimes it’s simply down to preference. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with preference. I prefer to listen to metal music because I enjoy it more than pop music. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy some pop music, it just means that, given the option, I’d rather listen to metal.

To make it more specific, I listen to certain subgenres of metal, namely tradition, 80s-era heavy metal and European-inspired power metal. Again, I don’t mind other subgenres, but most of the enjoyment I get from metal comes from those two subgenres. The danger comes when people try to force everyone to like the same subgenres equally. It’s not surprising that Iron Maiden can fill an 80,000 seat stadium in Chile while an underground Norwegian Black Metal band play sold out clubs to 100-120 people. Trying to force 80,000 people, who don’t necessarily want to be there, to enjoy a type of music they don’t want to listen to is pointless. If people don’t want to be there, then they simply don’t want to be there, you can’t force people to do what they don’t want to do.

So, how does all this relate to Thomas? Well, it’s simple, maybe, just maybe, there’s a lack of women in the railway industry because they choose not to go into that profession. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t women out there who do feel like they can’t go into the profession due to internal (read: family) and external (read: friends) pressures, but to try and change the entire nature of a programme because of some perceived injustice seems pretty counter-productive to me. If you want to try and get more women in to the railway profession then that’s absolutely fine, perhaps focus on the fact that there are already 1000 women in that profession. Perhaps use that 1000 as some sort of campaign to try and convince women it’s ok to join a profession that is mainly male. Forcing cartoons like Thomas, cartoons that already feature female characters, to change their ways because you think it is stopping women from entering the profession is forcing a scapegoat on to a situation that should be easily rectified.

I will compare this particular story to the nursing profession. According to two articles I found there are around 600,000 registered nurses in the UK covering many different disciplines.

http://www.ask.com/question/how-many-nurses-are-there-in-the-uk

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_nurses_are_there_in_the_uk

 Around 9% of those are male, only 5% more than the amount of women in the railway profession. The number of male nurses in the nursing industry has been growing, and a lot of that has been put down to male nurse Charlie Fairhead in the English TV show Casualty, but I doubt we will ever see the day when we see complete parity between men and women. It would be interesting to see if the number of female doctors in the UK has risen with any correlation to the number of female doctors shown on Casualty (as far as I’m aware there have been far more female doctors on Casualty than male nurses).

The thing is, male nurses have increased over the past 30 years, yet I don’t remember seeing one single statement from an MP declaring any show as sexist because it didn’t include male nurses. The change has been gradual and not forced, men have come round to the idea themselves.

One other areas that really needs developing is male teachers in Primary schools. I’ve already done a blog on the number of male primary teachers (12%) and come to the conclusion that, once again, change is happening, but at a gradual pace and, once again, it didn’t need the over-emotional rantings of an MP to put that change into motion. I’m a secondary teacher, I chose to become a secondary teacher because I didn’t want to teach kids that young, I wanted to challenge myself a little bit, teach kids who had a bit more development about them and could counter what I was trying to teach them. As much as we need more male secondary teachers, we can’t force men to become them. We can’t force people to do an important job if they don’t want to, no matter how much we need them. Sometimes, it just isn’t that easy. Again, male primary teachers have increased, but it’s been slow and has come about without too much hysteria in the media.

So where does this leave our beloved tank engine? To be honest I have no idea. There are other TV shows that deal with railways, Thomas already has female characters so it’s not like they’ve been completely dismissed. Try putting a female engine in there, if it works, brilliant, but don’t expect the percentage of women in the railway industry to ever hit 50%, you can’t force people to join a profession just because you think they’re under-represented.

One interesting thing that I did notice in the article is the possible reason why Mary Creagh felt so strongly about the railway industry in particular. I mean, why not focus on the fashion industry? Why not claim shows like Bratz were misandrist as there were no main male characters? Why not say a show like Totally Spies that focused solely on 3 teenage girls? Why not create a campaign to increase the amount of male nurses or the number of male teachers? I think it boils down to this one line – “often highly paid and highly skilled jobs”

So there we are, after everything I’ve just said about not being able to force people into jobs they don’t want to do, about it being simply about choice and wondering why other TV shows weren’t focused on, it all boils down to money. Train drivers are highly paid. Basically, what that says to me is that Mary Creagh wants more women in higher-paying jobs, whether they want to be there or not. She wants this, presumably, to try and close the wage gap. The wage gap that, numerous studies have shown, is nothing to do with sexist discrimination and more to do with personal choice. You know, personal choice that Creagh is now trying to alter. It’s a big roundabout of confusion. Women choose to do lower paying, part-time jobs which contributes to the wage gap. Mary Creagh wants more women in higher paid jobs in order to close the wage gap, which takes the choice away from women, a contributory factor to the wage gap Creagh possibly wants to close. Confused? Yeah, me too.

But that’s not all. Mary Creagh “also said that mechanical comprehension tests taken by prospective train drivers could discriminate against women.” This is where the article descends in to absolute farce. She thinks that a test you are required to do in order to competently drive a massive train could be discriminatory?

She said: “You don’t need mechanical competence to drive a train any more. Previous research has indicated that it could be a disadvantage to minority groups, so the question is why is it still in there from a legal point of view, because it could amount to indirect discrimination.”

Oh my, what tomfoolery is this?! You don’t need mechanical competence to drive a train anymore? Those great big, long, heavy things that travel at over a hundred fucking miles an hour? I wonder how far you’d get trying to drive a car on that pathetic excuse. Scratch that, I wonder how far you’d get trying to drive a moped on that pathetic excuse. There’s a reason we have tests before driving a car or a bike. I don’t claim to know the inner workings of my car, but I damn sure know when the washer fluid needs changing, or when my tyres need filling with air. But that’s not even the most idiotic thing she says! This is:

Previous research has indicated that it could be a disadvantage to minority groups, so the question is why is it still in there from a legal point of view, because it could amount to indirect discrimination.”  

So because some people won’t be able to pass the mechanical competency test and because some previous research, though absolutely no links or sources are provided, suggests that minority groups might not be able to pass them. What kind of idiotic, fucking stupid reasoning is that? So because a certain group of people might not have the competency to pass a required exam, and because you’ve decided from some previous study, that you provide no evidence of, that that exam is not needed anymore, you decided to implement the buzzword discrimination and, rather than admit the fact, however fair or unfair, some people just aren’t good enough to do a certain job, you hide behind the mask of discrimination, effectively shaming anyone who can actually recognise the truth of the situation. It’s a low tactic to use, trying to justify your biased campaign by accusing others of sexism and discrimination and, perhaps even more implicitly, racism.

It’s ridiculous arguments like this that are going to put people’s lives in danger, simply for the cause of ‘equality’. What happens if a women, or a ‘minority’, is in control of a train, having not passed the mechanical competency test, and something goes wrong? How many lives would needlessly be put in danger due to ‘equality’? How would Mary Creagh explain to the families that the woman, or minority, driving the train didn’t even need to pass a required test in order to drive the train that killed their mother/brother/sister/father/wife/husband, etc?

It’s ridiculous notions like this, in the name of ‘equality’, that lead to the watering down of entry requirements for other important jobs too, like the fucking Marines:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/dec/29/marines-delay-3-pullups-requirement-women/

Life isn’t fair, not always. Some people just aren’t capable of doing certain jobs, no matter how much they want to. If they can’t pass the basic entry requirements then they should never be allowed to do the damn job, no matter how much that hurts the feelings of the person involved. What would you rather happen, one person has their feelings hurt, or numerous people die? Because that’s what’ll happen. By constantly lowering entry requirements in order to appease the vocal minority who claim it’s ‘unfair’ that certain people can’t pass the existing entry requirements, you are essentially placing people’s lives in danger. How would you like that resting on your conscience, knowing that your attempts to include people who just weren’t good enough, because of the feels, have resulted in more damage than you could ever have imagined?

Man, I’ve rambled on for pages and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of idiocy coming out of this particular MP. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that this MP can be this stupid, or the fact that the British public voted for her. Twice! So basically, when it comes to the railway industry and the lack of women that work within it, it’s absolutely nothing to do with recruitment drives, nothing to do with competency or ability to pass entry requirements, nothing to do with desire and passion of the people who actually choose to work in that area and nothing to do with the hours that train drivers worked (which I’ve not even mentioned in this entry), but everything to do with a children’s cartoon about a little blue tank engine?

Thomas, look what you’ve done, you sexist piece of shit!

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Comments
  1. Whatevergirl says:

    IT’S NOT SEXIST, YOU MORON!

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