From time to time I’ve been mislabeled a male chauvinist pig, usually by some uppity woman who doesn’t know her place. So let me say right up front that I am one hundred percent in favor of equal rights, equal opportunity and equal pay for women, except for those who aspire to become “chairpersons.” That’s because I value the English language more than I value political correctness.
I see no reason why a woman can’t be a chairman or a spokesman. But, no, that would imply that she wears pants—which in fact she most likely does. It’s gotten so bad lately that I’ve even heard male chairmen referred to as chairpersons. I ask you, Colonel Pickering, “Why can’t a male person be more like a man?”
Which is not to say I’d ever want to go back to the Nineteen Fifties, when all chairmen were men and women were regarded as the weaker sex, no matter that when it comes to avalanches and blizzards on Mount McKinley, female survivors outnumber male survivors ten to one. “And how is it,” my teacher Mrs. Allred once asked, “that women swimmers hold all the records for crossing the English Channel?”
I raised my hand. “Because the channel is infested with man-eating sharks?”
I was SO wrong. Evidently it’s because women have an extra layer of fat—like sea lions—that insulates them from the cold. Who knew? Hell, in high school I was under the impression that girls had seams!
Fast forward to the Sixties and the Sexual Revolution. Bras were burned, girdles shucked. Women no longer had seams; they had dreams! By and by they began to infiltrate the workforce, and how strange it is to look back and remember that I used to make a pretty good living writing stories about women who had so-called “men’s jobs.” What today would be dismissed as “old hard hat.”
There was Debbie Vase, who drove a semi truck at a construction site in Rock Springs, and Vikki Randolph, who worked as an underground uranium miner in Naturita, Colorado. My all-time favorite was Shirley Haycock, Utah’s first female coal miner. I never got around to shooting a photo of Shirley in her hard hat; however, our paths intersected one day in 1971 near Locomotive Springs, where she offered me a portion of freshly baked gopher snake. At the time, Shirley and her two sons were hiking from their home in Eastern Utah to the Pacific Northwest, subsisting along the way on native plants and various reptiles. The following year I found myself sharing a rubber raft with Shirley as we shot the fearsome rapids of Cataract Canyon, and not long afterward I read in the newspaper that she was planning to become the first person to paddle a canoe across the Atlantic. By that time, we in the news business were no longer referring to Shirley Haycock as a “woman who does man stuff.” Mainly, because she was doing stuff no man would ever THINK of doing. (Dang sharks!)
Shirley didn’t succeed in paddling across the ocean, but I give her a lot of credit for trying. In my mind, she is every bit as heroic as Amelia Earhart, who in 1932 became the first woman to pilot an airplane across the Atlantic—replicating what Charles Lindbergh had accomplished five years earlier. So why had no female aviator flown across the Atlantic sooner? If Mrs. Allred should ask, I’m gonna guess it’s because women have an extra layer of fat that prevents them from getting off the ground.
I think I’m right but I could be wrong.