Craig JacksonBy Craig Jackson, Professor of Occupational Health Psychology

Channel 4 will screen a new documentary on Thursday 9th February at 10pm; “an amusing film covering the lives of a group of female truck drivers, working in a male-dominated profession, while juggling family life, domestic responsibilities and trying to stay feminine”. One sentence in and it feels as if I’ve seen this already – but probably featuring a group of similar women doing a different type of “man’s work” instead. Such as quarrying (“Rocking Mammas”), refuse bin collection (“Rubbish Mums”), or even top restaurant chefs (“Yummy Mummy”). Of course, such programme titles never existed (I hope), but it will not surprise me if someone points out that I am wrong.

The programme makers have the potential here to make a thought provoking film about a group of working women, doing a dangerous job in transport and haulage, fraught with many workplace hazards and potential health risks. I sincerely hope they get it right, by focusing on the peculiarities of the job, how people (both men and women) fit into it, and fit their family and lives around it. You know, in the way that work dominates the quality of your life. I have not seen any preview clips myself, but suspect they wont get it right however, and they will instead focus on the minutiae, such as how “Sandra” manages to drive a ten-ton truck despite her excessive nail extensions, or how hopeless romantic “Kelly” looks for her ideal man in all of the truck-stops on the UK motorway network.

The producers no doubt defend such TV by claiming it provides the human interest angle – and portrays the workers as real women with real issues. This it may do, but if it trivialises women, and diminishes them into caricatures of the “bossy” one, the “silly” one, the “glamorous” one, and no doubt, the inevitable “butch” one, all struggling to do the type of job that thousands of men do each day, what would be the purpose of such a wasted opportunity. Haulage and transport are among the most dangerous jobs we have in our society, and like many of the jobs that are hazardous and difficult, the workers who do it are routinely taken for granted.

Rosie the riveterI’m not sure yet if I’ll be watching it – but if I want to be reminded of the positive impact women make in difficult workplaces, I will spend the hour staring at a copy of J. Howard Miller’s “We can do it” (1942) who clearly got it right seventy years ago. Some words for you then, Channel 4:

All the day long,
Whether rain or shine
Shes part of the assembly line.
Shes making history,
Working for victory
Rosie the Riveter

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Craig Jackson

Craig Jackson

Head of Psychology Division at Birmingham City University
Craig Jackson

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