I like definitions. When my curiosity about something in the world is sparked, and I seek to understand it, I am always looking for definitions, whether they come from a dictionary, Wikipedia, social constructs, or language. When I sought to understand my place in society and in the world as a 21st century white woman with voting rights, able to work out in the world amongst so many men in technology without question or humiliation, when I sought to understand the way I had been raised, I wanted to know where I ranked in class status. Since I was a young person, my parents always taught me that everyone was equal, according to the Bible (which is funny, because they never talked about how many laws there were in the Old Testament regarding slaves)(And we often shunned many other “sinners” who would have had a bad influence on us). Of course at 26 I am out in the world experiencing real people, and I see that although people may be equal in many ways, we have chosen to dissect our species into separate classes of “worthiness” based on things like wealth, political power, career position, beauty, and other factors. My experience has only been in America, where the majority of tabloids, magazines, and internet beauty websites tell me about my inadequacies as a woman. It is hard, still, on a daily basis, not to get over that pressure.
There are classes. I am not in a great class. I looked this up, I wanted a definition. At first I was calling myself a layperson, but in reality that means that you do skilled work with your hands, and I have pretty much always worked retail, IT, or customer service. So I was not a layperson. I must work hard to survive, and save money and eat on a budget if I want to ever own property or a home. That means I am not a wealthy person in an upper class. My parents had no money to give me, or any of my five younger siblings. They provided what they could until they could not or would not. I am certainly not a white collar or a blue collar worker, as far as those are defined by the media, television, and movies in America in the 21st century. I don’t have a desk job or design pretty things for a living, and I don’t have to clean things with my hands and clean floors and bathrooms anymore like I did in food service. (Thankfully!) I have moved up a little in the world, I suppose, but not much. So I looked it up. And I am a Pink Collar worker.
Now, I have to say that this term somewhat irritates me. As it is defined by Wikipedia, we are essentially a class of workers in the service industry that includes positions like maids, waitresses, flight attendants, preschool teachers, florists, hairdressers, librarians, retail workers, food preparation workers, receptionist, hotel lobby attendants, and the list goes on and on. What do all of these positions seem to have in common, stereotypically? That’s right, folks, they were mostly filled by women when we were allowed out into the workforce just before World War 2, in 1917. Before that, we were working at home and in factories if we had a job outside of the house. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Let’s continue. American women became service pilots, telephone operators, airplane engineers, and nurses during WW2 while American men were away fighting in Europe. Women had ten-hour workdays after that, starting at 5:30am. We were able to take it. In 1937 a woman would earn half the salary a man would in a year. Today women earn between 70-80% of what a man would make in a year. This is how the term “pink-collar” started.
Yes, I am in a class of people. (Which is a strange thing to admit for me, because all my life I have read that in the past there were classes, but those things were eliminated in today’s society. Sadly, with the events all over the country, the economic ruin and debt the United States is in, the homeless and unemployment across the land… I don’t think that’s true. There are still a small number of people in America who hold the majority of money that exists.) It is a class named after women, when they came into the workforce. I am proud of that and annoyed by the box we have been put in. We continue to struggle through it on a daily basis. There is something annoying about being named “pink” for our service jobs. In reality, on a daily basis, I make technology accessible to people all over my state. They come to participate in a sense of community, technological enchantment, and personal conversation that makes the digital age relevant to them in my work environment. As a woman, surrounded by 75% men (or more) at my job, I am successful and have opportunities rising before me every day to impact the world in a positive way. That is far more powerful than the class of people, or what someone has decided to call those of us who face the public every day in retail.
I am more than just a pink collar worker, and I am a pink collar worker. I am proud to be one and I still want to change the perception of service jobs as “pink”; I think there is much more to them than that. After my search, I have found a decent definition of my place in the workforce world.