Academic journal article Urban History Review

She's No Lady: The Experience and Expression of Gender among Halifax Women Taxi Drivers since World War II

Academic journal article Urban History Review

She's No Lady: The Experience and Expression of Gender among Halifax Women Taxi Drivers since World War II

Article excerpt

Abstract:

"She's No Lady" explores the complex relationship between gender identity and work culture as experienced by women taxi drivers in Halifax. Working in a traditionally male industry, women taxi drivers often attract the attention of the press and the public as an amusing novelty or a scandalous disgrace. These reactions are, in part, the result of the popular perception that masculine and feminine domain are mutually exclusive, restricted to men and women separately and respectively. Furthermore, characterized as highly competitive, independent operators in a dangerous industry, taxi drivers embody a popular image of masculinity. While the place of women is generally considered to be outside of masculine culture, women taxi drivers demonstrate the fluidity of gender cultures as they adeptly navigate the contested terrain of their masculiune work-culture. Despite the routine comments and questions from passengers and colleagues alike, most women drivers find a considerable degree of membership within the larger community of drivers, and in this sense become "one of the men"; seen first as taxi drivers and then women.

Resume:

<> etudie la relation complexe entre l'identite sexuelle et la culture de travail chez les chauffeuses de taxi de Halifax. Travaillant dans un secteur habituellement reserve aux hommes, les chauffeuses de taxi attirent souvent l'attention de la presse et du public qui les voient comme une nouveaute amusante ou un vertiable scandale. On peut en partie attribuer ces reactions a l'opinion generalement admise qu'il existe des domaines exclusivement reserves les uns aux hommes et les autres aux femmes. En outre, etant des entrepreneurs independants dans une industrie dangereuse et extremement competitive, les chauffeurs de taxi representent, pour le commun des mortels, l'image meme de la masculinite. Meme si on considere en general que la femme n'a pas sa place dans la culture reservee aux hommes, les chauffeuses de taxi, qui naviguent avec brio sur les <>, font la preuve de la fluidite de la culture des sexes. En depit des habituels commentaires des collegues de travail et des questions repetitives de leurs passagers, la plupart des femmes qui ont embrasse ce metier eprouvent un veritable sentiment d'appartenance a la grande confrerie des chauffeurs. En ce sens, elles sont considerees d'abord comme <> et ensuite comme des femmes.

Taxi driver. This job title conjures up two powerful sets of images: of mean streets and urban alienation, and of independent, macho males, a sort of urban "cowboy". These images emerge in popular culture portrayals of taxi drivers, such as Harry Chapin's 1972 song, "Taxi", and the 1976 film "Taxi Driver", starting Robert Di Niro. Given the very early and powerful gender-typing of the automobile itself as a "masculine" machine, (1) taxi driving has long seemed a quintessentially "male" occupation. Yet this job consists of low-paid service work. Is that not women's traditional lot in Canadian society? Should it be surprising, then, that this "masculine" trade has long had women workers? There were female cab drivers in Europe's metropolises before 1910, and by World War I they were popping up in Canadian cities as well, typically as jitney drivers. (2) The 1931 Canadian census records 12 women "chauffeurs and bus drivers", a category which likely includes taxi drivers. The 1941 census documents 42 women "chauffeurs and taxi drivers". (3) Recent estimates of women taxi drivers in Montreal and Toronto indicate that the percentage of women drivers remains small. Montreal's Bureau de Taxi estimates 400 women with taxi permits. The Metropolitan Licensing commission of Toronto estimates 30 women cab drivers. (4) A survey of the names of Halifax taxi drivers licensed in 1994 indicates that less than 3% were women. (5) Canada's women cab drivers have not, however, found their historian. …

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