Selfish Careers and the Pink Ghetto

Every career field needs people with a heart to love and change the world for better. – Sarah Bell, Isn’t Fashion Selfish?

After reading Sarah Bell’s post, Isn’t Fashion Selfish? I was reminded of how the attitudes from the “Pink Ghetto” affect women in all industries. In her post, she talks about criticism for going into the fashion industry. While the point of her post isn’t sexism, I reminded me of some sexist undertones perpetuated by the “Pink Ghetto”. To summarize, women who reject the “Pink Ghetto” are often criticized as selfish because they aren’t traditional caregivers.

What is the Pink Ghetto?

You’ve heard of blue collar jobs meaning, skilled or unskilled labor professions. Also, you’ve heard of white collar jobs, typically, professional, managerial, or administrative positions. Pink collar is a term to describe jobs typically assigned to women because they fit with traditional female household roles. This includes, cleaning, cooking and planning for others and caring for or teaching children. Some examples include:

  • Maid, Nanny, day care worker, child-care provider, caregiver, and Preschool teacher
  • Waitress, Hostess, Barista, Food preparation workers, counter attendants, Flight attendant
  • Meter Maid, Parking lot attendant, Museum docents, and Tour guide
  • Hairstylist, cosmetologist, beauty salon employee, Make-up artist, Nail technician, Perfumer, Personal stylist, Fashion stylist, and Personal shopper
  • Receptionist, Secretary, Administrative Assistant, Information clerk, Library assistant, Librarian, and Buyer
  • Dental assistant, Medical assistant, Physician assistant, Pharmacy assistant, Nurse, Registered nurse, Nutritionist, Dietitian, Rehabilitation specialist, consultant, counselor, Camp counselor, Non-profit volunteer coordinator, and Dental hygienist

The “Pink Ghetto,” coined by Louise Kapp Howe, describes the oppression of these situations because they are typically  stressful, underpaid positions with little room for advancement. Sometimes, this term includes women that are placed in management positions in areas such as human resources or customer service that will never give them influence in a board room setting. Hence the a career in the “Pink Ghetto” will never break through the “glass ceiling.” While some critics say the term is outdated or irrelevant, because men sometimes choose to work pink collar jobs, I think there are examples of how the phenomenon still impacts women today.

The Pink Ghetto Affects All Women

Even though women are making strides in all professions (including Barbie), attitudes about women’s roles affect all women, even those outside of pink-collar professions. Essentially, they perpetuate views that continue to oppress women. It relegates working women to positions that mirror the traditional role of running a household. Beyond unfair wages and unequal opportunities, women in all professions experience more subtle forms of sexism. In my career, I have been advised to:

  • Bake cookies for a client meeting
  • Wear heels with my suit instead of my flat oxford shoes
  • Assist male peer coworkers with their secretarial needs

While I fought pink collar perceptions, some dismissed me as  slightly-more-educated version of the female receptionist a few desks away. While I’ve grown in my ability to negotiate and navigate male-dominated workplaces, I find that these attitudes are strong among Christians.

Christians and Working Women

As I read Sarah Bell’s post, I was reminded of how well-meaning Christians perpetuate the pink ghetto. Many church leaders are uncomfortable dissecting the role of gender in marriage, the workplace, the church, and society at large. While this may be an oversight and there are surely exceptions, this is our chance to talk about it.

Most people wouldn’t tell a Christian man that it is “selfish” to pursue any particular career path. However, there is an underlying attitude that Christian women should be caregivers, even in their volunteering and careers.

This is a missed opportunity for some churches. Many christian ministries could better partner with women to reject these extra-biblical stereotypes of godliness and support women in following God’s will. Instead, many believers make this struggle even more lonely. Women’s ministries, volunteer opportunties, and events often focus on caregiving, children, and “supporting the men” topics.

This gives the impression Christians disapprove of decisions to follow God’s will into the workforce. Often, these oversights push non-traditional women to the fringes of the church. Empowered women are tolerated, and sometimes accepted. But, they are rarely celebrated or revered.

I know few women who work in non-pink-collar jobs, and even less are Christians. I’d like us to challenge that perception, as individuals, as Christians, as a community, and a culture.

Also, I’d like to know where others feel this fits in the current feminist conversation and would love to hear some intersectional perspectives.  For those who think this scenario is easy for women, I share this thoughtful video (from Everyday Feminism) on the myth of female privilege.

How do you think the “pink ghetto” affects everyone? How do you think we can better support career women?

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3 thoughts on “Selfish Careers and the Pink Ghetto

  1. What a great post! I feel honored to have been included. I think especially as christians, we need to show that women are equal to men, not below them. You mentioned how no man would be thought of as selfish for pursing a certain career and yet women are (so true). I was just thinking about this the other day actually. I made the decision to leave a local church I had been attending when I discovered they didn’t think women could lead men or be pastors. I’m sorry… what? Because I am female?! There are plenty of women and men that would be bad as pastors and some that would be great but their sex doesn’t determine that. I think it is so easy for many believers to get stuck in boxes. But God doesn’t exist in a box. Throughout the Bible, we see Him bring people on gradual journey’s of change. The idea that as a people we would some how stop growing and bettering ourselves is nonsense. God used to allow for multiple wives, did that last forever (no), same with slavery. Change and growth are necessary and yet so many want to keep women unchanging and prevent them from growing because some how it got communicated that men are above women.

    Great post! I’ll be sharing with my friends!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I”m glad you liked it. I was inspired by your post but, also didn’t want to put words in your mouth. So, I wrote this a while ago and waited to post.

      I realize no one, including me, can perfectly apply scripture to our current cultural situation. However, I hope we all can keep talking about it.

      Liked by 1 person

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