Thursday, May 10, 2007

The women are coming!

There's a lot of talk in some circles about differences between the US and Europe. For example, Europeans tend to be more secular, more skeptical, easier about some of the culture war issues we see here, like gay rights. European people do not think it's such a big deal, whereas here in Oregon, we're going to have a petition drive to try to overturn legislation that grants domestic partners some of the rights that married couples have.

One thing that is very different about Europe, though, is the strict segregation of certain professions. For example, in Hungary, with a couple rare exceptions, you do not see waitresses in upscale restaurants. Only men are waiters in places like the legendary Gundel or Carpathia in Budapest. If you watch the Vienna Philharmonic on TV, you have noticed in the past that there were no women among the players. There hadn't been any, except maybe for the harpist, and it just wasn't done.

All this is changing, or at least being challenged seriously. A few years ago, a lone female broke through the gender barrier to become the first female waiter in Venice, and women suddenly appeared in the New Year's concert of the Vienna Philharmonic; now, a young Venetian woman has set her sights on becoming a gondolier, a member of the cadre of people who row people around the city, which is literally on the water. She hasn't had an easy time of it, but she hasn't given up yet, and chances are good she will break through eventually.

It's surprising to us, since we're used to the "no limits" approach to careers, but it's fun to watch from afar.

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