I got hooked on The History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers three years ago. Although TV in general, and reality shows in particular, don’t usually interest me, I took a liking to IRT right away. I have always had a fascination with the Arctic and the extreme climate and conditions that go with it. This alone explains the show’s ability to suck me in for three seasons.
This new genre of reality show, one that highlights dangerous blue collar jobs, is interesting in itself. Sex, titillating voyeurism, and people doing outrageous and embarrassing things for money aren’t used to sell this new concept. Could you imagine this being successful 60 years ago? Would Jackie Gleason have been preempted by a modern day Grizzly Adams, chopping down a redwood tree? I think not. Why does it work now?
A few factors in no particular order…
A higher percentage of the population lives in an urban setting.
An interest in the roots of the country’s high standard of living.
Unique all male work environments.
Male bonding and conflict.
A feminization of the culture.
A feminization of television.
An appreciation of the work.
Masculine traits like goal orientation, problem solving, and teamwork.
Work that involves danger.
Work that is adventurous.
Men sans de-balled mangina tendencies.
Compare all of this to the kind of jobs so many men are stuck in today and it’s easy to see why these shows can be compelling. The lifestyle these jobs provide, and the people who do them, are more interesting and desirable than they were 60 years ago.
In season three, Ice Road Truckers featured its first female driver. When I first heard about it, I wasn’t optimistic. I figured 1 of 2 scenarios would play out. The female would be an ugly, tobacco spitting, bull dyke or an incompetent, affirmitive action gimmick.
The former would shed no light on male/female work relations (what’s interesting about a “man” without a penis?), and the latter would bring cringe inducing incompetence, talk of “brave pioneer” ad nauseum, and constant complaints about men and their insecure, superiority complex.
I figured it would be an Alaskan dyke, and considering the alternative, hoping it was. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to this politically correct distraction.
Surprising, my worries would be unfounded. The woman in question, Lisa Kelly, turned out to be young, attractive, and most importantly, able to pull her own weight. She was a tomboy, but still had feminine aspects to her personality. I really liked what she brought to the show.
A few reasons why she stood out…
1. She took criticism and instruction well. I never saw her bristle or take offense when someone who was more experienced and knowledgeable (a man) told her something useful.
2. She didn’t whine. She had a pleasant demeanor and seemed to enjoy what she was doing. She seemed like an ambitious and hard worker.
3. She didn’t appear to be an affirmative action/gimmick for TV hire. From what I could tell, she knew what she was doing. I never felt that she was the “weak link” that other people (men) had to cover for. In fact, I would guess her skills to be above average if compared to the male truckers.
Sidebar:In my opinion, the road IRT highlighted in season 3 was the toughest they have shown to date. The Dalton Highway was featured, a road that runs from Fairbanks, Alaska all the way up to Prudhoe Bay. The truckers supply parts, big and small, used in oil drilling, and exploration. The weather is of course harsh and unpredictable, and the road runs through difficult and diverse terrain. The road is icy, narrow and often steep, which make passing and breaking a challenge in itself. End sidebar.
4. She was honest and humble about duties she needed help with. Lisa had only been driving a big rig for a couple years, I believe, at the time of the show’s filming, so on occasion something would come up ( usually mechanical) that she couldn’t tackle herself. She was fine with someone (a man) fixing it for her. She tried to understand what they were doing in order to handle it the next time by herself. Additionally, I never got the feeling she took advantage of her co-workers eagerness to help her (and eager they were).
5. Didn’t try to be a man. Feminine, and at times flirty, I think Lisa enjoys being a woman, and I suspect, understands male/female differences. I’m sure we have a lack of a college “education” to explain this wisdom.
6. Liked her co-workers. Never noticed a chip on her shoulder or a superiority complex. She seemed to take the extra attention that comes with being young, female, and good looking in stride. I don’t recall a single moment where she played the victim or claimed to be offended.
7. No feminist drivel. Very little talk about how unique, empowered and special she is, or her quest to blaze a path for every women locked out of the ice road trucking game. I suspect she realizes that very few women could accomplish what she has, and maintains a healthy respect for the men who do the work.
Another sidebar: I was struck by how respectful the men were of Lisa. I mean this should be a feminist’s wet dream. A woman surrounded by a bunch of unrefined, blue collar barbarians should bring a barrage of inequality and sexual harassment.
Of course the opposite is true. Hard working men with wives and children, invested in society, will treat a woman with respect, and provide protection from those who don’t. In addition, men love to work with women that are competent, hard working, and don’t seek special favor. (Ironically, this behavior will be such a breath of fresh air, that, many times, it will be rewarded with special favors( especially if she is attractive). As long as a woman maintains an aversion to it, I have no problem with this. I have no interest in fighting human nature.) End sidebar.
I realize that her upbringing, and lifestyle in the wilds of Alaska, have a lot to do with her behavior ( she is strikingly similar to Sarah Palin). I also understand her nature and “tomboyishness” are a bit unque as well.
I don’t expect most women to have her background, or an interest in her lifestyle, but it would be nice if her attitude was a bit more prevalent. Especially in work settings. It would be nice if I won the lottery too I spose. In other words, I’m not holding my breath.
On the bright side, if her behavior was commonplace, I wouldn’t be writing this, and probably wouldn’t have a blog in the 1st place. Wait, is that the bright side? Nevermind.
In the interest of fairness, and for the purpose of advocating what I am for, instead of only addressing what I am against, I have decided to occasionally highlight women who deserve it.
A contrast between Lisa’s behavior (and the improved workplace environment it brings), as opposed to what I commonly see, is worth a post of its own. For now, I’ll just say that I believe her to be very unique and worth celebrating.
Congratulations Lisa Kelly, you deserve it.