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In the US, 42% of women have reported gender discrimination in the workplace, yet only 22% of men have experienced gender bias. In the novel The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, one of the leading characters, Lieutenant Colonel Nancy Jaax, gives us a real example of sexism in the workplace. The roadblocks Nancy faced were not only degrading but damaging to her reputation. Rumors were spread around the workplace of her incapability to complete tasks, assumptions were made about her personal life, and the men surrounding her field of work doubted her potential, all because they thought less of her as a woman.
Furthermore, ignorant rumors spread about Nancy’s hands, implying she would not be suitable for work in the level 4 hot agents. Co-workers and peers of Nancy commented about how her hands were quick and anxious. News of these rumors made their way to Lieutenant Colonel Tony Johnson, who would decide if she was suitable for work in the Ebola area. Preston explains this on page ++, “He watched her hands as she talked. They looked fine to him, not clumsy, and not too quick, either. He decided that the rumors he had heard about her hands were unfounded.” Her co-workers assume her hands are nervous and unsuitable for work because of the stereotype of women from the Victorian area. “The other criticism leveled at Nancy – that her hands move too quickly … the idea that women are hysterical and susceptible to nervous excitability”. They are not literally questioning her hands but her strength of mind under pressure, mainly when she is being supervised by (mostly male) scientists.
Likewise, when Nancy applied to the pathology group the colonel in charge hesitated on giving her the job because she was a “married female”. He assumed that because she was a woman with a family she wasn’t capable of dangerous work. “He said to her, ‘This work is not for a married female. You are either going to neglect your work or neglect your family.’” At first glance you may think he only said this out of worry the job would consume her. However, none of the other males that applied to the job were held back because of their marriages. He may have been oblivious to his bias, but he insinuated because she was married her job wasn’t to be in the pathologist group. By the end of the book Nancy had neither ignored her job or her family. She had a system of being with her kids and having enough time to care for them between her work shifts. Discrimination like this has dated back to the 19 century when women were made to only serve the men of the house. Their main purpose was to maintain a domestic realm. Professor Kathy Bates has said, “Wives, daughters and sisters were left at home all day to oversee the domestic duties that were increasingly carried out by servants.” Nancy was considered unfit for her job because a man stereotyped her in the category, not as an equal, but as married woman.
Consequentially, the men surrounding her doubted her skills all because of her gender. One example of this was whenever Conol Tony Johnson interviewed Nancy’s husband before he interviewed her.
This in itself can be perceived as perpetuating gender stereotypes. To prove herself, Nancy takes martial arts classes. In her male dominated occupation she is aware that she is seen differently than the other men. I Know this because Peston reveals on page ++, “Nancy had begun martial-arts training partly because she hoped to make her gestures cool and smooth and powerful, and also because he had felt the frustrations of a woman officer trying to advance her career in the Army.” From her small stature, people did not see her as an equal to a big, army man. The rumors about her being too quick and hasty also piled on to how differently she was observed.
In conclusion, Nancy Jaax was discriminated against because she was a woman and faced many roadblocks in her career because of her gender. She has been stereotyped and treated with bias, however her determination, courage, and patriotism drove her to play a pivotal role in the safety of the general public. Some obstacles she faced were men doubting her potential compared to other male soldiers, rumors that she was incapable of handling hot agents, and male authority assuming she wasn’t fit because of a stereotype. Her treatment was degrading and humiliating and I believe all women should be considered equals to men.
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