Not necessarily. Women, whether we like it or not, tend to be the smaller fries on a crew in terms of muscle. It’s undeniable, simple biology.
And sometimes what seems like a simple set up can be the biggest bear of your day, especially when pride and self-consciousness come roaring into the mix.
When I started as a stagehand five years ago, I was acutely aware of both my lack of experience and my lack of…well, you know. THAT. Most of the crew were guys, and I was eager to show them I wasn’t a slouch when it came to hard work, that I could hang with the dudes when it came to pushing, pulling, lifting, and loading. The problem was, only half of that was really true. I’ve always been a hard worker and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but a great deal of the physical part of the job was just beyond me. I wasn’t used to it, I hadn’t trained for it, and my body just plain wasn’t ready to do it. Tenacity got me a long way, but it also got me hurt on occasion. And the more I pressed to do things, the more I got shut down. It took me some time to realize that most of the guys I worked with weren’t making a statement about my femininity, they just didn’t want me to get hurt – both for my own sake and the sake of my employers and the shows.
Looking back, I see my mistake. By trying to bite off more than I could chew, labor-wise, I was putting myself, my coworkers, and my venue at risk.
The first thing a good stagehand/crew member needs to realize is that the show isn’t about you or what you’re doing.
It’s not your time to make a statement, it’s your time to do the work that needs to be done. And most people you’re working with don’t give a hoot about gender roles, they just want to get things done in the most efficient way possible, which means having the big muscley dudes doing the heavy lifting and everyone else getting in where they fit in.
I think women are afraid that they’ll lose respect in this work environment by not being “tough”. But my experience has been that people respect others who work in the best interest of the team. If that means you’re more helpful to your crew coiling cables than stacking cases on a particular show, do it. And if you need help, ask for it. No one’s going to look down on you protecting yourself, your crew members, and your gear from harm.
Now, with that in mind, it is equally important that you take it upon yourself to train for the reasonable expectations of your job. In the realm of audio, this means you’ll be dealing regularly with loads of 20-50 lbs (or more) and some of it will be relatively delicate gear. If you are not weight training, you need to start. Working with weights, especially free weights, can be intimidating and a little embarrassing for the newcomer. But give yourself time to get used to it and make sure you have the knowledge you need to work correctly with the weights. There are tons of references, with visual aids, available online.
You need to make sure you’re working all of your muscle groups (include your back! Lats, delts, lower back) and training them for power and stamina. Some of the lowest-tech exercises are actually the best for this. If you have a place to work on pull-ups and push-ups, make them a regular part of your routine. And look for exercises that mimic the physical movements you do at work. Do you need to lift things above your head? Pull cables? Think about the motions and the muscles that you need the most out of. Start small, work your way up, and give your body the time it needs to recover between workouts.
If you want to be healthy and strong, you need a balanced diet that includes proteins, good fats, ample calories, and real food. You also need water and sleep! You may put on a few pounds in the beginning as you learn what your body needs to accommodate the new demands on it. But if you’re worried about hulking out, don’t. You’re not planning on competing in any World’s Strongest Engineer competitions – you just need to be able to lift some speakers. You will be able to get the strength you need without putting on a great deal of bulk, and you may find, as I did, that weight training is a far better fat-blaster than running!
Happy engineering – AND lifting!
Article by Sound Girl: Kerrie Mondy.
Published in cooperation with Soundgirls.org
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