While I do believe that women should get equal pay for the work they do, I am not one to go overboard and insist that a woman could and should do every job a man does. I, for one, am quite ok with never attempting to be a miner or be on the front lines of war or any of those other 'stereotypical' jobs that men have held since the beginning of time. And particularly, I dont want to come to Venice to ride in a gondolier steered by a woman. But, Venice has one.
Alexandra Hai. She fought long and hard to get her position. Yes, she is qualified and I would imagine she makes at least as much if not more than her counterparts. I understand she doesnt stand in queues like the rest of them but works by appointment out of certain hotels as more of a novelty. I have seen her walking around Venice, standing in front of TV crews, etc. but never actually performing her job. She wears an outfit decidely different than the men and I overheard one interview on the street where she said she just wants to do her job and be left alone.
OK...that's all good and well in theory, but if you are going to buck the system, then you have to know that some flack is coming with it. In a recent article, she has spoken out against her male counterparts by saying they are all greedy and thieves (this is no surprise to anyone who has been here more than once and taken a gondola ride). She also insinuated they shorten their tours and they spend their entire time talking on the cell phone instead of explaining to the clients the history they are passing. What a great way to make friends Alexandra!
Now, I happen to agree with her on many of those points. The gondoliers are greedy--having just gotten into an argument with one a few weeks ago about rates--I can wholeheartedly agree. While there are exceptions, they learn just enough general knowlege about the path they are traveling (which anyone can read in a Rick Steves or Fodders book) and now tell you that your time in the boat is not based on time but distance (what a bunch of hooey!). Of course, the gondolier union has a differing opinion about her statements (and probably mine).....they may have rules to the contrary but as with most things in Italy and in life, what is done and what is supposed to be done is not always congruent.
So, good for Alexandra pursuing her dream. But dont cry me a river when the times get hard because you want to be a novelty. At the risk of being sexist (again send your cards and letters to the president and the pope), Venice doesnt need a female gondolier...it changes history and it changes the environment. Some things are better left alone.