Friday, April 13, 2012

Women Only?

During my time at the world famous Peto Institute in Budapest all Conductors working with Cerebral Palsy children were women. I’ve only seen men, and exclusively men, during what had to had been weeks in reality, but felt like months in the sick bay. A few of us caught mumps and I guess the disease was too risky for female health to be exposed to. I can understand the stereotype that leads to a strong preference of one gender over another. Women are motherly. A Conductor is an educator who is part therapist, part nurse, part mother if you will. Somebody who encourages, demonstrates, pushes and motivates. Men are, or were back then not believed to possess that tender  caring quality that allows to form that type of bond with children. I’m not sure what they do now. JKF’s Kata Szvoboda told me once that it’s “slowly changing”, but I’m not sure to what extent are men these days included and if it’s even a career option for males to consider. The definitions of gender roles are changing. Some of the professions seen exclusively seen as female end up being performed just as well by men. In a few of them, like nursing the male element is in extremely high demand.  I’ve had friends who abandoned other careers to pursue it, including one with multiple other degrees and a PhD. In America male nurses get paid really well, often much better than their female counterparts. Why? Most likely because of their strength. A lot of the daily activities include lifting, turning, transferring a patient and what would require two female nurses to complete a lot of times one male can do. And I wonder if this is not an attitude Conductive Education should’ve adopted decades ago. Yes, the core of CE is about the children doing the routines themselves and  working on their body, but in the reality Conductors to get involved and physical at times. Children fall down, you need to catch them or pick them up.  Sometimes you need to correct a movement or posture. And when you put on braces to lock them in place you need to apply strength. As kids become older and heavier it becomes more difficult not to mention dangerous for female Conductors to work with them. Yes, this approach is most effective at a young age and started as early as possible. Still, it’s not to say that you can’t benefit from it when you’re older. Yet, programs like JKF's Academy and I assume many others only accept children of a certain age and weight for reasons having more to do with the limitations of the Conductor rather than the ability to help the pupil. The considerations are practical. A lady like Kata as strong as she may be, may injure herself assisting a spastic boy who is taller and heavier than she is. That is the cut off point although it feels you can go even further. Perhaps it’s time for this to become a viable career for men just like nursing. And I’m curious to hear: Do we know any male Conductors?

1 comment:

  1. There are four great male student conductors @ the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham - England - they are all in their final year and graduate this May - There is also a fun and fabulous first year called Steven - who is going to make a brilliant conductor when he qualifies in 2014