I’m Not Finished Yet

otchZSqEvidently, last week Tertullian was traveling in Canada.

How do I know?

This note, left on an airplane, spelling out an anonymous passenger’s conviction that the cockpit of an airplane is no place for a woman. Here’s the transcript of the note:

“To Capt./WestJet,” the note says. “The cockpit of airliner [sic] is no place for a woman. A woman being a mother is the most honor not as “captain” Proverbs 31 (Sorry not P.C.) P.S. I wish WestJet could tell me a fair lady is at the helm so I can book another flight! Were [sir] short mothers not pilots Westjet.”

Outrageous. Indefensible. Atrocious. Don’t get me started about the Bible reference.

And I wish the attitude behind were less common.

After all, there are so few women pilots. Think about it. When was the last time you were on a flight piloted by a woman? Heck, when was the last time you saw a woman pilot on the airport concourse?

The statistics demonstrate this reality. In 2010, nationwide, fewer than 7% of commercial pilots were women. It was even worse for “airline transport” pilots, with women constituting just 3.92% of the population.

On it’s website, American Airlines celebrates the facts that it was the first major airline to hire a female pilot (in 1973), to have a female captain (in 1986) and to have an all-female crew (in 1987). Still, in 2011, American’s pilot corps was over 96% men.

Amelia Earhart once said, “Men do not believe us capable, because we are women, seldom are we trusted to do an efficient job.”

It seems like decades later, Earhart’s observation remains accurate.

At least I’m inclined to see it as true.


Obviously, I’m someone who cares a lot about gender equality. Every time I blog, I try to identify and call out the male privilege embedded in our culture. And, daily, I am working hard to bring to Jesus the male privilege embedded in my own soul.

But on the rare instances when I’m on an airplane and it’s a female voice telling me that “we’re first in line for take-off,” to be honest I pause. In fact, I do more than pause. What happens is that my sense of personal safety drops a bit. Not a lot, just a bit.

That’s right. When a woman is piloting my plane, my gut reaction is to feel slightly less safe.

All evidence to the contrary of course. Women pilots are just as competent, just as trained, as their male counterparts. That I know of, there is no data to suggest that I am in any way in more peril when there is a woman behind the controls. In fact, once my initial, millisecond reaction passes, I’m perfectly comfortable with whoever is in charge of my plane.

So what’s happening here?

Simply put, since my youth I’ve been breathing the foul air of culture that tells me that women are less competent, less trustworthy, and less safe when it comes to important things like flying airplanes. I’m at 41 years of having that message reinforced day by day, and old habits die hard.

You see, I’m on a journey. And I’ll always be on a journey. It’s a  journey that is taking me from a blissfully  unaware and privileged man to someone who recognizes privilege and seeks Jesus’ guidance for how to use it to bless others. It’s a journey toward shedding my biases and honestly it feels terrific.

What’s that old quote? “I might not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”


So here’s my pledge. Next time I’m on a plane being flown by one of the 4%, I’m going to find my nearest napkin and write a different note. One of affirmation. One of encouragement.

One of personal repentance.

2 responses to “I’m Not Finished Yet”

  1. Rachel says :

    It’s interesting. As a woman, when I see another woman in a role more typically held by a man, I don’t think she might be less competent. I think way to go! And if anything, I think that she’s probably had to work harder and excel beyond that of her male counterparts in order to get where she is. You might be in safer hands in a plane piloted by a woman for just this reason.

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