I have posted before about the ways those who handle the dead may try to humanize themselves so as to avoid the stigmas often associated with their jobs. Individuals who have jobs that require them to touch or be around dead bodies often find they are negatively stereotyped as creepy, gross, or as taking advantage of families in times of pain. They engage in various strategies to try to resist those stereotypes, including redefining the job and attempting to present it as something valuable and respectable (a “funeral director,” after all, sounds much nicer and more professional that “undertaker” or “mortician”).
In my previous post I discussed the Men of Mortuaries calendar, which presented shirtless male funeral directors in hunky poses. Now we have an example of women doing something similar. Christie W. sent in a link to the Funeral Divas website, which clearly tries to present women working in the funeral industry in a positive light:
From the site’s homepage:
A Funeral Diva is a strong, confident and successful woman who works in the funeral industry. She is not ashamed of her career! She is proud to serve hurting families!
So here, women who work in the funeral industry are hip, fun, successful career women — not creepy people who like being around dead bodies, and not individuals who profit from families’ grief.
Of course, in addition to presenting female funeral directors positively, the site also attempts to support women working in a field that has been male-dominated since preparing and burying our dead moved from an informal family activity to a formal business. However, women’s presence in this industry is growing. In 2008, the New York Times reported that women made up 35% of mortuary school students in 1995, while in 2007 60% were female; at some schools women make up nearly 75% of the student body. Interestingly, the article focuses on how the funeral industry has changed to include more concern for handling grieving individuals and, thus, the increased need for “the caring factor” — which presumably makes women seem like a better fit for the job, as they are assumed to be for other types of jobs that require lots of nurturing and emotional work.
Despite this, an article in the Christian Science Monitor discusses the barriers women in the industry continue to face. This year, New York’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit against one mortuary school, the Simmons Institute of Funeral Services, and its CEO, alleging repeated sexual harassment of female student and discrimination against pregnant women, a violation of Title IX.
So women in the funeral industry have to contend with the general negative stigma associated with their job, as well as the usual issues faced by women entering a previously male-dominated field. Funeral Divas is an interesting attempt to address both of these sets of problems at once.
siveambrai — May 28, 2011
That's very interesting to see the swing in gender heading back towards women in these schools. My great grandmother had one of the last widow's licenses given out in the state of Pennsylvania. Our funeral home has remained in the family since then but only through the males. We may lose the home with my generation because there were only two boys born to it, neither of whom is interested in taking the business over.
An increasing female presence and interest would help to keep the same situation from occurring in other families and businesses. Family owned and run funeral homes are on the decline, bought out or out sold by large commercial enterprises (think farming).
azizi — May 28, 2011
I can understand the need to have a social website for women who work in funeral service. But the word "diva" (as I understand it) doesn't fit the personality that would make a good funeral service administrator or staff person.
"The word "diva" is often used negatively, to describe a celebrity in film or music who is extremely demanding and fussy when it comes to personal privileges." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diva
It seems to me that in order to work effectively in the funeral business, a person has to be the opposite of a dive-a "people person" (one who can be warm, caring, and empathetic; or at least can act that way). But (and)that person should also be emotionally controlled, practical, and organized, and therefore able to move the funeral proceedings forward in the midst of or with the full knowledge that any and all kinds of emotional expressions can occur during the actual funeral service and/or before that service.
This personality profile could fit some women just as much as it could fit some men, but does it fit a diva? I don't think so.
azizi — May 28, 2011
I meant "diva" instead of "dive".
That said, I definitely don't think any funeral director or funeral staff person should work in a dive. Nor does any funeral director/staff person need to be a diver unless this is part of the social networking that is promoted on that Funeral Divas website.
Crystal — May 28, 2011
I imagine you have to have a pretty good sense of humor to work in the funeral industry.
Urmomlulz — May 28, 2011
I never really got the social stigma that people seem to attach to mortuary workers. It's a job, and someone's gotta do it. And just like any boring office job, they probably hate it.
Then again, there are a lot of things people do that I don't understand, like inching forward at a stoplight hoping it'll magically change, or enjoy watching reality TV shows.
Pixar Finally Gets the Message that Girls Can Be Heroes Too: Links « Kay Steiger — May 28, 2011
[...] Apparently funeral directors are mostly men and there’s a movement to support women in the field. [Sociological Images] [...]
Merryn — May 29, 2011
There is an Australian funeral chain that uses femininity in their market .. "a women's understanding" ... http://www.whiteladyfunerals.com.au/
Diva-ism | Sofiastry — May 29, 2011
[...] above image was featured on a post entitled “Funeral Divas: Creating Space for Women in the Funeral Industry” via the PC, liberal blog known as Sociological Images. I’d like to address the fact [...]
Mrs. Grace — June 8, 2011
What the article doesn't comment on is how many of those 45-75% of women in school are actually getting jobs. That is where the reality of it comes to light. Most of these women are not being hired, and end up in a different profession. To be fair, this is also true of a lot of men, they graduate from school and get hired by a funeral home realize they don't like it, or burn out, and end up in another profession.
What 'outsiders' don't realize about the funeral profession is that we care for someone's loved one as much as their family did. From bringing the decedant into the funeral home, preparing their body, washing them, dressing them, fixing their hair and cosmetics you become very close to this person that you may not have ever known during their life. Even if you never meet with the family you feel a connection with the deceased. You are proud of being able to make them look beautiful (or handsome)for their visitation and to let their loved ones see them, not in the sick state that they were in right before their passing. At least that is how I feel about all of it. You either have the desire and compassion, or you don't. Those who are in the profession for the wrong reason need to get out, and save the rest of us the heart ache of the negative publicity and stigma's
Judy — June 8, 2011
The Lake Washington (Seattle) Techinical College recently graduated its first class of funeral directors. Though I don't know the exact numbers, it was something like 10-12, there was but one male student. There's progress for you!
Lost Trocar Princess — August 22, 2011
I'm a Licensed Funeral Director & Embalmer, that was recently harassed & threatened by a Male Funeral Director, strung out on drugs. Out of know where, I received several nasty text messages. I brought them to my bosses attention and forwarded the text to his e-mail. At first my boss laughed it off, but know that he has read them & I asked him to address the situation, he's remains radio-silent and won't accept my calls. I don't know what to do?
~ Lost Trocar Princess
Bgubwe — December 2, 2011
i look for job undertaker and mortician in zambia or south africa . l completed the all course .