The working group has completed it's task and submitted a report and recommendations to the Central Council for Church Bellringers.   This website is minimally maintained as an archive and a benchmark to measure future progress.


Other people's expectations

I agree with many of the comments made in previous stories so far. I have been ringing for more than 40 years now, with a couple of breaks, mainly with local bands and my territorial association. I would describe myself as a "useful" ringer but certainly not a star performer. My experience has been that there is a good deal of unconscious bias about women ringers and I have sometimes found things very difficult, especially in my capacity as a tower captain and ringing teacher. Having said that, there are many ringers who do not discriminate or disadvantage women in any way whatsoever. I would just like to share three short stories.

First, the thorny issue of conducting. It's a fact that women do not get the opportunities to conduct that male ringers do. Some years ago I attended an Association meeting with general open ringing beforehand. A senior Association officer (male) was running the ringing. He asked for call changes and a band took hold. He then went round every single male ringer present and asked them to call, and every one declined. In the end I was so frustrated that I said, "For goodness sake I'LL call the changes". He was very taken aback! Why not say, "who'd like to call?" and leave it open for anyone to volunteer.

Secondly, my experience is that ringers of both sexes do not expect women to be competent. Quite recently I asked a male ringer who was running a practice whether I could lead down. His response was, "Can you do it?". Even more recently I asked a female ringer who was running a practice whether I could call a touch of Stedman triples. Her response was, "Can you do it?". If I thought I couldn't do it, why would I ask? And would they have said that to a man who asked? I don't think so.

Thirdly, my experience has been that Association officers do not trust my judgement and performance as a tower captain and teacher. It's extraordinary how often a (male) Association officer thinks he knows what my learners need better than I do. The worst time was when an Association officer told one of my learners during a district practice that I had been teaching him "all wrong". If they have doubts about my competence why not speak directly to me? Strangely, female officers don't seem to doubt that I have a reasonably good idea of what I'm doing.

In general I don't think people mean to discriminate or disadvantage women ringers. I think it's more to do with the general cultural norms of our society. But it's very off-putting, and sometimes upsetting, to be on the receiving end of this sort of thing.