Songs for the Struggling Artist


Sexy Jobs

What jobs are the sexiest? Like, if you want a character to be appealing and captivating and sexy, what job do you give them? Let’s say you want them to be at the center of a story – what job do they have? If you want to signal to an audience, “This character is sexy,” what do they do?

Apparently, in Spain, if your main character is a woman, the answer is “modista” – a modista is a seamstress, but not just a seamstress or dress maker, she’s also a designer. I am on my second Spanish period drama which features a modista at the center and it made me start to wonder what the sexy jobs are in our culture. Like – some of them are the same. The actor who plays the modista’s love interest in both shows plays a pilot in one and a war journalist in the other. Those are sexy jobs for men. They are just as popular here as I imagine they are in Spain.

But we don’t put seamstresses in our TV shows. I can’t think of a single American TV show that stars a seamstress. But in thinking about it, I realize that we also don’t make a lot of period dramas that place women at the center. I’m having trouble even thinking of one. If women have jobs at the center of a show in American TV, they’re mostly contemporary. They are nurses or lawyers or writers or doctors.

Certainly I don’t know all the shows there are. There are more and more all the time – but I am thinking of every workplace drama set in the past that I can remember and not one of them is American. (For the record, when thinking of women at work shows, I came up with Bletchley Circle, The Mill and Call the Midwife but these are all BBC shows.)

Anyway – I think I may have worked out a factor of why I am so obsessed with Spanish TV. Almost every show I’ve watched features women at work in the early 20th century. Some of those jobs are sexy (see modista, switchboard operator, chambermaid, novelist, hotel matriarch, amateur detective, secretary) and some are less so (housekeeper, innkeeper, the sexy modista’s stern modista mom). I don’t know that it’s the sexiness of the occupations of these women that interest me or just the fact that I get to watch groups of women at work together.

Because women have largely been left out of history books, I long for stories of women in the past. I found this Ms. magazine article about women’s history chilling. An English teacher tells a group of students, “Wouldn’t it be great if history books had as much information about women as men?” and hears her students say, “But women didn’t do anything.” I mean. They said that THIS Century! Something like twenty years IN to this century! This century – when they absolutely should have been exposed to more inclusive history or read things that haven’t actively excluded women’s contributions. So I find TV that highlights women at work in the past almost irresistible, particularly since the stories we’ve all absorbed from the culture have tried to convince us that women working is a new invention.

Watching women at work in the past scratches an itch for me I didn’t know I had. And yes, I know that period drama is not history but it does tend to expand one’s historical perspective. I know a whole heck of a lot more about Franco’s Spain and its relations with Europe and Morocco than I did before my dipping my toes, via Spanish TV, in those worlds. Outlander may feature time travel through fairy stones but I do know a bunch more about the Jacobite Rebellion and the Battle of Culloden in Scotland than I did before I watched it.

Anyway – if sexy jobs are what get us to tune in to stories about women and particularly about women in the past, I am really all for it. I don’t know what American early 20th Century jobs will be sexy enough for our people but I would like to watch one please. A Rosie the Riveter drama maybe? I mean, it’s a gimmee, right? Women in a factory working together? Does this exist and I just don’t know about it? (I know there’s a Canadian show about this. I would like to watch that, too. I’m gonna need a better International streaming platform, please.)

Meanwhile, I am still very curious about what the sexy jobs are. Male romantic leads tend to be architects and female romantic leads do things like run cupcake or pie shops. But are those sexy? I don’t know. Chime in. What are the sexy jobs? And can we have a TV show about them?

Sexy Dummy

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