Hey you! Yes you, reading my little blog in between massage clients. Can we talk?
You and I have so much in common, see, so I feel like I know all about you. For instance, it’s likely you are
- mid 40’s or older
- probably a sole practitioner
- giving about 15 hours of massage a week
- charging about $65 for an hour of massage
- rely mostly on repeat customers
- and FEMALE
Wow, we are a lot alike! How do I know this? Well, survey data from the AMTA bears those numbers out. Even looking at the demographic data from the Massage Therapy World Facebook page, the demographic data is almost all women and the average age is in the 35-44 range.
See, I come from the world of engineering. Electrical Engineering, to be exact. EE is almost the opposite of massage – the profession is dominated by men with about 11% of the profession being women. When I went to industry conferences and events, I was one of about 10%. It had it’s perk: I never waited in line to use the restroom during breaks since there were so few of us.
But it had its downsides. Subtle, if not overt, sexism. I made less money than my male peers. I advanced slower than my male peers. I actually had men tell me they didn’t want a woman (on their design team) (as a manager) (working in their lab). I was told, in those exact terms, all three of those by a man at least once.
It sucked. It was wrong. In some cases, it was illegal.
Here’s massage’s dirty little secret: the men in our profession are subject to the exact same sexism as I was in engineering.
This is what they hear: (I don’t want a male therapist) (He’s a male therapist, are you sure you’re comfortable with that) (I’m sorry, we aren’t looking to hire a male therapist, only female).
In only one of those examples was it a client. Almost always, the sexism comes from women in the industry.
Being a male massage therapist has it’s perk: there’s no line to the restrooms, but in every other respect, it mirrors women in engineering:
- less pay
- fewer job opportunities
Things can be tough for the odd man out, but not impossible. I had men in the corporate world who believed in me. They provided opportunities for me to demonstrate that a woman could do just as well as a man. I was promoted to Director of Engineering and the men who gave me the opportunity also worked as advocates to help convince the tougher nuts on my staff to ‘give the woman a chance’. Without that support, the opportunities would not have been as effective.
As a little shout out: Thank you Fred, Bill, Mike, Steve, Peter, Wes, and Jim.
This is where you come in.
See, the men in our profession need our help. They need the opportunities to demonstrate to the client base that a male massage therapist is just as good as a female therapist and they need us to advocate for them to the public.
We need to start educating the public that male therapists are just as safe and competent as female therapists.
As the majority in the profession, it’s up to us to help end the sexism. That needs to start inside the profession, but it also needs to include how we talk about male therapists to the public and our clients.
When clients call to book a massage:
- Don’t go all “make sure the client knows there are male therapists available and that they are ok with that”
- Do simply give them an option “You’d like an appointment at 6pm? We have Matt available or Beth available”. Let the client decide.
When someone you meet tells you they would never have a male massage therapist, ask them why and
- Don’t confirm their bias
- Do explain when you have had a male colleague massage you that was a great massage experience.
Example: when I refer people to my favorite massage therapist, who happens to be a male, my endorsement of him goes like this: “I want to refer you to Todd, because I’m sure he can help you. In fact, Todd is the therapist I go to for massage and I’m very picky.” It’s not about him being good despite or because of his gender, but simply that he’s good.
If you have a clinic with male therapists, start getting them some clients! Once your customer base starts to realize that a male therapist is awesome, they will rebook and tell their friends. Ending sexism begins by changing minds and you can change minds one client at a time.
And lastly, when a male MT applies for a job at your clinic or spa, unless there is a legitimate, legally defendable reason, do not turn him away because he’s male. That’s called discrimination and it’s illegal.
Why you should help
I know you’re probably wondering why you should help the men in this profession, since they tend to have advantages in society, so here are the reasons I think you should help end sexism in massage:
- The men in this profession give great massages!
- Diversity in any profession can increase the number of ideas to advance the profession and the people in it. With an industry that is predominantly female, white, and middle aged, we don’t have enough diversity in our ranks.
- In female dominated professions, average pay is lower. So, if we get more men in the profession, we might see pay increase.
- It’s the right thing to do. Discrimination sucks, regardless of who is being discriminated against.