Learning to ring bigger bells has been an uphill battle as a female ringer. I learned to ring at University and after seven years could ring eight spliced but would never dream of turning a tenor in, no matter how small. I did ask to try once when we were ringing plain hunt on an 18cwt 8 but was told I couldn't because it 'was for the learners' so didn't ask again.
Only one person in my entire ringing career has suggested that I try ringing the tenor to major and it's thanks to him that I now ring round the back end because I had the opportunity to learn the technique. And when I moved towers I knew I could do it so had the confidence to insist on ringing 'bigger' bells.
Against that one person are the people (mostly men but some women too) who make a comment if I catch hold of the tenor; "do you realise that's the tenor?", "will you be alright on that bell?", "oh you're going to ring that one?!" - it's nothing terrible but even when I know I am perfectly capable of turning it in and striking well it still makes me nervous so anyone who is in a bit inexperienced would easily be put off by those comments. Again, only one person has ever apologised to me afterwards for commenting in the first place and I was so surprised but also grateful that he said he wouldn't make assumptions again.
I am now a teacher too and make a point of teaching my male students to learn how to handle light bells (because they often overpull and find this hard) and my female students to ring the heavier bells (because they then have to learn to pull all the way down) - yet am still fighting a battle with the tower captain who always preferentially places men round the back and women round the front of the circle and says things like "I think that bell is too big for her" which means they then think they can't do it.
So I would like to see:
- specific teaching on how to ring heavy bells, in particular for smaller/less strong ringers (male and female) as technique is far more important than brute force.
- tower captains and teachers making an effort to face up to unconscious bias when placing bands - don't always give women the treble and men the tenor.
- all ringers to do the same before making comments!