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How things are in the real world

Some Monday morning cheer for ya — a.k.a. how things work in the real world of big money, big influence and big government:

How Fannie and Freddie — among the chief engineers of the mortgage wreckage have become even more “important” than ever.

How the Big O’s proposed regulations will make the biggest Wall Street firms more untouchable than ever. (Another take here.)


On the smaller domestic scale — here at Last-Chance Gulch where there is little money, no influence, and only those bits of big government that come wandering randomly in now and then — house walls went up over the weekend, thanks to the generosity and teamwork of neighbors. A bare foundation became the framework of a house overnight. That’s a wonderful thing. I’ll have more (probably, per Dave’s request, in an upcoming print edition of BHM).

But given that it’s a Monday morning and I’m a bit grouchy (with much more house-work ahead this week), I’ve got a question for you: What is it with guys and women on construction projects? How come we females so often get treated like retarded children?

I’m the first to admit that in most (though certainly not all) cases, the guys are more capable of taking the lead on framing a house, and heavens bless ’em for that. My own participation this weekend was mere manual labor — hauling cut wood from chop saw to house and occasionally helping lift a completed wall into place. I make no claim to doing anything brilliant & I won’t really come into my own on this project until we get to the interior finishing. One of the other women cooked and hosted all the meals. Another, who is quite experienced with construction and even does most of the local small-backhoe work, did some of the sawing and hauling. Yet another — the actual owner of this miniature country palace and knows its specs extremely well — supervised, calculated, and was in the thick of the most important decisions all weekend long. At one key stage, she saved the guys from a very bad math error.

Yet when we were trying to lift one of the biggest walls into place, nobody would listen to her when she pointed out that it wasn’t going to work because one of the anchor bolts was was in the way. She had to say it three times and finally yell because everyone was ignoring her. All weekend long, she’d start to do something and one of the guys would push her out of the way so he could do it himself.

My own “retarded child” moment came when several of the guys were trying to make sure a couple of the walls were straight. I was the only one available to pick up a bubble-level at that moment. So I did.

“It’s a half inch off vertical,” I said.

“It’s a half inch off vertical,” one of the guys echoed, peering from his perch on a ladder.

I didn’t mind his duplication at all — you know, “Measure twice …” and all. That was okay. But then another guy had to take the level away from me and check for himself.

On to the next wall. Again, I took up the level.

“It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left,” I said.

The same guy who had taken the level from me a moment earlier looked over my shoulder and said, “It looks perfectly fine to me.”

“That’s because at this moment I’m holding the level exactly straight so I can see exactly how much the wall is off from square.” I nodded toward the 3/16″ gap between wall and the bottom of the level.

“Let me have that!” he barked, grabbing the level out of my hand.

I backed away. He measured.

“It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left,” he told the other guys.

Not, “Yep, she’s right. It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left.” Not, “Sorry, Claire, I just wanted to double check.” But, “It’s leaning 3/16″ to the left” — as though this was a discovery that only a person with sufficient levels of testosterone could possibly make, a discovery that he had newly made for himself. I simply didn’t exist.

“Uh … yeah, that’s just what I said,” I called after him as he retreated with level in hand. But of course, he wasn’t listening to me then, either.

So what is it, anyhow? As I say, I make no pretense of being a construction expert. I was happy simply to carry lumber and stay out of the way of more experienced people for the most part. And I’m far from being some rabid feminist, always looking for “inequality,” real or illusory. On the contrary, I celebrate the skills of my men friends — and my women friends, too.

But what leads otherwise wonderful guys to the conclusion that I’m too stupid to read a level? Why is the house owner herself ignored when she’s pointing out a problem only she can see? And why is this sort of treatment so common on construction sites where men and women are working together?


  1. Karen
    Karen April 26, 2010 7:35 am

    When we built our house, I did all the electrical wiring. When the inspector came, he noted that the electrical contractor field was marked “homeowner”. Right away he looks at DH and says “so, you did the wiring,huh?”. When DH told him that I did it, he nitpicked it to death. Not one single real problem just little crap like using the wrong color wirenuts on the ground wires or wanting to know why I’d put in so many outlets.
    Same thing with the propane company. When they learned that I ran the propane lines/fittings for a new generator, they insisted on doing a ‘routine safety check’. They’d known about the new lines and gen for several years, but never seemed concerned til they found out I did it. We needed a new regulator and I called the propane company and talked to the maintenance guy and was told they couldn’t legally sell me one. I’d have to pay him to come install it. Dh called and had one the next day. So don’t take it personally. I think it’s just an inborn testosterone thing.

    By the way, I’d be interested to know if you and Joel are really the same person. Seems he has a big house building project in the desert going on too. Coincidence?

  2. Matt
    Matt April 26, 2010 7:41 am

    It could be caused by the same defect that makes women treat men like retarded children when it comes to taking care of children or running a household! ;o)

    I have learned to listen when my Mom or Wife says something is not straight. They have a much better eye than I do. When they yell, I stop and check the problem. It’s better than listening to the I told you so’s for years. ;o)

    I have built house and various projects with my Dad my whole life. He and other relatives taught me well. It’s only been the last couple of years that Dad doesn’t double check my measurments, assessments of level etc.

  3. MJR
    MJR April 26, 2010 9:41 am

    Hey Claire,

    Around 9 years ago my wife and I built our log home. Together we preformed the role of prime contractor AKA Boss for the project. I actually had to fire a guy who could not understand that my wife and I were calling the shots. I must say that there were a few times when I wanted to strangle tradesmen who thought I was a retarded child so I know how you feel. BTW I have learned to pay attention to what my wife tells me since she is more often than not right.


  4. MS Jordan
    MS Jordan April 26, 2010 10:52 am

    Do you really expect any guy to stick his head in this particular bear trap ????


  5. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth April 26, 2010 11:40 am

    I wish I had a good answer for that, Claire, but it happens, and not just with construction. I have been known to fluster salesmen in some other male-dominated industries, when my wife Cathy approaches them and they begin by pointedly responding to me. I put forth a firm “best you pay attention, my friend, the ice under your feet just gave a loud crack” gaze and very deliberately say some variation on, “This is Cathy’s operation and she is conducting the present business. Or, not.”

    As Randall Munroe put it, it’s
    How It Works

    Sadly, it is fairly common that a good percentage of these guys still do not get it. (I’m of the opinion that if you get yourself to that stage in the first place, the point has probably already been lost. It’s like a “Condition White” for inter-gender relations.) I’m sure there are quite a few who judge me for the “hey, I’m just the husband” approach, but the joke’s on them: not likely they’ll land themselves a Cathy. 🙂

    There are better fellas, though, and I always grin a bit when I watch someone “get it” in the same scenario. There’s the initial assumption of stereotype, recognition of a response anomaly, re-assessment with ears connected to the cognitive processing center, a short bit of wrestling with stereotypes…and then simple engagement with an equal. When it happens, it happens with beautiful speed, and often an extra measure of enjoyment for everyone involved. (And what do you know, we tend to go back to those places. 🙂

  6. Sam
    Sam April 26, 2010 11:51 am

    Hi Claire,

    I’ve helped less experienced men and women build many times. If the less experienced person is wrong on the plumb or square of a building and the others have not double checked, the coming hassles for that error will be enormous. And it all lands on the guy with the experience. That said, there is no excuse for being rude, period. Teaching folks (male or female) as the project moves along is a great way to get through these awkward moments. “Let me show you how I calculate out-of-plumb and compare notes, then we’re on the same page. Okay?” Good manners are essential to good construction, IMO.

  7. George Potter
    George Potter April 26, 2010 1:49 pm

    The guys could be, quite simply, showing out, probably unconciously. Deep on some hidden layer of their brain they have been inoculated with ridiculous ideas like: “It ain’t right for wimmenfolk to be a’doin such works” and “I sure don’t want them wimmens to find a problem I could have found” and other equally silly nonsense. Now, I’m not insulting said guys at all. They’d probably be embarrased and a little horrified to find such thoughts still rattling around in their heads. Also, I’m not bringing up the old patriarchal bull-stuff excuse: in my experience, it’s most often women themselves who put those ideas in the heads of men.

    And much can be alternately explained by the simple fact that, when a bunch of guys get full steam ahead on a complex project, they can be ruder than they mean to be.

    Or none of those. My two worthless pieces of compound metal with the picture of a tyrant on ’em. You ask, I opine. 🙂

  8. George Potter
    George Potter April 26, 2010 2:05 pm

    <emHow Fannie and Freddie — among the chief engineers of the mortgage wreckage have become even more “important” than ever.

    FFS. The writer’s attitude is ‘somehow, magically, but having nothing to do with government intervention and everything to do with the pure EVIL of a ‘free market’, these institutions are even more powerful! Whodathunk?’

    I’m seriously unable to write this off as either ignorance or stupidity on the part of the reporter.

    That leaves nothing but pure, unmitigated evil as an explanation.

    This is not a good development in my personal world.

  9. Kevin Wilmeth
    Kevin Wilmeth April 26, 2010 2:35 pm

    ‘I think it’s just an inborn testosterone thing.’

    Actually, Karen, it sounds to me like it’s a simple authoritarian thing, and the examples you cite are devastatingly illustrative. (I’m putting aside, for now, the petty different treatment of man/woman by the propane company, without in any way defending it… 🙂

    My wife’s father redid the wiring in his house before he sold it (this was to “bring it up to code”, y’see) and it was a similar story to yours. The “licensed electrician” had to grudgingly admit that yes, he had done everything properly, and that it did pass “inspection” so it could be “legally” sold. At every stage, the impression that this is a racket for officially sanctioned racketeers, and you didn’t follow the playbook like you were supposed to was palpable.

    Note how every use of quotations in that last paragraph represents revenue that the state presumes to monopolize. Cui bono, indeed.

    And in the end, how about that different treatment of man/woman by the propane company? Whether or not it was a man/woman thing, the attempt to discourage you was based upon the premise that you do not own the decision in the first place, but rather someone else–someone who gets to decide what “legal” is–does. (Hey, look, it’s those quotes again. 🙂

  10. Pat
    Pat April 26, 2010 3:16 pm

    After my spotting a mitered corner mistake, the mother of a carpenter friend once explained his anger toward me in an aside, “Oh, don’t mind him; he just didn’t want you to know he’s not perfect.” 🙂

  11. Bea
    Bea April 26, 2010 9:40 pm

    Hi, Claire. Long time no write between us…
    When I lived in SC, I ran into that problem every single day – from political debate to employment to getting helped in a store. I’d walk into a farm supply store and get treated like ‘the lil woman’ – sometimes even ignored because a woman obviously didn’t belong over by the tractors but by the small shelf of kitchenware. I learned how to talk like a man, be brusque and firm and abrupt, and say what I meant, especially when I would say, while walking out the door “That’s alright – someone else probably wants my money more than you do.”

    Now that I’ve moved to NE, I live in an area where the county trap shooting champ last year was a 13 year old redheaded girl, and where girls compete against boys in rodeos, hunting, and fishing – and frequently take home the prizes. Women here walk tall and do for themselves, and need no may-un, TYVM! I can go into the local feed store – where the co-owner, a wonderful woman, can advise me on everything from saddles to ear tagging my cattle with knowledge and authority. ‘Round here, there’s no ‘macho’ attitude – everyone does whatever they want and are best suited to do. They are only respected for what they do, not for what they say they can. The fellows that are coming to help build the garage know to talk to both DH and me, or not to talk at all.

    My DH and I have always worked together and taught each other what we know, and respected each other’s knowledge. Where we come from, that is unheard of – some folks used to shake DH’s hand and say how awful it must be to be married to someone so stubborn and headstrong. Where we are now, it is accepted as a matter of course. I won’t tolerate the ‘lil wimmin’ attitude, and will immediately mouth off to whomever tries it. Which is why I have a rep as a bitch. And don’t really care, as long as I can get what I want. ;->

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous April 26, 2010 10:09 pm

    I think much of the sexism you’re receiving is fueled by sexism you’re supplying. No man would let a tool he’s using be grabbed out of his hands without growling back. Why do you? Because females are natural pacifists and refuse on principle to compete for a spot in a male pecking order? I’m not saying you have to shove him, but you need to be prepared to hold the tool out of his grasp and yell “Hey! Mine! I’m doing this!” at him.

    How come women expect equal treatment in construction, but so often can’t produce as fast as a man? If you expect a break because you aren’t built with the muscle, then you’ve just dug your own ‘separate but equal’ grave. You get all the special pink cheap plastic tools.

    Reading a level is not an upper-body muscled activity. Neither is directing a crane lift and judging if tab A is clear of obstructions to slot B. But if I’m lifting a wall with my arms, I’d like the director to have some personal experience-based appreciation for how long I can hold it vs. how much pain this is causing me. There is more to direction than how much it’s leaning; there is that we have seven seconds of greatest strength and control in this lift, and we can fit two tries at alignment in that time window. After that we can hold it propped upright for sixty seconds while we rest before we try it again, once, after which we do something else for the afternoon lest we court accident and injury. All of this affects what reading is acceptable from the level at what moment. Frustration causes anger in men instead of tears, because anger gives us strength and focus and resistance to pain. That’s how men work. Do most women understand this? Do most women understand that surfing this edge is an everyday thing in a physical labor type job? Cue the rearranging the living room furniture jokes.

    And for my last gripe, don’t ask questions when he’s trying to think. If you don’t already know from your personal experience of doing a task what he has to be thinking about and when, then don’t talk at all. Would you ask him a question when he’s trying to merge on the Interstate? No, you pause the conversation for a moment because you know his attention needs to be elsewhere.

    No stereotypes were harmed in the writing of this comment.

  13. Ellendra
    Ellendra April 26, 2010 11:53 pm

    It’s not just construction. I’ve run into that mentality waaaaay too often. Many businesses have lost out on my money for that crap. And 90% of my classmates in an electronics class dropped out because they couldn’t handle a “girl” who was good at math. At least one guy only learned after getting shot because he wouldn’t listen (training/wargames, it was with a paintball gun, but still)

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen women doing the same thing to men on certain topics. Just watch when a non-effeminate guy walks into a fabric store!

  14. tjbbpgobIII
    tjbbpgobIII April 27, 2010 1:50 am

    “It looks ok to me” this is the stupidest thing anyone who is building something, be it a house , a wall or a simple porch can ever say. We all can make mistakes, “measure twice cut once” is the best advice you can have.

  15. Fred
    Fred April 27, 2010 6:50 am

    Ellendra Said:

    “Unfortunately, I’ve seen women doing the same thing to men on certain topics. Just watch when a non-effeminate guy walks into a fabric store!”

    Haa! Been there, done that! I’ve been following this discussion wondering when someone would bring up the other side of the coin. My frequent experiences in fabric stores have been irritating at times but nothing I get terribly upset about. Men and women are different enough that we irritate each other on a regular basis. It’s just the way it is.

  16. Claire
    Claire April 27, 2010 8:51 am

    “How come women expect equal treatment in construction, but so often can’t produce as fast as a man? If you expect a break because you aren’t built with the muscle, then you’ve just dug your own ’separate but equal’ grave. You get all the special pink cheap plastic tools.”

    I never said (and I hope never implied) that I expected any breaks. I don’t. I know where my strengths are — and aren’t — and I respect those who can do better than I.

    I also should have mentioned that the walls being leveled were already in place and bolted down. Nobody was lifting them. At that point, it was only a matter of adjusting 2 x 4 braces. This was not a case where seconds were going to make any difference in either effort or results.

    You are perhaps right that I should have hung onto that level and told the guy to buzz off. Had I done so I would have been labeled a pushy bitch, rather than being respected as “one of the guys.” But in retrospect, I think I’d rather have been labeled as a bitch than merely to have protested ineffectually after the fact.

  17. Philalethes
    Philalethes April 27, 2010 11:04 am

    Hmmm, gender politics now? Do you really want to go there?

    Had I done so I would have been labeled a pushy bitch, rather than being respected as “one of the guys.”

    Well, Claire, I certainly don’t think of you as a “pushy bitch”, rather as an intelligent woman whose conversation is of considerable value. However, in all honesty, the simple truth is that, in this life at least, you’re not “one of the guys”. And, although I would agree that the men in this situation could perhaps have been more considerate and polite (though like all modern men, they’re already under a lot of chronic stress over these issues, in addition to the stress of the job itself), I submit that it’s modern women’s insistence on being treated as “one of the guys” — when it suits them, but (of course) not when it doesn’t suit them — without the least consideration of the 1.5 billion years of merciless evolutionary process recorded in our genetic code since the invention of sex, that is the primary cause of such problem situations.

    We men, I know, are relatively simple creatures; why then is it so hard for wiser women to understand that we get confused when the rules (which, as noted in a recent feminist classic, are made by women) keep changing? (Actually, of course, as Camille Paglia — see below — discusses, this could be just another example of female testing technique: those males who can maintain their sanity and functionality in the face of relentless female irrationality are thus good mate candidates.)

    Some years back I was intrigued to learn that among the Pueblo cultures of what’s now the American Southwest (where I’ve lived for a quarter century), in some communities the men did the weaving and the women were forbidden to touch a loom, while in others the women did the weaving and the men were forbidden to touch a loom. Clearly it was not a matter of one sex or the other being naturally better at weaving (though in fact this may be the case, but probably only slightly so, and there are other fields of endeavor where there are clear gender differences).

    Otherwise, of course, these cultures differentiated the sexes economically: the women owned the houses, where men entered only with their permission, while the men owned the fields and hunting grounds, and the activities associated therewith. If a man displeased a woman, she would place his personal belongings outside the house and he’d have to find another place to sleep, and some way to store and process his raw food materials; if a woman couldn’t make an alliance with a man, she’d have a hard time finding food.

    I’m not saying such an arrangement is the only one possible (there have been others, including e.g. men and women living separately in group lodges), or must necessarily be iron-clad; but it did work, possibly because it was based on certain fundamental realities which cannot — astonishingly enough — be altered by simple fiat, even from an all-female Congress.

    For some hundreds of thousands of years, as long as there have been human cultures, those cultures that have survived and prospered have organized separate territories for the sexes. Why? Because if you’re going to put the two most dangerous predators on the planet in one place and not have mutually-assured destruction, each must have something the other wants and doesn’t have, so that each can get what e wants/needs only through peaceful exchange.

    However, in the late 19th & 20th centuries, women in America suddenly decided to junk this ancient arrangement, and insist on “equal rights” — meaning the universal application of the “heads we win, tails you lose” policy that men have always experienced in any head-on confrontation with the gentler sex. So now it’s been made politically incorrect (even illegal in many instances) for men to have any territory of their own — physical, mental or emotional — while of course women can continue to exercise their traditional privileges, including various territories where men cannot trespass.

    (Oh, and btw, if the sexes are “equal”, why is it, if there’s trouble in a marriage, it’s always the man who sleeps on the couch? I’ve never seen anyone ask this question, though it seems fundamental to me.)

    But still… Call me sexist if you want (I’ve been called worse — if indeed there is anything worse), but I’m afraid I must insist, even as the noose is placed around my neck, that there are differences between the sexes. “Eppur, si muove.” And that the differences are, in the end, not reducible to a simple list that can be included in a law or statute regarding intersexual relations. The effort to do so has resulted in what we have now: “Both sexes are equal, but one sex is more equal than the other.” And, I submit, in the end this will prove to be unfortunate for both sexes.

    Because, despite what many women seem to think, we are not really separate; we’re two halves of a whole species, and promoting a “war between the sexes” is as silly and futile and destructive as one hand cutting off the other and calling it “victory”.

    As always, what I find most interesting, in any discussion of matters of controversy, is the unmentioned, unexamined assumptions behind the position stated. For instance, feminists make a big point of insisting on “equal pay for equal work”. But who decides that the work is “equal”? The woman. In other words, when a woman is involved, the employee must have the absolute authority to define her worth to the employer. And how does she know that her work is “equal”? Well, like all women, she just knows. And it’s just not fair.

    Does it really need to be spelled out that men do not, cannot tolerate this kind of “thinking” amongst themselves? As Rich Zubaty — see below — points out, human survival for hundreds of thousands of years (at least) has depended absolutely on highly-refined, efficient teamwork among men (think hunting party facing a mammoth, or defending the village wall against the Huns), which in turn relies on rigidly enforced standards of thinking and communication.

    And thus, that when women are allowed into the councils of men, the whole situation changes in ways that make it simply unworkable for men — and thus intolerable for those men who take their responsibilities seriously? Few men, of course, understand all this consciously, but it’s all there, genetically encoded — necessary survival traits tend to be persistent like that — and it has an effect. Thus, annoyance and frustration, and… “pushy bitch” — even if, in this one situation, you aren’t.

    No, of course it would be “sexist” to point out any such thing.

    And, of course, there’s the other, ever-present issue: When men and women are together, the possibility of sex arises, which confuses and supercharges everything. Women commonly complain about this fact, without recognizing that the reason humans — nearly unique as a species — always have sex on the brain was women’ evolutionary decision, apparently somewhere between 50 and 100 thousand years ago, to display sexual receptivity at all times, not just (like chimpanzees) during the brief periods when they are fertile. And women do play the sex card, at all times, consciously or (mostly) unconsciously — and then get angry at men for either not ignoring it or not responding, sometimes in the same breath.

    Like I said, we’re simple creatures, genetically encoded to literally die for a chance at what our hormones tell us we can’t live without. Playing with fire, oddly enough, is likely to get you burnt.

    This fact, I believe, is what Jefferson had in mind: “Were our State a pure democracy, in which all its inhabitants should meet together to transact all their business, there would yet be excluded from their deliberations … Women, who, to prevent depravation of morals and ambiguity of issue, could not mix promiscuously in the public meetings of men.”

    Having grown up in the midst of the War Between the Sexes, and been seriously damaged therein, I’ve felt a lifelong compelling interest in trying to sort out and understand this most tangled skein. The key that began to unlock it all I discovered in a little book I found through a note in Whole Earth Review in 1987: XXXWhy Males Exist, by Fred Hapgood.

    This pop science writer set out to examine the question of sex: How did it happen, and why did it become the dominant mode in this particular biosphere? And found that the real question was what he titled his book, when he discovered one simple fact: that while males cannot exist without females, females can exist without males. As demonstrated by the numerous species which used to consist of females and males, but now consist only of females — such as the whiptail lizard of the American Southwest, who reproduces (after a kind of lesbian mimicking of reptile coitus, apparently required to stimulate egg production) by laying haploid (half a full set of chromosomes) eggs that hatch into clones of the mother.

    Thus, finally, a solution to the circular conundrum of “he-said-she-said”: There is a First Sex, and a second — and, interestingly, Simone de Beauvoir got it exactly wrong (why is an interesting question) in her famous feminist canon. Thus, I find the notion of “sexual equality” laughable: how can the creature be “equal” to his Creator?

    Keep in mind, however, that cases of species who’ve ceased producing males, though numerous enough, are still rare in relation to those who remain sexual, and tend to prosper only in specific, limited ecological niches. Why? Because they can evolve, if at all, only very slowly, as they cannot employ the generational genetic roulette of sexuality to meet arising challenges. They are essentially evolutionary dead-ends.

    Take, for instance, the case of the gecko lizards common in tropical climes. They exist in many species, a few of them (what I call) post-sexual, i.e. females-only. The latter populate isolated islands in the South Pacific (where, presumably, a single female arrived on a piece of driftwood and proceeded to reproduce without male assistance); however, as modern human transportation methods spread the species around, whenever a sexual gecko species invades the territory of a post-sexual one, the sexual species (i.e. the one with males) invariably takes over.

    Also worth noting is that, so far as I know, there are no female-only species in the warm-blooded, fast-moving kindoms: birds and mammals. Only reptiles and phylogenetically more “primitive” species have gone this route, as well as numerous plants.

    Males are indeed expensive (as noted in the title of a recent feminist screed) — not least in that you actually have to put up with the annoying fact that they’re different from females — but the bottom line is they confer a decided evolutionary advantage to sexual species. That’s reality, ladies. And presumably why you still produce males in this species.

    The wisdom of two modern Men of Knowledge, both interviewed in Rolling Stone in the late 1980s, also taught me a lot:

    Bob Dylan: “Women rule the world; no man ever did anything unless a woman allowed or encouraged him to do it.”

    And Jack Nicholson: Rolling Stone: You genuinely like women, don’t you? Jack Nicholson: Yeah, I genuinely do. I prefer the company of women, and I have a deep respect for them. I’m buzzed by the female mystique. I always tell young men there are three rules: They hate us, we hate them; they’re stronger, they’re smarter; and, most important, they don’t play fair.

    And the wisdom of an anonymous poster on an Internet bulletin board: “Males are a genetic experiment conducted by females.”

    I’ve also found considerable light shed on the subject of “What’s with the sexes, anyway?” in (some of) the writings of feminist gadfly Camille Paglia; I recommend particularly the Introduction (“Sex and Violence, or Nature and Art”) to Sexual Personae, and the essay “No Law in the Arena” in Vamps and Tramps. She tells it like it is., perhaps because, as an avowed lesbian, she doesn’t feel the need to maintain the veil of secrecy — and, as a “butch” lesbian, she has (she says) experienced the same frustration with feminine behavior as do men.

    What’s really puzzling, as Paglia writes, is that apparently many women actually believe their own “poor little helpless me” PR; thus they exercise their real, fundamental, overwhelming maternal and sexual power unconsciously, with no check of reason or sense, and with unfortunate results for all.

    I realize it will be regarded as ridiculous for me to mention this, but as a man, with my admittedly limited intelligence and understanding, it seems to me there may still be another possibility: Could it be, in this situation, and others similar, that there is something the men know that the women don’t? Of course, that’s impossible, since as we all know, women already know everything — at least everything that’s of any importance. And how do they know? That’s not for us men to know — they just know.

    Nevertheless, I can only, once again, stick out my neck for the axe, and recommend another book that has helped me substantially in investigating this whole vexed question: Rich Zubaty’s inspired What Men Know That Women Don’t . (A PDF version is available here.)

    Well, a few hurried thoughts on a big subject. (I didn’t bring it up.) Someday, perhaps, I’ll write a book about it, once I manage to repair all the damage that women did to me — unintentionally, yes, but very effectively — early in my life.

  18. Winston
    Winston April 27, 2010 1:17 pm

    Well I was gonna come in here with a sarcastic ‘kitchen joke’…but the discussion here has been quite eye opening and I’d hate to ruin it with sophmoric wisecracks.

    I have noticed the “retarded child mentality” work both ways; in different ways…Both sexes have their own methods of annoying the piss out of eachother. Some level of friction between men and women is natural.

    Construction sites are testosterone driven places by their very nature. If I may be frank, it’s generally unacceptable for a man to act overtly femenine in such a place. See, I’m not trying to say that construction is “no place for women”, it certainly can be and oftentimes should be that women get to help out here, but it does put a damper on the natural flow of testosterone, so to speak.

    To put that in perspective: think of an activity that’s traditionally all-female and almost always is. Add a guy. It makes it “different” doesn’t it? The girl talk just isn’t the same when you have this hairy, farting creature in attendance.

    Anyway that’s my take on it: to me it has more to do with awkward changes in social interaction than some “they belong in the kitchen!” BS.

  19. Rural Mike
    Rural Mike April 27, 2010 2:12 pm

    Has this been entertaining! I gotta say, there sure are lots of female type women around who think their role in life is to exist with a chip on their shoulder because they are girls!
    Well, ladies, there are plenty of times you can knock men over. There is usually your one up mans ship in that you have longer life spans, and whether or not you choose to employ it, you probably have the means to bring the next generation forth.
    Now I see that that’s not enough, you have to be so fiercely competitive about everything, and so hyper sensitive about the results of this, that some of you would rather pretend to be male than accept your femininity.
    What you ladies don’t get is that you are being treated exactly like guys treat everybody else. Yep, that’s right, guys are short to the point of being abrupt and rude-why do you think men fight so much? Hint, it aint cuz we’re all warm, fuzzy and politically correct inside.
    If you want to play with the boys, take your lumps like everyone else. Just the way it is, ma’am!

  20. George Potter
    George Potter April 27, 2010 4:07 pm

    LMAO@the long-winded defensiveness on display. Not to mention the bargain basement sarcasm.

  21. Fliteking
    Fliteking April 27, 2010 4:23 pm

    I laugh at how CONgress is raking Goldman Sachs over the coals when the whole problem started at Fannie Mae et al — who freely gave out mortgages to “qualifying” recipients (i.e. not a white male) in an ongoing campaign to redistribute wealth.

    Heck, my neighbor, a PART TIME beautician, and single, got a mortgage on a 80K house with an in ground pool. When she couldn’t afford the payments she rented it out and kept the money. Huh.

    No need to wonder how often similar scenarios have played out in the past, and if the big O gets his way, more so in the future.

  22. naturegirl
    naturegirl April 27, 2010 5:00 pm

    Hehe, this is the most fun, the most enlightening read I’ve had in a long time….and I took notes…..

    Nice job, from all the sides represented…..

  23. Matt
    Matt April 28, 2010 7:24 am

    This has been a good read, humorous, and informative to boot!

    One thing I would like to point out about the construction site. While men will treat women that way (not always though) they will also treat other men that way if they don’t know what skill level that man has. If a man shows up with little or no tools, but a willingness to work, he’ll get the simple things to do, and will be questioned/ignored if he says something doesn’t look right. IT’s part of the other workers learning process. If the same guy shows up with a beat up pick up truck, his own tools, and is known from several construction projects, he’ll be accepted. If a women works at various building projects like this, actually working and proving skills, then she’ll eventually be accepted.

    By the way, really smart builders use various tricks, techniques and tools to do the heavy lifting, so even that can be relatively gender neutral.

  24. Kirsten
    Kirsten April 28, 2010 8:21 am

    I think the root cause often boils down simply to prejudice. Once one has ingrained in one’s own mind something about someone else based on an arbitrary class they belong to, one may find oneself unaware that one has mentally divested them of their individuality. One may have difficulty abandoning one’s prejudice if one is not aware that it exists. It may not be a matter of willful disrespect at that point, but merely unthinking habit.

  25. Dan Perkins
    Dan Perkins April 28, 2010 4:19 pm

    The fact is that, man or woman, we’re all INDIVIDUALS! Remember that word? It’s usually pretty important around here. Now I know that we all have gut reactions to certain scenarios. I have found myself upset when seeing a black man with a white woman. Because I’m a racist? No. Because the base animal in me sees a member of another tribe impinging on my territory.

    But I’m more than just that base animal. I am a rational, awake adult human being and as such I can recognize, almost instantly, that who somebody chooses to love or, even to get off with, is no business of mine. And I’m immensely happier for that knowledge.

    The same principle can be applied to relations between the sexes. There are many stereotypes about both genders and many of them are generally true. Traits do not become stereotypical by not occurring. We all use stereotypes in dealing with people. We expect certain behavior from certain people who look a certain way. You aren’t expecting to see Paris Hilton working in a Zen garden. Stereotypes are just social shortcuts.

    A smart person, though, is ready and able to recognize when a stereotype doesn’t apply and assess a person strictly on observed behavior. What’s more, they have to also recognize when the stereotypes no longer apply as a general rule, like with so many traditional gender roles these days.

    In fact, with the information explosion of the past few decades people are exposed to many different cultural traits and adopting them at will, making stereotyping less and less useful. This can make social interaction significantly more difficult but potentially much more rewarding. You have to be on your toes but there are many more opportunities for good friends at every turn. You just have to be able to look beyond what you see.

    Now, I obviously don’t know Claire personally, but I do know that she’s an intelligent person and I have to believe that she’s fairly competent. This puts her ahead of many experienced carpenters that I’ve worked with. I have to assume that the guys that she was working with have known her long enough to recognize her as such (since she knows them well enough to call them,”otherwise wonderful guys”). If so, then there is no excuse for their low expectations. Even without prior knowledge of her quality, their callousness can’t be excused. It’s childish rudeness. Checking someone’s calculations is fine (two heads are better, and all) but if they’re correct, you have nothing else to say. Let it stand.

    I do have one question, though, Claire. Were the guys you worked with used to working together as a crew? If so, it may not have been a sexism thing. When you get used to a team, you tend to fall into certain patterns and expectations. You can even reach a point where you almost can’t hear a measurement called out by anyone other than your expected crewmember. This in no way excuses rudeness, but in could be a mitigating factor regarding their behavior.

    Lest anyone think I’m offering this in a spirit of moral superiority, I can say that I’ve learned all this by screwing these situations up…repeatedly. But, I did learn, and I like to think that I’m ready to recognize competancy in anyone I meet. Once they show they’re an idiot, though, I’m done!

  26. Tahn
    Tahn April 28, 2010 5:04 pm


    Maybe it’s not sexism but just that the “boss” has to verify all data. The “boss” is not the owner or even the most competent but whoever was put in charge and has the overall responsibility, although really I can’t imaging anyone not listening to a potential problem (with the anchor bolts), if they heard it over the din. Maybe there was so much going on it just didn’t register.

    When we built the large room onto the cabin, my daughter was “the boss”, even though it was her first construction project. Even the lead carpenter, with 25 years experience, gave her the final say so on anything/everything because it was her job but it was a pretty stress free, laid back project, the kind I like best.

    Was there a designated “boss”? Sounds like a pretty stressful situation. I have an older brother who acts like the people you mentioned, so I can say, sometimes its not gender related, just bull headed. Interesting discusion though.

  27. Claire
    Claire April 28, 2010 5:51 pm

    “I do have one question, though, Claire. Were the guys you worked with used to working together as a crew? If so, it may not have been a sexism thing. When you get used to a team, you tend to fall into certain patterns and expectations.”

    A lot of good points here. 🙂

    The guys working on this project aren’t a team. Just neighbors who help each other out several times a year. There were two designated bosses — both older, very experienced men, and they were absolutely great, even though the two of them have different ways of doing things (one meticulous and old-fashioned, one speedy and modern). But they were often occupied with the other boss (the woman for whom the place is being built) and with fundamentals. The guy who behaved so jerkily was one of the younger ones, knowledgeable and careful in his assigned work but otherwise just one of the lift-and-carry guys — exactly what I was.

    Dan Perkins, in this case I don’t think I’d go so far as to call myself competent. Maybe not stupid, but not competent. Those who’ve said I contributed to the situation with my own behavior are almost certainly right. In a situation where others know a great deal more than I, I’m deferential, and that may well have struck somebody who doesn’t know me well (and this particular guy really doesn’t) as me being incompetent. Hard to say. That particular guy does tend to be cocky even under other circumstances. So in a way we probably both contributed.

    Boy, I never expected this topic to generate so much discussion, but it has been great discussion. One of the things I most love is that people who come here may disagree in a thousand ways, but they always stay civil and thoughtful. So many other comments sections just degenerate into flame wars and BS. You guys are good.

  28. Sue Cherwinski
    Sue Cherwinski April 30, 2010 8:24 am

    You got it soo right – when my sister’s basement flooded during the rain while the ground was still frozen & she said “we need to dig a ditch to move the water away from the house”, she was ignored. But, when the guy next door says, “we need to dig a ditch to move the water away from the house”, her husband & sons get right to it. They just can’t believe a girl could possibly get it right.

  29. Pat
    Pat May 1, 2010 4:59 am

    Hey Sue, Can I speak to you alone? Something you said in your comment popped out and hit me between the eyes. But no one else can hear this.

    We are NOT girls; we are WOMEN. Any female with a husband, plus two sons old enough to dig ditches, is a woman. Any female smart enough to know to dig a ditch and can make adult decisions, is a woman.

    We stereotype ourselves when we call ourselves “girls.” No matter how construction workers view us (with their history of whistles and comments to women passing by),
    We. Know. What. We. Are.

    I admit that I’ve done it too, used the word “girls” (and “boys”), but I recognize it when it comes out of my mouth and cringe at myself. Now I rarely say it anymore.

    With respect for “women” and “men” everywhere…

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