LumberJocks

Ponderings #8: Woodworking for Women?

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Blog entry by Tomcat1066 posted 01-25-2008 08:56 PM 1264 reads 0 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 7: Boundaries Part 8 of Ponderings series Part 9: Saws Aplenty »

I was just surfing through Amazon.com and came across this book called Easy to Make Organizers: Woodworking for Women. Now, I know I’m a guy, so perhaps I should just keep my mouth shut, but I suspect by now that some folks here realize that that is just not my style.

Frankly, this title bugs the hell out of me. First, there is the implication that women are more likely to be interested in things like organizers rather than coffee tables. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that might be a hypersensitive reaction, but here’s the thing…why specify “woodworking for women”? Why not just call it Easy to Make Organizers and leave it there? I know I could use more organization in my life, but hopefully they have an Easy to Make Organizers: Woodworking for Guys floating around also.

As a guy, perhaps I’m missing the boat here. Are women different in some way where they need a different set of instructions to build something? Are women wired in some way where they need to be taught how to do a dovetail in a different way? Honestly, I don’t get it…is there some difference that I’m missing?

Male or female, woodworkers are woodworkers. Techniques are the same, the materials are the same, and the designs are often the same. If you take a man and a woman with the same experience level, give them both some lumber and some plans, some tools, and let them loose, they are both going to produce the piece. Any differences between them will probably be because of the individuals in quesition, rather than which bathroom they go into at Cracker Barrel.

Perhaps the “Woodworking for Women” is less threatening to some women? If so, then perhaps the problem isn’t the title, but that the idea that a woman can’t pursue a “man’s” activity is still floating around. Before my son was born, I joked that if it was a boy, he would be a Noble Prize winning physicist. If it was a girl, she would become the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcon’s. Here’s the thing…I’m one of those wierd people who actually think a girl can be a football player. So it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that women need seperate books for woodworking, or that magazines for women woodworkers should focus on small projects like plant stands instead of dining room sets.

I honestly don’t understand it. If someone does understand it, please explain it to me. There are far to many women who’s stuff kicks my butt for me to think there’s some difference requiring seperate books, or that women require easy projects (see here for examples). I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy it. The wood don’t care what’s in my underwear, just how I work it.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!



22 comments so far

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

766 posts in 3637 days


#1 posted 01-25-2008 09:36 PM

They teach a class at the local Woodcraft store called, “Box Making for Women” about once every other month.

Every five or six months, they’ll teach a more general class, called “Box Making”.

That’s always bugged me a bit, from the perspective of a guy. How much trouble would Woodcraft get into if they offered a class called, “Box Making for Men”?

Upon further reflection, I can see the other point of view. Maybe the reason for having a separate instructional class for women would be to avoid the testosterone-filled atmosphere that might be created in a woodworking class full of men, all talking about the quantity and quality of woodworking tools they have and want to buy. It can get a bit intimidating, I must say, at our monthly woodworker’s guild meeting with 60 guys all talking wood and tools.

But to reference your example, I’m not really sure why there would be a need for a separate BOOK for women. Hopefully there are female lumberjocks who are just as offended by this title as you.

-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com

View Paul's profile

Paul

660 posts in 3555 days


#2 posted 01-25-2008 09:44 PM

A left-over from a hopefully by-gone era.

-- Paul, Texas

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#3 posted 01-25-2008 10:31 PM

I can understand the classes. The intimidation of being the only woman around a strange group of men can be something else. I’ve found myself as the only guy around a strange group of women, and I felt a little like a fish out of water myself. But, like you, books? Why?

Honestly, I just don’t get it. It’s like having a book called Wearing Underwear for People Named Jones or something.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Kaleo's profile

Kaleo

201 posts in 3602 days


#4 posted 01-25-2008 11:41 PM

One it’s about marketing. two it’s about the fact that some women are really intimidated by a room full of men. This is why they have women only gyms, you’ll neve find a male only gym. I instructors wife teaches woodworking for women classes. But I really think it’s all about marketing to women. How many women are going to pick fine woodworking. But if it’s fine woodworking for women, they might think hmm.. I like woodworking. Just my thoughts

-- Kaleo , http://www.kalafinefurniture.com

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#5 posted 01-25-2008 11:49 PM

Kaleo,

I guess I can see that. I guess the part that annoys me most is that the projects shown tend to be pretty basic, rather than something like a nightstand or an end table, which I have in one several of my books for beginner woodworkers. I have this one book put out by Stanley that is all hand tools (Stanley hand tools at that) and it has some pretty decent projects.

Maybe it’s just me, but the books just seem insulting to women in my mind.

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Betsy's profile

Betsy

3338 posts in 3359 days


#6 posted 01-26-2008 02:46 AM

Tomcat——it all comes down to marketing and a mindset that women still can’t do things like men can. We can’t wrap ourselves around the complex workings of those spinny things that go around and around and make lots of noise and can get us dirty and sweaty. Oh yuck! The thing that really amazes me is that Woodworking for Women magazine (no longer in publication thankfully) was edited by a woman who obviously had no clue about woodworking. We have to have special magazines and books because we only want things that are cute and cudely and take only minimal skills to make. The more difficult things call for having a man there to help you with the more difficulty tasks. If they put all those things in the “mens” magazines the men would get mad. So they give us our special things.

Some of the most talented woodworkers / designers out there are women. Some of the best cooks in the world are men. Yet the sterotypes still persist that women can’t be a good woodworker and a man can’t be a good cook. It’s getting better with people like you who are recognizing that what you wear and where you take rest stops does not hinder your ability to do anything.

Now with all that said. As was posted above there are many places where you can get “women’s only” classes and they don’t advertise “men only” classes. Yep, still won’t get sued for “women’s only.” I confess to being someone who teaches (or actually has taught – I’ve not taught for a year or so) women’s only classes. Most younger women have no issues taking “mixed” classes and can hold their own with men. I am often the only woman in a class of men. But there are a lot of older ladies that would be to intimated to take classes if they had to mix with the men because they have always been told, can’t do that, stay away from my tools, you can help me finish or sand, etc. The older ladies are usually the ones in my class. When the younger ladies take my class it’s because they don’t want to deal with men who treat them as though they should not be there.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been the only woman in a class (I tried to figure out how many I’ve taken – has to be close to 30 classes) only to be treated like I knew nothing, could not possibly grasp the subject matter, could not keep up physically, etc. etc. There is always one man in the group who was like this. To the credit of most of the other guys, the one was usually set straight. But the one can sometimes really sour the experience. It took a while for me to learn how to deal with this one guy in every class. So now, when the instructor introduces himself (usually a guy) and asks us to say who were are and why we’re there – I say, “I’m Betsy, here to learn so and so, so that I can take the technique and teach the technique in the classes that I teach.” That kind of sets the table that I may know more than what they think I do. Since I’ve started doing that I’ve not had any problems with the smart guy.

oh I digress. Long and short, the wood doesn’t care who is cutting it. The marketers just can’t figure that out. When they do I’ll be the first in line to do a cartwheel and cheer ( ohhhh that’s so “womanly” ;=) )

This is debate that will go on as long as there are men and women. It’s like a circle – there is no beginning and no end.

Hopefully we will all learn to accept everyone else. Lumberjocks is the first site that I’ve felt like an complete equal with the guys. And that’s a high compliment to everyone here.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#7 posted 01-26-2008 01:28 PM

Betsy,

Thanks for your input on this issue. Woodworking for Women Magazine was one such place I had heard about the basic and somewhat ridiculous projects that sounded like they would be more appropriate in a Woodworking for Kids magazine.

I totally agree with you about how women only classes serve a true function. It’s sad that they do, both that some women aren’t comfortable taking a mixed class and that some men seem to think that a woman in the class doesn’t actually know anything. The pathetic thing is that these same men would treat me at first glance as being more experienced than you, even though I know jack and admit it, and you’re an instructor in your own right. It’s truly sad that these people still exist and possess this mindset.

As far as I’m concerned, I can’t look at a piece and tell you the gender of the person who made it. I seriously doubt anyone else could either. And personally, I like it that way!

Thanks again for your voice on this blog. I really wanted to hear from some of the ladies on this one, since it doesn’t actually affect me directly (though it could my wife who’s toyed with the idea of woodworking in the past).

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View tat2grl's profile

tat2grl

61 posts in 3264 days


#8 posted 01-26-2008 07:02 PM

When I’m in the bookstore and see books titled like “Woodworking for Women” or “Car Maintainence for Women” I try to hide it…lol. I’m insulted by it, but I think I’m of a different mindset than the average female. I understand the all female gyms. Some women are embarrased about their size or weight and prefer to exercise with only women. But to market books just to women is just sloppy. Reminds me of high school. Home Ec. for girls, shop for boys. Even then I didn’t understand that line of thinking. Shouldn’t boys learn how to sew and cook and shouldn’t girls learn how to fix lamps? I even tried to take shop and the school wouldn’t let me, even though my argument was convincing to the teacher. My 13 year old son knows how to sew on a button and do his laundry and my 18 year old daughter will know how to check the fluids in the vehicle and change a tire before she’s even allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. I think marketing should enter the 21st centruy and gear books, etc to the beginner and not the gender.

-- "Creativity is...seeing something that doesn't exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being and that way be a playmate with God."

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#9 posted 01-26-2008 08:00 PM

Actually, I enjoyed Home Ec. But then again, I’m the guy cleaning saws while cooking spaghetti sauce. Mine takes all day.

Yes, the sauce and the saws ;)

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 3623 days


#10 posted 01-28-2008 07:35 PM

A good discussion.
It’s all been said already. We are unfortunately still a sexist society, where women are either made to feel uncomfortable in a “traditionally male-oriented” activity or they have residual feelings of the effect and don’t feel comfortable asking basic questions or making mistakes in front of men. We’ve come a long way but still have a way to go.

As for the magazines: pure marketing strategies which reinforces the sexist viewpoint. It’s media messages such as these that keep “women in their place”, keeping sexism alive.

(PS. You got me so riled up that I tipped my cup over and spilled the contents all over my computer mouse and table….I then, while mopping it up, dropped the cloth into my fish tank which sits underneath my table (fish are from my outdoor pond)... )

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#11 posted 01-28-2008 07:42 PM

Oops! Sorry Debbie! That was DEFINITELY not my intent!

As for being riled up, I can relate. My wife AND mother have heard my tirades on this! It’s a shame that women are somehow looked at as improper for being woodworkers.

Maybe someday we can all sit back and remember how this USED to be an issue, and may my decedents never feel that way about pursuing an activity they want to learn!

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 3623 days


#12 posted 01-28-2008 07:59 PM

here, here!

I saw a video clip of one of Ms. Clinton’s speeches where a guy stood up and yelled “iron my shirts”. ... we still have a long way to go.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Tomcat1066's profile

Tomcat1066

942 posts in 3259 days


#13 posted 01-28-2008 08:04 PM

Oh my God! I didn’t hear anything about that, but I’m not surprised it happened.

You’re right. We still have a long way to go :(

-- "Give me your poor tools, your tired steel, your huddled masses of rust." Yep, I ripped off the Statue of Liberty. That's how I roll!

View Recycler's profile

Recycler

40 posts in 3227 days


#14 posted 02-05-2008 01:48 PM

I just hope that the LOML doesn’t see that book—I don’t want to hear the rant. ;)

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3484 days


#15 posted 02-05-2008 02:59 PM

Women still feel intimidated with certian aspects of our daily endeavours.
If a title gives them the confidence to try something new then good.
BTW, it’s just another vertical market:
Cooking for men.
Cooking for couples.
Cooking for woodworkers.
And the now famous – Non-Gendered titles. ... for Dummies
Etc etc.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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