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Gender and classes; why can't I take woodworking 101 with men?

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Forum topic by Lisa Chan posted 04-29-2010 07:11 PM 4822 views 0 times favorited 193 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Lisa Chan

147 posts in 1808 days


04-29-2010 07:11 PM

There are only two stores in my city that specialize and offer classes and demonstrations. I opened a flier for one of them looking for a class on tool sharpening.

What I saw made me sick to my stomach.

Woodworking 101 FOR MEN, offered only to men. And Wood Therapy III offered only to women.

There are two things (actually a lot of things) that I find problematic about these offerings.

There was only one introduction class offered (and it was offered only to men)... and the instructor decided to call the women’s class “therapeutic”. I found it offensive. Sure, woodworking is relaxing… but you don’t ever see a general woodworking class marketed as therapeutic.

I looked a little closer and discovered that both of these classes were being held by the same instructor. There were other classes offered by other instructors that had no gender qualifying clauses for attendance.

I decided on my own that this guy might be a fluke. I wouldn’t want to be taught by an instructor who assumed that I might be going into any class expecting special consideration (or a change in his teaching style) based on my gender assignment.

This whole thing surprised the heck out of me considering I live in a VERY liberal city. However, sexism is still alive and very well in the woodworking community. Even here throughout the forums I see sexist stuff that bothers me too. Stuff I wouldn’t want my daughters looking at (if I had them). Or my sons… either. We tolerate it because… I don’t know why? I dunno… Why are people allowed to post pictures of half naked women modeling tools around here anyway? It makes me uncomfortable… and I can choose to look away. And I do. But it does distract me from the community and the woodworking… I’m looking at tits, not the tools. I’m thinking about the sexist promotional group that is using that picture to manipulate men into thinking those tools are valuable… or to give them something to “admire”.

Anyhoo… I know that in a few generations those models will be looked at differently, I feel sorry for those women actually. I feel sorry for the men, and men’s wives who have to tolerate their men oogling that garbage… and they think they have to tolerate it.

Anyway… this is going on to blabbering. Please keep this discussion civil. Share your opinion, but remember that we’re all feeling, living breathing and yes “sensitive” people who deserve respect. I didn’t bring this up for a debate… I’m bringing this up as a place to share your own stories about how you feel or experience gender stereotyping in gender dominated trades.

Conversely, I teach knitting and have male clients who tell me about how they experience sexism/discrimination all the time and it makes them uncomfortable. Clerks in stores assume they are there for their wives and treat them without respect. They feel like they can not knit in public without hearing or feeling remarks from both men and women that imply that they might be homosexual… or it draws unwanted attention. They are true fans of the art… and the feel limited because they are carrying a pair of stones instead of melons.

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories, http://www.grippingyarn.com


193 replies so far

View WistysWoodWorkingWonders's profile

WistysWoodWorkingWonders

11908 posts in 1814 days


#1 posted 04-29-2010 07:26 PM

Hey Lisa,
Great write up… I agree that sometimes people stereotype women as not being capable of being in the shop. I am extremely happy to see women in the shop and am a true believer that most of them (if not all) have more talent in the shop than most of the men (me included :)
Men and women both should belong in the shop, knitting, sewing, or whatever together… we allow women to serve beside us in war situations, yet give them the gears when they enter the shop… totally unacceptable…
If any women shows interest and ability in the shop, let her in… encourage and embrace her to achieve… this is how society improves…
For those that are too old school and can’t get past womens rights, go hide in a cave. Times have changed and we need to change with them in order to achieve success in our lives… I highly encourage my wife and daughter to join me whenever they can in the shop… My wife put together a beautiful corner cabinet with a hutch that adornes our entry to our home…
As for the photos of women holding tools… that doesn’t really make me want to use the power tool more, but certainly I like most men, enjoy the pictures of those lovely women…

Good job Lisa and I hope this opens up some minds on women in the shop… your more than welcome in mine anytime…

-- New Project = New Tool... it's just the way it is, don't fight it... :)

View Abbott's profile

Abbott

2570 posts in 1961 days


#2 posted 04-29-2010 07:32 PM

Here’s one good reason:

—————————-

“Great news for girl watchers: Ogling over women’s breasts is good for a man’s health and can add years to his life, medical experts have discovered. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, “Just 10 minutes of staring at the charms of a well-endowed female is roughly equivalent to a 30-minute aerobics work-out” declared gerontologist Dr. Karen Weatherby.

Dr. Weatherby and fellow researchers at three hospitals in Frankfurt, Germany, reached the startling conclusion after comparing the health of 200 male outpatients – half of whom were instructed to look at busty females daily, the other half told to refrain from doing so. The study revealed that after five years, the chest-watchers had lower blood pressure, slower resting pulse rates and fewer instances of coronary artery disease.

“Sexual excitement gets the heart pumping and improves blood circulation,” explains Dr. Weatherby. “There’s no question: Gazing at breasts makes men healthier.” “Our study indicates that engaging in this activity a few minutes daily cuts the risk of stroke and heart attack in half. We believe that by doing so consistently, the average man can extend his life four to five years.”

—————————-

Men’s shops all over the world have pinups posters, photos etc it’s healthy and natural. Hell, a guy working in my shop might live an extra 10 or 20 years.

All of that being said I enjoy women in the shop, it makes the day go by much nicer.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View Don Newton's profile

Don Newton

712 posts in 2276 days


#3 posted 04-29-2010 07:33 PM

Lisa,

You did not disclose the organization sponsoring the classes. What a bunch of crap! Last fall I attended a workshop given by John Wilson to make oval shaker boxes. The class had both men and women and was a pleasure to participate in. If you are interested in attending the “Men only” class I would encourage you to attempt to enroll and see if they are crazy enough to exclude you. The discrimination lawsuit would be easy to win. Woodworking is an activity that men and women can participate in with equal success. Who knows, maybe it is men only because the course include instruction on the proper way to measure your p@#$s and they felt you would be at a distinct disadvantage.

-- Don, Pittsburgh

View lew's profile

lew

10035 posts in 2413 days


#4 posted 04-29-2010 07:42 PM

I taught Electronics and computer since 1970, in the public school system. Years ago, the “brilliant” minds determined that girls weren’t participating in certain subject areas so they made a push to enroll more “non-traditional” students in those areas that were dominated by gender. By singling out a specific gender, for “special treatment”, I believe they made things worse. Limiting, or enforcing, quotas forces a label on a human being and a label is not a good thing.

Instead, we should be encouraging everyone to follow their dream. So many kids have told me- “I can’t”. They don’t believe in themselves because they have never been encouraged to do so. We must provide the opportunities for everyone to achieve their potentials. Girls can aspire to, and achieve, any goal they wish. Sorry if that sounds sexist but I mean it in a good way.

Lisa- go take that class and show that stupid ass of an instructor that you are the best!!

Lew

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View AaronK's profile

AaronK

1397 posts in 2122 days


#5 posted 04-29-2010 07:59 PM

wow that’s ridiculous. i can’t believe someone would even dare to even think of class titles like that,.

View Lisa Chan's profile

Lisa Chan

147 posts in 1808 days


#6 posted 04-29-2010 08:12 PM

I feel like I want to retract something, but I want to keep it there too. Perhaps I will explain instead

I said… “Why are people allowed to post pictures of half naked women modeling tools around here anyway? It makes me uncomfortable… and I can choose to look away. And I do. But it does distract me from the community and the woodworking… I’m looking at tits, not the tools. I’m thinking about the sexist promotional group that is using that picture to manipulate men into thinking those tools are valuable… or to give them something to “admire”.

Anyhoo… I know that in a few generations those models will be looked at differently, I feel sorry for those women actually. I feel sorry for the men, and men’s wives who have to tolerate their men oogling that garbage… and they think they have to tolerate it.”

EXPLANATION

I have a strong bias against unregulated pornography and prostitution because I worked in the sex industry as a photographer and was exposed to women who were on drugs and mentally unhealthy. I held this job for three months and quit because it was so disturbing. It is not representative of all sexualized media… but it is typical. It is the NORM.

I wonder if clients who look at pornography are aware that a good portion of these models are exploited, may have been rape victims, have mental injuries, have and share STDs, and that client interest and money contributes to the growing problems of women being attracted to and then being exploited by producers and consumers in that industry.

Personally, I do not want to be associated with it any more or exposed to it. I found it harmful to me, other women, and also men who had sex addiction and mental health problems.

Conversely, Pinups are wonderful and interesting and beautiful and sexually exciting. Looking at them in the privacy of one’s own personal space is totally cool (so long as the women who volunteered to do them were adequately compensated). Modeling for them is of course legal and totally wonderful, I have even photographed pinups and modeled for some myself… but what are they really?

SUMMARY
Pinup models. They are women putting their sex out there for you to fantasize about. And I’m not interested in seeing that in a community oriented space like a learning website or a classroom.

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories, http://www.grippingyarn.com

View Abbott's profile

Abbott

2570 posts in 1961 days


#7 posted 04-29-2010 08:18 PM

Yeah, I figured that’s what your post was really about after the slew of PMs I received from Grizzman last night. He’s on some 1950s type crusade and threatening to have me banned because he doesn’t like the Topics I post in the Coffee Lounge, my posts in general and anything else I do that he doesn’t approve of. Then he sics his friends on me trying to stir the pot.

Pinups are fine. If you don’t like them you might want to consider staying off of the Internet. Personally I enjoy the tool ads on this website and I click them fairly regularly. If they have pretty girls on them then that’s even better. Now and then I even oogle a girl or three when I’m out and about. I would think anyone who lives in a “Very Liberal City” such as yourself wouldn’t even notice.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View ellen35's profile

ellen35

2570 posts in 2090 days


#8 posted 04-29-2010 08:24 PM

Lisa,
The first thing I would do is go to the store manager and explain nicely to him that there are many woodworkers who are women in your very liberal city. I would tell him that you will “pass the word” about how discriminatory these classes are and advise people/friends/just about anyone – both men and women woodworkers – to shop elsewhere… oh, and I would post the nameof the store on LJ – please! If it is a national chain… I’d go higher! And…I’d make sure everyone knew about posting it here on LJ. Most woodworkers I know would shop elsewhere if they thought that the art of woodworking was being disrepected in such a way as this store has proposed. I know I would.
This is a disgraceful situation. Most folks on this board are respectful (although I am wondering about Abbott right now!) and we are bonded by our love for woodworking. Occasionally, someone crosses a line… but I find ignoring him/her (yes, some are women), is the best course of action here. The support of the men and women on this board has been incredible and I have learned as much about people as I have about woodworking.
I hope the store manager has the good sense to cancel both classes and fire the instructor.
Ellen

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Lisa Chan's profile

Lisa Chan

147 posts in 1808 days


#9 posted 04-29-2010 08:27 PM

Abbott,

I don’t know anything about what you’re talking about actually. I don’t read much in the Coffee Lounge.

And you’re sort of skating the line of a troll. Like I said, I’m not interested in a debate about what is or isn’t acceptable. You did share your opinion.

You like pinups, you like to look at women, you don’t see a problem, and people who don’t like looking at them in public places should censor themselves and not complain.

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories, http://www.grippingyarn.com

View Lisa Chan's profile

Lisa Chan

147 posts in 1808 days


#10 posted 04-29-2010 08:39 PM

Also.

I am not naming the store, because I am not interested in disparaging the store directly or causing them hardship. I am not a bully. I believe that if other people objected to what I saw, they will also go to the owners and voice an opinion. I did voice my opinion to them in an email. I told them that I was not going to spend money with them, I was sad about… because they do have some great products.

They did not respond.

Also, it was ONE guy who is giving the class and it would be unfair to say that he represents the store. I don’t know the owners of this chain, and it would be harsh to judge them on a class description they probably didn’t write and may not even be aware of.

I am hoping that when I open my next flier there will be something different. And I also will not take a class from that instructor, knowing what I know. But, I’m owning my bias and I would like for other people to just talk openly about how gender stereotyping in a craft/trade has affected them personally.

Our combined stories are more interesting than an individual wrong… people need to see that it is prevalent (as I suspect it is). It’s not fun coming out and saying “I don’t like this treatment!” And becoming the spokesperson just because you spoke first. Heh.

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories, http://www.grippingyarn.com

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1832 days


#11 posted 04-29-2010 08:47 PM

Lisa:

Benefit of the doubt/devil’s advocate/eternal idealist:

What if—based on his/her past experience—the MEN AND THE WOMEN wanted it this way—one class for each gender ?

I’ve seen lots of info that tends to indicate that—aside from all the individual differences—there seems to BE a gender difference in learning approaches.

A wise teacher might teach each class differently, then.

And … abbott:

You know the one guy at the party whose joke goes just a little too far, every time?

You’re REALLY shaping up to be that guy. I’m REALLY not easily offended, but … if you aren’t trying to be a troll, then … I guess it just comes naturally to you.

You’re obnoxious and thoughtless. I hope you’re proud of those qualities.

-- -- Neil

View ellen35's profile

ellen35

2570 posts in 2090 days


#12 posted 04-29-2010 08:50 PM

Lisa,
In a perfect world, this kind of thing would not exist. I do believe the bigger issue here is that when one of us is treated unfairly, we are all treated unfairly. Naming the store (whether you choose to or not), gives us all (male and female woodworkers) the opportunity to take a stand together against sexism in THIS craft. I, for one, see that as an important way to help make change in the world a little at a time. My $50 isn’t going to do it alone. Talking doesn’t do it. Businesses are looking to make money… if revenue goes down because woodworkers don’t like how they are treated, policies change to meet demand.
Your story is compelling.
Ellen

-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1474 posts in 2783 days


#13 posted 04-29-2010 09:00 PM

Hi, Lisa, I don’t have a strong opinion on pin-ups because I’ve known quite a number of women (and even a few men) who’ve worked in sex related businesses (from prostitution to doms to porn) who are quite happy doing what they did and find the social and legal stigma far more demeaning than the work or the way they were treated. In fact, one compared and contrasted her work at Mustang Ranch with her work in marketing in the tech industry in ways that weren’t at all complimentary to the latter. Even though that’s where she spent many more years of her life.

However, to your original point: The most competent person at my local Woodcraft happens to be female, and I can’t imagine a store around here (SF “north bay” area) advertising a woodworking class for men without getting slammed hard and feeling a backlash from male customers. I hardly think of Seattle as that backwards, but I sometimes forget that Seattle is surrounded by regions where the enlightenment hasn’t spread as far as it has from San Francisco. So a good step forward is probably to find some other women who are interested in woodworking and show these shops that there’s a market there!

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California, http://www.flutterby.net/User:DanLyke

View Lisa Chan's profile

Lisa Chan

147 posts in 1808 days


#14 posted 04-29-2010 09:07 PM

NBeener,

Since you asked… and it didn’t seem like a debate or an argument… but a sincere question…

I would like to see any credible source that would suggest that how a woman interprets information should change how she is taught how to use a saw safely.

I would hazard to guess that this research that you see that says that men and women learn differently is a reflection of our desire to see the sexes as differentiated in both sexuality and interests. But what we KNOW is that women like woodworking too, and men like textile arts and that both can have masculine and feminine aesthetics (or what we think of as that… but that’s totally debatable too).

Learning how to sew or learning how to use a saw does not require a significant mode of difference in teaching in order for the opposite sex to comprehend. It’s not like men have three arms and women have four. That would be a practical learning difference!

Women are PERCEIVED to enjoy a more social nurturing environment. And men are perceived to prefer a more technical and task oriented one. This is a stereotype and it is somewhat true but not a universal truth. That’s the problem… it is not a great way to create a community space for open learning or the free flow of ideas and culture. It’s limited.

I call BS that the difference in how women and men process information in the brain matters AT ALL when it comes down to the practical aptitude of pulling a saw. Also, assuming these things does not take account for the percentage of people for whom this is not true.

And a joke… a wise teacher would never mention gender and education at all because they know how distracting discussing the issue is from actually getting anything practical accomplished. ;]

-- Lisa Chan, custom cafts and yarn accessories, http://www.grippingyarn.com

View NBeener's profile

NBeener

4806 posts in 1832 days


#15 posted 04-29-2010 09:11 PM

I just Googled

women men learning differences

There seem to be many paths to take, if you’re genuinely and objectively interested in the subject.

I have no position on it, particularly, but raised—sincerely—the possibility that the students, themselves, requested separate classes.

Before I made ANY assumptions, I’d be talking to the teacher AND the store owner.

-- -- Neil

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