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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Workmen's attitude with women - grrrrr

21 replies

NotForTurning · 05/04/2013 09:39

Imagine this scenario (go with me on this for now please...):

Scene One: Dave is working in his home office, whilst the electricians are working in his home, fixing and fitting appliances....

"Aroight love? We could do with another cuppa here! Don't forget to add the sugar!" (Cue mocking laughter between electricians, whilst Dave scuttles off to make tea again).

"Luvvly! Thanks dear! Just pop it over there and be careful of the pipes there. Now don't worry if you the electrics cut out. Sometimes happens. Nothing to worry about love." Dave smiles sweetly and returns to his office.

...Later in the day, when the electrician can't fix a technical problem....

"Hello love!" barges into Dave's office without knocking. "I'll have to go now but there's no electrics for tonight. You'll be OK. Don't touch anything and we'll be back again tomorrow sometime"

Dave frowns: "Oh but I've got a meeting tomorrow morning here with some important clients. I can't have you back then. I'm so sorry...What's the problem then? Can I have a look?"

Electrician: "Leave it to us love. It's a bit complicated. Now can you just delay that meeting or we could work around you. We wouldn't be disturbing you or anything." (All this shouted over their v loud radio blasting away).

Dave: "Oh, but I really can't have you here then and I've got back to back meetings everyday for the rest of this week..."

Electrician: "Do you work every day then love?" (said with surprise and disbelief that Dave might be running his business full time). "You want to get your wifey to look after you a bit better now don'tcha? Isn't she making enough to keep you then?" (smirking).

Dave: "Actually, I don't have a wifey. I'm a single dad. We rely totally on what I earn and I really do need the electrics back on today. So can you please stay until it's fixed?"

Electrican: "No can do, luvvy. Got to take my kid to the football - they've got a big match tonight. Got to run now but we'll be back tomorrow. Don't worry. just leave all the electrics alone as it could be risky for you to touch anything when you won't know what you're doing."

Electricians, Sally and Fiona leave, with Sally rushing to pick up her daughter to take her to her premier under 10s football match.

.....OK...sorry to be long-winded but I'm fuming today and wondered how this scene would look with the genders turned around.

I'm 'Dave' - but the female equivalent. Sally and Fiona are my workMEN who seem to think I'm there purely to make them tea, smile nicely, not ask any technical questions about their work or form my own opinions about why they've botched the job. I mean who am I - just a woman, to understand electrical circuits?

Yes, I DO work full-time, without a man in the background supporting me. No it's really NOT convenient to leave the work unfinished when I have important meetings arranged tomorrow. taking his son to his v important juniorfootball match isn't a good enough reason to a customer here with a job undone that's already been partly paid for upfront and for god's sake STOP expecting me to make you tea all the time!

Anyone know how to manage these situations better without alienating one's workmen? I'm angry because I just KNOW it would be different if I had a penis.

OP posts:
NiceTabard · 05/04/2013 09:54

God you must be spitting.

No advice I'm afraid, I smile sweeetly and make the tea as well Sad

Beachcomber · 05/04/2013 10:03

Can you fire them? Pay them for what they have done up until now and then tell them not to come back.

Perhaps not practical but it is what I would want to do. I would also write to them telling them why I fired them.

Eskino · 05/04/2013 10:10

Sorry but I think you set the scene for their attitude by "scuttling" around making them tea at the start.

Why not say, "I won't be making tea, Lads as I'm working, there's the kettle. It's electric so you might want to leave the supply on if you can"

moondog · 05/04/2013 10:13

Goodness, you do have a lot of time to create imaginary scenarious in your head don't you.
Just tell them to make their own tea. How difficult is that? Hmm

We've got workmen in at the moment. My dh went out to buy them tea and coffee and biscuits and takes them up a tray every few hours or so.

AnnieLobeseder · 05/04/2013 10:15

I'd have stopped them straight with the first "Love" and also told them where the kettle/tea were kept. People treat you the way you let them treat you. Yes, they're probably sexist idiots, but that's no reason to let them do it to you. Are they self-employed or under the umbrella of a company? If they have a manager/boss, I'd be on the phone to them asap complaining about the sexist behaviour and the unacceptably botched job.

NiceTabard · 05/04/2013 10:37

Many women (and men TBH) are intimidated by a certain type of workman - this is not news surely.

I think it is unfair to blame the OP for their attitude. It should not be up to her to front up to unreconstructed workmen types in her own home. Not everyone is brave and strong when confronted with behaviour they don't like, in a situation where they are "outnumbered", by people who are potentially not going to simply go along with what they are told.

This is one of the reasons that we have feminism and stuff isn't it - so that people can get together to fight certain attitudes and actions. If it is up to each individual to sort things out for themselves then we might as well call it a day, eh.

SigmundFraude · 05/04/2013 10:51

'I mean who am I - just a woman, to understand electrical circuits?'

Do you understand electrical circuits then? I doubt most electricians would expect most men to understand them either, otherwise why would they be paying for an electrician?

As for the rest, workmen expect tea regardless of the gender of whoever's making it. It's a strange entitlement, but one which is easier to just get on with. Electricians can pick and choose who they work for and can just walk off the job if they want to, it happens all the time.

You have 2 choices really.

readysteady · 05/04/2013 11:18

When they come in show them the kettle straight away and say help yourself. That's what I do.

StephaniePowers · 05/04/2013 11:25

Men do get this attitude too. It's less common with this type of workman but it does happen. They are just mild bullies, probably in other areas of their lives too. It's cultural.

I have a friend whose husband is a roofer. We desperately need our roof looking at but I cannot get him involved, even though it would be great to have it done by a pal. In seven years of knowing her, our children playing together etc, seeing him at drop-offs and pick-ups, he has never done more than grunt at me. No eye-contact ever. He is 'that sort' of workman, part of that culture, and he does it to everyone except a few trusted mates.

KoPo · 05/04/2013 11:42

I had to laugh on this thread. The electrician we use is named Fiona and is probably the only tradesperson that DH and myself will entertain leaving in the house alone.

That is probably not helpful to this thread but i did have to laugh at the thought of Fiona being a bolshy tradesperson.

I all seriousness I have very little tolerance for anyone who tries to order me about in my own home. And I would be another one who would just fire and replace as that sends a very clear message.

NotForTurning · 05/04/2013 11:47

OK. I was just re-writing a version of a recent scenario, having changed genders around in the writing, as I find it intriguing how this 'device' is a bit of an eye-opener and stimulates further thought.

I've taken the other path before with workmen - ie I'm v busy so look after yourselves and don't expect me to cater for your needs. I'm fully able to handle my current RL situation but I was struck by the unspoken expectations on either side, eliciting a specific dynamic played out and interested to see how easily I fall back into the expected gender role and how easily the other party play out their gender-specific side.

I am horribly aware that if I'm more neutral and reserved and don't 'conform' to what's clearly expected, then I'm treated much worse - eg I've had people here before who've taken umbrage at me not making tea, not being compliant and have in the end, acted morose and surly and I don't think done as good a job.

On the other hand, if I smile and make tea and 'keep them happy', they treat me better, go into 'protective macho man mode who wants to prove they can look after the feeble little woman' and the dynamic is easy. Yuk!

I really hate this and of course, like many of us on here, I fight back against it where possible and appropriate. However, the gender roles and expectations often seem so ingrained that relations between the genders can be awkward and less fruitful - ie in terms of getting someone to do a job well.

Anyway, the issue wasn't really about whether I make them tea or not. I just wanted to look at how bizarre, potentially this scenario might look if you changed genders around.

It was interesting here today when a third 'expert' in their field came along later and, as the home owner, I went out to see him and discuss the issues. He literally made no eye contact with me at all and addressed all his remarks to the main electrician who was here yesterday. I asked several questions and proposed a few potential theories and yet neither of them answered by looking at me but simply kept talking between themselves!

I then tried an 'experiment' and said, "Well if you think it might be resolved, I'll leave you to carry on discussing it between yourselves. I'm sure X (the original workman) is the real expert" and smiled. Immediately, the atmosphere changed visibly. The both looked at me and smiled and addressed a few remarks directly to me. It was hilarious how rapidly the atmosphere changed when I 'backed down'.

Has anyone seen the Harry Enfield sketches of "Woman - know your place"? If so, then it was exactly like that! (Oh and PS, yes I do understand electrical circuits to a degree, although I'm not an expert).

OP posts:
BasilBabyEater · 05/04/2013 12:29

I've just been thinking I must get in touch with a carpenter re my kitchen.

This thread has reminded me to actively seek out a woman.

SatsukiKusukabe · 05/04/2013 14:11

I'd nip the tea thing in the bud, you are paying them to do work not the other way around. As for ignoring you while you make comments.... I'm sure they probably do get lots of "help" and suggestions from people who aren't electricians. I'd just let then get on with you are paying for their expertise.

TheCrackFox · 05/04/2013 14:22

I have had loads of workmen round and they always turn down my offers of a cup of tea and even bring their own kettle etc.

If they are annoying you just say "it is not the 1950s anymore, love". They know they are taking the piss, so don't let them.

blueshoes · 05/04/2013 14:36

I have just had armies of builders and tradesmen in and out of my house doing a major extension for more than 5 months. No one asked me for a cup of tea. Dh and I have to offer and we would either be turned down or very gratefully accepted. Cue me and dh taking orders for coffee/tea, sugar, milk.

I would feel happy to make it when I offer, but less happy if it was assumed I would like in the OP's case.

NiceTabard · 05/04/2013 14:44

Surely it's less about the tea and more about all the stuff surrounding her work? That was the gist I got in the opener anyway.

grumpyinthemorning · 05/04/2013 15:41

I'm lucky enough to have friends who work as electricians and decorators, so I don't have to worry about sexist attitudes. But there was the man who came to connect up my washing machine and refused to show me how it was done "because that's man's work, love, you don't need to know." Well I do, because I don't want to pay for this again when I move Angry

NotForTurning · 05/04/2013 16:00

Yes. The tea was only symbolic of the expectations of gender role. Everyone who comes to our home automatically assumes that there is a husband funding our family and lifestyle and running our lives, whereas I am completely self reliant and self sufficient and find it annoying to be treated like a 'little woman at home'.

There were various assumptions floating around about me which were blatantly apparent and all wrong, including the fact that my top priority might be making cups of tea rather than earning money for my family!

Anyway, all is sorted today.

OP posts:
SatsukiKusukabe · 05/04/2013 16:17

Surely it's less about the tea and more about all the stuff surrounding her work? That was the gist I got in the opener anyway.

I think (you can't know) that they would have dismissed whatever she had to do in the morning if she had been a man. I don't know anyone who has ever had any kind of building trade work done on time and not a million excuses for it But yes, it would have probably been done in a more diplomatic way had it been a man.

SatsukiKusukabe · 05/04/2013 16:19

I think the expectation of tea all day seems to me the most obvious to me because I don't think it would have been expected of a man.. where as the other stuff I can see it happening as likely to a man (is what I am tryin to say) all of it is rude though and all of it hopefully will get dealt with by the OP

badguider · 05/04/2013 19:27

There are two things here - the awful gender assumptions that you get like double glazing people needing to talk to 'the man of the house' but also people don't take working at home seriously. I run a proper business from home and make decent money but delivery people, posties, coldcallers all seem to doubt that I really am busy and working and cannot just stop for a chat.

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