Stopcocks Women Plumbers founder has decided to produce a line of T shirts emblazoned with the hashtag # WomenArePlumbersGetOverIt.
It’s the exact opposite to our usual approach, so what’s prompted it?
On Monday, founder Hattie was featured in a radio programme transmitted globally by the BBC World Service. The Conversation is a long running series that always features two women from different parts of the world talking about something they have in common. This show featured Hattie talking to a New York plumber, Judaline Cassidy.
In several conversations with the series producers prior to the recording Hattie took her usual measured, non-confrontational position. Explaining the history and giving facts about the numbers of women in the industry, which remains low, coming from a position of understanding of how come so few men in the industry recognise the complexities of why this is and what stands in women’s way; as she almost always says “why would they?”
However, the producer pressed her for examples of womens’ experiences and eventually Hattie told some of the stories women plumbers have told her.
“Why don’t you name it for what it is? Why don’t you call it out for the sexist behaviour it is?” asked the producer.
Hattie took a deep breath and explained that finally there is beginning to be industry recognition of the issues women in it face, that the industry is still made up overwhelmingly of men and that to alienate them could jeopardise the thirty years work that has brought her and Stopcocks to this position of respect within the industry.
“But if you still can’t name it, have you moved and aren’t you just continuing to be silenced?”
And it’s true, if we can’t name it, if our language is constantly being stifled by the status quo have we come anywhere at all?
So, in the show, she named it. Listen to it here The Conversation it’s hardly rampaging radical feminism.
One of the things we do as a company to help overcome the isolation many women plumbers experience is to run an annual conference for all women plumbers and gas engineers to meet one another. There have now been two WIT Conferences (Women Installers Together) some attendees had never spoken to another woman plumber (or gas engineer) before attending a WIT Conference.
This week PHAM News, one of the leading plumbing magazines ran a letter from a male plumber
In conversation with the editor, PHAM News told us they hoped that it would provoke discussion and encourage more men in the plumbing community to come out in support of women plumbers – or properly explain why they aren’t.
Sadly this was hardly the case, 3 plumbers were supportive of women in the industry on our own Twitter thread and one on PHAM’s. PHAM also had several Twitter comments supporting Jamie’s claim and mansplaining, that they too had experienced obstacles, plumbing is hard and dirty after all, but if women can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen (I paraphrase).
This was very different to the comments on the Stopcocks Twitter thread, mostly not from plumbers, who were aghast at what they referred to as dinosaur attitudes; pointing out that no woman would want to be Jamie’s apprentice.
It was from this thread that the hashtag that is the title of this blog arose # WomenArePlumbersGetOverIt.
Because here’s the thing, men don’t know whether women want to be plumbers, we do know (because they tell us) that many women are put off being plumbers by the fact that for eg: they find themselves unable to get a job with a plumber to complete their qualifications, or that they simply get sick of dealing with individuals like Jamie (frankly it’s not really fair to make an example of him because we’ve encountered many far worse).
Even the stories Hattie and Judaline told on the radio were moderated, they aren’t the worst and they don’t show how many women experience this hostile culture and decide they don’t want to deal with it.
As an industry construction has one of the highest incidences of suicide and mental health difficulties, so is it outrageous to suggest that a change in culture would benefit everyone in it?
In spite of it all women prevail and women are plumbers, but still there are some men who’s sense of self is threatened by this and who take the time and effort to write an email to a magazine.
And if the agenda is feminist, so what? What’s the name of the agenda of the letter writer?
Please reply in the comments if you want one of the T Shirts