That’s MAN’S Work!

He said it. He said it this morning and my crew immediately went quiet and looked at me with mouths and eyes wide open. “It’s man’s work that we are doing.” We might as well have ripped a vinyl record out from under its needle. In a split second, I had to decide how (or whether) to respond to my foreman’s comment. I really like this foreman and I adore this crew: we’ve been working together for over two months and I thought we had a good understanding of each others’ humor and strengths. Before now, I endured the good ole boys who spouted their hateful opinions about gay people, urban dwellers, people who aren’t white (or male for that matter), liberals, and food with spices beyond salt and pepper. In most of those situations, I survived by using sarcasm, teasing and a re-direct to the electrical tasks in front of us. Most of the time, this strategy has worked.

My current crew is vibrant, hilarious, and wickedly smart. I felt so lucky to work with them. Until my foreman dropped his, “This is MAN’s work!” comment, I respected him. He is – by far – the most organized and level-headed and generally pleasant foreman I’ve worked for so far. He is also extremely religious: Russian Orthodox. His religious views don’t pop out into our work conversations very often. When they do, they’re sincere and conservative. I admire his integrity to his religious institution and I respect his work ethic.

Once we jumped in to our work day, a couple of the guys pulled me aside and said something like, “Man, I can’t believe Zhenof said that! I’m sorry.” I processed the interaction a bit with my journeyman because he was there and he heard it. He and I were equally puzzled. This kind of comment just wasn’t typical from him.

Ultimately, I made a big joke about it. I decided to not let his one comment turn into a huge ordeal, nor was it worth my energy to confront “Zhenof” beyond jokes. I’ve watched him work with our General Foreman (who is a woman) and I’ve personally appreciated the times he has taken the time to teach me valuable things in the field.

Was he showing all of us his true colors? Or was it an unfortunate foot-in-mouth moment? I think of all the stupid things I’ve said in haste or while caught up in a silly group dynamic. Zhenof is worth the benefit of doubt for now. Yet I’m disappointed and outright sad that I now have to be on guard because a portion of my trust with him has been shattered. With time, I think I can forget and move on – but here’s the thing: as a tradeswoman, I know this is neither the first nor the last time I will experience such a dynamic.



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