In the women’s washroom here at the trades building

An amazing thing just happened in the women’s washroom here at the trades building, down the hall from the classroom where I’m now writing this: For the first time since I started at the college in August, all three toilet stalls were in use at one time.

Considering that there are currently only about 8 women in all the programs in the entire building (one in plumbing, three in carpentry, and four in electrical, as far as I’ve been able to count), this is an unlikely event. I can’t even explain why it thrilled me, except that it gave me a taste for what a critical mass of women in the trades could feel like. Much as I love having the choice between three stalls and three sinks and two soap dispensers, I’d love it even more if my gender weren’t such an obvious difference between me and my peers.

I actually said as much to one of the other women, as we were both washing our hands at the same time. She told me that she’d wanted to go into electrical until the math requirements scared her into plumbing instead. Pleased to find her to be friendly, I started to tell her that the math wasn’t as tough as it seemed because it was all based on practical assignments. She suddenly interrupted me with a smile and the comment that it I certainly sounded like I enjoyed my program, whereupon she very quickly walked away. It was odd, and now I’m trying to figure out: Am I the weirdo for chatting with a stranger in the washroom, or was it really socially awkward for her to end our interaction so abruptly?

At any rate, I’m still chuffed by that initial thought of more women in trades, of moving beyond the constant stresses of casual sexism (and homophobia) to focus instead on doing good work.

And though it ain’t exactly a feminist anthem, here’s the very appropriate song that just came on my music player:

On a related note, the head of my program complimented my work on an assignment this morning and I responded by joking that I oughta be teaching it instead of studying. He surprised me by replying that he’d be quite pleased to see me working in the classroom with him, once I’ve had a few years of experience (and, needless to say, attained my journey qualification). There’s a certification in adult education that they’d want me to have as well, he told me, but it’s only a few months long and offered in Vancouver if not somewhere more local. I’ve often thought that I’d like to teach applied technology, but hadn’t expected to have such support from a current instructor. We’ll see… At this point, I’m really stoked about getting into sustainable energy systems, but as my instructor pointed out, climbing around on roofs and crawlspaces loses its appeal by the time you’re sixty years old.


4 responses to “In the women’s washroom here at the trades building

  1. i know what you mean about the constant stress of casual sexism and homophobia. today, my boss needed a mirror and ‘jokingly’ asked me if i had one of those blush compacts that have a mirror on the one side… i kind of laughed back, then walked away from him. he thinks it’s okay to point out that i’m different because it’s in the form of a joke. but i highly doubt that he would do the same thing if it were in regards to race…
    don’t even ask about the gay comment he made the other day. (and he does know i’m gay.)

    • I’ve been thinking of you so much during these past months of trades-immersion, because I’d never heard much from you re: the bullshit you’ve experienced as female/queer… We need to talk, huh?

      Yeah, that’s what I hate the most: The frequent reminder that I’m different.

      One thing I encounter everyday is the teachers saying “Come over here, gentlemen… And lady (with a nod at me)…”, or even further, with all the weirdly gendered labels for trades positions.

      As much as I laugh at my anarcho-syndicalist roots, I really love the word “worker” as a descriptor, and I don’t get why it isn’t used in our classrooms and jobsites: Tradesworker, foreworker, journeyworker. I don’t think it’s politically-correct to replace the word “man” with “worker”, I think it’s more accurate and respectful of the fact that regardless of our genders (or sexualities/races/ethnicities/religions/abilities/etc!) WORK IS WHAT WE ARE DOING.

      thanks for commenting, comrade ;)

  2. That’s awesome! Teaching is remarkably rewarding.

    • Yes, it sure can be… I mean, everyone in my family is a teacher, so really I oughta jump on that bandwagon! Currently, I’m a bit hesitant because the most I’ve ever taught is a 3-hour-long workshop…

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