Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Women are not Men

Yeah, I know, that's not news for most of you :)  But I still find a lot of average folks, not just manufacturers, who haven't exactly cottoned to this idea yet. Women are not just smaller, weaker versions of men... we're actually built differently (besides the obvious bits and bobs!).

Men, in general, tend to be taller, have longer arms and legs, bigger hands, more upper body strength, more upper body control, and rely strongly on strength advantage. Men are usually successful at tasks that require using brute force. Men are more prone to acute wrenching injuries because they are less flexible.

Women, in general, tend to be shorter (except Big Sis!), have shorter arms and legs, smaller hands, more lower body strength, more lower body control, and rely strong on leverage advantage. Women are usually successful at tasks that require patience and dexterity. Women are more prone to chronic repetitive stress injuries because they are more flexible.

Now, this doesn't mean that women can't do most of the same tasks as men, nor that men can't do most of the same tasks as women; but the TOOLS and METHODS we use to accomplish them are going to be different because we're physiologically different. This all seems elementary, but stop and think about how many times we've just assumed that we're incapable of accomplishing a task, or that we are going to slower or less efficient at them, and never actually stopped to consider that the problem might be the tool or method we're using?!

Let's give some examples, shall we?

1. Pull cords -- most women have difficulty pull-starting combustion tools like lawnmowers, chainsaws and generators. 90% of the time this is because the pull cord is TOO LONG for their maximum reach, not that they aren't strong enough to pull the cord and kick the engine over. Women have to devise all sorts of "full body" workarounds that are commonly unnecessarily dangerous... wedging the chainsaw in the crotch of a tree, kicking the lawnmower away while pulling, standing with one foot against the generator and launching backwards.  So why do we keep trying to use them when the pull cords simply too long?? Unless the engine catch point is so far back in the wind that it needs the full length, you can normally shorten the cord without negatively affecting the operation (of course, DH might have problems "pulling short" afterwards).

2. Handles -- almost every heavy-duty out there has a big, long handle to allow a man to jab, thrust, lever or lift it comfortably using upper body strength or height advantage. Most women don't have the upper body strength or height to use the tool that way, but could do the same task with a shorter/smaller handle and tool design that allowed us to maximize lower body strength and abdominal/lower back advantage. And that's not even mentioning the actual grip on the tools, it's pretty hard to use something if you can't even close your hand around it (this is a particular problem with handguns and cordless tool battery packs!). So women keep trying to ram a shovel into the ground with brute strength and yank it back with brute strength, because that's how a man does it and how the tool is designed... but women could dig a ditch just as fast with a shorter shovel that allowed for stomping the blade in and using the pelvic region (rather than the shoulder region) as the leverage point.

3. Size and Weight -- let's face it, I'm a pretty strong woman and 50lbs isn't that totally difficult for me, but most women can't and shouldn't be lifting and lugging 50lbs around all the time (that's a 7yo child!!). If women can carry this much, it's usually easier for them to do it on their hips or against their body than by the shoulder or out in front/on side. BUT the most common sizes of things are 50lbs... feed sacks, 5 gallon fuel/water jugs, bulk boxes of nails/screws, bags of concrete and topsoil. Now I know that larger sizes for bulk items means less packaging and cheaper prices, but many of these items can't even be found anywhere near affordable (of at all) in a smaller, female-friendly size (like concrete!!) so women have to wait around for men to help them, or carry around smaller containers to divvy it up into smaller sizes themselves, or use some other tool (cart, lift, jack) to pick up and move the item. This is a real problem with things like tractor and trailer hitches and implements/attachments... I have to use a jack or lift to get most of these things hooked up, but it would be MUCH safer if the implement just had a built-in/welded crank jack on the tongue in the first place! Buckets are my favorite... the average man, being taller with stronger arms, can actually carry a 5 gallon bucket at his side with minimal difficulty; but the average female will hit herself in the knees over and over whether she carries it one-handed to the side (if she can!) and especially if she carries it two-hand in front of her.

Now, this isn't all one-sided, men have the same difficulties using tools and methods for tasks that have conventionally been female-oriented. I've seen men struggle with sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, cooking implements, and baby strollers because the sizes and heights are too small. So, ladies, your husband may suck (pun intended!) at vacuuming the house because the handle is just too darned short!

Tall women still have physiological differences that make mens tools difficult to use; and short men still have physiological differences that make womens tools difficult to use. A short man can still use a mens tool easier than most women, and a tall woman can still use a womens tool easier than most men.

So next time you think you can't do a task or that you simply suck at it, consider whether it's really you or the tool/method that's the limitation :D  I know the old adage is "A poor worker blames their tools"; but I challenge even the best worker to do good work with bad/wrong tools!!!


Plickety Cat said...

An addendum: I have found that most tools manufactured in Asian countries for Asian markets are much more female-friendly in size (if not design)... possibly because the average stature of the male population in those countries is smaller than the average stature of the male population in Europe and America. However, this is not a guarantee.

For instance, I have no problems starting my Shindaiwa (Japan) chainsaw, even the "US model"... but have a pretty hard time with DH's Husqvarna (Sweden), even the "US model". However, I don't have much difficulty starting the Honda (Japan) generator, but the Kipor (also Japanese) generator has a much longer pull cord.

becky3086 said...

This was a good post and I totally agree. However,lol, I can't carry 50 lb feed bag any other way than on my shoulder and I carry almost all of them. I have never started the lawnmower or the rototiller but maybe I actually should be doing the lawnmower since Phil has broken the rope twice (that goes back to what you were saying about a woman's patience, lol). Interesting on the buckets. I never thought about it. I am a fairly tall woman at 5ft 9 but you are right, I am always hitting my legs.

Plickety Cat said...

Yeah, I normally carry sacks either cradled on my hip or chucked over my shoulder... but I'm not comfortable dead-lifting it up with just my shoulder & arm and carrying it that way like a lot of men do. We gotta get all that weight up close to the body and supported on our entire frame ;)

With the buckets, guys just have better deltoids LOL If you watch carefully, even if the bucket should hit him in the legs the way he's carrying it, it doesn't hit him because he can hold the bucket out just far enough to keep it from hitting. Most women just don't have that kind of strength in our deltoids and our shoulder socket and connections are just a teeny bit different so that motion isn't particularly stable or maintainable for long periods.

CottonLady said...

Wonderful post and oh-so true!! I have all of my late husband's tools and am having a blankey-blank time of it using them!! Had to get an electric start generator, which was easy for me as it has a rechargable battery and I live in Texas. I wait for the grandsons to lift the sacks of goat and chicken feed. The rest I struggle with all by myself. I'm a stubborn ole lady! :)

Hope all is going well..blessings!

Anonymous said...

Yes!! I have always been very strong, even as a child. Even so, as we do more things for ourselves, I find tools frustrating and painful. I want to burn the darn shovel. You gave some ideas to think on - thank you for another helpfully analytical post! Jennifer in NC

MamaHen said...

When I worked construction it was very common for us, men included, to routinely cut the sledgehammer handles down in length because they were too long, even for the guys. Manufacturers often just make a 'one size fits all' on a lot of tools but are meant to be 'adjusted'. Proper length should be your hand grasping at the head of the sledge and up to your armpit. Cut it off there and it works great.
However, if women are going to do heavy work they need to start an exercise routine that developes upper body strength, for safety's sake. The work will do it but it takes a while.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of incurring the wrath of women everywhere, maybe that's why women were meant to stay home and cook and raise the kids while the men did all the serious physical labor outside the home?

It took tens of thousands of years of evolution to get us all to this point - why mess it up now? ;~)


Plickety Cat said...

oooooo Sam, them there are fightin' words!! ROFL :D

Try to keep in mind that many women do not have a convenient manly-man available to them at all times to do the burly chores around the homestead ;)

And sometimes the menfolk need assistance, especially when they aren't young and strapping anymore. Now, we could always take on a nice 18yo farmhand *nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean *

And let's not forget that many men also don't have a convenient domestic goddess available to them at all times either... at least if they don't live near their mothers or she's passed away ;)

Anonymous said...

RE Anonymous Sam June 24, 2011 10:50 AM and PC's reply - I am all for traditional marriage and PC is right, too. A functional traditional marriage is a division of labor, however that falls in any particular family - suppose the man of the house has a physical challenge? or the lady of the house is deaf? The true strength results from working together in the ways that suit that particular family. Jennifer in NC

Anonymous said...

"Try to keep in mind that many women do not have a convenient manly-man available to them at all times to do the burly chores around the homestead ;)"

Well maybe if they weren't such "angry beavers" they might :P

Unknown said...

LOL... This cracked me up! I totaly agree on the physical differences and such. I know my biggest problem is wing span, but I also have the issues with the buckets and such. At 5'3" mostof my issues revolve around height or reach when it comes to heavy chores. That being said I have no problem with traditional gender roles but when hubby is off working mamma has to take on all the chores. They can't just wait for daddy to come home. Especially here in Alaska were it can be a matter of life or death to get that wood cut and hauled. Also some jobs are just not one man jobs and when hubby needs that second man on the job I get to man up and step in.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this would help, but in dealing with the thin wire bails most buckets use, you can use a two ended open wrench to help you with the grip - way more comfortable when you have a loaded pail.

Just put the open ends under the bail, lift until they got a grip on either side and go - works for us dudes too! :^)

Plickety Cat said...

Wedging a crescent wrench in the wire to make a temporary handle works pretty good. I made a helper handle for buckets out of an old broom handle... just cut to length, passed it over the table saw to make a half-depth slot in one side the width of the wire, and then sanded down smooth. Now whenever I get a bucket that doesn't already have a handle, I just grab my wooden one. Really saves on pinched fingers!

Sam.... said...

"oooooo Sam, them there are fightin' words!! ROFL :D"

LOL - ok, ok, Plickety - I give up! :-))

You make some very valid points. As your typical male, I don't always tend to think it all through before spouting off. {grin}

"And sometimes the menfolk need assistance, especially when they aren't young and strapping anymore."
Hoo boy - can I ever relate to that!

Hope you guys have got some decent weather lately to help you make progress. Tell Gungnir hello for me.

Unknown said...

I have seen that women are very discipline. But when it comes to do repair either its for car, home, woodworking or any other household repair task, they can not carry corded power tools with them, they need portable, light weight Cordless Tools with Kit