Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The collapse of masculinity

Maybe it's because I live in the city and most men I know are more metrosexual than macho, concerned more with the quality of the foam on their cappuccinos and whether or not they remembered to put "product" in their hair that morning, but I know very few who actually know anything about doing anything for themselves. And, by that I mean, the ability to fix stuff, make stuff and do anything self-sufficient.

They rely on specialists for house repairs (electricians, plumbers, roofers, etc.) instead of tackling the problem themselves. They hire out yard work, preferring to spend their time reading or doing something online rather than get their own hands dirty. And, I'm mostly referring to North American males born after 1970.

Yes, there are some that still know how to chop wood and the like but, generally, skills that would prevent them from being dependent on corporate goods are lacking - unless they grew up on a farm or were raised by off-the-grid parents. I suppose the same argument could be made for girls - those skills that were traditional to women (cooking, baking, sewing, quilting, etc.) have been lost as well, although there at least seems to be a resurgence of interest, even if it is just as a hobby.

Have you noticed the same thing where you live? Are the young(er) men in your area capable of hunting, raising and killing animals and food, fixing the stove or building a house? And I'm not talking about an architect. Or are they just more interested in electronics and looking good rather than the more traditional stuff? Are we all just turning into a generation of ladies who lunch?


TheFashionistaChic said...

I guest it depends on where you live, if you live in a upscaled metropolitan area. I think men in the south know how to do things with their hands. My husband is somewhat hand on although sometimes I wish he would pay a expert instead of trial and error. But he's a good ole boy from the south.

Pippi said...

My husband will fix computers but otherwise we hire things out. There was no way he could have installed our dishwasher last week without a lot of frustration and swearing. He has some random boy scout skills from his teenage years but he's definitely not handy around the house.

He doesn't use product in his hair, though :)

Anonymous said...

My husband is maybe too hands on and thinks he can fix anything, yikes. I call him McGyver. Trying to raise our 14 year old boy to do things for himself.

Robj98168 said...

Well I suppose that I consider myself and my contemporaries "renaissance men" in other words I build the house, raise the garden, cook the bounty. Although the reason is it is cheaper to do it myself, and I must admit it would be nice to hire it all out

Aimee said...

I gotta stay out of this one! I married a Mexican. He's an auto mechanic by trade and can do everything from build a garage to slaughter a goat. He's seriously macho, macho in a way thy American men haven't been since about 1955. Obviously, this has it's advantages and it's drawbacks. Just imagine being a woman in rural america in 1955 and you'll have an idea of the drawbacks. But on the plus side, I now get really turned on by the smell
of diesel fuel.

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend is a fix-it guy, lots of times when I would have called a "specialist" he pulls out his tools and fixes something himself. Plumbing, wiring, insulation... he's from the Midwest, and his kind isn't common from my SoCal stomping grounds. I think it's incredibly sexy. I call him my Mountain Man.

Kristijoy said...

Portland OR is just...special...for anything sustainable green, diy men here are very masculine but us women ain't so shabby on the DIY front either... We are home to Trackers NW for crying out loud.

My SO and I have different skill sets, it's great! Between us we can do about anything. And when we fight, it's totally about alpha stuff. He's the most masculine man I have ever dated, I am usually the top dog. I'm from California he is from Spokane, fwiw.

TheSimplePoppy said...

Eh, I'm like Aimee on this one. My husband is a big rig diesel mechanic and the only thing in 10 years of marriage he has hired out was our broken fridge - and that's because he just didn't want to mess with it. This might not be PC, but I definitely think there is an economic/formal education thing going on here. I know plenty of guys born after 1970 who are very self sufficient - I don't think one of them has been to college (trade school, yes) and they all hold what would be considered blue collar jobs. And I have to say, these guys seem far better equipped to handle a doomer future than the guys you're talking about.

Laura Kaeding said...

Most of the guys I know are not 'hands on' about anything. They will hire someone else to do their job.

My fiancee likes doing hands on stuff, she fixes our electronics, rearranges furniture, helps me turn soil when I want to garden. She's more 'macho' than 98% of the guys I know.

That said, the women I know are much the same. The exception is my grandmother, my mother, and my aunt. My grandmother crochets and knits, my mother crochets and mends her own clothing, and my aunt is a seamstress and furniture artist.

I love crocheting, I love knitting, sewing, cross stitching, etc.

Rachel B. said...

LOL Probably about 80% of the males around here do all the macho manly stuff. They hunt or at least know how to hunt. Fix cars. Basic plumbing and electric, ect. I work at a hardware store so it's easy for me to see even without having a man.
As for the girlss, probably 20% know traditional homemaking. Personally I know everything. From cooking to sewing to getting the burnt stuff on the bottom of the pot to come off.
P.S. I'm glade I'm not the only one getting turned on my desiel fuel. Another one is the "farm smell".

Billie said...

Out of 3 husbands, only 1 knew more than me in terms of fixing things.

Was it a cultural thing? All of them were of different cultures. The American was handier than the rest.

Was it an education thing? One completed university, one went part of the way through university and one managed to graduate high school. The high school graduate was handier than the rest.

Was it heritage? One FIL was a hunter, one was a farmer and one was a military guy. The one with the military father knew the most about fixing.

Did their career indicate their handiness? One worked with computers, one worked at laying pipe and another is an electrician's apprentice.

The one who works at laying pipe is the handiest all round. The guy that is learning to be an electrician's apprentice did a bit of electrical work near the end.

I am a pretty handy kind of girl although I don't know if I could take on full-blown renovations. I grew up with a handy-man type father but otherwise not much about me would scream that I had a handy-man bent. I do know how to quilt, rug hook, bake, all kinds of needlework and sew. I can't knit or crochet. I do all this because my mom and grandmothers do all this and they taught me while I grew up.

Michelle ~ Blogging from the Boonies said...

Oh, thank goodness we're "country" people! I find myself thankful every week, when my husband does things like fix the brakes on my car, builds his own shed, installs appliances, fixes electrical issues, etc. He'll do just about anything except putting up drywall and laying bricks.
In my humble and personal opinion, a man's hands should be strong and a bit rough ~ not soft like a woman's.

Adrienne said...

I wonder if this is regional or an urban/rural thing... I live in a smallish midwestern town and I'd say a lot of men still know how to fix at least some stuff, and more know how to hunt. Probably fewer than of their father's generation, but still, not knowing how to take care of yourself (to an extent) is looked down upon.

Carolyn said...

Even the ones who know how to fix and do things don't fix or do them. Just ask my husband...sigh


Amy said...

My husband is handy, but born in 64, so that explains some of it.

However, because we didn't marry until our 30's and I was a single mom at 21, I learned to do everything myself. We, even 10 years after marriage, still butt heads when it comes time to fix something :-) I'm just do darn independent.

Chile said...

Both hubby and I were born before 1970 and have considerable self-sufficiency skills that we wanted and needed to learn due to our various choices over the years. I see many folks, of all ages, that can't do squat, though. If it can't be solved by texting or looking it up on the Internet, I fear many young people today would be totally helpless.

On the other hand, people at my CSA frequently surprise me. Quite a few do canning, and appreciate learning new ways to preserve food. But then there are lots who don't want to even deal with trying to learn how to use an unfamiliar food, either. We have frequent cooking demos, often focusing on those foods people reject because they just don't know what to do with it.

If things really do collapse, there's gonna be a lot of pain out there and a really steep learning curve.

Maria said...

This is funny, because my first husband could fix anything, build anything, do anything, but NO hunting or fishing. My second husband, he can't fix a darn thing, BUT he can hunt and fish. He hires everything out, except if I can fix it and I usually can (learned it from the first husband).....I laugh about this all the time!!!!!

Tigerlily said...

I think it's city/country thing. In rural areas high paying business jobs are not common. The men have practical work with your hands jobs.

However their are huge exceptions. I've had 2 long term relationships. One with a city guy who was very handy and could fix anything and one straight from the farm that didn't even own a hammer.

Growing up with a handy father, there is no way I'd settle down with a man with not real life skills.

As for traditionally feminine jobs, I can sew and cook and bake, but not well enough to make a living.

Nina said...

I live in Orlando and generally speaking if I don't know how to do something I know someone who does. I don't necessarily know if that's a Southern thing, though? There's also a lot of diversity here so the friends that know how to do things aren't necessarily white males.

Katy said...

Yeah I'm a city girl, and I know both kind of boys. In the part of Texas I live in we are a milting pot of cultures. People move here from all over the US and all over the world.

I will say that I've noticed boys who were born and raised in the South, regardless of age know how to fix things or have a family member who can fix things.

As a single mom I have learned how to fix certain things, but I'm also really glad that I live in an apartment with a really nice maintenance guy who lives down the hall.

Dea-chan said...

Man, I thought your post was funny, and my fiance flipped out on me for sexist comments. :-(

Supposedly he gets shit for that all the time b/c he's a computer programer -- except for from me. To me, he's big and strong, and can apparently build houses (with his dad). I think it's a trigger response more than anything. (*sigh)

Frankly, I think it doesn't matter how much foam you put in your cappuchino so long as you know there's a time and a place and are willing to get down to work -- be it ripping out and reinstalling the stairs or putting together the kindergarten pageant overnight.

Brad K. said...

PC, the "metrosexual" thing, even "enlightenment" about women's lib have all changed society to remove assumptions - and romantic perceptions - about gender roles.

When women are considered as good as a man - in economic, life skills, and other values - then men are likewise forbidden to assume historical gender relationships.

As for tacking problems - that I think is a matter of affluence, or image management. Those with limited resources tend to reuse, fix, and do it themselves. And they tend to see the world as something they maintain. The affluent, or those that want to be seen as affluent, learn instead to trade money or other assets to have others do the rote labor.

I consider affluence to be avoidance of rote, manual labor. Winning a "good" mate, and influence in the family and community often depend on at least the appearance of affluence.

Which reinforces resistance to the notion of peak oil and the end of the age of cheap energy. Ambition for affluence in it's many varied forms (sexual recreation, indolent lifestyle, "convenience" gadgets and choices) drives most marketing and many life choices. Choosing to instead embrace a reduced-affluence/reduced energy lifestyle requires redefining affluence in our life to be enough to eat, ability to care for those that look to us, safety from civil unrest, and/or joy in mere labor.

Schools that prepare children for college courses, that presume that college-type people will have no need to be able to fabricate or repair anything with their hands, send an unsubtle message about what is worthwhile and spiritually rewarding.

Thus, we have communities that raise men and women to rig a garden sprinkler, learn to garden, replace the starter on their car, raise a puppy - and other communities and families that raise people that consider their time "too valuable" to fix a faucet, repair a broken water pipe in the back yard, or to fix a broken light switch.

An individual not only needs to learn a skill, that individual also needs family and community acceptance and approval for "wasting" time and production (that no entrepreneur is earning money from) loss.

Create the need for repairers and fixers, value effort and problem solving with mundane household assets, and you make opportunities for those with the inclination to rise and shine.

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

In a rural area I'd say most of the men here seem to be pretty handy. Some of the "upper class" guys who have high ranking desk jobs hire everything out. I'm not sure if that's from a lack of time or experience though. On the other hand our Tae Kwon Do instructor is a lawyer and running for office! My husband is a farmer but went to college for 2 degrees. He's also an eagle scout. We are currently building our own house. I have a VERY hard time getting him to hire any one other than friends and family to help us out.

The women actually seem to be less handy in their traditional roles. The younger set, born after 1970. I'm pretty sure most of them buy whatever they need. I took a job at the natural food store to meet some people with similar interests. Most of the women with similar interests are vastly older than myself. Some pretty awesome ladies nonetheless. Only a small hand full of young women seem to shop at the store, and fewer yet who actually bake and sew etc.

Unknown said...

I think it depends on the guy. My husband grew up in a major city, has a university degree, and loves to read but he also recently rewired part of our kitchen, moved a wall, chopped wood, built a bookcase, and took down a tree. Of course I can do a lot of that as well (can't take down a tree though). I recently fixed the shower plumbing, taped and floated sheet rock, hung shelves, and laid tile. And I cook from scratch, crochet, garden, and sew. My husband cooks occasionally (I really like cooking and it doesn't interest him), cleans the bathroom every time, and does most of the laundry.

We're around 30 and I know lots of guys and gals who can do lots of things for themselves but I definitely know people who hire it all out and have no interest in doing anything significant with their hands. I'm not sure what those people do with their days. We would be so bored if we didn't have all this work to do.

Jennie said...

I married a guy that does *know* how to do a lot of the self-sufficient manly type stuff, but he LOATHES doing it!! I don't understand at all, I think it's good clean fun, a cheap way to get fit and rely less on consuming. All he can think about is how hot and sweaty he'll get. (He says it like it's a bad thing) :-D
He would definitely prefer to sit inside and level up his WoW skills than level up his Real Life skills.

So, I think there's a 2-pronged problem, both in the knowledge of said skills and the ability to find enjoyment in them.

Corinne said...

not here, well not the men I know, but then again, I do live in a hicktown.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a class issue. In my rural town, you either took college-prep courses OR auto shop. Never, ever do both. Smart people get a "real" job and pay someone to do your dirty work, whether that be an oil change or house cleaning.

It pisses me off that there was this culture of "you're too good for that kind of work," and it turns out "that kind of work" has a thousand times the intrinsic value of, say, a degree in marketing.

Anonymous said...

My husband & I are in our mid 50's. No way would he hire someone to do anything. fixing the car, remodeling the house, plumbing, you name it he does it. I can't remember one time he called someone in. I sew, garden, cook & make our soap, shampoo, & other body care products. Our kids are pretty self sufficient, too. The grand kids, on the other hand...not so much. They haven't mastered using handles & door knobs much less any domestic or other life skills. (we're not talking babies here - they're 6-15.) Their mother (our oldest) can do just about anything for herself, but apparently she resents the need for it & hasn't taught her kids a thing. (we do what we can when we see them, not often enough). Our youngest loves doing for herself & has far surpassed me in some areas. Go figure. Maybe it's a generational thing.

Anonymous said...

I should probably add that I'm not sure how much of a role education plays. Oldest daughter - who has chosen not to pass her skills on o her children graduated from high school, then went to a trade school. Youngest daughter, who revels in the challenge of doing everything for herself & from scratch has a PhD. They are both in their 30's. DH & I are not wealthy, but we do ok (probably in part because we do for ourselves & always have).

dc said...

My husband is a college professor who build our deck and pergola, oofed our old house, re-plumbed (is that even a word?) our cabin, rebuilt an old car engine, loves to fly fish and canoe. He still changes the oil in the cars and replaces the brake shoes etc.

He does hire out some jobs because of time restraints but he knows how to do many hands on activities and shows our nephews how to use the tools properly. A lot of his field projects include building sampling equipment and some of the young students are equally adept at building things!

Aydan said...

Where I grew up, a lot of the guys were big into "being macho," but that mostly meant wearing camo and driving really fast. And fishing. I'm not sure if they could fix said cars, or ever did anything where the camo was required.

My dad can do just about anything construction-y, and he's an engineer. But he grew up doing a lot of it.

*shrug* I'd rather know how to fix stuff myself than put it all on a guy, same way as I wouldn't be comfortable if he expected me to know all about sewing, etc. I guess it's the feminist in me.

Rosa said...

I know a bunch of fixity people who all moved out to Seattle, so they have to be somewhere near you.

My partner was raised to think it's a sin to call a professional on something you could learn to do yourself - my biggest threat for getting unfinished projects fixed is "...or I will call a plumber!"

Rosa said...

(and I should say, my guy was born in 1978 and has a desk job - but it's a fixer/figure outer kind of job - back end computer programming.)

The internet is a godsend for fixing things. You can find a manual for *anything* - our washing machine didn't come with anything that translates its error codes, but my partner found one online. In German.

Philip Rutter said...

Fun subject. Easily appreciated by me, as I sit here in the log cabin I built, from scratch. :-)

One story; my Middle Child son, having grown up here, found himself having a cookout with his fiancee's family, city folk.

The propane on the cooker ran out.

He was the ONLY one, in a crowd of 35 or so, who a) knew what was wrong; and b) could change a propane tank.

I'm still giggling about that one; though not where the inlaws can hear.

Mike Ginn said...

I refuse to pay someone to do something I can do myself such as paint or lawn work. I split a load of firewood the old fashioned way a few months, but the medical bill for my shoulder was more than I could have bought the wood already split. I do most minor repairs and give most major repairs a try before I pay someone to do the job. I think it is becoming a generation thing. I am 50. My son, daughter's boyfriend, and younger colleagues will not do manual labor.

Baton Rouge

Steph said...

I was born after 1970, my hubby before, and between the two of us we can probably fix most uncomplicated things. He grew up working in his parents car repair shop, so that one is covered. The thing that gets me is this: Our new DIL came to visit (with oldest son of course) and I made fried chicken for dinner. Cast iron pan and chicken thighs with bone in, mashed potates (skin on) and green beans. My DIL, who is 20, upon being asked how the chicken tasted said "It's good. I've never had chicken on the bone before." WHAT!?!? I guess when even KFC serves chicken tenders, this is what happens. As for the potato skin, she ate around that, too.

Anonymous said...

I think guys like that have been around for a long time. :) In the 19th-century novels they're the "dandies" or "fops." And in ancient Rome, there's that quote from Seneca about, I think, some of the local soldiers, "Who of these would not rather have the state disordered than his hair?" :) As for these days, I'm not sure it can be easily divided by social class or educational level-- especially as more and more people choose to DIY who might not have learned it when they were younger. I think there's a reason for all those books of basic skills, country skills, old-fashioned skills, Grandma skills, you name it-- there's a market for it. Some people are happy in their ignorance, but some of us want to do things for ourselves.

Julie said...

I think time restraint is the biggest culprit. Whether you are high school educated or have a PhD, there is really only so much time in one's day. Time management is key. How do you want to spend your time? I don't think it has anything to do with being "macho".

Brad K. said...

Some families carry a cultural legacy, a remembrance of tough times and poverty. Some families retain reverence for making-do, for using what is available - for keeping every belonging in best working condition. Children of such families will be more likely to be fixers and repairers at work or around the home.

Others came to a conservative mindset through motivation and association. Respect for the fix-it neighbor or relation brings about respect for a fix-it approach and respect for things that can (and should) be fixed. Hippies, Mother Earthers, etc. come to the re-use mindset this way.

For the guy that can fix stuff, but hates it - there is a block there. Either fixing things damages his self-image of affluence, or he has cause to disrespect someone that is a fixer-upper. The problem has nothing to do with what needs fixing, or the need of the repair. The real problem involves his self-knowledge and possibly his ability to communicate his fears and needs in a clear manner - and to accept help in understanding himself. Fears are potent forces in the world, and not to be scoffed at.


sctywrnr said...

lol...when i was growing i remember my grandfather and many of his friends missing fingers because they did everything on their own, just saying. i did learn much from him though about woodworking and maitenance in general. he had the benefit of growing up on a farm and being in a program back in the late 30s call ccc which taught him much about being self sufficient. more to the point though i believe traditional values have been lost by both genders and i have to honestly say i am as guilty of it as anyone else :(

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I think it has more to do with interest than anything. My husband built his computer but he doesn't like DIY handy jobs. I like to do DIY handy jobs and felt that building my computer was a bit of a pain in the butt. But the Husband found it attractive, so there's that. Oh, and while I've rented a jackhammer and renovated my bathroom myself I'm afraid of canning. So when safety is involved and and you're not sure of a job and you can job it out, I always say job it out!

Leslie said...

How are you linked into my brain right now? I am currently very frustrated with my husband's inability and unwillingness to fix anything. He's a city boy and always blames it on that.

Sonja said...

Some of my guy friends do almost everything themselves, some don't know how to plug in the drill. With them it juts depends on character, they're all in their mid twenties and from an educated background.

Some of my girl friends are SO good when it comes to sewing. Most know how to cook and bake from scratch.
Me, I taught myself how to cook and by now know more than my mother. I can darn my socks and repair my clothes, but otherwise I can't do anything with a needle. I know how to fix some things around teh apartment, and if I don't know, I call up my dad. He's real good, and I want to learn from him.

Where I live, knowing how to do stuff yourself has nothing to do with age or education but really just with interest in things

Abby said...

This is very interesting. I definitely think that there are fewer people who know how to fix lots of things anymore. My husband grew up in a sort of privilege, and I grew up with a dad who was a carpenter. He also knows how to fix cars and do some plumbing (tho my grandpa was the plumber for big jobs), and overall, my dad is one of those guys who knows how to do lots of different things.
My husband, however, grew up with a dad who was a pastor/missionary, and paid other people to fix things. So he never really got the benefit of a dad who was handy. I'm afraid what his dad would do with a hammer, honestly. My husband has learned a lot from me and from my dad, how to put together a bookshelf, how to repair a car problem, stuff like that. But I'm the handy one around here. I wish he was more handy, but he honestly doesn't have many opportunities.

EngineerChic said...

I'm a wife, and I own & maintain 3 chainsaws. Yep, I selected & bought all 3. I also picked out the come-along to coax unwilling trees to fall in the right direction (not on the house). But over the years my husband (who grew up in a 3-family in a city) has come a long way. Now he likes burning wood, using a hatchet or axe, and mowing the grass.

Some guys just need a little encouragement to get in touch with their masculine side :) Though he still refuses to consider any livestock (including chickens).