Penis Envy Blaming

Dawn Matze Playfully Arm Wrestles Man, both of them with wild facial expressions
Picture of Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dream. Build. Love.

What does this have to do with construction and renovation anyway? We all understand what this crass descriptive two-word phrase means. That somehow we as women are envious of our male counterparts’ parts, (obvious sarcasm here ladies).  I’m thinking this is something a man made up to embellish his position in the hierarchical group called posturing or more simply to justify charging more. Now let me say that not all men fall into this category so hear me out.

This is referring to, well anything frankly, whereby he is admired, cherished, adored for his wisdom and incredible grasp of knowledge over another. His claim to know more, be more, make more is somehow a biologically born trait.  His penis allows him to be ‘right’, to be in charge, to be deferred to when in the presence of others, particularly women.  It’s obviously derogatory and inflames the gender power balance. 

 I know this sounds crude and perhaps is ancient news, but construction is still 90% this way today. 

Men in construction are a physical and grizzly bunch. They have to be. They are hired by others to do the physical work producing an end result in their craft. It could be a trade like running heavy equipment or more refined like a finish carpenter.  Big tools, small tools, lifting, carrying, jackhammering etc.  Nonetheless it is a needed job that most of the time men do. 

Let’s look at the ways this plays out.

The 4 Tell-Tale Signs of Penis Envy Mindset:


When you find yourself conversing with a guy and he is subtly or purposely talking down to you, teaching you something that you just don’t understand (again, sarcasm) there can be a  put-down effect.  He is gonna teach you real good and tell you all that he knows so you admire him and put him on his penis pedestal.  It’s the way it’s delivered to you – not as someone who wants to explain something, but a general putdown that implies ‘you probably wouldn’t get it’ or ‘let me do this since you’re not smart enough’.

This male-dominated industry of construction is a mecca for this type of language, yes still gals!  It really pisses me off when they pull the weaker gender crap.  Muscles perhaps, mind strength, no way are we weaker. It is an intimidation attempt.  Keep in mind all of us want to be admired, loved and appreciated. 

This immature act of ‘one-up-manship’ or ‘who’s penis is bigger?’ is rarely a feel-good moment. Watch out because it’s very subtle and a real sneaker. Before you know it we’ve bought into it hook, line, and sinker. (Especially if it’s not our area of expertise). You say to yourself, “wow he really knows a lot”, while punishing yourself internally for not having the same depth of information. In reality it’s a tactic used to embellish his knowledge base or plainly boost his ego.  

Now please know that I am a huge fan of ALL of my team’s strengths and talents. I am the first to compliment and thank the guys that work for me.  They are extremely talented and there for me, watching my back when things go awry.  I could not do what I love to do without the men that work for me. They are in sync with my goals on the jobsite. There are all sorts of landmines in the wild world of construction and renovation.  To have a winning team beside you is truly key! However occasionally this ‘mansplaining’ shows it’s ugly head.

“I help empower women to ask the right questions, confront the obvious, and bravely challenge questionable decisions.”

2Handyman Syndrome

The assumption here is that all men, again just because they are male, have the capabilities to do ‘all things’ in the home. Including but not limited to, electrical, woodworking, and anything related to power tools.  This is their arena, and not to be challenged. Assuming is a dangerous thing.

I laugh my ass off thinking back to when I first started construction. My new husband and I decided I was going to do a room addition on our small home. Since he was a software guy (quite the brainiac) he traveled to many of his development projects. 

While he was gone for quite some time I got the entire room addition built. He felt the need to jump in and do something that involved wood, shelving, and power tools. His heart really was in the right spot, but the shelving did fall down and we had to scrap it all. I must defend him though – his skills are pretty good at small electrical repairs. He is my biggest fan and I appreciate his willingness. 

However, he knows that when I’m building anything with fine lumber to call my finish carpenter Clayton.  Building is not his area of expertise – no shame here,  he shines in software code, and problem-solving algorithms.  Greek to me!

Does your partner or spouse feel the pull to do all things handyman around your house? Then you know what I mean.  I’ve seen some crazy dangerous wiring when I’ve torn down walls, or pipes that were connected with vulnerable fittings, ready to blow. What were they thinking?


Have you ever told yourself, “Wait, what just happened?” Let me set the stage. You hired a dude to work on your house, he is going to demo your kitchen, frame up several new walls, and get the area ready for the new cabinets to be installed. You know your day is going to go off the rails when he keeps calling you ‘sweetie’ and asks if your husband is home.  You never saw this in the interview! Out of nowhere he is asking you to go get his lunch, and winks at you. What the hell was that? He is halfway through his day, you don’t want him to walk out, so you go and get the lunch. (Mistake #1) 

Then, out of nowhere, he subtly lets you know ‘how difficult’ the job is, how he will have to charge you more and that it will run overtime.  Since you don’t know any better you are vulnerable, understandably (Mistake #2). This tactic is so damn common in the world of construction it makes me sick. I have fallen for it a few times myself.

Disempowerment comes in many, many forms.  I help empower women to ask the right questions, confront the obvious, and bravely challenge questionable decisions.  As women we know when there is something going wrong; there’s an incongruence.  It’s degrading and yet so often we think it’s us.

Stand tall and confront his ass. Do Not Shrink ladies. You don’t have to be a Bitch – just call him on his s***.  You’ll feel amazing and empowered when you posture yourself and respect yourself enough to call him out.  I’ve been in this situation every day in the 30 years I’ve run my company. It ranges from inspectors to tile guys, from finish carpenters to floor guys. Framers and concrete men are especially notorious about sexual harassment, and gender put-downs.  It’s a jungle out there!!

Now I’m not about to go all rougue feminist on you here. I just want to point out that we as women need to use our personal power to get what we want.

He who accuses another of criticism is usually he who himself has an insecurity about it. Not rocket science here.

“Handyman Syndrome:  The assumption that all men – just because they are male – have the capabilities to do ‘all things’ in the home. “

4Hearing Loss

Have you ever felt like you weren’t heard? So you say it again but louder?  I am laughing so hard right now thinking of how crazy I’ve looked if someone saw me attempting to get the laborers to dig over here, dump the load of gravel over there, or just plain old help with something.  Sound familiar? 

Or how about a well-educated and seasoned architect that keeps drawing a kitchen way too small for your client after she has repeatedly told him to ‘make it bigger’?  There is a craft and skill that us women have if we see it coming. Direct eye contact, check! Firm commanding short sentences, no wavering, check!! And a very lifted posture (stand up tall) reminding them that you will write the check to him after the following items are to your client’s liking, check!  The power of the payment. That usually changes how they hear.  It’s amazing but true: men hear with their wallet.  When reminded who is paying, their hearing improves greatly!



Let’s recap a bit:

Penis envy is a phrase to disempower a woman. This plays out everywhere in construction. Some examples include:

Mansplaining,  is a common language style found especially in construction. Its roots are seeded in insecurity and a feeling of not good enough or “someone please listen and respect me”. Our job is to recognize it and move away from buying in.  Don’t hire this guy.

Handyman Syndrome is rooted in all things helpful but beware of a sincere man with a toolbelt and a couple of legitimate tools that may or may not be safe when in his hands. It’s okay to not be good at everything. Get used to hiring the professionals. Did you know that in the state of California if a person is advertising as a handyman, they are supposed to be licensed? Yep. 

Disempowerment is terribly common among anything related to construction. Lots of testosterone flying here. Being confident takes practice at anything you do. But when you’re new at something it’s natural to be insecure. Fake it till you make it Baby! Step by step, your feelings will follow.

Lastly the Hearing Loss predicament. It is prevalent and must be addressed. Ask them to turn up their hearing aid! Really what’s needed here is to use the power of the payment to remind them that this is what you expect and they will get paid when it’s finished as planned or to the client’s (your) liking.

Bottom line ladies, use what you’ve got to make others respectfully achieve your goals of a beautiful and gorgeous remodel, renovation, or new build. You deserve to be understood, heard and respected. 

PS   I am a happily married woman and my husband is my biggest fan.

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