It's still a man's world at building publication


Building Insight, the Building Industry Association of Washington's house organ, is often an interesting read — not because it offers any real insight into building, for it contains little or no practical information about construction work, but because of its fiery political tone.

To call Building Insight conservative is insufficient. It is indignantly conservative, even angrily conservative, as the BIAW's leaders lash out at anything and anyone they see as standing in the way of what they perceive as progress.

The positions those leaders espouse are based on firm ground: Yes, complying with government regulations is demanding, sometimes unnecessarily so, for business operators; and yes, environmental restrictions and growth management requirements present obstacles, some of them illogical and unwarranted, to advancement and development. Few outside the far left would disagree with that. What sets Building Insight apart is its vehement language.

In summary, here are the main points of Building Insight's doctrine:

The private sector is always good;

The building industry is even better;

Government is always bad;

Government employees are even worse;

Labor unions are terrible;

Environmentalists — generally referred to as "enviros" — are perhaps the worst of all.

But heretofore, I don't think Building Insight had taken on an entire gender.

Now, though, Tom McCabe, the BIAW's executive vice president, is wondering whether … well, let this passage from his column in Building Insight's September issue, under the subhead "Conspiracy to Eliminate Manly Jobs," speak for itself:

"Is it my imagination or is there a concerted effort by environmentalists, liberals and women's groups to eradicate all manly jobs? In our state, the anti-man forces have teamed up to virtually eliminate all fishing industry jobs, heavy equipment jobs and now they're going after homebuilding jobs.

"The League of Women Voters joined with enviros this summer to impose a building moratorium in Thurston County. Why do a group of women want to force thousands of male roofers, drywallers, carpenters and electricians out of work? Do they really want all men to work in boring government jobs?"

As a man, I'd better get my caveats out of the way: I don't work in a government job, boring or otherwise, but I suppose I also don't work in what McCabe would think of as a "manly" job. I work at a desk job, and, my back being what it is, I avoid heavy lifting whenever possible.

That said, I can't help but wonder what a "manly" job is. As time has passed, and as society has advanced, one of the most progressive developments is that women have moved closer to equality in the workplace. Few are the occupations in which women are not represented — not as fully as they should be, no question about that, but much more so than once was true. And, of course, that's the way it should be.

If I'm not mistaken, I've even seen women working in the building trades. Maybe McCabe hasn't, but I find that difficult to believe.

Surely, the Women Voters and the "enviros" have their reasons for taking their stand (which, incidentally, they alone couldn't and didn't "impose") in Thurston County. Maybe they were right. Maybe they weren't. At any rate, this is the first time I've seen the man-hater theory presented in this particular debate.

But that's just my view. I'll wait to read the revealed truth in the next edition of Building Insight.

Gordon MacCracken is assistant editor of The Chronicle. His column appears each Wednesday. He may be reached at 807-8234, or by e-mail at