Gender differences and filters to joining
From: Rob Sandelin (
Date: Thu, 28 Dec 2000 12:09:23 -0700 (MST)
Notice that I changed the heading of this thread to more closely match its
content? When an email thread changes content, it is very helpful to future
searchers to have  a good subject heading.

Gender differences play themselves out in most communities in often
unnoticed and even undiscussed  patterns of behavior. For example, at
Sharingwood all the "fix it" sorts of things that get done, are done by men.
Not a single  woman ever volunteers to do mechanical tinkering, they always
call on a male to do this. Another pattern is the children's team which
organizes events for the large number of children. You guessed it, it is
dominated by woman's energy.

These behaviors are patterns which reflect a deep held familial training and
societal conditioning. People who step outside these "roles" are often seen
as maverick oddballs. In some circles, they are socially shunned. For
example, I overheard some folks at the school my kids attend part time
trashing  a man (who was not present) who was into sewing. Strangely enough,
the people doing the trashing were all women! In the minds of these women,
this man  was doing woman's work which made him odd.

Genders differences are good tools for social learning. It is a fun and
stretching exercise to spend a  small amount of time looking at these things
in a context of a community sharing circle. It is not necessarily bad to
have gender roles, in fact, acknowledging them and appreciating them is in
my experience a good thing. We have regular woman's circles here that
provide support and encouragement for woman and their roles in the community
and elsewhere. But we have no men's circle.

These unconscious gender behaviors form one of dozens  of invisible
agreements that govern your lives as a community. You don't usually
acknowledge them, you just take them for granted. For example, there is not
a single parent in the group of 17 families here that spanks their children.
This is not a verbalized agreement, nor I think is something that  is even
thought about or recognized. But, should a person who spanks their kids move
into our neighborhood, there would be an uproar and large amount of social
pressure on the spankers to stop. It is not OK to spank children at
Sharingwood, even though there is no group agreement and it has never even
been discussed.

These  things of course form filters for those that will join your community
later. So a strong feministic woman would probably not be comfortable
looking at some of how our gender roles play here at Sharingwood. And this
may tip such people away from considering  our community.

Rob Sandelin
Community Works!

-----Original Message-----
From: cohousing-l [at]
[mailto:cohousing-l [at]]On Behalf Of lilbert [at]
Sent: Thursday, December 28, 2000 8:11 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: Re: Holiday Celebrations, or lack of

Sometimes all it takes is a sign-up sheet to make it happen. We do that
here, too.

The men here do alot of cleanup, after regular common house meals. But if it
is just a potluck, they never do. My guess is it's the difference between
recognized and unrecognized work.

To illustrate, I'll go off on a tangent here. My sister's husband always
helps clean up when his parents are visiting, but not when it is just the
family. He doesn't even notice he's doing it. I think this is a very real
male pattern of work, needing so much recognition. If many cohousers have
overcome this, more power to them. But my hunch is that alot of work gets
done very quietly by women that is not noticed by men.

Liz Stevenson
Southside Park Cohousing
Sacramento, California

>From: MartyR707 [at]

> In a message dated 12/27/00 8:06:56 PM, Liz Stevenson writes:
>>I'd fall over in
>>a dead faint if I saw a man start to clean up after a potluck. Make it
>>a recognized chore, and at least the women who do it don't have to do
>>chores on top of it.
> well, that's interesting.  I'd have to say that here, more clean-up is
> by men - not all certainly, but I'd never say they don't pitch in
> wholeheartedly.  It's partly cuz some of them would rather do that than
> but also cuz they are great guys when it comes to doing what needs to be
> The party planning - true - is done mostly by women, and I like the idea
> institutionalizing it as a chore that gets equal recognition with other
> chores.  I am one that has stepped back from doing it due to lack of
> appreciation.  But it has also been good to see how the vacuum gets filled
> when you step back.  Our Christmas party this year was a very organic
> process.  One person did post some great sign-up sheets, but then without
> committee or coordinator, people signed up and things got done and it was
> GREAT party.  A really great party.
> Marty at Two Acre Wood

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