Steph Leese - 'Plasterer of the Year'

and the Rabid Sexists Who Haunt Her

The image above shows a campervan refitted by hand by a woman. The one on the right was refitted by a man. The woman's van received around a tenth the upvotes of the man's van despite the woman's efforts and achievements being vastly superior to those of the man. The woman slipped up and, thus, lost votes, because she didn't have a penis. Silly woman....what was she thinking!

The woman was me and the Reddit forum r/vandwellers was not an isolated case but a 100% standard. Since doing up my van totally by myself (apart from the water tanks/pipes), I have posted the results video and photos to numerous VW forums, vanlife forums and Facebook groups and received the same response: ignored, downvoted and quickly sunk. I could count on my two hands how many compliments I've received online, which were mostly from women, but I would run out of digits if I counted the number of petulant comments I've had from offended men. Comments have ranged from 'You did the cupboard doors wrong', 'You used the wrong hinges' and 'Those doors will fall open' to totally irrelevant insults such as 'Hobbit feet and cankles'. Even the size of my daughter's feet have generated insults where the focus should have been on my handiwork. Why is it so hard for a man to say the words, 'Well done' to a woman? I've generally been banned from these male dominated forums due to standing my ground and exposing the rabid sexism within them. It's either that or you have to just put up and shut up...woman! I don't venture into such territories as much nowadays, which is sad as I have a lot to offer: men could learn to refit their campervans in a more homely way rather than to look like the insides of coffins.

I wasn't going to write about this subject and always just tried to forget about the hurtful unfairness such blatant sexism exudes. But, today, the story of Steph Leese, the winner of Plasterer of the Year 2017, appeared and I decided enough was enough. I'm not going to keep quiet about this dysfunction any longer. I'm not a feminist and certainly hold traditional family values and gender roles up as the epitome of societal success and what we should aim for, but I'm also in favour of flexibility and men and women working together as a team.

In an ideal world, I wouldn't have done up my van but would have happily handed over the hard work to my husband. Sadly, no husband exists because men today don't generally do meaningful committed relationships, so I did up my van myself, as I have always done up my homes and earnt all my money myself. Even if I did have a husband, the chance of him being a good 'un who spends his days grafting on DIY projects and doing them well are, nowadays, remote.

According to a survey...

millennials had the least experience of any generation when it came to 13 of 21 common home repairs, and had the most trouble with some basic home improvement concepts.

For example, millennials trailed both Gen Xers and boomers when asked if they’d ever fixed a running toilet, patched a hole in the wall, replaced a kitchen sink, or installed a dimmer switch or a ceiling fan.

And almost one in five millennials couldn’t identify the difference between a Phillips head and flat-head screwdriver (82% got it right), compared to 89% of Gen Xers and 91% of boomers who answered correctly. Millennials lagged everyone else in their ability to name tools such as allen wrenches and hacksaws, too. 

This, in my experience, isn't limited to millenials. One man I nearly married thought installing a ceiling fan without wiring it in was 'job done'. And he was certainly the kind of man who would have been abusive to Steph Leese, the winner of Plasterer of the Year in 2017.

I suspect the root cause of the rage men feel when they are confronted by a woman who not only dares to do man's work but does it well is insecurity. I have no doubt Steph would have been treated better by fellow tradesmen in the 1970s as, then, men tended to be much more handy and therefore confident in their manliness. A woman doing man's work would have been more of a curiosity than a threat. Going back even further to WW2 when women widely rolled their sleeves up and mucked in with hard labour on the farm, engineering work in the weapons factories and sneaking through the countryside in occupied France in the dead of night to carry out espionage missions....I don't see any wasp-chewing faces amongst the men in the old photos. For sure, they were delighted their women could step into their shoes and keep the country going and the guns churned out. The women who summoned up the strength and courage to learn new skills, work in tough conditions and keep the country going while the men were away are the heroes we don't know a lot about. The male side of things, however, is an industry unto itself and films are still being made to commemorate the men's sacrifices and achievements. Sadly, the fact it was a team effort is often overlooked.

Steph Leese started off doing a traditionally female job in HR. However, she was made redundant and had the chance to try something completely different. She chose plastering having learnt the trade from her ex-boyfriend and, clearly, she excelled in it. One thing is for sure: plastering competitions award the best plasterer. She was probably the winner because she was neat, cleaned up any mess, washed off her tools well and had attention to detail. Her feminine traits coupled with her strength and plastering ability combined to create the perfect plasterer. Sadly, the focus has been on how she looks and how old she is rather than on how good a plasterer she is.

I'm sure she didn't become a plasterer because she hates men or wanted to rob men of their jobs or masculinity, but that is what too many men have assumed, hence the vitriol. Steph has had to remove herself from social media and change her phone number three times to escape the abuse, which stooped as low as posting poo through her letterbox and sexualising her daughter. Given the shortage of tradesmen in the western world, men should be happy if a plasterer turns up at all, man or woman. Had men not shooed Steph off, perhaps the world of plastering could have learnt a few things from her. Perhaps British Gypsum could have done more to defend her against the trolls and, rather than stood by and watched her be abused, put her back on the pedestal they created and allowed her to shine her light. She was voted the best and she therefore had something to offer the industry....some tips and tricks perhaps that could have benefited others, a lost opportunity to become even better.

Sadly, such rabid reactions are due to men feeling attacked on all sides by the mainstream media, by feminists and by legal protocol. Men daren't be men anymore and they lash out at people they feel are the cause of this oppression. But they are misguided when they attack women like me or Steph Leese, just as they would have been misguided if they'd attacked the women who worked in the war effort. It wasn't the women's fault they had to work in the weapons factories and it's not my fault men are being oppressed by the system.

If men want to target the true culprits of the war on men they need to first know who the culprits are. It's not random capable women just doing what they can do to get by but the people in control of society. It's the people who control the entertainment industry and the people whose names we don't know who decide what direction society is going and whose agenda it is to remove the idea of the traditional man from the western world. One good place men can start shooting their guns in this fight is in their own home. How much time do they spend repairing things around the home or keeping a nice garden or vegetable patch compared to the time they spend in the pub or watching TV? How much effort do they make to pass on DIY skills to their sons (and daughters) compared to the time their sons spend playing video games or watching porn behind a closed bedroom door?

If men put their efforts into being men they wouldn't worry about what the odd woman was doing to her van because he would feel he was doing his bit, against all the odds, and that would, at the very least, relieve some frustration. Besides, it's not capable women men need to worry about taking over but robots. It's time men and women recognised the real enemy and banded together in the face of our existential threat.