'˜No women allowed' says boss of Scottish Men's Sheds Association

Jason Schroeder, the organisation's executive officer says women should be banned.
Retired chef Bill Louden, 70, and Alan Eastell, 73, at the original Mens Shed in Westhill, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia/SWNSRetired chef Bill Louden, 70, and Alan Eastell, 73, at the original Mens Shed in Westhill, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia/SWNS
Retired chef Bill Louden, 70, and Alan Eastell, 73, at the original Mens Shed in Westhill, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Hemedia/SWNS

The association encourages men to take part in carpentry, joinery, gardening or car repairs as a way of meeting people and overcoming their anxieties by talking “shoulder to shoulder” with new friends.

But the growing number of women joining Men’s Sheds has now provoked a banning order from the founder of the movement in Scotland.

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The idea of setting up dedicated spaces for men to meet up and take part in activities - ranging from carpentry and joinery to gardening and car repairs - was originally inspired by an Australian project.

The success of the initiative means there are now 75 sheds open in Scotland, and a further 45 planned.

Despite the name, a proportion of the sheds - which set their own rules - are mixed-sex, welcoming women as well as men.

But Jason Schroeder, executive officer of Scottish Men’s Sheds Association, who founded the first shed in Scotland in 2009, said the issue of whether to admit women was causing “confusion” in the movement.

He said: “As soon as women get involved, the whole dynamic changes in the shed and the men’s behaviour changes. Some women are possibly perceiving this is some remnant patriarchal concept but it’s not.

“This is now becoming very confusing and the message we need to start getting out there is this is a health initiative for men. As far as I am concerned men’s sheds are 100% a male health initiative to help our men stay healthy longer and to give back and have a purpose again in life when they have time on their hands.

“So absolutely no women in Men’s Sheds - that is the stand.”

Jason said the advice he gave to sheds when asked what to do if women were interested in joining was to explain the reasons for keeping it men only - such as having the space to discuss health issues - or try having one mixed day a week. He claimed there were even concerns from some wives of husbands who attend that women who joined up would be “looking for husbands”.

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He added: “This is a social place for men to relax in their own company. They don’t have to watch their Ps and Qs, they can have their own type of banter. They can talk about prostates and all sorts of health issues which they are never going to talk about in front of women.”

One of the Scottish Men’s Sheds welcoming women is in Dunoon where the only female member, Ceci Alderton, became involved through her husband, Robert and is now a trustee secretary on the board for the shed.

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The 58-year-old, from Strachur, said she had been welcomed by the group and enjoyed the opportunity to take part in activities such as upholstery and furniture renovation.

She said: “It depends on the shed whether it is open to women. I am aware of views in other sheds where one guy said if a woman comes in here I am leaving’.

“Some men view the shed as a way to escape from their womenfolk and have some men time.

“Men are freer by themselves to talk about men’s things. But some do welcome women and women are still in the minority.

“You almost have to be one of the boys to fit in well - it is open to women, but they have to take it as what it is, which is focused around traditionally what has been regarded as men’s skills and boys toys’.”

“When I started, the guys used to apologise for swearing in front of me, but they don’t do that any more.”

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Ceci said she would encourage other women to join, but pointed out it was primarily intended as a support network for men.

“I think there would be resistance if a load of women came in and tried to change it,” she added.

A report last year from Age Scotland outlined the positive impact of the Men’s Shed movement, saying it can play a huge role in reducing loneliness and isolation.

Last month it was announced academics at Glasgow Caledonian University will study the “shed effect” and the impact it can have on the health and wellbeing of members.

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