In the tradition of Ali vs. Frazier, Jobs vs. Gates, and Richards vs. Rinna comes mankind’s next great rivalry: linewives vs. bucket bunnies. It’s thanks to the TikTok algorithm that we ordinary civilians have recently become aware of this mighty conflict, which finds the spouses of storm-season electrical lineworkers—members of a predominantly male profession tasked with repairing electrical lines in disaster zones—pitted against the women supposedly trying to tempt their husbands away while they’re out in the field. (“Bucket” is the name for the container attached to a crane that lifts a lineworker up to the power lines.)
After Hurricane Ian hit a few weeks ago, the linewife-bucket bunny war escalated through videos of TikTokers gawking at the influx of linemen in affected areas—to which linewives responded with videos of their own, sassily telling these women to step off. To find out more, Slate spoke to a real linewife named Shanna Sage. Sage, 36, has been married to her lineman husband since 2015, and the two live in DeLand, Florida, where she runs Linewife.com and also works as an event manager at a bar. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Heather Schwedel: How long have you had your site, Linewife.com?
Shanna Sage: I’ve had my site since 2015. I’m just trying to relate to the ladies, because it sucks sometimes when our guys are gone. My husband’s in Puerto Rico right now. He’s been gone a month, since Flo hit. Fiona or Flo? I can’t remember the name of the hurricanes. They all run together this time of year. He spent six months there when Maria hit, so I went and visited him for a long weekend. And that was pretty much it that I saw him out of six months. It can be a really hard lifestyle. You have to be a strong, independent woman. You can’t be clingy or anything like that. You have to be able to stand on your own two feet when they’re gone.
How did you first find out about the community of other line girlfriends and linewives out there?
My husband’s a union lineman, and I met some girls at the hall, because it was their Christmas party. And then just by searching stuff on Facebook. I quickly found there’s a huge community and the women are very supportive. They’re very passionate about what their men do. I know there’s a lot of negativity sometimes or people saying that they become their husband’s job. But it’s really not, it’s more of a proud thing. Our husbands are doing something so wonderful to give back to people and turn the power on, or “harden the grid,” what they call when they maybe will put in concrete poles instead of wood poles, just to make them a little bit more resilient to storms. I’m super proud of my husband, he has excelled and done so much. Why not, you know? Why not wear a hat with lineman on it? Or a linewife shirt?
I don’t just have linewife friends, I’ve got a ton of other friends. But when my husband gets the call to go to Puerto Rico, I’m not going to call my military friend. I’m not going to call my friend that lives down the road. I’m gonna call my linewife friend, and be like, “Oh, man, he got the call. Did yours get the call?”
Now we have an influx of a lot of new young linemen, and some people are older and they still come into the trade. But there’s a lot of new blood. We’re getting a lot of women that are posting in a lot of groups like, “I don’t know what to do, it’s his first time on storm, what do I pack in his bag?” So then you have seasoned linewives that will come home and say, “Hey, this is a storm list that I have set up for you,” or “I know LineLife Foundation has a storm packing list so you can know what to pack him” and things like that.* Another big topic that people talk about is how to wash FR, which is fire- or flame-retardant, material that they wear. The shirts and their pants all has to be FR. It’s expensive. You can’t use fabric softener, you can’t use bleach, you can’t use oxy. It’s just detergent and that’s it.
This whole conversation about “bucket bunnies,” is that a term you’d heard before?
A bucket bunny is a woman who seeks out the attention, money or affection of a lineman for her own personal gain with no regard to if they’re married or in a committed relationship. It can also be said to be similar to buckle bunnies—which is what rodeo guys call them—or badge bunnies, or tag chasers, you get the point. It doesn’t have to have to just be line work, it could be military, law enforcement, or firefighters. So no matter what community, this is just a term that they have coined for the women that chase them.
I actually created a bucket bunny sticker almost two years ago now. We were hanging out with some friends and my one girlfriend turned me and she’s like, “Hey, can you make me a ‘No Bucket Bunnies’ sticker?” I said I absolutely can. And then I did one [that said “No Line Lice”] because the girls had asked for it. They said it sounded more disgusting, to fit the profile of a woman that would do what they’re doing.
Are women in the community really concerned about bucket bunnies?
Like I said before, it’s in all trades. It’s not just in line work. But there [are] specific women that will chase out and reach out to linemen in the areas and kind of try to get their attention, especially if they’re on storm. I know that if a man is not faithful, storm can be a very easy time to take advantage of the situation where your wife may not know what you’re doing, and you’re not calling her because most of the time when the guys work storms, they don’t really talk to their family that much because they’re busy working. So they can get away with things. Nobody needs to know. If they pay cash in a strip club, how’s anybody gonna know they’re gonna be there, you know? Or if they meet some girl on Tinder—that’s another thing that’s on TikTok—a lot of them are probably single.
But the other thing that’s happening too is the women are fighting back. They’re making fake Tinder accounts and ratting out these guys to their wives and stuff. They are cutthroat. I always said that linewives are a different breed. They have grit. If there’s something that you need to find, a linewife will find it. And if she can’t, she’ll pose it to a group and some other woman will find it.
Has your husband actually witnessed bucket bunnies in action?
At the bars, and maybe restaurants and stuff like that, you know, a server might get a little fresh with the linemen, just because she knows they make good money. He doesn’t pay it no mind. It’s not his thing. Some guys get into it and he just tries to distance himself from it because it’s not something that he wants to be a part of.
And you were saying that linemen make really good money. How much?
In California, you can make $300,000 a year. In Florida, it’s a little bit less. It depends on whatever state they’re working in, or whatever the union hall.
Are the online communities you’re part of discussing bucket bunnies all the time?
It pops more in storm season. Not so much in ice storm season, but in hurricane season. I feel like the South, the Southern women are a little bit more boisterous about it than women up north. But you don’t really hear about it too much throughout the year. Every once in a while you might hear somebody mention something. A couple of the groups, they banned the words TikTok and bucket bunny just because it gets a little escalated and then Facebook will flag it and then the group might get removed so they have to like censor a lot of that stuff.
Was this recently that they banned those words?
I want to say it’s been about a year. They just say like “TK” [instead of TikTok] or they’ll put something like that. And everybody knows what they’re talking about. But just like with the bucket bunny stuff last year, when it first started to get a little bit more heated, people were posting stuff in the group and it just escalated with comments and people bashing back and forth. And then there was accusations that bucket bunnies are trying to join the linewife pages and … linewives are feisty.
How do the fights about bucket bunnies usually go?
Most of the time, it’s either somebody just saying like, “You should just leave him,” “Let him have the bucket bunny,” “Don’t waste your time.” And then some other people are saying, “Well, you know, you don’t know what her story is. And he could have told her something else. Or maybe she didn’t know.” Women can be cruel. I know men can be cruel. But sometimes women can be really cruel with what they say instead of being supportive.
Are some people strategizing about how to protect themselves and their husbands from bucket bunnies?
Some of the wives, they’ll talk about how they track their [husband’s] spending, like where they’re at, or they have their location. Most of the guys have their locations on to where their wives can figure out where they‘re at, in case something happens. Sometimes when they’re working storm and you don’t hear from them until like almost midnight, sometimes you get worried like, “Are they alive? Did something happen?” You know, your anxiety gets you.
Today I was looking at the site and somebody was talking about her husband was out at the strip club. She Googled what the charge was, I think on a credit card, and it came up as a strip club. But the women were saying like, “Maybe it wasn’t” because it wasn’t like a strip name.
Most women say either they met on Tinder or they bumped into each other at like a gas station or something stupid like that, the stories that I’ve heard in the linewife pages. I know there was a strip club in New Orleans that put on their sign about free lap dances for the lineman that gets our power restored, the crew to get the power restored. So that was a big topic. A lot of ladies were upset about that.
And we’ve been talking all about linewives and linemen—are there any linewomen?
There are. They’re starting to become more and more a thing. I don’t know how I feel about it, though. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Like I don’t think that they’re going to be chasing our husbands or anything like that. It’s more of like–how I put this nicely?—I want them to be able to pull their weight. I don’t want the guys to have to step up and pull their weight because they can’t pull their weight.
What do you think it is about linemen that makes them such a hot commodity?
They’re blue-collar men. They’re hard workers. Most of them are muscular—most of them. They like to work. I mean, instead of having some guy that’s a computer nerd that’s sittin’ in front of a computer, you have a guy that’s roughed up and can fix anything and can figure things out and adapt and overcome and do what he needs to do, no matter what the situation is.
Correction, Oct. 11, 2022: This post originally misidentified the LineLife Foundation as the Limelight Foundation.