On a couple occasions I have been known to browse tumblr. When browsing I often look at #feminist posts as I personally identify as a feminist myself and think that it is important to listen (or read) other peoples’ stories. More than once, although not many more, I have read the story of a woman going into a home depot, or store like it, and having employees assume that she had no idea what she was doing when she was fully capable find, buy and put to use everything she needed. In one story a man whom everyone assumed knew exactly what he was doing, in fact, desperately needed help and had never built anything before in his life.
(Quick Side Note: I’m down the road less than a mile from a kids camp and I think they just put a rooster up to a megaphone to wake everyone up…either that or that was the LOUDEST ROOSTER EVER!!! And I know how loud roosters can be.)
Anyway, back to home depot.
After today, I have a home depot story of my own, albeit a little different from these stories.
I went in looking to get some wood to make a clothes line, for my new found trailer living J and one that I am now very proud of and will be making a how-to post for. I had gone in with most of a plan but was wondering the lumber aisle looking at all the different sizes and lengths and seeing what they had so I could pick the perfect materials. I was in no rush so I meandered my way back and forth. While I was looking at the pressure treated ten foot 4x4s, a store employee (male) came up and politely asked if I needed any help, as I’m sure he would do to any customer staring blankly at a pile of wood.
I pondered for a moment thinking, Do I need help? What are all the things I need and do I know where they all are? After just a couple seconds I looked at him and said “No, thank you.”
He smiled, replied “Alright.” And kept walking. That was all.
I finished looking around, grabbed everything I needed, two 4x4s, one 2x4, a 2x2 along with some hook
screws and command hooks (to hang my animal calendar!) and made my way to the check-out line.
I was helped by a different employee, this time a woman and I was thinking to myself, How great is this? No one assumed I needed more than I let on and now I’m being helped by a woman working the lumber section! Last time I was there I was helped by a trans person, Go home depot!
But it was the friendly check-out counter conversation that ruined it all for me. She was probably just trying to be nice and make a connection, as many people do when working retail, but I wish she had done it another way. She took a look at what I had (not as though she could have avoided it while scanning everything) and told me “A piece of advice: Always try to get someone else to do it for you.” All while donning this ‘you know what I mean’ smile.
My first thought was, No way! This is my project, I want to do this all on my own, ain’t nobody else doing it for me. And I should have just let that role right off my tongue, but for some reason I didn’t. I tried to play it off with “Oh, haha, I don’t think I can pull that off this time.” The inner conflict avoider is strong in me.
She followed that up with “Yeah, but it’s still good advice.” Very matter of fact. She wasn’t asking my opinion of her advice, she was just letting me know that she was right. I smiled and walked out with my newly purchased lumber.
I wish I had stayed. I wish I had said something. That is terrible advice! For everyone! I mean, if there is something you need done and you legitimately are unable to do it yourself, that’s one thing. Actually, that’s not even in the same ballpark because that is just asking for help, which I don’t think pertains to what she was saying at all. What she meant was, never do something that you can coax someone else into doing for you. So I wish I had stayed and asked her a couple of questions.
Who exactly should I be getting to do these things for me? A family member? A friend? A big strong, good looking man? A stranger? By the 'you know what I mean' smile she had given me, I had at the time assumed the big strong man. But why would that be the go-to person? Because they are so willing to prove just how strong and manly they are? Well that is making a very large assumption about a great many people right there. It is perpetuating all of the expectations that we put on men and women that are completely stupid.
And how exactly should I be getting this strong man to do these things for me? With my womanly wiles? (another assumption I made from that face she made) So I am supposed to get myself all dolled up and pretend to be completely helpless, a real life damsel in distress, to trigger his need to prove he can do it, just so I don't have to? Well that is messed up on a few levels. If I were to simply ask someone, knowing full well that I am completely capable and not trying to hide it, to do things for me, why would they? Even if they were a good friend, there is no reason for them to because I wouldn't be acting very friendly towards them.
Next I would have liked to ask her what, exactly, should I be asking this strong man to do for me? Since I had some lumber and screws on my cart, I made another assumption. I assumed that she made the comment because of what I was buying meaning that she had projects in mind that require lumber and screws and possibly hammers and saws and screwdrivers, you know, the manly tools.
Lastly, why, exactly would I ask anyone to do something for me that I am fully capable of doing myself? Because I don't want to do it? But I do want to do it! I love that kind of stuff, taking pieces of wood or other materials and creating something useful out of them, it's the best! Am I getting them to do things for me because I can? Well that's a messed up reason. Maybe I can, but I think I shouldn't.
People should take responsibility into their own hands. If they need something done, they should do it themselves! If for nothing else, for some learning experience so next time you'll know how. Maybe then you can help someone else (help, not do it for them). And if you don't know how to do something or really aren't able to do it yourself without difficulty, asking for help is a great thing! Maybe you do something once and realize that it is just not for you, sure you can do it but it's the biggest drag since a zombies left foot. Asking for help is great then too. I would now like to stress the difference between asking someone to help you do something and asking them to do it for you.
I was talking about this to my partner and he made the comment that sexism against women exists in a lot of ways because it is pushed on to women by other women. I realize that I made an assumption or two about her and what she said and I tried to highlight what those assumptions were, but she made an assumption or two about me as well. She assumed that because I am a woman walking around home depot with some lumber and screws, there is a project that needs to be done and I would rather find a way to weasel out of physical labor and put that on someone else than do it myself. She was wrong. I feel good about myself when I am lifting lumber and using tools, I get joy out of physical labor and working hard, I try to find new ways to put my hands to work in the dirt every day. Not all women are this way, because we're all just people and not all people are that way.
People should really quit assuming they know anything about anyone and find new ways to make 30 second connections over a check-out counter. Maybe with a question: "Do you have a project for these?"