New feature: Do It Yourself? How about Do It Ourselves

// 6 April 2008

Is it feminist to be able to fix your own plumbing? Where are all the female tradespeople? Rhona-Mairead Sweeting considers the place of feminism in the construction industry and manual trades

All those years of reading books, absorbing the feminist polemic and pursuing equality in all areas have recently, for me, been brought crashing down by a simple realisation.

I am rubbish at DIY.

Having been brought up within a staunchly feminist family, I’ve always thought of myself as reasonably independent – you know, pretty handy with a screwdriver, a wheel jack and a spanner. However, I have spent much of the last month and a half feeling, by turns, annoyed, exasperated and woefully inadequate, as it transpires that neither my significant other nor I are anywhere near competent when it comes to slightly more complex household repair jobs than hitting a tap with a hammer.

As we are in the process of having our beautiful yet comedically quirky Edwardian home renovated, I have recently spent a large chunk of my time inviting a succession of tradesmen (I don’t use the word lightly) into our home. While this is irritating and expensive in itself, what is even more irritating has been the attitude of most of the Neanderthals that have stomped into my hall, demanding tea and the approval of ‘my better half’ before proceeding with any work.

Read on here

Photo by addictedimage, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Grace // Posted 7 April 2008 at 10:35 am

I’m rubbish at DIY too for the most part. I’m more creative than practical. I too have experienced the same crap from maintenance men (this is what I call them as I rent and they are employed by the owner/letting agent). My dad is a builder and I used to help him out so out of me and my partner, I am the one who is more likely to have a clue what the MMs are talking about, but they automatically look to my partner for approval. They also like to refer to us as students and then act shocked when I tell them what we actually do.

To be fair the ones we’ve had in our new house seem much better, they actually use my name instead of ‘luv’ and they don’t try to fob me off with crap about how good their work is. Unfortunately, the ones from the old place are currently renovating the house two doors down from me, so I’m not rid of them yet!

When I own my own house *i* can paint the walls the colour I want them, and will get my dad to do things that I can’t do. Not because he’s a man but because he’s skilled at it. I’m glad to be skilled in what I am good at and know that my dad would not be able to do it, so I have achieved my status in a different way :)

The most recent painter man was actually really cool about my job and we had a chat about it, and he said he couldn’t do it. They should clone him for all jobs I think ;)

Stephie // Posted 7 April 2008 at 3:03 pm

Great article. I wouldn’t be the best at the ould DIY, but I’d know enough to get by. My parents only live down the road and I must admit, anything that seems mildly tricky in the house – I ring my Dad for. Not because he’s a man, but more because he’s skilled at it. I know if I ask him to show me how to do something – he’ll show me. When me and my sister were little, she had her heart set on being a mechanic and I swear she could pratically take the engine of a Lambretta apart and put it back together again by the time she was 8.

The other thing is of course, that my partner “hasn’t hands to bless himself” as my Nana would say. I’d be terrified if he started changing plugs and whatnot – I would live in constant fear of electrical fires. I’d rather change the plug myself to be honest. And I know he’d make a balls of the kitchen walls if I let him loose with a paint-brush!

On a funny note, my Nana’s partner got me this very handy large torch for Christmas, which contained a mini-tool kit inside. It was, of course…pink. Cos if girls have tools, they just have to be pink dontcha know!Oh dear ;)

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