What’s Holding Us Back

fear-itself

I’ve been putting off this post for a long time. I probably should have written it three years ago. But, each time, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to write about negativity on my blog. I want this to be a positive and empowering space for people (especially women) to be inspired to pick up a power tool and/or complete that DIY project they’ve been putting off.”

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This past week I witnessed and endured something that made my blood boil. Supposed DIY experts belittling women. Most of the behavior wasn’t blatant, it was subtle. Some of it was body language (crossed arms, wide leg stance and a scowl while being asked a question.) And some of it was not so subtle with a condescending comment or tone. And this behavior made me mad. No—take that back—it burned me up inside!

Why? Because I have a dream that one day when any woman walks into a hardware store or a home improvement store it will NOT BE ASSUMED that she isn’t handy or that she is incapable of completing a major home renovation or repair. I dream that there will be a day that the stereotypes about women and men will cease to exist. And I know that any woman that is belittled or turned away from DIY is one less step toward my dream.

lumber_in_acadiaSandra of SawdustGirl.com and myself

Therefore, I think it’s time to address that big fat wall that’s holding us back. What is it that scares you about DIY? Is it the fear of a power tool? The fear of screwing something up?  Of injuring yourself? Of breaking something?

Well, it’s time to break down that wall!

First, you need to peel back those layers and really address why you don’t think you can. Did you get messages from others that became part of your beliefs about your own abilities?

How was that wall built? Did it start when you were a child? Did your Dad or Mom tell you not to touch a tool for fear you might hurt yourself? Did your Uncle or neighbor laugh at you when they saw you trying to fix something? What was it? Usually that wall is a culmination of years of messages that get embedded into your brain, until you are stripped of the self confidence necessary to try something new.

Do any of these messages sound familiar:

  • “That’s a man’s job. Let a man do it.”
  • “You might break it.”
  • “You’re not strong enough.”
  • “Why don’t you hire a professional?”
  • “Here, let me help you with that.”
  • “Stand back, I’ll take care of it.”
  • “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Or was it a more subtle message from a professional or someone more experienced who threw a bunch of technical jargon at you making you feel confused or inferior.

I want to share with you some of the nasty comments I receive (especially on YouTube.) The comments are direct assaults on my self esteem and confidence. After reading them, I often begin to doubt my own abilities. Here are just a few of those nasty comments:

  • You really should remove your power tool tutorials. Some idiot is going to seriously hurt themselves.
  • What she is saying is completely wrong esp the part about wetting the caulk but at least she is trying.
  • Woman, you do it wrong
  • Get back in the kitchen where you belong.
  • Women shouldn’t use MAN tools. There is a reason god made you bare children and born with a frying pan in your hand.. This is the same as being a lesbian in my book seeing a woman pick up a tool!

AND then this person left a reply to that last degrading comment:

“Hey dude with the negative comments toward women… disrespectful !  Why can’t a women use power tools?  She can do whatever she likes.  I think you are old school curmudgeon that is afraid of women, and in controlling what they do, that keeps you feeling like KING SHIT ON TURD ISLAND.  Newsflash – we’re in 2014 – get used to it loser!  I hope you are man enough to apologize to Brittany for your loser comments.”

I wanted to high five that commenter! He had it right. There are a lot of people who are threatened by women who can DIY. They view it as a threat to their masculinity. Heaven forbid a woman realize that using a power tool or fixing something isn’t rocket science.

Let me be the first to tell you. You CAN do it! That wall of negative and self-deprecating messages is going to come down NOW! No offense to anyone who is a plumber or knows a plumber, but I sincerely doubt that you have any less brain cells than that guy who’s mooning you while trying to fix your leaky sink. He just has a little more knowledge and experience at tightening slip nuts and p-traps (sorry, I didn’t mean to throw out the technical jargon.) However, when that plumber started, he had no more expertise than you do. He may have been trained in an apprenticeship or trade school But, lucky for you, today there is a wealth of resources to teach you how to fix anything! YouTube, Google, FamilyHandyman.com and many many many blogs that will help you complete a DIY project using step-by-step tutorials!

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Still fearful of using a power tool? Well, here are the facts. If you are safety conscious, you will take the time to read the manual and go slow when learning how to use a new power tool. You will have less of a risk of injuring yourself than a seasoned pro. Why is that? I call it the healthy fear factor. If you respect the tool and have a healthy fear of it, you will double-check that you are keeping your hands and body away from the tool. You will be sure that your hair is tied back and you have removed any jewelry or loose clothing. You will not rush through a cut or task. You will give that tool your full attention and make sure that you are staying safe.

A few years ago one of my favorite contractors told me he had to retire. He had accidentally cut off one of his fingers. This is a man who had been building and fixing for decades! And he cut his finger off. How? He told me, “Brittany, I was stupid. I did not respect that tool and it bit me. I was rushing through a job and cut my finger off with an angle grinder. I’ve used that tool hundreds of times and was complacent and didn’t give it my full attention.” And that is why it is important to ALWAYS respect the tool. It’s okay to have a healthy fear of power tools! In fact, it is what will keep you safe.

I encourage you to take a hard look at that wall of negative attitudes about DIY.

Don’t let someone rob you of your self confidence. If you are reading this post, know that you are an intelligent human being who is capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Grab that wall and pull it down. Believe in yourself and tackle that DIY project. I’m here if you have questions. I’m here to give you positive encouragement. Just think to yourself, “What Would Pretty Handy Girl say?” and build up a platform of positive thoughts and messages so you can dive off the top of that wall of crap!

What’s the worst that can happen if you do try to fix or build something? If you screw it up, so what! Call in that professional. But, stick right by his or her side and watch how they fix it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. AND hopefully they will keep their butt crack inside their pants. Should you succeed at the project, rejoice! Celebrate and share with your girlfriends. Let’s break down the stereotype wall together.

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Feel free to leave a comment below about that time you were talked down to or someone made a condescending remark. Let’s all lift each other up and reassure one another that we can do it! High fives all around!

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P.s. This post is dedicated to my blogging friend and fellow power tool wielding DIY Rock Star! You go girl! 

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Comments

  1. Thank you SO much for this! You and so many other DIY women have inspired me to be (as my husband proudly says) “dangerously self confident”. I love that description of myself and I have women like you to thank for it.

    When I was pregnant with baby number 5 I built a new dining room table and also designed and built a co-sleeper (the most traffic I get on my blog is for those instructions). I also made a few videos on how to use an HVLP spray paint gun (because I couldn’t find anything that assumed someone was a beginner).

    I got ONE comment on those five videos and it was some nasty guy who told me what an idiot I was because I was doing it while pregnant.

    I wrote this response to him on my blog :) I didn’t post it directly on his comment on youtube because I didn’t want to start a war, but writing it was SO cathartic :)

    http://ordinaryhappilyeverafter.com/blog/2012/10/dear-commenter/

    • Courtney, good for you for trying to spread the knowledge and posting those videos. And love that you wrote that reply to the YouTube commenter! Thanks for your comment.

  2. I LOVE THIS! And my blood is boiling right along with you! I absolutely loathe that mentality about women. I’m so glad to see you tackle this issue- despite the situation being negative(the stupid comments etc), this post is absolutely empowering! I agree that often times it really is someone feeling threatened by it, and they lash out. Kudos to the commenter who stuck up for you and all women, really!

  3. terry wilson says:

    Thank heavens! I get so tired of having to dig to find out simple things men take for granted (how to drive a nail straight or how and when to use a nail gun). I just wish they would make all tools easier to use. Why do you have to have the strength of an elephant to get tighten a bit in a drill. Why don’t they make good gloves for women and stock them in the big box stores. I am a single woman (age 62) who has learned to try many things considered “manly”. I am teaching my self to build bee hives because I am a bee keeper.
    I do not know of any tool be it a hammer or a dish cloth that is stamped male or female.

  4. Oh, my gosh! Everytime I walk into a hardware store with my husband they always talk to him. At least, until he says they need to talk to me b/c he doesn’t do our DIY stuff! One time, I almost got into an argument b/c the guy was telling me I couldn’t hang my porch swing like I was describing. I had to go home, look at my research again… and then go back and get the stuff without asking!

    That sucker is still up there, so I guess I did it right!

    Girl power, yo.

    P.S. LOVED seeing you againg at Haven. Rock on.

  5. Mary Barber says:

    No doubt I am considerably older than you (73). I can remember a time when a woman was really out of place in a hardware store or lumber yard, unless of course, she came in with her husband. I was incensed when I would go to purchase a part or supply I needed when the employee, a man, of course, would imply that my husband should be one in there to make the purchase since he would know exactly what I needed. That is when I decided I would learn the proper names of the parts and what they were used for. I feel I gained new respect that way but it did take a long time. I was fortunate enough to be married to a man who encouraged me to learn to do as much as I could to work with my hands. We worked side by side on many projects and I took on some on my own. After his death, I continued to do the maintenance work on our house and have done very well. The only thing I am uncomfortable with is electrical so when I need help in that department I do not hesitate to call a professional. There are still men out there who don’t respect women and their abilities but we have come a long way, baby!

    • Mary Barber, I have a huge amount of respect for you. And I know things are getting better and we are all working together to break down the stereotypes. You go girl!!!

  6. This reminds of the time just after we bought our first house and we’d go to the local hardware store and I’d ask the employees my questions about the projects we were thinking of tackling and he’d turn and answer to my husband … who finally chimed in and said “Dude, I have no idea what she’s talking about, you should talk to her, she’s the one who is asking and is going to do the work”. I do think a key to success is not even giving those attitudes a second thought. And I’m so bummed we didn’t get a chance to hang out more at Haven, I felt like every time I saw you one of us was dragged away by something. Glad we got our photos though!!

    • Karah, it’s so wonderful to have men that are willing to stand behind us and point out the idiotic views that women aren’t handy! Great seeing you too and hope we get to see each other sooner than next year.

  7. Toni now in Washington says:

    Your post brought tears to my eyes! Tears of joy! I am recently divorced, after 35 years, and have a old (almost as old as me!) single wide trailer at the beach. I WANT to do the work myself. Unfortunately I often talk myself out of it. Lack of experience as much as lack of confidence. I see many projects done on vintage travel trailers and that is what I want to do with “Lucy” (doesn’t everyone name their trailer?) but on a larger scale. I have been afraid to start even the simplest project. Other than painting, I’m pretty good at painting. But now, this post, has me excited again about doing things myself! Once fall comes, I will start….okay, maybe taking out a closet and replacing the birch paneling that was standard on these old trailers is a little start but I WILL do it. For now, it’s yardwork, lots of yardwork. New skills learned here have been how to terrace a yard and learning to use a rototiller. And I am sanding and painting the exterior. Thank you! I’m keeping this post for positive reinforcement!

    • Toni, you go girl! I know you can take on much more than you give yourself credit for. Take it one task at a time and don’t be afraid to mess up. I hope you send me pictures of Lucy in the future!

  8. This coming September it will be 41 years since I joined the Army. During the three years I was in, I was stationed in 3 countries – the U.S. for school, Thailand, and Germany – and had two types of jobs – in an operations building manning a direction finding station and teletype and a field position which required me to build antenna fields. No one acted like I couldn’t do it. Everyone was expected to pull their own weight. My first experience with prejudice came from a black male sergeant who made my last few months in the service miserable. As far as he was concerned, I had 3 strikes against me – 1) I was a woman. 2) I was married. and 3) I was a married woman in the service. He’s probably the reason I got out of the Army when I did. However, that was the *only* experience with sex-bias I ran into the entire time I was in.

    Life after I got out was vastly different. You have to understand, I *expected* to be treated the same as anyone else, male or female; I *expected* to earn what I was worth; I *expected* to be able to have any job I wanted. After all, my high school years were during a time when women were fighting for equal rights. It was an empowering age to be in, I can promise you that. I bought into it, hook line and sinker and I still believe in it very strongly.

    My husband’s uncle told me – to. my. face. – that only two types of women joined the service – lesbians and hookers. Before I walked out (It wouldn’t have been polite to sock him one.), I asked him which one he thought I was. He eventually apologized.

    I’ve worked in typical women’s professions (administrative assistant, office manager, accounts payable and receivable, etc) and am currently employed as a landscape gardener, a position I have greatly enjoyed for the past 12 years. Recently, I went to the VA arthritis specialist because my hands were killing me and learned I have carpel tunnel in both hands. Both the doctor who did the nerve conduction test and the RA physicians did a double-take when they learned what my current profession was. Some of that is probably because of my age (I’m 59), but I’m sure most of it was because of my sex. “You’ve come a long way, baby.” indeed. ~sigh~

    I look forward to the day when jobs are no longer defined by sex and when women earn equal pay for equal work and when comments like the ones you have had to endure are censured by the entire community and not just one commenter. Keep up the good work, Brittany. You are an inspiration to us all.

  9. THANK YOU! We need your encouragement ….

  10. Nancy B of Lake Stevens says:

    Brittany, yesterday I paid 2 handymen $60 per hour each for a total of 4man hours of work. Add in the charge for the service call??? and the tax, I paid out $304.08. What for you ask.They put up one drapery rod, raised another drapery rod, installed a towel bar, installed 2 hook and rail units, installed a new shelf in a closet, notched a baseboard and nailed it to a bookcase, notched 3 slats for a bed and replaced the little round inset door pulls on a closet door. Tools? an battery powered screwdriver and a small saw. Now I am 68 yrs old but I gotta tell you I am getting me one of those DeWalt drill/screwdrivers thingies (got to figure out what is what) with the little light in it for the next round of drapery rods, etc. Thanks for the support.

  11. Amen, Brittany. I will never forget when we first moved into our home and a plumber was here fixing something and he asked me where my husband kept the screwdriver. I informed him that my husband wouldn’t know where I keep the screwdriver.
    You have always been so helpful when I’ve had DIY questions, so I encourage your readers to take you seriously when you say we can ask you questions. Thank you for that. And thank you for writing this. It’s so important. Thank you, thank you.

  12. Tambarino says:

    This is my first comment on your blog, although I have been stopping by to look at your projects for a long time. As a young girl, my mom worked in a machine shop. I watched her singlehandedly take our water heater apart to repair the heating element. It never occurred to me that girls could not repair or build things. Surely, I thought, being able to grow facial hair is not a requirement to use a drill or a saw or a nail gun. These things are no more difficult to use than a sewing machine or a mixer or a vacuum cleaner.

    Generally, when I visit our local big box hardware store, I am greeted by helpful employees who answer my questions without hesitation. Occasionally, someone will appear pleasantly surprised that I am a DIYer. Rarely, however, I will get the ol’ “Why isn’t your husband buying this lumber?” or the ever popular, “When your husband installs this faucet, remind him to…” or the crowd pleasing, “What is your husband building?” I feel your pain! :-)

    Happily, our 22 year old daughter isn’t the least bit afraid to pick up a hammer or screwdriver. Girl power!!

    Thanks for your awesome blog.

  13. I love this post soooo much!!!!! You keep on preachin’ it, girl! I love your blog, I’m always telling my husband about your projects, or tools you’ve recommended. (We have some power tool envy. lol) I’m constantly talking my husband into another insane remodel in our house (like gut down to the studs overhauls) and I’ve learned so much working alongside him over the years. I now have friends asking if they can come over and learn how to use power tools at my house. I love it!

    Your blog and your work is inspiring women everywhere. You’ve taken the mystery out of power tools for so many. Keep up the good work!!!

  14. I’m really glad you posted this. I have a different option of a certain company about what I heard about this past weekend and I hope it gets resolved.

    I know what it’s like to hear men say ignorant things to women. I was at a market once looking at tools when the vendor yelled to me “Hey honey, come over here. We have PINK tools just for you.” I’m lucky my husband grabbed my shoulders and guided me away from the scene before I could reply. He knew I was furious.

    I know that this blog and Sandra’s are making a positive difference and hope you both keep than in mind in tough times. Love you both!

  15. I am always astonished when a woman tells me I am brave to do DIY. My answer is always if I screw it up I can call a professional but I’m going to try first. I am now 58 and I am seeing myself start to doubt what I can do because I’m getting older. This attitude frightens me. I have always felt I could do anything a man could do. So I am going to work on this attitude. You are great Brittany.

  16. GREAT post, Brittany! Though now you’ve got me curious about what was uttered (not that I haven’t heard a lot of it before). I absolutely hate knowing that I’ll get treated 100% differently walking through the hardware store in a dress from work versus my paint-and-dust-covered weekend garb. I’m doubted. I can hear it immediately in the veiled tone when I’m offered help in the lumber aisle (apparently thinking and looking for what I want indicates I must be completely helpless and lost – SAVE ME FROM THE MOLDING!).

    One of the nastiest comments I’ve received on my site was “Oh, you don’t cook or clean, you like power tools, and you’re SINGLE? SHOCKER.” (Obviously, never made it to the approved comments, but just as obviously, is still something I can recite word-for-word after two years of seeing it.)

    Whenever I am asked to speak about blogging and DIY, it is made clear that part of what people are interested in is that I’m a petite little woman wielding power tools by myself like it’s NBD. And it has this uncanny ability to both simultaneously make me proud to represent a group of powerful women who DON’T see themselves as incapable, but also pisses me off BIG TIME that the fact that I’m a woman is why they are so interested. It’s so unusual, they seem to imply.

    You’re absolutely right that it’s a LOT about fear. Both what is outright told to us, implied in front of us, or created from our own assumptions that we don’t want to confront the stereotype. I remember saying a while back to another blogger, “that freakout you know is looming on a project? That’s fear. Knowledge kicks it in the teeth.” And it’s stuck with me as one of those things I wish I’d said more often to others AND to myself. I think it sometimes realizing that you need to start listening to your own inner voice becomes more and more important as people throw doubt your way.

    I make a point to write my tutorials with the expectation that either gender is reading it. I work diligently against the “I can’t” voice in my head. I don’t feel compelled to say in my posts, “I’m a woman, and here’s how a woman can do this.” I think that’s one of the most important things I can do; I’m not sure how this will sound comment-wise, but I have always strived to NOT be a woman-with-power-tools brand but rather a power-tool-hungry DIYer instead. I don’t want to call attention to my gender… I feel that when I do, I only reinforce the assumption that it’s something unique, something to be pointed at as different. I want men to think that my advice is just as good (or better) than the guy at the hardware store, and that guy never says “Well, as a guy, here’s how I would do it.” Sure, I do things on my own a lot, but it is not and should not my GENDER that’s the challenge. And for other people to assume that on my behalf is what makes me want to throw hammers.

    Thank you for always being a DIY champion. I admire you so much and appreciate all of your advice and encouragement. And Sandra too. YOU BRILLIANT BADASSES, YOU.

    • Sarah, you are one amazing, talented and beautiful woman inside and out! I hope one day you have someone in your life that truly realized how great you are! Until then, I appreciate your blog and everything you do to help break down these stereotypes!

  17. I was falling asleep before reading this and now I’m all fired up!
    Fortunately I have usually always come across very polite salespeople in the hardware stores and home centers. Other places generally male-occupied? Not so much…lol
    In reading your fabulous blog tonight, a few things come to mind. The first thing is that you, Brittany, have accomplished so many things in your house, AND have a lovely family, AND blog about all of it, all you have to do is look at anything you have done if any doubt comes into your mind. The one thing that is clear to me is that just because a person happens to be male, absolutely does not qualify him for DIY or using any tools in general. Our culture just expects it.
    I’ve looked up several of your tutorials when working on stuff around the house, and when I first came across your blog, even though I was always a diy’er, I realized there was even more I could do myself.
    Thanks for the great post!

  18. Good for you! My 35 year old sister AND her husband still hire people to change their lightbulbs and hang pictures. (granted they are in a really high ceiling for the light bulbs, but for heaven’s sake, they should buy a ladder and be done with it :)

  19. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post – I tackle small/simple DIY projects myself – mostly the cosmetic ones – it took me 6 months to take down the stone around my fireplace replace it with glass tile and faux paint my living room walls but I enjoyed doing it – yes, I have had friends say why dont I hire a professional – but for what? There was a so called professional who the owners before me hired to paint the house before I moved in and there wasn’t a straight line around! I have been a long time reader, but don’t comment often but could not resist this time!

  20. Thank you so much for this article. I have been building since I was a toddler. I was never interested in playing with dolls but I did build many houses for them! My parents could never understand me or why I was compelled to make things and for that reason, never supported me. As an adult, I took up welding with a local sculptor. He taught me everything he knew and then I taught him everything I knew. After my apprenticeship I started teaching others. I am now an award winning metal sculptor and over the past 20 years I have taught thousands of students, including many teachers. A few years ago, my Mother met my mentor and told him how impressed she was with my work. He said to her ” Imagine where she’d be right now if you had encouraged her when she was young!”. Please don’t ever let anyone discourage you. Don’t let their negativity make you question who you are and what you can do. Always aspire to do more. Invent things. Share your knowledge. Enjoy your success and learn from your failures. Above all, keep learning, experimenting and enjoying whatever challenges life hands to you. If you do, you will have an amazing life!

  21. Joyce T. says:

    Thank you for this post. I, like many who have replied here, have spent some miserable moments in hardware stores and other male bastions like plumbing supply stores. I am also of an age where that was not unusual. I am 63. Fortunately, my father was the kind of guy who wanted me to be a lady, but I had to show him I could change the tire on my car by myself before I could drive it. I am still amused that he was caught off-guard when I joined the Army in 1975 (He had hated it when he was drafted. + he was also concerned only 2 kinds of women joined the military). I spent 25 years in (10 years active & 15 years reserve….all in maintenance….and I loved it…..and I was good at it.)

    Now my sister and I are renovating her kitchen. We live in a little college town where too many people earn their living sitting on their butts. So the trades people think they should be able to earn their living with equally small effort. There are so many BAD renovations in this town, it is ridiculous. We did her laundry room last year. To the studs and back. This year, the kitchen. We figure if anything gets too, too hard we can always hire someone……but we are painfully aware that we may get as bad a job as if we had done it ourselves.

    We appreciate all your tutorials and your blog. Thank you, Brittany.

  22. Mark R Huffer says:

    Just a few thoughts from the other side of the gender line…
    I’ve followed this blog for some time and never thought once about this subject. Perhaps it’s my ignorance in that even in 2014 women are still subjected to preconceived roles in this world. Or it could be that I never thought about it because I’ve considered your posts informative and relatable. Just because I’m a guy doesn’t make me any more adept at hammering, cutting, or measuring.
    Brittany, you’re doing great work on your home. Great work documenting it on your blog. And great work explaining it to your readers. Keep up the awesome work.
    OH, and never read YouTube comments. It’s the equivalent of peering into society’s port-o-potty.

    • Mark, thank you sooooo much for chiming in. I had worried that this post may seem like I was bashing the opposite sex. I apologize if it sounded negative. You are absolutely right that neither sex is more adept at being handy. I do think we’ve come a long way, but there are still stereotypes that continue to suppress women. I hope that we can all work together to break them down.

  23. Dear Brittany, I am so encouraged to read your blog. I actually made a photobox using your tutorial from a while back. I admit that I am deathly afraid of saws. I couldn’t even get up the courage to try while at Haven Conference. But you my dear have encouraged met to work on my fear. I’m not sure why I am afraid of saws; maybe it is more rooted in the notion that “I can’t do it”….. thank you for this post and although I did not get to meet you personally at Haven, I did sit in on your session and really enjoyed the content. Keep empowering women!

    • Blondie, I hope you will come to Haven again next year and I hope you will get up and use a saw. If not, you must find me and we’ll do it together! You can do it girl! You can! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  24. You girls make me proud! Stand up, stand strong and stand your ground.

  25. Kathryn says:

    Fantastic post! And very timely for me, thanks. It helps me a lot to remember the people who are/were supportive, like my great aunt who gave me a set of hand tools for Christmas because she felt that all women should have them. You are now on that “supportive people” list too. I’m going to bookmark this!

  26. Bravo!!!
    Well said!
    Thank you!

  27. Nat Green says:

    I’ve been blessed with a family of 3 women from Texas and their “take no S*** from anyone” spirit. The hundreds of others like them I saw at Haven last weekend was evidence that strength, purpose and enthusiasm is alive and well in all corners of the DIY/blogging world.
    I’m ignorant enough to think that you don’t run into issues like you’re addressing here, and I’m sorry you do.
    All I can say is you’ve got everything to be confident about and don’t let the bastards get you down. They’re just petty losers with reptile minds who probably don’t enjoy their time on earth like you all do. Live to Build and Enjoy!

  28. I am so glad I read this post today. I was at Haven this weekend and I took an amazingly wonderful Tile class from Sawdust Girl, it really opened my eyes and made me think I CAN use power tools! I ended up taking every class I could that had a power tool in it, rather than the blogging ones I had planned on.

    Yesterday I went to my local lumber store to ask some questions and get information about a floor I would like to install in my home….I was met with exactly this type of attitude from the man behind the counter. He didn’t even want to give me some of the information until I told him it was for my husband. After I left the store I thought “What am I doing?! I took a couple of classes I can’t do this.” I was totally bummed…..until I read this. I CAN do my floors, I can use all the power tools I want, and do a damn good job!

    Thanks for the encouragement and taking the time to write this post. I met you for only a minute at Haven, I wish I would have given you a big hug. :)

  29. Amen Brittany!
    I grew up on a farm and my Dad taught me how to do everything. There was never any talk about girls can’t fix stuff. I had a knack for building and fixing on the farm (and there was always something to fix.) It wasn’t until HS that I would hear things like ‘that’s not a girl job’, but I already knew I could do anything so I’d ignore them. In college, it was Me and 72 guys in the school of Mechanical Engineering. Early on one of them said ‘oh you need the guys to help you do your homework’. Of course, it made me mad – so I did all of my HW myself to prove that I didn’t need them…it was hard, but I did it.
    I’ve run across a lot of really nice guys in the woodworking community and some builders that are really helpful and will share tips and tricks. I glean as much of that as I possibly can. And then there are the jerks who have to make the girl comments, I take that and to myself say ‘Oh ya, watch me’. But from my experience, if they see you work hard and doing quality work, they can’t help but be impressed.
    You’re awesome, keep up the great work. You are inspiring so many people!!!

  30. This is such a great and timely post. The one that sticks out to me was the time I was in one of the big box hardware stores and I was asking about supplies to vent our new range hood. The male employee crossed his arms, laughed, and said “who is going to do this, YOU?”

    My husband was standing off to the side where the man could not see him and gave me a little look and shake of his head trying to tell me it’s not worth it to make a stink of it. I’m sure he could see my rage. I held my cool, but oh man I am still furious.

    And I did do it. I did most of our kitchen renovation myself, actually! Other than my husband helping to hold or lift things when I needed a second set of hands.

    • Jena, damn straight you could do it. And actually I think we all need to work on our comebacks. “Yes, I’m the woman who is doing this job because I know I can do it better!”

  31. I really needed to hear this. Thank you.
    I was brought up by a single mother and a sister, and we often had to just get the job done ourselves. It’s not so much a fear thing to me, but the lack of being taken seriously that bothers me.
    I am now married and my husband calls me “Handy Andy” because he has no idea how to do most any repair. We are learning things together, and I love that I get to teach him what I know.
    Around father’s day we had an experience that really bothered me. My in-laws bought me a gift card for a hardware store and I was so excited to buy myself a new drill!
    I did my research and knew exactly what I wanted. I marched into the hardware store, picked up the box with the drill and headed to the checkout.
    The cashier (male) smiled and asked me if I was buying the drill as a father’s day present for someone.
    It hit me like a ton of bricks.
    I shook my head and told him as calmly as I could manage that it was for me, but that right now I would not be buying the drill. I told him to put it back and walked out the store empty handed.
    I still haven’t gone back to buy it. I felt damaged.
    My husband was furious and almost called the store to complain, though I talked him down. Love him!
    Reading your post really hit the spot where I was most bruised. I will be picking myself back up soon.
    Thanks again!!

    • You go girl! I bet you were excited to buy that drill and home improvement store employees really need to train their employees not to make comments that could be degrading.

  32. Ah Sarah– wise words from a DIY tool wielding badass. Love ya.

  33. Thank you for this post Brittany! A few months ago, I decided to build a new mirror for my bathroom. I followed a tutorial, had the tools, built the darn thing, and brought it to Lowes to get the mirror cut for it. The whole time, the man starts asking my husband what size the mirror needs to be, even after I told him I built it. My husband told him to ask me, since I’ve the one who built it, and then walked off with the baby since the machine was scaring her. Once he was done, he again told me that I should have my husband use a router to cut a path for the mirror to sit it, and once again I reminded him that the tools were mine and if anyone was going to router this frame, it was going to be me.

    It’s something I encounter a lot when I’m in the hardware store/section in my heels and pearls (I usually stop by after work), that air of “oh, the little lady who needs help.” Little do they know that this lady installed every doorknob in the house, hangs her own pictures, fixed a leaking sink, and is planning to re-tile her master bath on her own.

  34. Guerrina says:

    Lisa, I’m the same age as you and remember well the fight for women’s rights. We HAVE come a long way and there is farther to go.

  35. What you are saying is so true. I have been telling my friends the same thing for years. You just need a little confidence and some knowledge and you can do anything. I started over 10 years ago doing some small wood working projects. Today I am finishing a floor to ceiling bookcase/cabinets/desk for my living room. Everyone is always so amazed that I can make cabinets but it is pretty easy. You just have to learn some things and try. Plus for this last project I got a little inspiration from you and Sawdust Girl. I also think that women are scared of doing this kind of work because it is traditionally a man thing and they think they can’t or shouldn’t do it. I try to encourage the women in my life to get out there and just do it. Thanks for this post. Sometimes it is a good reminder that women can do anything.

  36. Kerry Dean says:

    You Go Girl! You are right on the mark. No one, man or woman, is born with knowledge or experience. If we woman are entrusted with the most important job on this earth (bearing and raising children), then believe that we CAN do whatever we set our minds to. I, too, refuse to let a backward mentality stop me.

  37. Best.Post.Ever!

    I STILL get the side-eye from people in the parking lot of my large home improvement store when I park in the “PRO” parking area. (The worst was the one time I was pregnant and some guy told me “hey, you can’t park there! That isn’t the expectant mother parking!” )

    Oh yeah? I earned my ‘pro’ status there a LONG time ago. And usually any hater shuts up when the cashier greets me by name! #GirlsWithPowerTools

  38. You go girl!! YOU said it just like it should be said. I’ve had statements said to me that brought the very worst negative thoughts that pretty much ruined my day. One day..I said to myself no more. I don’t allow the comments to take up real estate in my mind to steal what makes me happy…and that is to build things & DIY projects.

    Great post!
    ~Lynn

  39. Thank you for this wonderfully encouraging post! Your points apply much more broadly than home DIY projects, and I’ll be sharing this with my girlfriends :) I can’t say that negative comments have been directed at me (yet), but my biggest hurdle is simply lacking confidence in myself… something that I just have to work on over time. So grateful for women like you and Sandra – keep up the great work!

  40. So well said and true! My mother has always been a great inspiration to me. My dad died 26 years ago and she has been alone since. She as always hung her own window treatments, fixed her own leaks, etc. I am willing to do it all and try it all, however, hubby’s anal precision is sometimes preferred over my haphazard ways!

  41. Thank you for posting this. I do most of the home improvement myself, with the occasional help of my husband. I ask for power tools every Christmas :) The comment I love best when I tell someone about what I’ve done is ” Where’s your husband?” lol.

  42. Several years ago my car broke down and I had it towed to a garage. When I called later to see what repairs were needed, the mechanic said “you’d better let me explain it to your husband.” I told him not to bother putting it back together, just put any parts in a box, put it in the trunk and I would have the car towed to another garage. I was so mad I could spit nails! His stupidity cost him my business.

  43. I’ve been a woodworker/DIYer for many years and have heard it all. As someone else said I have asked questions about something, going into detail and the salesperson (male) turns to my husband to reply to him. That just amazes me! Thankfully my husband throws it back to me saying something like, she’s the woodworker, not me. I’ve also gone in a store by myself and asked where a certain tool is and the salesperson has replied “what does he need it for?” Just like that, there was no mention of a husband, father, boyfriend, son, whatever!
    There was a lovely little tool store near me, no longer there, with an elderly gentleman who never once spoke down to me. I bought huge power tools, bits, blades, etc. and he always spoke to me as if I knew what everything was and I was knowledgeable. He never used easy terms or simplified things because I was female. He was such a breath of fresh air… so it’s not always age.
    All that being said, there are some poorly informed tutorials that make me shake my head. (Done by both females and males)
    P.S. Sorry for those of you that use them, but I HATE pink tools.

  44. I love this SO HARD!! Thankfully I grew up in a family of men (I’m the only girl) and they believed, and still do, that I could do anything they could do. Not that they had any choice in the matter. But I’ve seen and heard many a stereotype and it always blows my mind – especially when it’s a woman doing it to another woman. Like, Why do you keep saying YOU built this? kind of attitude. Then again, it also makes my blood boil and that in turn encourages me to turn my badassery up a couple of notches! My brother is currently teaching me to weld.

    I adore you Pretty Handy Girl!

  45. Maddie Davis says:

    My husband’s family ran a lumber company. A larger company bought it and all but my hubby’s Grandad was out of a job. Rob needed something so off I went to get it. The guy behind the counter was a jerk to me, acted like I knew nothing. Then Grandad came out. He told the jerk to leave me alone, that I knew more than he did and I could do a better job than he could. Grandad got me what I needed and off I went. Some people have to be put in there place before they get it. Sorry this had to happen to you. It seems like anything that requires tools, women ‘can’t do” according to some men. But when they say stay in the kitchen they should remember that’s where the knives are kept. :)

  46. Nancy…you are 68 years young and you CAN hang up drapery rods. You’ll figure out what is what and then feel on top of the world! Bless you!

  47. This is a GREAT and INSPIRING post!

    I grew up helping my dad build and remodel homes. I then worked in the lumber/construction industry designing residential and commercial floor and roof systems for five years. Some of our ignorant customers didn’t want a “chick” to design their buildings (thank goodness my boss always had my back). I have a Master’s degree in a Geochemistry and I’m pretty sure that my ability to calculate loads trumps a guy that can pick out a straight 2 X 4. As a result, I walk into these big box stores with more confidence than 95% of the men because it doesn’t matter if they *think* I don’t know what I’m talking about. At the end of the day, any question I have (not common) stumps these guys. And, not to bash dudes, but I asked about the 2 X 2 lumber once and the kid asked me if I meant the “square wood.” My dad, who is my hero and greatest role model, chuckles at that story with me. He’s so proud to have a daughter that can do anything she puts her mind to and that he taught me not to take bullcrap because I’m a woman.

  48. This is a wonderful post! We helped to build our house because we wanted to learn the process. Because it worked better, I quit my job and became the “General Contractor” to follow up details. It took a while, but eventually most of the workers learned I could think. Because I hadn’t done it all before, I didn’t know that I had figured out new ways to do things. Often those new ideas worked better than their old ones, and they started using them. And those years of quilting….rotary cutting works great for insulating batts, circle makers are great for perfect cuts around pipes. It was a lot of learning, but I liked it. My Dad may have thought I wasn’t acting like a girl, but my husband told the guys to ask me, not him, because he hadn’t a clue what we were doing! My hammer may have been smaller, but it was just as capable.

    And because of your blog, and others like it, I am learning and tackling more building projects! Thank you!!

  49. I love this post! Following my divorce 30+ years ago I hired a plumber to fix a leak, but told him I didn’t want him to fix it, I wanted him to show me how. He did. That led to remodeling the bathroom and the kitchen – twice! In our home town there is a hardware store owned and run by women. It was the best place for answers and help. My daughters grew up knowing women could do anything with the right tools.
    I am proud of my daughters and their confidence in building whatever is needed, and I love it when one of them asks for power tools for her birthday.

  50. I love this post! I experience this often and sometimes I just want to drop whatever I’m holding and shout “I challenge you to a build off ” ;) You empower & inspire woman with your blog and that is an amazing thing.

  51. delloraine says:

    B,
    Great post, I didn’t know how to use a frying pan until someone taught me and I burned a few meals. I have mastered many repairs and now am learning to build furniture and do detail woodworking. I LOVE IT ! If I had known this 20 yrs ago I would have a shop. I am inspired by you and Anna and sawdust girl. Keep up the encouragement. Sorry you have to endure such nasty comments.

  52. This is awesome Brittney. So far I have been fortunate from a young age learning to use power tools, build things, fix things, doing plumbing and electrical because I’m the youngest of 7 kids (6 girls 1 boy) my dad’s attitude was always he didn’t care if we were girls he was teaching us how to DIY. My favorite memories growing up were in the basement building things with my dad. I have gotten some strange looks at home centers but that’s due to ideas I had that weren’t the norm such as building a bench with plumbers pipe, but fortunately I’ve always had cheerleaders when it comes to home improvements. Condescending tones come in all forms of life though. I am dyslexic and when I don’t take the time to use spell check I will have errors and I hate it when people bash you for that. Blogging has forced me to grow a thicker skin that’s for sure. I love the encouragement in the negative experiences of this post. There are things that hold me back when it comes to DIY mainly due to not having the physical strength but luckily I have awesome neighbors that are always willing to lend me a hand.

  53. You are awesome Brittany!

  54. WOW, I can’t get over some of those comments they left. I used to work in the trucking industry, I did data entry work in the office, but I had to deal with the drivers who came from all over the US. The mouths on these guys, unbelievable. I struggled with the job at first, I was right out of college and had never really dealt with that environment before. But I learned to grow a thick skin and stand up for myself and when I did they learned to respect me as a woman and as a person.

    Love this post, thank you for sharing. <3

  55. I believe that those experiences should be shared so that EVERYONE can get a taste of what is still out there. You are changing folks one by one, project by project! Great work!

  56. My dad is a carpenter, so I have always done my own repairs/renovations/etc. Within reason, of course. There are some things that to me are totally worth hiring out.

    I’m also an engineer in the oil & gas industry where there aren’t very many women. Especially in the technical roles.

    My advice, and it doesn’t always work, is fake it. If you go in somewhere with confidence and use the correct terms and act like you know what the heck is going on, you’re WAY more likely to be treated properly. If you go in acting like a hair-twirling bimbo, you’ll be treated as such. And don’t ever take internet trolls seriously. They are sad and lonely and want to be fed. :)

  57. Youtube has been a god send for basic information on how to do something. The men in my life have never tried to discourage me because, frankly, I’ve always been handier than them. Mostly because I’m a lot more patient and I research the heck on how to do something.

    Pros are different. I’ve had contractors flat out lie to me to try to intimidate me into paying them to do it. All that did was make me respect them less and try to do it myself. If they had said, “You could do this easily, it would only take a few hours.” I’d probably think, “Ugh, I don’t have a few hours to spare, just pay them.” But by acting like I couldn’t do it, they just challenged me.

    I’m what you might call, contrary.

  58. Yay! I love this inspiring post! There are tons of male chefs and you don’t see any women telling them to get out of the kitchen!

  59. Thank you. I LOVE posts like this. I have worked in my professional career (marketing & HR) in male-dominated industries. Being the handy girl in the office is always entertaining. I love being able to show that girls can do it all too. Thank you for being an inspiration.

  60. want to thank you for writing this article. I’m going to move ahead now. men and their comments be damned!

  61. Thanks for a great article. Awesome! My husband works very hard, 6-7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. So, when I want to make small changes to the house, I want to do it myself instead of waiting for my husband. He supports my interest in wanting to do more diy around the house. He had me rolling on the floor, laughing when I opened my anniversary gift, a electric chain saw!
    The negative thing I hear myself say is ‘I’m not strong enough’ It’s true, but I can move 1 piece at a time instead of the whole thing.
    I get frustrated when I use a small electric drill to put IKEA furniture together… & I can’t keep the bit in the screw hole. I know it takes practice & persistence…
    So, what do I say to those guys who look down on me or patronize me? I’d love to have a snappy comeback.
    I didn’t know you had youtube videos, I’m gonna enjoy learning & watching those. Hugs to you!

  62. I’d love to see any of these JERKS give birth! If I can do that I can do anything!
    Of course then I burst out laughing!!!
    Quote “Women shouldn’t use Man Tools” well if we didn’t none of us would be here. :D

    Even today in 2014 some men still think we belong in the kitchen … Well that is if we’re not out helping
    them bring in the bacon to cook in said kitchen. I said, Some men. Thank God there are Real Men that believe we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

    Way to Go Brittany! You keep pushing, prodding, and inspiring women to reach for that golden hammer! We can and will do it and leave those “Some Men” in the dust!

  63. Great post, thank you! Very inspiring.

  64. THE BEST POST without a doubt! I’ve been gone & I wish I had time to read all the comments here but it looks like it’s all incredibly positive!
    This makes me sick & my blood boil as well. Yes, I’ve had to deal with all of this crap from men for more years than I can remember. With all my experience of fix & flips, I’ve encountered this a ton & still do.
    I remember when working on this house & giving directions to the few subs I had to hire, at one time after all the eye rolling I could take, I announced “If I see one more eye roll from any one of you, you’ll be fired with your eyes rolled in the back of your head!” It stopped. I can still outwork any many on any given day & do it better! Thank YOU Brittany!!!

  65. Dearest Brittany, you are my hero!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and gifts with us. I am 68 and I want to be just like you when I grow up.

  66. I am amused by men assuming I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know any other woman in my personal life who is very handy like me. I was so excited when I discovered blogs and that there are other woman out there like me! We make up a very small percentage of the population so I doubt that bias will be overcome anytime soon. The ignorant thing (beyond the debasing sexism) about some of the video comments you’ve gotten is that there are frequently several ways to build, or do the same project all with similar outcomes. So, just because they might not do something the same way you do, it doesn’t mean your way is wrong. I am almost always treated with respect. The only negative comment I remember getting was when I was General Contracting my first house, the guy at the lumberyard said, “Why don’t you send your husband in?” Uh, ’cause he wouldn’t have a clue what we were talking about. For our next house, I went with another lumberyard who was happy to work with a woman. However, all my interactions are face to face and it’s so much easier for idiots be rude with written comments with some anonymity than it is face to face. I wonder if the idiots would have made those comments to you in person.

  67. Nicely done.

  68. Bravo! I am new to your blog. I just found it a few days ago. I love your DIY projects. There is absolutely no reason women can’t tackle their own DIY projects. At 60 years old, I was a young woman during the women’s liberation movement of the 60s and 70s. Every time I think we’ve gotten beyond the stereotypes, some throwback chauvinist rears his ugly head and shows how unintelligent he is. Keep on showing us how to do it!

  69. Love your attitude girl! Girl Power for sure!

    A different side of the coin — I’m a guy and have always felt ‘less than’ because I can’t do even 1/4 of the stuff you are able to do. In our macho society, guys are supposed to have these skills. I’m happy now to embrace my lack of skills, pick them up here and there, and in the mean time let “girls” like you show me how! :)

  70. Thank you so much for this post. My ex-husband refused to allow me to use the power tools because he said I would hurt myself. Now that he is my ex and I am in the 1957 home that we bought together to remodel, I am faced with the daunting tasks left behind. I appreciate you sharing and encouraging all of us to go for it. Now I just need to believe in me.

  71. Beautifully written. Thank you for this.

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