By Dani Kessel
Today, I went to the hardware store. I needed supplies to put together some Christmas presents. I’d planned everything out beforehand. I knew exactly what I needed, and I’ve been to that specific hardware store enough times to know where everything is. My trip should’ve been simple enough and not required social interaction other than with the person operating the circular saw for cutting lumber. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened
During the 20 minutes I was at the hardware store, I was cat called, hit on, had someone mansplain hammers to me (completely uninvited) despite me knowing about tools. I also had employees ask me 5 times in 10 minutes whether I needed help; meanwhile, not one of them asked any of the men near me if they needed help. Many of the guys I passed gawked at me as if I was an apparition.
The sad part is that this isn’t an isolated incident. This has happened to me many, many times. If you look up “women at hardware stores,” you’ll find slews of stories about the mistreatment we face walking into these stores. We either are treated like we’re imbeciles or we are treated like pariahs. Friends of mine talk about being ignored the minute a man walks in with them. One person expressed that even when alone at the hardware store knowing exactly what she needed, an employee asked her if she needed to check with her husband when getting what she asked for. Another friend expressed getting in and out as quickly as possible so as to not deal with misogynistic men.
Clearly, this isn’t just me imagining things.When nearly every woman and feminine-presenting person I know has a bad hardware or automotive store story, it’s indicative of a bigger problem.
We need to break down this pervasive, inane idea that girls and women are fragile creatures incapable of doing anything for themselves. Women are strong, intelligent people, just as much as any man or non-binary folk. Kevlar, the home security system, the dishwasher, residential solar heating, and the circular saw were all invented by women. Around 50% of US doctorate recipients in science and engineering are women. Girls swept the all of the top 5 National STEM awards this year. A woman’s place is in the hardware store, autoshop, science lab, and the military. A woman’s place is in a classroom, a doctor’s office, and a home. A woman’s place is wherever the hell she wants. We shouldn’t have to justify our existence, even around lumber and tools.
Inevitably there are going to be misogynists who read this and say that I am just looking for reasons to hate men. I don’t hate men; I hate the patriarchy. I hate the system that tells us that women can’t know construction and men can’t know childcare. My dad is one of the most compassionate men capable of and educated in childcare. Yet, he gets skepticism when he walks into a childcare facility to apply for a job. I’ve been using power tools since I was 10 years old. I’ve built more theatre sets than I can count. I’ve helped put up drywall, paint a house, and build a deck from scratch. Yet, when I’m working on a project, I can’t walk into a hardware store without constant harassment or dismissal. We need to change the way we view gender roles.
And until then, stop harassing women at the hardware store.