Food for Thought

You Don’t Need Power Tools to Be a Feminist

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I know what I’m good at. I know what I want to do. And I know what I have zero interest in doing for myself: filing my own taxes, perfecting homemade hollandaise sauce, putting up my own preserves, or hanging cupboards. I don’t want to spend a second longer in a Home Depot than I absolutely have to.

I don’t need power tools to be a feminist.

I was joking with friends, half-joking, that what sucked about the fact that my relationship had ended (aside from the very obvious fact that it ended, and I was sad), was that, well, now I had to hire someone to hang these shelves I wanted. Kelly and I looked down the bar at Ken, a mutual friend of ours and a big strapping guy with a yen for Home Depot. “Think Ken’d do it for $50?”

My friend Kelly visibly bristled. I sensed her blood start its low, feminist boil. “You should buy your own tools! Learn to hang the shelves yourself!” And in that she echoed the feminist cry that we’ve all heard over and over again. I could tell she was frustrated, mad, perhaps even disappointed in me that I could even think that I would “need” a man for anything.

But that’s the problem. There’s this persistent idea that to be a “true” feminist, I shouldn’t need a man—at all. Period. I should buy my own tools and level and learn to do this myself. That would be a good show of independence. I could prove to the world that I don’t need a man (and post it on Facebook)!

I’m not trying to prove that. I don’t need to.

One of the great pleasures of being a modern, self-supporting woman is that I actually don’t need to buy or do anything to prove that I’m a modern, self-supporting woman. I don’t need to sand my own furniture or play ice hockey or learn the inner workings of an engine in a ’66 Oldsmobile (and yes I had to fucking look that up, because I know zip about cars). I have the right to choose what I do, where I spend my time and attention.

If that isn’t power, what is?

And I choose not to hang my own cupboard. For one thing, I don’t feel like it and I have things I’d rather do. Doesn’t mean I don’t want them up, though. There’s a world of difference between “Help me, I’m lame and can’t take care of myself,” and “Hey, I’d love your help with this since you’re good at it.” That’s not anti-feminist. That’s called management – an area, by the way, that women have been fighting very hard to get to do at a higher level.

Is it any wonder that women are overwhelmed and underpaid? Not only can we not say no to stuff, but we can’t let go of the stuff we should, and are afraid to admit we could in fact use some help.

But this isn’t just about household chores.

This is about redefining what it means to be a feminist. And if you still feel the pressure to “prove it” — to the world and yourself — you’re going to be too busy to do the things you actually want to do.