On a recent visit to tool station, I was caught off guard by a very casual sexist remark.
The remark being and I quote “Do you know what you have been sent for?”
I have been a decorator for almost 20 years, an accomplished wallpaper hanger that has worked alongside some incredibly talented trades men and women and to be honest with you, I really haven’t had that much hassle as a woman working in a predominantly male environment. Which I know is not the case in some industries. For example I know the tech/internet world has been been struggling to get a balance, I have heard some terrible stories, online harassment etc, but that’s too big a ball of bullshit to chew here.
So, for me, to be asked if I know what I’ve been sent for, is extremely offensive, presumptuous and sexist.
I’m not saying that within the building trade I’ve never been given any gip or tested on my abilities. Working on a building site can be a baptism of fire! It’s a tough world where practical jokes and banter are the norm. This treatment however is extended to everyone, man, woman and even the client at times. It’s a way to get through the hard physical work and it can be one hell of a bonding experience.
So yeah, I’ve found working within the building trade welcoming, I’ve felt included and valued. As long as you can cut the mustard and that goes for both men and women, you’re in and equally paid may I add.
This is why the remark at Tool Station took me by surprise, they have quite a few women working in their stores and it’s alway been a great place to pick up supplies.
However, I usually go in wearing my work clothes. This time though, killing two birds with one stone, I decided to pop in en-route to a Vintage & Vinyl night, vintage shoes and tweed cape to boot.
My tradie work woman look now transformed into blonde caped vintage wearer, I got quite a different experience.
So how do we really have to portray ourselves? After shedding the protective layer of painty jeans, work shoes complete with random tool/pencil stuck in my back pocket.
Am I just another blonde chick that needs to be sent with a list from the male figure in her life, needing the assistance of a man when choosing what grade of sandpaper is needed. Can’t I get equality in a cape? Can’t I rock a bit of vintage and rev a power tool? Well I think I can Tool Station and I normally do.
But alas, this isn’t really Tool Stations fault, their response to my peeved tweet was very fast and followed up by a call from a nice chap called Ben. There was the assurance of a follow up within store (Not that I really want to make someones life difficult, but come on) plus they have extensive training programmes in place with regards to equality etc.
So where does this leave us? We are at a difficult stage in gaining true equality. I’ve gained a lot of respect within my chosen field, I’ve easily won as many jobs as my male counterparts, even beaten some of them in an arm wrestle. But should we as women have to prove ourselves on a daily basis, can’t it just be assumed that we are just as good as the next person until it’s proven otherwise.
If you can’t cut the mustard whether you a man or a woman and whether its building, typing or sales then fine, move over. But until then don’t just assume that because I’m a woman, I don’t know my decorating products and that I was sent to buy them.
On a positive end note, the world is changing, I’ve worked with some incredibly switched on men, Paper Hangers that chose to read National Geographic at work over the Sun. One builder that actually banned The Sun and The Star and other such newspapers on his site, encouraging equality and respect throughout. And men that expect you buy them a beer at the end of the work day because you are their equal, it’s cool, they’ll get you a beer tomorrow. I applaude these men and may these attitudes pave the way for a more harmonious existence between the sexes.
We’re all just people at the end of the day, some strong, some sensitive, some fearless and others more tentative and this runs across all gender possibilities and we all deserve equality. So just one request, please can we be just a little less casual with regards to gender and what we assume of people and their abilities? Lets just all be a little more mindful.
Thanks for your time,
P.S It’s taken me a while to get this post out, my first reaction was to punch Tool Station man in the face. This however would not sit well with my request of us being more mindful. Maybe if we kill this issue with love and not anger we can all work together. Currently inspired by Emma Watson and the He for She campaign.