I just moved house, which has been something of an adventure. There has been a lot heavy lifting. There has been a lot of arranging and re-arranging of furniture. There has been much yelling of fake Swedish curse words (Splürg! Snafflebörgen!) because IKEA instructions are so damn hard to follow. And there has been much hardware. When you’re moving into a new house, you need tools to do stuff like fixing furniture and hanging pictures and so on. So, I went out to buy tools. Specifically, I went to buy a hammer and nails so that I could hang this amazing poster on my bedroom wall.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not the only lady who’s ever needed to buy a hammer. I know this because there is, it turns out, an entire market out there for lady tools, (yes, I realize that sounds like a euphemism for vibrators). There is a whole market out there for people just like me; young ladies moving into their first apartments and buying their first ever set of tools. How do I know they’re for ladies? Well, they’re pink, and some of them have flowers on them. And some of them are just flat-out called “women’s tool kits.”
We’ve talked a lot at Feministing about the practice gendering otherwise gender neutral products by slapping a pink coat of paint on them – everything from computers to Ouija boards. Just paint it pink and ta da! you have a product designed especially for women! It’s problematic, to say the least, to assume that a woman would need different tools than a man, or to assume that if we did, painting a tool pink would be enough to meet those specific needs. Similarly, the automatic equation of pink with “for girls” means that pink things will be categorically off-limits to boys and men who don’t want to be teased, mocked or otherwise punished for crossing gender boundaries.
But a tool kit, unlike a laptop or iPod, is a very gendered product
indeed; home repair and construction, traditionally, are men’s
activities just as cooking and sewing are women’s activities. On a
personal level, while I’m certainly not the first woman to need a
hammer, it’s no coincidence that I haven’t needed one until now, at age
22 when I’m setting up my first home. Until now there’s always been a
man around – my dad, a boyfriend, some dude in my dorm – who owns and
knows how to operate tools.
But now, my roommate and I are on our own, and despite the
frustration of repeatedly coming across tool kits that reveal an
assumption that we ladies would never want to buy even a necessary item
unless it might look at home next to our Barbie Dream Campers, we’re
enjoying the adventure. The two of us are now the proud owners of a
growing tool kit. There are nails and pliers and screwdrivers, and even
a power drill that we haven’t actually used yet but that we sometimes
get out just to play with it and hear it go “whiirrrrr!”
And as for hammer-hunting, my search ended the moment I found this:
I give you the Ms. Fix-It hammer, complete with a mascot, Ms.
Fix-It. Check her out. Ms. Fix-It is wearing a red bandanna (surely a
nod to Rosie the Riveter), jeans and a flannel shirt, a toolbelt and a
smile. She’s totally psyched to go knock in some nails. There’s no pink
to be seen, no sign of a need to make the product “girlier” so it will
appeal to women.
This hammer also doesn’t come with patronizing copy like, “makes
anyone handy” or “designed for small repairs around the home,” like so
many of the others do. In fact, the only thing that indicates that it’s
being marketed to women at all is the name. And it looks like Ms.
Fix-It – I presume she’s unmarried, or didn’t take her husband’s
surname – is a big old feminist. Having spent most of last night
banging holes in my wall to hang photos, I can attest that the thing
certainly works just fine. So now I have my hammer, for hanging
pictures, putting up blinds and, of course, smashing the patriarchy.