This is something I am seriously conflicted about. On the one hand, the idea that women will use tools if they are pretty is extremely patronizing. On the other hand, I believe all women should be able to use tools and if this makes them less intimidating then that’s a good thing.
I used to be a professional carpenter; I built theatrical scenery for a living. I am very attached to my tools, they are like old friends. Our first Valentine’s Day together, my husband bought me a hammer. While I did suggest that it might not be the best gift for our first VD, it is still my favorite hammer (at last count we have eight). It’s a smooth face, 16 oz. rip hammer and I spray painted it pink. At the time all my tools were spray painted pink. When a group of carpenters work together, it is customary to tag your personal tools so you can tell at a glance whose is whose. I chose pink because a) I like pink, b) purple was taken and c) I found that most men are reluctant to borrow a big pink hammer. So, you see, I have no objection to pink tools. My main objection to the pink ladies’ tool boxes is that they suck.
Cheap tools are harder to use. I try not to be a snob. If you’re good, you can get the job done with anything. If, however, you aren’t accustomed making a tool do what you want it to, crappy tools make things so much harder. The pliers are wobbly, the screwdrivers strip out faster and the hammers are so lightweight that you’re almost better off using your fist. If you use cheap tools for anything more involved than hanging a picture, you are just going to reinforce the idea that you aren’t any good at fixing things.
But – practice makes perfect. I have had teachers that made us start with lousy tools. Once we had proved that we would take care of them, we got to use the good stuff. And, if you can learn how to work with shite, you can work with anything. Somehow, though, I doubt that’s what they were thinking.
Before you go calling me a conspiracy theorist, I don’t think this is intentionally sexist. The basic girly tool kit is the same as the basic boy tool kit. It’s practicality. Why spend $30 on a tool that will be used once a year when you can get a whole set for $25?
What’s got me thinking about this issue again is that I’ve started seeing “lady’s” tools that are somewhat better quality than they used to be. Do I still object? I don’t know. There is a part of me that will always find the idea patronizing. Then again, if there was such a thing as a pretty pink 16 oz. Estwing rip hammer I would be all over that shit. I think until that day comes I will just buy quality tools and spray paint.