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Give Us the Pink Tools, and We Will Finish The Job

My first car was a real beater. When I got it, it needed quite a bit of work. My dad, a lifelong DIY guy, told me to get my shoes and some old clothes on because we were going to go outside to work on my car. This elicited major whining on my part. I did NOT want to go out and work on that car. So my father told me something that has stayed with me since that day.  “You are smart and capable, so you will learn how to do this. That way you won’t need a man around to maintain your car for you, and if you pay someone to do it, it will be by choice ““ not because you can’t do it for yourself. Never put yourself in a position where you must rely on someone else, especially a man, to do something you are more than capable of doing yourself.” My dad is such a smart guy!

Since that day, I have made it a point to not be afraid of “getting my hands dirty.” It has been my experience that I’m an exception among my lady friends. After college, I shared a townhouse with four other women and I was the only one who came with my own set of basic tools. My roommates always looked to me for help with all things mechanical. I would confidently whip out my tools and, when my friends would say they could NEVER use those things, I would smugly say, “Oh suuuure you could.” I confess, back then I was overly proud (in an elitist, snobby kind of way) of my DIY abilities. I didn’t lord it over my friends that I had skills they lacked, but I did allow myself to indulge (okay, wallow like a sow in mud) in a sense of superiority as “the chick who’s not afraid of tools.” What can I say? I was young and foolish. Since- I’d like to believe- I have grown since then, instead of feeling superior when I say, “Oh sure you can!” I always try to follow it up with, “Here let me show you how.” I think every woman should hear the words my dad said to me.  You are smart, and you ARE capable of doing this.

But I still encounter so many ladies who are intimidated by tools to trying to do things for themselves. So where am I going with all this? Pink Tools.

Photo of small retail display of pink tool sets in pink tool bagsThe other day Mr. Nevada and I were walking through the hardware section of WalMart when I saw a display of pink tools. My knee-jerk reaction was to be offended. I even ranted at length to Mr. Nevada about it. As a woman who thought a two”“way ratcheting Snap-On screwdriver with a whole set of bits was the BEST Mother’s Day present ever, seeing pink tools sent me into a tizzy. How condescending! How offensive! I likened it to playing dress-up with girly pink “tools” and a matching pink tool belt. Look! It matches my nail polish and lipgloss, tee hee hee!! I was all set to write this article demonizing the manufacturers of pink tools as perpetuating female sterotypes of form over function, the inability of women to use “men’s” tools, and the myth of female fragility. But then I had a chance to sit on it and think about this pink tool thing.

I realized I was guilty of snobbery again. Just because I am comfortable with the tools in my husband’s (many) tool chests, does not mean all women are, or would be if they found themselves in a position where they had to use one. Every single one of the women I know who claims she would never be able to change the oil in her car, fix a leaky toilet, or install her own tile back-splash are, in fact, perfectly capable of doing it, they just have to learn how. The problem is, these women have not been exposed to, or educated about, tools. And this brings us back to the pink tools.

Photo of retail display of lavender and grey tool setsI will, blushingly, say the pink tools I saw were cute. One set was pink with yellow details. Others were lavender and grey. That cuteness might bridge the gap for some women. I find myself intimidated by some tools (mostly large power tools with amazingly fast, super sharp spinning blades). If these were marketed in softer colors, ergonomically designed to be more accessible to women, and had manuals written with women in mind, would I be less intimidated? Probably. Intrigued by this concept, I started searching the Internet for pink tools. Turns out there are a lot out there. There is even a direct sales company called Tomboy Tools that does pink tool home parties complete with educational materials and DIY project ideas. Sure, I found cheap playing-dress-up-quality tools out there, but I also found some pink tools made by decent manufacturers. What was even more encouraging was the selections I found of non-pink tools that are ergonomically designed and weighted for women. The key is to look for quality and understand that, when it comes to tools, you get what you pay for.

Finding these pink tools has made me hopeful. If more women, women who would have been too intimidated to use tools before, are more comfortable learning new skills with pink tools it will help bridge the gap between “men’s work” and “women’s work.”  More women will learn that they can DIY.  More women will learn what my father taught me so many years ago ““ You are smart, and you are capable of doing this.  You do not have to rely on anyone else (especially a man) to do something you are perfectly capable of doing for yourself.

16 replies on “Give Us the Pink Tools, and We Will Finish The Job”

I’m a pretty handy person, both from being taught things as I was growing up, and from not being afraid to try to fix something. Most things mechanical/hardware-y are either pretty intuitive or very well-documented somewhere on the Internet. If I’m not sure, I Google it, and then I try it. And then I teach someone else. I actually had a mini-“how to jump start a car and change a flat tire” seminar for a bunch of the girls in my dorm in college. It’s been mmbllfffllsshh years, and I still get an email every now and then telling me how it’s come in handy.

I was super offended the first time I saw pink tools, but then I figured, anything that gets women more comfortable with repairs and building can’t be bad. The only complaint I have is that lots of them are flimsy.

The one upside to pink tools? Dudes will never steal them.

About dudes stealing tools – I know, right?!?! Mr. Nevada has the rattiest, beat up old level on Earth, so when I decided to paint stripes and harlequin diamonds downstairs I went and bought myself a quality level. Can I ever find it? No! He’s got it tied up in some project he’s working on. I should decoupage it with pink hearts and rainbows.

If I need to do something new, I Google it. There are tons of forums and websites out there to answer any question you might have. Or, you know, you can e-mail one of us (sarab@persephonemagazine.com)or leave a comment in one of the DIY posts. Is there something specific you want to know right now?

You can find a bit of information about what your car requires in terms of maintenance from the owners manual. Things like the type of oil you should use, where the fuses are located, the location of the air filter, etc. If you Google it, you can find a checklist for regularly scheduled maintenance if its not in the manual or you do not have one. The tires themselves should state what the pressure should be. The employees at most major auto parts stores will actually help you/show you (or so my experience has been) with minor items like wiper blades and light-bulbs. Don’t worry about being laughed out of ‘manly’ forums, though. I’ve found that most of the people on them are more than happy to share their knowledge. And of course, there is no such thing as a stupid question here!

I understand your fear of being laughed at, but most handypeople are actually happy to help and will give you a lot of respect for trying. Some of them might be really impressed by a woman trying to fix shit, which is super annoying and patronizing but just ignore those. I go to tools store and get that (they are amazed that I know what a philips screw driver is! I just want to kick them), but most are totally cool.
Another thing you can do on an online forum is just not mentioning your gender and avoid that noise.
But I think finding someone who can guide you through is the best way, although not always an option.

I had a very similar reaction to pink tools. I couldn’t decide if they were patronizing or a good way to get more women trying things on their own. My biggest problem is that so many girly tools are cheap, and cheap tools are harder to use. I fear that crappy cute tools will reinforce a woman’s idea that she “just isn’t good at this sort of thing,” you know?

I know. I was quite disappointed to see so many pink tools out there that were crap quality. But I’m hoping 2 things – With the economy being what it is, more women will trend towards mechanical, hands on DIY and demand will increase the supply of quality tools designed for women – AND- that women who get these pink tool sets will realize they are ‘starter’ sets but by using them will feel empowered enough to delve into the realm of higher quality tools and more challenging and rewarding projects.

LOL, this is timely. My mum was a single parent, and she taught herself how to do a lot of things that normally would have been the province of the ‘man’, including lots of car-related fixes. I was able to observe that most of these were not complicated, nor did they require complicated tools. Just last weekend I had to drive my boyfriend’s car and one of the headlights was out, so I was like, alrighty, let’s go buy a bulb, it’ll take five minutes. He just looked at me in confusion and asked if we could actually change it ourselves. I laughed, but am pleased to say that when the time came, I managed to stand by with itchy fingers and talk him through changing his own headlight.

All that being said, I have shamefully let a lot of my basic computer know-how atrophy over the years since he is so on top of it. If I ever need to set up a home network again I’ll be looking it up.

What your father said, I said to myself when I was a teen (feel strong, smart and elisticly snob…). I decided that I will not have to rely on anyone if it’s something I can do. My dad was and still is very supportive of it, and still go with me through stuff on the phone when I need to do things. My mom is always in the background give us hysterical safety notes that we both ignore (she think everything is DANGER). She doesn’t do any of it and she and my dad are totally co-dependent on each over (he will starve without her). I promise myself I will never be like that, and as I’m single in my mid 30’s it was a wise wise decision.
And I actually love fixing shit (I just fixed my bike last week and it was so much fun!) and use power tools. I land them to my friends or come to fix things for them sometimes.
I’m totally pro the “pink tools”, I have small palms, some tool are just to big for me. I was so happy when I found a small electric sander, and I actually own a pink drill.
I hope this post will encourage more women to try it. For all reason you mention above!

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