I have been admittedly lax in keeping up on posts. There is little horse activity, with the wet weather we’ve had; so we decided to send the household into chaos and get the interior painted. Once the weather turns to spring, all indoor activity goes on hold for several months, until days become so hot that we seek refuge in the air conditioning during the worst of it. So, interior improvements must be done while the weather is bad. The last time the interior was painted was at least fifteen years ago, when I did the whole thing mostly on my own; so it was time for a refresh. Many people I know choose to be handy, but when you decide to keep your horses at home, it’s a necessity – unless you are lucky enough to hire or marry someone else who’s willing to do the work.
Over the years I have become handy in a number of areas, ranging from fencing to electrical. It has saved us a significant amount of money over the years, both on rentals and on our own place. Horses can be very hard on their surroundings – so repairs and builds just go with the territory.
It seems natural to me – growing up I hung out at the boarding stable and my veterinarian’s place. In both cases, I spent a good bit of time building jumps, fixing stalls, putting in fencing, installing sprinkler systems – whatever needed doing. In both cases I was assisting another woman in those chores – so it seems completely natural to be able to do all of those things. Yet, here we are in the twenty first century, and I continue to encounter people who are shocked that I can do these things.
As recent as eight years ago, I had a manager who asked me what I did on my weekend. When I said that I built a tackroom, she looked amazed and asked, “How did you learn to do that?” For me, that’s a bit like asking how I learned to walk. Although she was a woman who was successful in a male-dominated field, it was the very fact that I used power tools and could build my own structures that surprised her.
My neighbor, a kind and helpful, yet patronizing fellow, upon inspecting said tackroom, said in a rather surprised tone, “This looks really good! You actually did a good job.” He has been very helpful to us, so I try to be kind – but it is difficult to take the comments as complimentary, when they originate in sexist attitudes held over from another era. Still, I suppose it is better to get a patronizing compliment than to encounter abject disbelief that a woman could even use tools. Such was the incident today, that inspired this post.
We stopped at our neighborhood farm supply store, to stock up on feed stuffs for the various furred and feathered. I’ve been putting together a piece of furniture, for the newly painted house, and I wanted a hex bit for my drill-driver. I found what I needed, and I was telling my mother that it also contained some other pieces that would come in handy, when an older gentleman asked, “Do you have a man who can use those?” There was the patronizing tone – no smile or twinkle to indicate humor.
“No,” I replied, “they are for me. I have built stalls, chicken coops, and lots of other things. I’m quite capable of using them on my own.”
As I said, it gets tiresome hearing the sexist patronizing tones. I get it when we do hire contractors, and they are surprised to find out that I built the things around here that I have. Yet, I know men who are incompetent at assembling a simple table! My patronizing neighbor has actually finally admitted that I am more capable than most of the men he knows.
It is not that I am after a prize, or even a pat on the back. But it seems that, in the year 2019, one year shy of the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the U.S., after all that women have accomplished, we might stop hearing those patronizing and surprised tones when people find out that we can actually do something men can do. We race cars, fly in rockets, solve complex scientific challenges – even lead countries, nearly everywhere but the U.S. At what point do we get to stop hearing the surprised tones?
Perhaps that is another reason why I love horses more than I do most people – they don’t come with bias, either explicit or implicit.
The weather is expected to be staying clear for a bit, so back to the outdoors I go! Perhaps there will be more to report on my little herd – or they will inspire me to write an educational post. Spring is nearly here, and we just gained an hour of daylight in the evening, so I’m ready for some riding adventure! And yes, I will be building stalls, chicken coops, and many more things, too!
Be good to your horses!