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A Girl in the Hardware Store

by Deanna Jacome

As I walked into Home Depot, project idea drawn out in my mind, I was met with the usual friendly greeting of, “Do you need help finding anything?”, to which I said, “No, thank you”, with a smile, I knew right where I was going, as I have spent an enormous amount of time in hardware stores. I grabbed what I needed and headed to the wood cutter, I then found an employee and asked to be assisted as there was no one there to cut my wood. The man walkie-talkied a worker over to help me. Soon after my arrival to the wood cutter a man arrived, who was also waiting for his wood to be cut. Once the employee arrived the other man kindly remarked, “she was in front of me”, clearly gesturing that I should be taken care of first. Then, standing there with my single piece of wood, I started to open my mouth to tell the employee what I needed. However, as I was doing so another man approached clearly needing planks cut. The worker ignored me and helped both the gentlemen before me, even though he knew I was clearly the reason he was called over and these men had just shown up. It was clear, that to him, the projects and customers that deserved his attention were of the two male customers. At the time I didn’t think anything of this, and patiently waited for him to cut my wood. I then made my way to the counter. As I was waiting to ring up my purchases an older gentlemen smiled at me as if he was witnessing a new born puppy trying to walk around the room for the first time, saying, “working on a sweet little project are we?”

A twinge formed in my face. As I tried to convey that I did not want to participate in further conversation with the man, I realized that I have had many encounters similar to this when I have gone to hardware stores; a place where men are seen as the experts by most people. I am always looked upon with a chuckle as I choose my supplies and even as I am choosing my items determinedly and with a certain level of expertise, am overflowed with probes of unwanted assistance and comments.

Though I know the employees of places such as Home Depot, Lowes and other hardware store pride themselves on being available and helpful to their customers, which I thoroughly appreciate I might add. I do not believe I am wrong in assuming that they are asking me a little more frequently than the husky man with a tool belt if he’s, “sure he really does know what he needs for his project?”

As artists, we must develop resourcefulness and must use what we have to create what we need. Our tools, whether it be our paint brush, the sewing needle, or a screw driver, all play huge roles in our success to produce our visions. I pride myself on being able to imagine an idea and bring it to fruition through experimentation. This being coupled with the fact that I have owned my own tool box since the age of eight, make me feel comfortable making what I need. I remember my dad purchasing me my first tool box with the caviot that he wanted me to always be able to do things for myself. I recall my excitement as I received the tool box, not knowing the names of the tools but already knowing how quite a few worked from my many days of assisting my dad on projects, and looked forward to making many of my own.

As I stood with that irritated smile on my face in Home Depot I began to contemplate why I could have been seen and treated this way time and time again.

I have gotten comments on many occasions, mostly from men, that I walk as though I am on a mission. It’s true! Even if I am walking in the mall, I walk with conviction, I have never truly mastered the “moseying about” sort of walking technique. I found just the other day, that even while looking leisurely for unique shells and rocks on the beach I still dart about eagerly. I only became aware of this because two men commented that I was “really going for it”, while collecting. This being said, if you have ever seen me enter an establishment where I actually have something specific I am seeking and determined to acquire quickly, I could in no way be misconstrued as someone desperately in need of assistance or in a state of confusion. So, the only logical explanation of my presence at such establishments being met with cute chuckles and remarks, is that I am a woman.

Though our society is really starting to “warm-up” to the idea that woman are intelligent powerful beings and that many of us are determined to accomplish what we wish. I have found there are still many assumptions that men, especially of a certain age, feel they know about women. I am in no way saying that all men assume we are delicate little flowers that just want to have babies and talk about our hair. By no means am I saying that. I am also not saying that it is men alone who believe these foolish ideas about women. I find in many cases it is women who put down other women and themselves. Luckily, I have some wonderfully feminist women and men in my life that give me hope and inspire me. However, I have found that looking the way I do; a petite, smiley, young woman has often required me to prove my competence and relevance in many situations.

I am currently the Production Coordinator of RAW Boston. I bring artists together and tell them what they need to know for their upcoming showcases and on the day of the event I have three volunteers who help me run the show smoothly. I wear a blazer and tell people what to do all day. It is the closest I have ever felt to Beyoncé… mostly because I feel stylish and people are actually listening to me.

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At these events, a major part of mine and my volunteer’s responsibilities are to provide visual artists with tables to display their work. Now, I must inform you that the venue MIXX360 whose tables we use are 4’x4’ or 6’x3’ and are made of metal and wood and are quite heavy, especially after you have lugged about 30 or so through half the stretch of the venue. My volunteers and I diligently moved the tables and continued on with other business. At one point my volunteers were so busy that I had asked if one of the artists could help assist me in moving a few tables, as his station was clearly set up appeared to be getting a little antsy before the show. He accepted and we we moved a few tables together for the other artists. In the short time this this young man helped me, he was asked no less that seven times some very specific questions about the show. The people seeing him assumed he was running the event. Though I was wearing a name tag reading, “Production Coordinator”, and wearing a RAW T-Shirt, the fact that a slightly nice dressed man was moving something that he knew the relative intended destination of, meant to onlookers that he was clearly in charge. When he responded,” I have no idea about that,” I helped the artists.

Men have this ability to simply stand there and convey they know what they are doing.

I have found that when I am in the world, whether it be as an educator, a worker, or simply a customer at a store, as a woman, I need to prove myself at every turn. I know who I am and what I am capable of, and do not need people thinking I am smart or in charge, that is not the point. The point is the of a lack of respect and pre-conceived notions that are put upon women.

Women can be bosses, CEOs, leaders, and complete power houses when we put our minds to things. If you are a man reading this, I hope it has made you give careful consideration to the way you treat the women in your life, whether it be your mom, sister, girlfriend or simply a girl buying some supplies in a hardware store. And if you are a woman reading this, keep believing you can be exactly the woman you want to be and you only have to prove it to yourself that you are just like Beyoncé.

Sincerely,
An aspiring creative girl boss Deanna Jacome

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