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I am woman. Hear me grumble.

I keep meaning to share my outrage about Sunday, so here it is:

Sunday was Ladies' Night...at one of the branches of a local chain of hardware stores.

I'm just going to give that a minute to sink in.

Ok. Mum dragged me along, which was why I was there. Basically, you showed up with the postcard they sent around and an obvious lack of a Y chromosome, and they gave you a goodie bag (more on that later) and let you in. The store, which was reasonably well-stocked (as long as you didn't need lumber and that kind of supply, but that might have been hidden), was full of women, which I suppose is good for the store. They had plates of cheap finger foods (fruit, veggies, cookies, little crackers with cheese on them) on every flat surface, and had representatives from some of the companies showing off their products. There was a woman showing off vacuum cleaners (with a mat that had four different kinds of carpet to test them out on, which was smart), a guy showing off coffee presses, etc. And there was a kind of hunky guy showing off Command hooks. Very nice product, I'll admit, but I'm reasonably certain the group of 40-60-year-old women surrounding him and twittering (not the web phenom) didn't really care.

Mum told me that we had a coupon along with the invite, and I needed a few things (an outlet plate and a door stopper for the apartment, plus a new set of tools which she did not let me buy), so I let her drag me along. I found out after we were already on line to pay that the coupon only worked if you had one of their discount card thingies. And Mum had known that when we were still at home, but didn't tell me so she could drag me along.

And the goodie bag? It was a reusable tote like the ones at the grocery store (useful), a set of cookie cutters (moderately useful, though most of my baking is freehand), and two assorted antique-style kitchen gadgets. Between us, we wound up with a fruit corer/slicer, a potato masher, a set of egg tongs, and a bizarre angled-handle spatula that I'm not entirely sure how you're supposed to use.

Oh, and let me just add that if you looked at anything too long, a male employee would rush over and help you...whether you liked it or not.

Now, I found all this incredibly patronizing. The clerks would not leave me alone, and I found it incredibly insulting that it was assumed that because I'm female I'll go running out because I was mailed something that said SALE, no matter where it was.

And seriously? I've cut steel. I've built platforms that have had sword fights on top of them. I ran wiring for a set of sconces mounted on 20-ft tall Styrofoam pillars. I was the primary repair person at my store for things like changing light bulbs, basic toilet repair, and the time the door hydraulic got torn halfway out of the frame and needed to be removed so the door could be closed. I carry a Swiss army knife or a multi-tool on me on a regular basis. I may be a little biased, but I still think it's insulting to assume that I'm clueless and then try to get my money at the same time.

Mum thought it was just a "clever marketing scheme", and laughed at me when I fumed about it. Opinions from the peanut gallery?

(I almost used my "venting in progress" icon, but I thought this one was even more appropriate.)


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2009 02:32 am (UTC)
Oh oh oh, if you don't want the cookie cutters, I'll take em! And make you cookies with em!
May. 7th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
I now have two identical sets of star and circle cookie cutters in various sizes. I'll sneak you a set along with your birthday present the next time I see you.

Are we on for Friday?
May. 7th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
my mother sent me to college with a shoebox full of tools, including a full-sized hammer.

i see similar "kits" in stores today, and I am filled with seething rage, because they are 1) not full sized and 2) pink and covered in flowers.

I'm a girl, and I use tools. Real tools. I don't need (or want) for them to be "cute".

I give your hardware store a FAIL sticker. With pink sparkles on it.
May. 7th, 2009 02:42 am (UTC)
I didn't have a full set of tools when I went to college, but that's because I had a Swiss army knife and a multi-tool. I just augmented that with a hammer and duct tape and I was set. It's my intention to get an actual tool kit the next time I move out, but that won't be for a while.

I have to admit that the tape measure I have from my shop days is black rubber and pink plastic. My father picked it up (I don't know what he was thinking), and I hated it at first. But then we had our first shop meeting and everyone sat down and took their tape measures off their belts and put them on the table (gangster-style). And I realized that at least mine looked different.
May. 7th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
...it does sound patronizing and condescending and terrible, but I would totally go for a ladies' night at my local hardware store, especially if they had demonstrations on how to use tools and mount things to my wall/ceiling properly. The worst part of what you described sounds like the emphasis on kitchen crap (which I love, but that's not why I go to a hardware store). And really, lots of women DON'T know anything about tools and shit, and ARE kind of intimidated by their hardware store, if only because it is full of chauvinistic assholes who don't listen to my concerns or the product dimensions I very carefully noted before leaving my house.

Anyway. I have a basic tool kit, and it saddens me every day that my hammer is normal-looking and not sparkly pink. In fact, I am planning to paint it pink and cover it with sparkly nail polish, or something, someday. And not in the ironic-feminist way, but in the way where I am secure enough in my third wave feminism to enjoy pink sparkly things sincerely, just because I genuinely believe a pink sparkly hammer would be AWESOME. The part where I think that AND have a vagina is incidental, though, so any gender-biased marketing might still bother me? Now I'm confused, because I do really want that sparkly pink hammer, but I don't think sparkly pink hammers should be imposed on women just because we have vaginas. WHY IS THIS SO COMPLICATED? And how will the makers of sparkly pink hammers reach me with their message of sparkly pink hammerdom without offending all the angry feminists who want their hammers un-pinked and un-sparkled?
May. 7th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC)
What is it with the sparkly pink hammer? :P

I have to say, I want my tools functional, and I'd be worried that the sparkly pink would come would come off onto whatever I was hammering, or, even worse, onto my hands. But I have a deep dislike of sparkles in all forms, so that might be some other problem entirely.

(I forgot to mention that my mother is the woman who said, in all seriousness, that she would give up the right to vote if she could actually live the 1950s ideal [husband works the 9-5 job and is always home for dinner, wife takes care of children, etc.]. She traded in her feminist card a long time ago.)
May. 7th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Hmm. This is a valid point, re: sparkles and potential mess. But I'm not so much into florals. Maybe if it were pink with stripes? I like stripes. More Nautica's bed linens than women's rugby, though. The wide stripes don't really work for me.

Also, WOW, your mother. The right to vote, seriously? I'd be okay living the 1950s ideal, now that we have the internet and I can write all my pop culture gender studies papers from home anyway, but I wouldn't give up the right to vote to do it.

I could, however, live without all the super-liberal, enlightened, feminist-happy men and women who give me THAT LOOK when I tell them that my primary goal in life is to have babies. Like there's something wrong with me just because I don't live up to the second-wave feminist standard of being super career-oriented. I just haven't found any jobs that I like as much as the idea of raising my future spawn and arranging furniture. I LIKE arranging furniture. So far, joining the workforce has just taken valuable time away from all the knitting and sewing and baking and furniture-arranging I would rather be doing on a daily basis.
May. 7th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
I'd hate it but still go because I love sale crap. Hardware stores always look down on women. I had to go to home depot all the time for stuff for IB Art and it was so hard to figure shit out because they thought you were a complete idiot or ignored you.

The gloves I have for field school? The men's version say they are for metalworking, woodwork, etc. The women's version which are the EXACT SAME THING but smaller, say they're for home and gardening. BRB, shoving a trowel up their asses.
May. 8th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
I see it as less a case of fail by the store, than pandering. There are enough women who want exactly what the store was dishing up, and enough more who'd prefer something a little less pink&patronizing but were okay with the kind of thing offered because it's less uncomfortable for them than the usual. I reckon those groups are the ones the store is trying to attract, because the more autonomous, utilitarian chicks are likely already customers.

I find overhelpful salespeople annoying too... but there are enough people who like that sort of thing, or at least buy more when "helped", that it's disgustingly common, especially in high-pressure sales environments. I'm sure stereotypes about women exacerbate it in such situations as you describe, but it needn't be all about that.

MHO, ymmv.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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