This started as a side note on my tilling post, but it quickly grew too large to include on that. It won’t be lighthearted and fun. This post might even sound complainy. But I need to get something off my chest: I am not weak.
The home improvement store is where people have tried to tell me that I’m not strong enough.
I’m 5’4″ and female. While I’m not visibly stout or hulking, I regularly (and easily) carry 50-pound bags of chicken feed or landscape rocks. It’s not uncommon for people to force – yes, force – help on me when I’m loading my cart or car at the home improvement store. They’ll either step in without asking, or they ignore the several times I say, “No, thanks; I’m fine” and step in anyway.
While dismissing my consent* is not an unimportant problem, the unstated issue here seems to be: I appear weak, and therefore, I must be weak. No questioning. No watching me demonstrate my capability (or perhaps, watching but not accepting the demonstration).
Is there a solution when others assume you’re weak?
A man started loading my retaining wall blocks into my car after I said “no” three times. Afterwards, I drove off and left him to deal with the unwieldy cart. This was a big deal because I always replace the cart. Frankly, I feel like the next step’s going to involve kicking someone in the shins. However, getting banned from the store for violence will put a serious damper on my ability to complete yard projects.
An appearance thing? A regional thing?
Interestingly, a good friend who is several inches taller, a bit stouter, and wears her hair short and brilliant purple hasn’t dealt with the “helpers” I’ve faced. She also lives in a Mountain state. Unwelcome help might, in part, be a southern thing.
As a lone woman tackling larger house and yard projects, there is one problem I continually face: underestimation of capability.
“Oh, you poor thing,” some may be say. “Your huuuge problem is people are trying to help you.” And sure, on the one hand, it’s nice to reveal a finished chicken coop or garden and have friends and family gush their amazement at what you single-handedly created. However, it’s frustrating – and sometimes extremely discouraging and disheartening – to hear at nearly every step before that, “you’re too weak to do this.” Even though I may, at that very moment, be performing the physical labor, onlookers say, “No, you can’t.”
This post serves a few purposes. As stated in the beginning, it’s an issue I wanted to get off my chest. But also, if you’re a woman who wants to build sheds or paths on your own, don’t be surprised if you face what I’ve described too. You aren’t alone, and you’re strong enough.
*an older acquaintance also argued that these men were raised to help women, and they just “didn’t know any better.” This comment, while well intentioned, really got under my skin because it erases my personhood and makes me, instead, a tool or object in the life of the “helper.”