OT: “If I don’t know how to do it, I don’t have to do it.”

A woman I know said this recently in regards to a household task that is usually a husbandly domain.  I’ve heard it before and not thought much of it, but as I was cutting hay today – actually, I was mowing the lawn at my parents’, it was really long, and they have 1-1/2 acres of lawn – I thought about it again.  If I didn’t know how to run the lawn tractor, I wouldn’t have to cut the lawn.  If I didn’t know to adjust the choke and disengage the blade and try again when it didn’t start , I wouldn’t have to cut the lawn, and so on and so on…But I do know all of those things, thus I have been sneezing all day having nicely chopped up a whole lot of dandelion pollen.  Yay me!

Since I was a little girl, I have refused to accept that there are things that I cannot do simply because I am female.  (It irks me to this day that I cannot pee standing up!).  I took metal shop in junior high because the guidance counselor told me, “girls take Home Economics.”  I made perhaps the worst dustpan and lamp in the history of eighth grade metal shop, but I did it…me, a girl.  So now I know how to use a drill press and bend metal.  My high school had flourishing girls athletic program – thank you Title IX, and I excelled in volleyball and softball.  So now I know how to throw and catch balls (surprisingly useless skills given how much time we spend honing them). When I was in college, my dad got me a job working for a local branch of the company he worked for making hydraulic hose assemblies.  So now I know how to use all sorts of industrial machinery and drive a forklift – and swear like a sailor…those hose guys could really swear a blue streak, and I had to fit in.  When I moved out of state for graduate school, my dad wasn’t around to do it, so I learned how to change a tire and check the oil on my car so I wouldn’t get stranded.

Evidently, I’m a rather independent person.  As an adult, I’ve learned to do a lot of things rather than have to rely on someone else to do them for me.  My neighbor, who is about my age, doesn’t drive.  It’s not that she doesn’t have a car, it’s that she doesn’t drive at all.  This is extremely unusual among the women I know…in fact, I don’t think I know any other women, under 80, who don’t drive.  (a quick statistical check shows that nearly 70% of the female population in the US are licensed drivers) She’s not sight, or hearing, or otherwise impaired, she just doesn’t drive.  She’s completely reliant on her husband or someone else to take her places. She asked me the other day if I’d let her know the next time I went shopping so she could tag along…apparently her husband doesn’t want to drive her.  I won’t bore you with the backstory, but the last thing I want to do is spend a precious free day shopping with this woman – apart from the driving thing, she just plain creeps me out – a lift to the bank?  OK.  A whole afternoon with her?  No thank you.   I could not possibly accept being dependent on anyone to that degree.  I guess it gets back to my need to be independent.  If I have a flat tire and my husband is in the car, I’m more than happy to let him deal with it, but I also know that I could do it myself if he wasn’t there, just the same as I could do a lot of things if no one else was able to.

“If I don’t know how to do it, I don’t have to do it.”  I think I’d still rather know how to do things, and trust that the people around me will do their share.

Yeah, this is definitely how I look when I'm mowing the lawn!

Yeah, this is definitely how I look when I’m mowing the lawn!

22 comments on “OT: “If I don’t know how to do it, I don’t have to do it.”

  1. Leigh says:

    I, too, value the self-reliance and independence that comes from the competence to do it myself. I’ve mowed and rototilled, driven all manner of cars and trucks (but not a tractor or a forklift), done plumbing and electrical repairs, changed a tire and put on chains, etc. I know women who like the control that dependence seems to give them over others, somthing I find contemptable. One woman I know can’t even pump her own gas at a self-service station. When my husband became ill, I HAD to learn how to do things myself, because no one was going to do them for me. What’s the point of standing there moaning and wringing your hands when you can’t fix a garbage disposal or change out a ball cock in a toilet? No one is obligated to come to your rescue. It galls me that there are things I can no longer do, but I have the sense to know I have to call a pro, instead of trying to batten on friends.

    • obscura says:

      With this particular woman, I think it has more to do with balancing the load in a household, ie, if she knows how to, it becomes hers to do forever…that’s more of a relationship thing. That’s an interesting point about women using their helplessness to control others – that is sketchy. We’re currently working on breaking Mini Me of her habit of crying every time things don’t go her way…manipulation by tears doesn’t sit well either. I’m not much of a hand wringer myself 🙂

  2. bechep says:

    The thing that scares me most about that statement is that so many women have this attitude! I teach a class of 7-8 year old girls and it terrifies me that so many of them already think this way and have the stereotype of the helpless, useless woman needing a man. needless to say we spend a lot of time trying to bust the myths and looking at positive strong female role models. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate my husband mowing the lawn, chopping the wood, removing rather large spiders from the bathroom and changing the oil in my car. I really do! BUT I would certainly do it if I needed to.

    The other thing that scares me about this statement is that it seems to be part of a general apathetic approach to life in men AND women. “it’s too hard,” “I can’t be bothered,” it’s someone else’s problem” are all things we hear too often in today’s society. If I don’t know how to do it, then I make sure that I attempt to learn how to do it! I always rise to a challenge! And I’m glad that at least some of us do – we have to be role models for these young girls who see the 1950’s housewife as still being the ideal woman.

    *gasp!* I just got through a whole blog response without mentioning Thorin! Hmmmm, maybe in this particular case the above statement applies… 😉

    • obscura says:

      You know, I don’t know why I am always shocked when I hear these attitudes…I guess my mother was a forward thinker who taught her daughters that they could do whatever they wanted to do. My mom grew up in the 1950s with 8 brothers…she was literally one of the boys – until she went to school, then she had to wear dresses and be demure, etc. I think she resented it tremendously and made sure her daughters were never forced into these roles. We’re both girly girls from time to time, but we both hold our own in male dominated environments – my sister works in freight logistics…she wrangles truck drivers all day – you think my language is salty!

      I agree – there is a growing apaththy in society… “I can’t be bothered,” is an attitude I combat daily in college class rooms…you’d better be bothered, or you’ll be living with your parents FOREVER!

      Another facet of Armitage fans – Girl Power!!

  3. Amen to this! I know more than one woman who won’t drive on the highway because they “can’t” and I just don’t even. How do you? I can’t. What? I’m sorry. I’ll try to speak in sentences. My job requires me to take medium-long road trips alone, in a fairly old car, and I do it – cheerfully, in fact I look forward to it. But I know more than one woman who “can’t” drive because she’s afraid. Well, we’re all afraid of things. The thing is, what do you do when you’re afraid? Does it rule you? Or do you roll up your sleeves and at least try?

    I gladly admit heights are my downfall. Ew. Bad metaphor. But you know what I mean. I’ll try though, if I need to. I got on a ladder last week to paint. Look, ma, no hands! And I helped put the toilet back together to learn how to do it! Woopwoop! Also, I learned how to strip wallpaper and am hopefully going to learn how to install flooring in the next few weeks. 😀

    And I know how to drive a forklift. I worked in paper and printing plants in college and after. I still have my steel-toed shoes and probably safety goggles somewhere. I know. I’m bangable. 😉

    • obscura says:

      That whole driving thing makes me INSANE! I knew a woman once who drove, but planned her routes so that she never had to turn left across traffic – say WHAT?! I love to drive…I was shocked to find out that my BFF can’t drive a standard transmission. I offered to teach her when we were in Greece a few years ago – she declined, so I drove the whole trip while she covered her eyes…four lane traffic circles, tour busses, Vespas…it’s like a video game! I love it!!

      I am also not a fan of heights, but there was no way I was not going up to the cupola on St. Peter’s in Rome – it was spectacular…a slight problem with vertigo made the trip down the spiral tower stairs an exercise from hell, but I lived to tell the tale, and I’d do it again!

      My husband (then boyfriend) thought I was a total hottie because I could swing a hammer like a pile driver AND keep baseball box scores (I also make exceptional mashed potatoes 🙂 ).

      Rock on my sistah!

  4. guylty says:

    Oh, I have a total bee in my bonnet about this. More like a whole hive, actually. Can’t do something because we lack the Y-chromosome? Come oooooon, pleeeeeeeeeease. Seriously, that is an attitude that should be extinct by now. All the more tragic that it is women themselves who perpetuate the old belief that women can not do everything a man can do.
    Except… sometimes, I am more lazy bum than emancipated woman, and I feel like leaving the bike repairs or the dealing with the plumbing to my other half. Not that I *couldn’t* do it myself, more like “I can’t be arsed – why don’t you, you are better at that, anyway”. OTOH, that also goes for the hubs who leaves grocery shopping to me, or dealing with our kids’ social life (party RSVPs etc). Shit, for two lefties we are rather gender-ist. Nonetheless, We have tried to instill equality in *all* things in our kids. My hubs and I took turns being the homecarer for a few years while the other went out and worked when the children were still young. My son is big into baking (asked for a Gordon Ramsay cook book for his birthday – although *that* fascination may also have to do with Ramsay’s flowery language in his TV-programmes), my daughter is a soccer-ace. In the house I am the computer wizard (welllllll) and hubs is the tidy-upper and cleaner. Hope it all pays off.

    • obscura says:

      I’m totally with you…(I still haven’t figured the stand up peeing though…probably why I hate camping!). There has to be some sort of equitable division of labor in a relationship, and I can see it happening (sorry dudes, you know you have this tendency) that if women cone into a relationship with a lot of skills, they inherit a lot of jobs. This was part of the growth curve with my hubs..”just because I know how to do it myself doesn’t mean you get to do nothing.” It was bumpy early on, but evened out – he still folds the towels wrong though 😉

      We have also tried to be gender non specific with our kids. Boy played with Barbies and wore dresses (he categorically denies this ever happened). I especially tried not to pinkify my daughter, but every time she as given a choice, she defaulted to pink or purple with as much bling as possible *sigh*…BUT, she is the resident household bug killer :).

  5. guylty says:

    The stand-up peeing is on my wishlist, too (avid music festival goer – you can see how that would come in handy…), but I am slightly placated by the fact that men can’t have children or breastfeed. Tadah – ultimately, I think we are the crown of creation, really. I mean, we really CAN do everthing, plus make and bake life *yay* – the guys can only watch-on. Ha!
    You know what – the pink thing with girls – don’t take it personally. Unfortunately there are other influences on children than just the parents. Peer pressure, advertising, you name it.

    • obscura says:

      There is that…maybe the whole spark for male dominance was simple envy! I’ve never really understood patriarchy as a concept…I mean, until relatively recently, one could never be 100% sure who the father of a child was. Hence the necessary controls imposed over females and their “mommy bits” – to preserve the integrity of the line of descent. Now, there is rarely much dispute over who the mother of a child is…ergo, matriarchy makes more sense as a practice…yet you could count the number of functioning matriarchal societies in the world on your fingers. *shrugs*

      Pink? I’m ok with her choices as long as I wasn’t doing extreme preconditioning….her bedroom only recently was painted purple from the green nursery color we put up when expecting her highness 🙂

    • Leigh says:

      I learned how to pee standing up when I had a job that required me to visit construction sites regularly. Those portapotties were so foul, there was no way I was sitting down! It’s a little tricky to get the angle right, but yeah, you can do it.

      I went through phases of bedroom colour; so did my daughter. Pink was never one of our choices, even though there was lots of peer pressure, media propaganda, etc. Currently, I like “peach champagne” and cream, but that could change…

      • obscura says:

        All hail Leigh! That is a mighty accomplishment – necessity truly is the mother of invention isn’t she?!

        When we were looking at colors, she was leaning toward cotton candy pink and magenta, but I couldn’t stomach the notion of a Pepto colored room, so I gently convinced her that a lilac and a deep purple accent wall would be great – she loves it – I think it’s fine …my room is I think the color was – Hazelnut cream – neutral to balance out my very colorful linens 🙂

  6. marieastra8 says:

    You go, obscura!! I’m not so big on the physical work stuff (ok, I’ll admit I pay the kid across the street to mow the lawn), but I have been a woman in a man’s world for most of my working life. It was a proud day for me when the “blue collar” union organizers (all men) said I was “OK”, even though I worked with “white collar” (i.e. office, mostly women) workers. LOL And you are so right about women who are proud/accepting of their dependence on others. Blech. Not for me.

    • obscura says:

      I’ll admit, if anyone else had been around to do it, I’d have gladly ceded the privelege, but it needed to be done, I was available…(my eyes are still puffy 🙂 ) and able. I simply hate the notion of not being able to do anything – not wanting to do it…I get that fine!

  7. katie70 says:

    My cousin has a friend who could not even change her own light blub. She thought she needed a man. My cousin grew the youngest with 3 brothers all much older than her. She took shop classes and them joined the military at 18. She needs no man and a good thing as she has not had the greatest luck with them. She can change her oil and turn around and go out that night in 4 inch heels.

    We are an equal opportunity house. My MIL told son1 that if he had a sister he wouldn’t have to do dishes. WHAT, not in this house I told her, it would not matter if he had a sister or not he would still have to do dishes. My husband only mows the lawn, he will not let anyone else mow it as he enjoys it and likes the quiet time. My husband also thinks he cleans the bathroom better than I do (Navy vs Army he thinks Navy wins) who am I to tell him anything different. On cleaning night (Thursday night as I don’t do a deep weekly clean on the weekends, that is my time) all 5 of us have our own jobs to do, we get the house cleaned faster and the boys are learning a useful skill. Cooking skills are also being taught at the same time. I think that if say boys see there dad’s doing inside work that they will do the same.

    My boys also can say they wore their mom’s combat boots. I don’t do a lot of the outside work, but I can and if I haven’t I can learn. Never tell me that I can’t do something, I will do it to prove them wrong!

    • obscura says:

      Rock on! I deliberately don’t do some things, not because I can’t, but I like to share the household chore love with everyone 🙂

  8. Servetus says:

    re the peeing, I used to observe it all the time (sort of inadvertently) in women’s restrooms in TX when I’d see people’s feet in the stall next to mine. Apparently (from what I observed) the key is facing the wall, like a man would. I had read in some anthropology textbook some time that women in many areas of Africa can direct their urine stream, so I guess it must be possible.

    There’s a term for this that UK Expat shared w/me recently — learned helplessness.

    I think btw that it helps that we grew up where we did. There’s not a lot of patience for artificially helpless behavior in my experience. My dad thought I was not smart enough to learn to drive a standard transmission, but basic maintenance, jump starting, tire changing, and unflooding the valve that led to the carburetor (does anyone have to do that anymore?), as well as getting myself unstuck if I got caught in a snowdrift … my parents have really strong gender-role division in their marriage, but my mother grew up on a farm and could do most of the basic tasks my father does. (In my parents’ marriage, my father is the cross-role helpless one. I’m not sure he could cook himself a meal that involved preparing assembling ingredients of any kind. Good think that food canning and microwaves have been invented).

    • obscura says:

      My continued vertical peeing block seems to be a clothing issue…I’m in willing to publicly “drop trou” far enough to not get me bottoms in the crossfire…to whatever extent they extend (I’m 12, this made me smirk) men still seem have the peeing advantage with an external directional device they have on board.

      I would agree about regional intolerance to helplessness…maybe it’s a holdover of the whole pioneer spirit? Hold on, do you not drive a stick? (My Mom taught me – my Dad rarely drove it…Mom says he rides the clutch too much- ironically, my husband is the same way 🙂 )

      • katie70 says:

        My husband (boyfriend at the time) taught me to drive a stick shift and boy was he tough, my mom had tried to but I was not good at driving a truck. I miss the stick shift now and at times wish I still drove one. I had to learn, the 1st car I had was a stick.

        My dad was in some ways helpless, my mom had to do all the truck maintenance, but my dad would help with the tires, and when he did do something it was wrong. My mom even had to do all the driving, my dad only drove a tractor on his families farm when younger.
        The housework he saw as women’s work, my mom hated housework, even as a child she would get out of it if she could and go to the barn to work. As a child she was a tomboy in a dress.

        My FIL rode the clutch and the brake and to close to the car in front of him.

  9. Leigh says:

    Men can also be sneaky about helplessness. They will cook a meal so badly it’s inedible, or take half an hour to iron a shirt horribly, just to make the woman so exasperated that she will say (in effect), “Oh, let me do that!” It is only later that you realize you have been manipulated. Or, when the car is stuck in the snow, “Your hands are small enough to fit in the wheel well; I’ll back the car onto the chains and you can fasten them.” Then you realize, after you have lain on your back in the snow and your fingers are numb, what would he have done if you hadn’t been in the car?

    • obscura says:

      Oh the dreaded sneaky helplessness…I struggle with this raising a son. Watching him complete some tasks was painful until I realized exactly what you point out – he’s doing it wrong on purpose so I get annoyed and do it myself. Husband got out of folding laundry that way for about ten years! It must be attached to that Y chromosome 😉

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