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Enough With ‘Tools for Women’ Already

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Why is this type of stock image so easy to find?

Welcome to What Really Grinds My Chisels, an occasional feature where the Popular Woodworking editors tackle subjects they feel passionate about.

I recently received a press release from a large power tool manufacture titled “Gift Ideas For Her This Holiday Season.” This piqued my attention- not because I’m working on a gift guide myself – but namely curiosity about what sort gifts would be “for her.” With some trepidation, I opened the email and was immediately disappointed to see the opening line  “This holiday season skip the pajamas, slippers and blender…” and have it only go downhill from there.

There was not a single true woodworking tool on the list. Just a handful of light crafting tools, a crown stapler (ideal for adhering fabric to wood, as in upholstery work for chairs and benches!), and electric scissors.

That’s not a list of tools for women; it’s a list of crafting tools. Crafting tools that can be used by men or women. Where are the drills? Where are the saws? The sanders? Why would a gift guide for women exclude these popular tools?

Sexism of course.

Whether it was intentional or not, this issue isn’t limited to this particular manufacturer. A cursory glance at other tool websites shows vacuums and glue guns featured almost exclusively with women, while the circular saws and angle grinders are photographed with male models. Ditto most hand tools. Why, nearly 80 years after Rosie the Riveter, are we still struggling with the concept that women can also like to use the same tools as men?

To make things worse, nearly every effort from the tool industry to target women usually involves painting their normal tools (mostly the small, 18v ones of course) pink.

Who are they kidding here?

A pink power tool isn’t inherently a tool for women. Woodworkers like Anne Briggs or Alma Villalobos pick their tools based on quality and capability, not what shade of plastic it’s made out of. It’s time that tool manufacturers stop pretending otherwise.

So how can it get better?

The easiest thing to do is stop viewing men and women makers as separate demographics. No more gender-specific gift guides. No more gender-specific tool photography choices. No more pink tools.

Long term, if manufacturers wanted to make real headway on making their tools more inclusive for women, they would focus on issues like ergonomics, where there are real differences in the bodies of women and men, including hand size, body center of gravity, and more. Building “tools for women” would take those factors into consideration.

If we’re being totally honest, tool manufacturers aren’t the only guilty party here. Women in the woodworking world experience sexism on a regular basis, and while there’s been incremental improvement, there’s still a long way to go. But that’s a topic for a later edition of  What Really Grinds My Chisels.


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