A Woman's Place is in Home Depot

It was a typical Saturday afternoon in my world. I slapped on a pair of OV leggings and my favorite Selena sweatshirt and headed straight to the Home Depot for some lumber and trim I needed for a new project. What transpired next is something that any female-presenting person who has ever walked into a hardware store has likely experienced. 

“Aren’t you cold in just that sweatshirt?” he cawed. 

“I’m just fine. Thanks.” I snapped through gritted teeth. 

“Well if you get cold, just come find me. I’ll keep you warm.” 

My body stiffened and my heartrate picked up as he tauntingly walked by me in my forest of pine and cedar. I was furious. I got what I needed and quickly made my exit. My next stop was Lowe’s to see if they had the specific trim I was looking for. So there I was, again in the lumber aisle, holding up the trim to see how it would look when out of nowhere, 

“Well don’t you look like you’re having fun. Why didn’t you invite me to the party?”

I froze. 

On my drive home, I thought of a million and one perfect, snarky, articulate responses I could have spat back. But in that moment, I froze. I froze for fear of their response, because I was alone, because as a woman I’ve been trained to put politeness before all else. And frankly, I’m over it. 

I am a woman. I am a woman who loves wearing heels and makeup and presents herself as very traditionally feminine. I am also a woman who needs new blades for her miter saw and a duct connector for her range hood, and those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I’m tired of apologizing for existing in a space that has historically rejected femininity. For so long I felt like I had to be invited into the home improvement space - that when walking into a hardware store, I was a guest spewing pleasantries and apologies until I made it out with what I needed. But I’ve realized that if I wait for an invitation, I’m never going to make it to the party because the people who traditionally occupy the space I want to be in are not going to voluntarily make room for me. And each time I apologize or try to make myself invisible I’m failing. I’m failing myself and I’m failing everyone else who’s being denied a seat at this table. 

I have experienced this countless times in the home improvement space, but I’ve also experienced it in the workplace, at the gym, at bars, and other public spaces. And as a white-passing cis woman, I recognize that my experiences of not belonging and occupying spaces that traditionally wouldn’t welcome me is limited. I am privileged to know that in most of these situations, my safety is often not in question, and it’s easier for me to commit to owning the space I’m standing in regardless of the situation.

So in addition to committing to owning whatever spaces I want, I’m also challenging myself to invite others into the spaces where I do feel I belong. And if I don’t feel like that space exists, I’m going to create my own. That’s what I’ve done with my newest project, A Second Coat. I didn’t feel like I had a space to own my femininity while simultaneously brushing the sawdust out of my hair, and I had a hunch I wasn’t alone. So I created a digital space to celebrate who I am and share what I’ve learned renovating my home and equip other people with the resources to confidently walk into a Home Depot and own their moment. And I’m so excited to continue cultivating that space for those that feel the same way I do. 

So what space are you hesitant to occupy? And what steps are you going to take to stand there anyway? Because we need you there, and we don’t have time for any more pleasantries. 

Amanda is a proud daughter of Cuban immigrants. She lives in a charming fixer-upper in North Central Austin with her partner, Santiago, and endlessly perfect cat, Ripley. She spends most of her time veganizing her favorite recipes, renovating her home, listening to Selena, registering Austinites to vote, and supporting the live music community. When she’s not planning out her next home project, Amanda works as a Marketing Manager at HomeAway. Amanda has recently launched a project chronicling her adventures in home improvement on her blog A Second Coat!

Chelsea Francis