What’s Holding Us Back


I’ve been putting off this post for a long time. I probably should have written it three years ago. But, each time, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to write about negativity on my blog. I want this to be a positive and empowering space for people (especially women) to be inspired to pick up a power tool and/or complete that DIY project they’ve been putting off.”


This past week I witnessed and endured something that made my blood boil. Supposed DIY experts belittling women. Most of the behavior wasn’t blatant, it was subtle. Some of it was body language (crossed arms, wide leg stance and a scowl while being asked a question.) And some of it was not so subtle with a condescending comment or tone. And this behavior made me mad. No—take that back—it burned me up inside!

Why? Because I have a dream that one day when any woman walks into a hardware store or a home improvement store it will NOT BE ASSUMED that she isn’t handy or that she is incapable of completing a major home renovation or repair. I dream that there will be a day that the stereotypes about women and men will cease to exist. And I know that any woman that is belittled or turned away from DIY is one less step toward my dream.

lumber_in_acadiaSandra of SawdustGirl.com and myself

Therefore, I think it’s time to address that big fat wall that’s holding us back. What is it that scares you about DIY? Is it the fear of a power tool? The fear of screwing something up?  Of injuring yourself? Of breaking something?

Well, it’s time to break down that wall!

First, you need to peel back those layers and really address why you don’t think you can. Did you get messages from others that became part of your beliefs about your own abilities?

How was that wall built? Did it start when you were a child? Did your Dad or Mom tell you not to touch a tool for fear you might hurt yourself? Did your Uncle or neighbor laugh at you when they saw you trying to fix something? What was it? Usually that wall is a culmination of years of messages that get embedded into your brain, until you are stripped of the self confidence necessary to try something new.

Do any of these messages sound familiar:

  • “That’s a man’s job. Let a man do it.”
  • “You might break it.”
  • “You’re not strong enough.”
  • “Why don’t you hire a professional?”
  • “Here, let me help you with that.”
  • “Stand back, I’ll take care of it.”
  • “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Or was it a more subtle message from a professional or someone more experienced who threw a bunch of technical jargon at you making you feel confused or inferior.

I want to share with you some of the nasty comments I receive (especially on YouTube.) The comments are direct assaults on my self esteem and confidence. After reading them, I often begin to doubt my own abilities. Here are just a few of those nasty comments:

  • You really should remove your power tool tutorials. Some idiot is going to seriously hurt themselves.
  • What she is saying is completely wrong esp the part about wetting the caulk but at least she is trying.
  • Woman, you do it wrong
  • Get back in the kitchen where you belong.
  • Women shouldn’t use MAN tools. There is a reason god made you bare children and born with a frying pan in your hand.. This is the same as being a lesbian in my book seeing a woman pick up a tool!

AND then this person left a reply to that last degrading comment:

“Hey dude with the negative comments toward women… disrespectful !  Why can’t a women use power tools?  She can do whatever she likes.  I think you are old school curmudgeon that is afraid of women, and in controlling what they do, that keeps you feeling like KING SHIT ON TURD ISLAND.  Newsflash – we’re in 2014 – get used to it loser!  I hope you are man enough to apologize to Brittany for your loser comments.”

I wanted to high five that commenter! He had it right. There are a lot of people who are threatened by women who can DIY. They view it as a threat to their masculinity. Heaven forbid a woman realize that using a power tool or fixing something isn’t rocket science.

Let me be the first to tell you. You CAN do it! That wall of negative and self-deprecating messages is going to come down NOW! No offense to anyone who is a plumber or knows a plumber, but I sincerely doubt that you have any less brain cells than that guy who’s mooning you while trying to fix your leaky sink. He just has a little more knowledge and experience at tightening slip nuts and p-traps (sorry, I didn’t mean to throw out the technical jargon.) However, when that plumber started, he had no more expertise than you do. He may have been trained in an apprenticeship or trade school But, lucky for you, today there is a wealth of resources to teach you how to fix anything! YouTube, Google, FamilyHandyman.com and many many many blogs that will help you complete a DIY project using step-by-step tutorials!


Still fearful of using a power tool? Well, here are the facts. If you are safety conscious, you will take the time to read the manual and go slow when learning how to use a new power tool. You will have less of a risk of injuring yourself than a seasoned pro. Why is that? I call it the healthy fear factor. If you respect the tool and have a healthy fear of it, you will double-check that you are keeping your hands and body away from the tool. You will be sure that your hair is tied back and you have removed any jewelry or loose clothing. You will not rush through a cut or task. You will give that tool your full attention and make sure that you are staying safe.

A few years ago one of my favorite contractors told me he had to retire. He had accidentally cut off one of his fingers. This is a man who had been building and fixing for decades! And he cut his finger off. How? He told me, “Brittany, I was stupid. I did not respect that tool and it bit me. I was rushing through a job and cut my finger off with an angle grinder. I’ve used that tool hundreds of times and was complacent and didn’t give it my full attention.” And that is why it is important to ALWAYS respect the tool. It’s okay to have a healthy fear of power tools! In fact, it is what will keep you safe.

I encourage you to take a hard look at that wall of negative attitudes about DIY.

Don’t let someone rob you of your self confidence. If you are reading this post, know that you are an intelligent human being who is capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Grab that wall and pull it down. Believe in yourself and tackle that DIY project. I’m here if you have questions. I’m here to give you positive encouragement. Just think to yourself, “What Would Pretty Handy Girl say?” and build up a platform of positive thoughts and messages so you can dive off the top of that wall of crap!

What’s the worst that can happen if you do try to fix or build something? If you screw it up, so what! Call in that professional. But, stick right by his or her side and watch how they fix it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. AND hopefully they will keep their butt crack inside their pants. Should you succeed at the project, rejoice! Celebrate and share with your girlfriends. Let’s break down the stereotype wall together.


Feel free to leave a comment below about that time you were talked down to or someone made a condescending remark. Let’s all lift each other up and reassure one another that we can do it! High fives all around!


P.s. This post is dedicated to my blogging friend and fellow power tool wielding DIY Rock Star! You go girl! 

109 replies
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  1. Tawny Leste-Carlson
    Tawny Leste-Carlson says:

    Ladies, No worries about not having facial hair, you’ll get a whole face full of whiskers once you hit menopause! 😆

  2. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My ex-husband refused to allow me to use the power tools because he said I would hurt myself. Now that he is my ex and I am in the 1957 home that we bought together to remodel, I am faced with the daunting tasks left behind. I appreciate you sharing and encouraging all of us to go for it. Now I just need to believe in me.

  3. Donald
    Donald says:

    Love your attitude girl! Girl Power for sure!

    A different side of the coin — I’m a guy and have always felt ‘less than’ because I can’t do even 1/4 of the stuff you are able to do. In our macho society, guys are supposed to have these skills. I’m happy now to embrace my lack of skills, pick them up here and there, and in the mean time let “girls” like you show me how! 🙂

  4. Vicki @ Grams Made It
    Vicki @ Grams Made It says:

    Bravo! I am new to your blog. I just found it a few days ago. I love your DIY projects. There is absolutely no reason women can’t tackle their own DIY projects. At 60 years old, I was a young woman during the women’s liberation movement of the 60s and 70s. Every time I think we’ve gotten beyond the stereotypes, some throwback chauvinist rears his ugly head and shows how unintelligent he is. Keep on showing us how to do it!

  5. Janet
    Janet says:

    I am amused by men assuming I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know any other woman in my personal life who is very handy like me. I was so excited when I discovered blogs and that there are other woman out there like me! We make up a very small percentage of the population so I doubt that bias will be overcome anytime soon. The ignorant thing (beyond the debasing sexism) about some of the video comments you’ve gotten is that there are frequently several ways to build, or do the same project all with similar outcomes. So, just because they might not do something the same way you do, it doesn’t mean your way is wrong. I am almost always treated with respect. The only negative comment I remember getting was when I was General Contracting my first house, the guy at the lumberyard said, “Why don’t you send your husband in?” Uh, ’cause he wouldn’t have a clue what we were talking about. For our next house, I went with another lumberyard who was happy to work with a woman. However, all my interactions are face to face and it’s so much easier for idiots be rude with written comments with some anonymity than it is face to face. I wonder if the idiots would have made those comments to you in person.

  6. Diane
    Diane says:

    Dearest Brittany, you are my hero!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and gifts with us. I am 68 and I want to be just like you when I grow up.

  7. Colleen Taylor
    Colleen Taylor says:

    THE BEST POST without a doubt! I’ve been gone & I wish I had time to read all the comments here but it looks like it’s all incredibly positive!
    This makes me sick & my blood boil as well. Yes, I’ve had to deal with all of this crap from men for more years than I can remember. With all my experience of fix & flips, I’ve encountered this a ton & still do.
    I remember when working on this house & giving directions to the few subs I had to hire, at one time after all the eye rolling I could take, I announced “If I see one more eye roll from any one of you, you’ll be fired with your eyes rolled in the back of your head!” It stopped. I can still outwork any many on any given day & do it better! Thank YOU Brittany!!!

  8. Jake's a Girl
    Jake's a Girl says:

    I’d love to see any of these JERKS give birth! If I can do that I can do anything!
    Of course then I burst out laughing!!!
    Quote “Women shouldn’t use Man Tools” well if we didn’t none of us would be here. 😀

    Even today in 2014 some men still think we belong in the kitchen … Well that is if we’re not out helping
    them bring in the bacon to cook in said kitchen. I said, Some men. Thank God there are Real Men that believe we are capable of anything we set our minds to.

    Way to Go Brittany! You keep pushing, prodding, and inspiring women to reach for that golden hammer! We can and will do it and leave those “Some Men” in the dust!

  9. Donna
    Donna says:

    Thanks for a great article. Awesome! My husband works very hard, 6-7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. So, when I want to make small changes to the house, I want to do it myself instead of waiting for my husband. He supports my interest in wanting to do more diy around the house. He had me rolling on the floor, laughing when I opened my anniversary gift, a electric chain saw!
    The negative thing I hear myself say is ‘I’m not strong enough’ It’s true, but I can move 1 piece at a time instead of the whole thing.
    I get frustrated when I use a small electric drill to put IKEA furniture together… & I can’t keep the bit in the screw hole. I know it takes practice & persistence…
    So, what do I say to those guys who look down on me or patronize me? I’d love to have a snappy comeback.
    I didn’t know you had youtube videos, I’m gonna enjoy learning & watching those. Hugs to you!

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