“I have a husband, and he does not do anything. He likes to watch TV, so we are taking over. We can do it! But my mother would have never believed this,” Rowen said. “For her generation, it would be like girls playing sports — shocking and tomboyish. That’s just not true anymore.”
Welcome to the latest field in which women are joining and sometimes outshining men — home repair. As the country’s demographics shift, more women are making more money and staying single longer than ever. Consider this seismic shift: There are nearly twice as many single female home buyers as there are single male home buyers, according to 2011 data from the National Association of Realtors. These women don’t have to rely on men to financially support them — but somebody still needs to rewire that light switch and unclog that drain. That somebody is them.
They are power women with power tools.
“But what are husbands for?” quipped Jon Otis, 64, who wandered by the workshop, slightly bewildered by the shower-grouting women. “But they’re gonna do it better than us, I bet.”
Others have no reservations. “I think it’s just wonderful,” said Barnabas Mogan of the do-it-herselfers, “because someone has to do it.”
That women are encroaching on previously male-dominated territory is nothing new. But, until recently, home repair — like automotive mechanics — has seemed inviolable. “Fixing things around the house was the last bastion of manliness,” said Hanna Rosin, author of “The End of Men” and co-founder of Slate’s Double X blog. “But now, even that is getting taken away. As women become more economically independent, they are starting to fix things around the house for themselves.”
The fact that mainstream American women are picking up power tools is significant, Rosin said, because it’s different from more women becoming, say, lawyers or accountants. These women aren’t just Martha Stewart with wrenches, they’re taking on heavy-duty repairs such as patching roofs and finishing basements — tough physical work that has long been left to men.
“But the truth is, nothing belongs to anybody anymore,” Rosin added. “If men can quilt and take over the kitchen, then women can pick up a wrench and fix a leaky pipe.”
These days, would-be handywomen, should they be so inclined, can buy pink tool kits, complete with pink pliers, hammers, drills and utility knives. It’s a big change from the stratified gender roles of the 1950s. Lillian Ann Baumbach, a “21-year-old miss from Arlington, VA and the country’s first woman master plumber,” was profiled in a 1951 Washington Evening Star article headlined “Pretty Plumber.”