Nov
04

2013

Confessions of a Female Fixaholic

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All right, so I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. But you gotta promise you won’t tell my fellow iFixiters. I’m not a fixer.

I don’t fix my computer when its hard drive overheats. I don’t puff up with confidence when I get a flat tire. I don’t look at a broken curtain rod and say, “I got this.”

Nope—I’m not the girl you’re looking for. At least, I wasn’t.

I grew up surrounded by very self-sufficient people: six Eagle Scouts (with two on the way), four technicians, one architect, and an enthusiastic father who learned everything he knows about repair from “Grandpa Smithy.”

But there’s a trend in my family—and most of my girlfriends’ families—that’s hard to ignore. All the fixers are men. They tinker and build and play, then grab a beer and watch a game afterwards. I didn’t.

I wasn’t offended, though. I didn’t shout or pout or beg for my own set of screwdrivers. I was perfectly fine letting the boys be boys. I’m probably making my fellow feminists cringe, but that’s just how it was. I didn’t fix because I wasn’t really taught to fix. And somewhere down the line, I stopped caring to learn.

That doesn’t mean I’m helpless—not by a long shot. I was encouraged to be independent, smart, capable, and career-oriented. I mean, I’ve never been short on female role models. Aunty Jan, a CPA with her own firm, or cousin Christina, a philanthropic athlete, or my mom Lynn, a talented artist… just to name a few. I was the next act in a long series of powerful women, and the sky was my limit.

Safe to say, my family always told me to be my own person and stand for what I believe in—just so happens that my beliefs didn’t cover leaky faucets. And I was able to maintain my non-fixing lifestyle for more than 20 years, nearly seven of those years living alone. Thanks to my paid plumber and the nice guy with the toolbox down the street, I got along just fine.

Then I met the folks at iFixit. For them, repair was a more than an action. It was a state of mind. And what they said made a whole lotta sense: Fixing things is good for the environment, it helps child-miners in developing countries, it saves you money. Cool, great, got it, I thought to myself. But I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid just yet.

Until one day when I was working in the office, drinking my daily tea. Unsurprisingly, my klutzy hand knocked over the nearly-full mug and I spilled Purely Peppermint Yogi all over my laptop’s trackpad. Giddy with fear, my stomach dropped as every other muscle in my body seized up: “Oh shit,” I thought. “How much is this repair gonna cost?”

But before I could pull out the credit card, a group of my co-workers jumped at the opportunity to open something up. I shrugged, and without hesitation handed over the device. I didn’t even notice my assumption; once again, a good-natured boy was going to help me fix something. Wrong.

One of the guys, Mike, grabbed the laptop and put it on a table next to a ProTech Toolkit. He looked over at me and asked, “Ya ready?” Ready for what? Ready to watch you? Yeah, sure. Very wrong. Mike pulled up a guide online on how to open a MacBook and told me to grab a PH000 screw out of the kit. I spent the next 10 minutes opening, cleaning, and reassembling my computer. It was quick, it was intimidating, it was freaking fantastic.

I’ve owned that computer for five years. It’s been attached to my hip through countless hours of essay writing, photoshopping, Internet exploring, and the like. It’s certainly the object I use the most—for hours and hours a day. I love my computer. I’m not even ashamed to admit that I curiously nicknamed it “Spike” (thanks, James Marsters). So you’d think I’d know everything there is to know about my computer. But up until that ill-fated day my tea spilled, I had never seen the most important part of it—its guts.

I wanted to do a little jig, I wanted say sayonara to Genius Bars and Geek Squads, I wanted to open up everything I owned, just ‘cause I could. That night I went home and pulled out the dust-covered tool box my dad proudly gave me when I moved out years ago. And I started to fix. I fixed the bedroom window. I fixed the bathroom towel rack. I fixed the loose light fixture in the hall. I fixed all the broken things that had casually mocked me every time I came home—all in one night. I was charged, I was excited, I was revolutionized.

I was (gosh, dare I say it?) a fixer.

I don’t have a great excuse for relying on others (on boys) to fix my stuff for so many years. In fact, I didn’t even think of it as reliance—I just thought of fixing as something somebody else was better at. I’m a girl, I thought. I’ll step aside and let the boys do their thing.

But I suppose fixing is like most activities. You just need one good opportunity, you just need one toolbox from dad, you just need Mike standing there waiting for you to make the first move (not expecting you to stand aside ‘cause you’re a girl)… and then, well, you just fix it. And that’s when you learn that fixing isn’t a boy’s sport. It’s for everyone.

By Cait Emma



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Covering international news, feminist and politic issues and everything else that catches the panda's eye.

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