Friday, 8 March 2013

In Honour of International Women's Day: A Confession and A Challenge

It may seem an odd confession to make on International Women's Day, but I'm afraid that in some ways, I'm not a very good feminist.

Let me explain. I believe every woman and girl should be loved, cherished and respected for the way she enriches this world, no matter where she lives or what path she chooses for her life. I am committed to raising my daughter to believe, right down to the core of her being, that nobody can ever hold her back from creating her own future. But do I always set a good example?

In my house, there are definite blue and pink jobs. Most of the time, it's a division according to my husband's and my particular talents, which makes sense; in fact, to recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses and work together accordingly forms the foundation of any good partnership. Doug's great at fixing the plumbing, while I've got a knack for managing finances. He doesn't mind taking out the garbage, while I don't mind giving the kids a bath. But there are times when I wonder: do I hide behind my so-called weaknesses to get out of doing distasteful tasks? I could learn to renovate the garage, but I don't know much about home repairs. Plus, I absolutely hate measuring things. Is this just a shameful excuse?

In my professional capacity as a freelance journalist (and formerly financial office-type), I hide behind nothing. I don't let gender or insecurities get in my way. I am ambitious, I set goals, and I do my best to achieve them. I'm not afraid to flex my intellectual muscles; to jump in and get my brain cells dirty.

But when it comes to fixing a leaky toilet, or changing the oil in the car, or installing a baseboard heater, I step back and let the men in my life do their thing.

What holds me back? I'm small for a grown up, and not very strong. I get scared easily when it comes to physical things (I didn't even ditch my bike training wheels until I was eight years old!). I get frustrated and embarrassed when I can't do something simply because...I just can't. And some things are boring or tedious or distasteful to me. Like everyone else, I have things I'm good at and love doing, and things I'm lousy at or just plain hate.

In Grade 9, I was one of only two girls who signed up for woodworking class. The project for the term was to make a side table with one drawer. Failure to complete the project meant an F grade. Our teacher pulled us girls aside and told us if we found the side table too hard, we could make a lamp instead and be graded the same as all the boys who completed their "harder" project. I was furious! How dare he be so condescending? No way was I taking the easy road; I'd show him what girls could do with a few board feet of lumber!

Near the end of term, I was sadly behind and in danger of failing the class. My problem? I was deathly afraid to use the big machines. Maybe it was the slideshow of horrible, machine-related injuries our teacher showed us at the beginning of the term by way of safety training. But I couldn't get near the table saw.

I chucked my self-respect to the wolves and meekly asked if I could, after all, make the lamp.

As it turned out, I adored making that lamp. I had no fear of the lathe, and loved shaping my laminated blocks of wood into something beautiful. I loved seeing the wood grain appear as I chiseled and sanded the curves until I could hold my design in my hands. I drilled a hole through the centre, wired it, added a matching lampshade and turned my project in. I got an A in that class and gave the lamp to my mother for her birthday.

Was this just a matter of working within my talents and abilities, or did I simply wimp out? To this day, I'm filled with equal parts shame and pride whenever I look at that lamp.

And this is where Glamping comes in.

I think the biggest reason I've taken to glamping so passionately is that it challenges me to get comfortable outside my comfort zone; to pick up my power tools (no table saws, though) and fix up my trailer myself. The dangling carrot is that I get to pretty up my very own playhouse exactly the way I want!

The whole idea is that it's a girl thing. Grab your toolbox, girls! Says MaryJane Butters, the Mother of All Glamping Sisters. You don't need a man's help to refurbish your vintage trailer or drive you through mountains and valleys to get to that glamping rally halfway across the country! You can park your trailer like a pro, pump your own sewage, fix a flat tire along the way, and set up the prettiest darned campsite anyone's ever seen! This glamping thing is all yours; don't let anyone tell you how to do it!

I feel like someone waved a magic wand over my head and said: "I hereby grant you permission and the physical ability to do what you've never done before." I'm not sure I've ever been inspired quite in this way, but I'm determined to this glamping thing all by myself, pink jobs, blue jobs and everything in between. Like my turned-wood lamp, I think I've found a way to master stuff outside my realm of comfort in a way that simultaneously allows my talents to shine. I'm driven by a need to prove to myself that I won't back down, won't give in, won't wind up sitting in the passenger seat forever after while my husband parks the trailer. There's a whole lot of character development going on here, thanks to this whole glamping thing and all my Fairy Godmothers out there who are already doing it. I can't wait to see where it takes me.

From Canada and Australia to Europe and all across the United States, Glamping Sisters are doing it for themselves. Three cheers for every blessed woman out there.

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