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Home Depot’s “Do-It-Herself” Classes Seem Like They’re Missing the Point

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Home Depot offers free “Do-It-Yourself” workshops describing fix-it techniques to use around the house — and they also have a special series of women-only workshops called “Do-It-Herself.” I have to admit that my initial reaction to this was not great, but hey, I’ve taken classes designed for women who want to break into male-dominated activities, and I don’t think the concept is terrible. I learned how to code by taking classes designed for women in particular, and it helped me to get over my fear of asking stupid questions and hearing condescension in response. Is that what Home Depot had in mind with these classes, I wondered?

Doesn’t seem like it. As this Consumerist feature explains, thanks to a reader tip from a woman called Renate, the “Do-It-Herself” class series could use some work. Here are some of the examples of classes offered in the supposedly genderless “Do-It-Yourself” category: “Interior Paint & Drywall Repair,” “Installing Tile Backsplash,” “Installing a Vanity,” and “Build a Storage Bench.” Great! What’s the only class in the “Do-It-Herself” category, right now? “Build a Beverage Crate.”

Beverage crates sound fine to me, although I’m not sure why that class is only being offered to women. The description of the class reads,

With just a few tools and a little know-how, you can build a beautiful wood beverage crate. We teach you to properly measure, use a jigsaw to make grid cuts, and customize with paints and stains.

Given the introductory language — “little know-how” is required! — it’s clear that the “Do-It-Herself” classes are framed as beginner’s classes. So, basically, “Do-It-Yourself” is for anyone who is already familiar with using more than “just a few tools,” but the “Do-It-Herself” classes are … well, the assumption is that you won’t be as familiar with how to do anything.

There’s no real reason to gender this class, though. You could just as easily put classes like this in a category called “Beginners,” thereby encouraging non-women who still have “little know-how” to go to the class and learn how to make a beverage crate! Plus, you don’t end up insulting women’s intelligence and aptitude by assuming that they must need a simplified, less intimidating class. Also you don’t need to assume that women want to make something that looks “beautiful.” Maybe they want to hang drywall! Maybe drywall is also beautiful! Come on now.

A representative for Home Depot explained to Consumerist that the “Do-It-Herself” classes exist because “females expressed interest in having their own clinics.” The rep went on to clarify that “groups [of women] even do them as parties from time to time.” The topics covered in the “Do-It-Herself” classes are chosen based on surveys filled out by the participants.

That all sounds fine! But what strikes me as interesting is that Home Depot doesn’t seem to understand the plethora of reasons why women might have requested to have their own classes. Recall the reasons that I listed in the opening paragraph here, for example. The introductory class that I took in order to learn how to code is explicitly framed as an opportunity for women to learn a skill that’s considered “masculine” in a judge-free zone. It’s a lot harder to learn new skills when you’re surrounded by people who condescend to you about how “surprised” they are to see you there. If you’re not a beginner, then you’re still assumed to be one, and you’ll have to prove your know-how right off the bat simply because you are a woman. If you are a beginner, then you’ll have to deal with learning in an environment that underestimates you, and that’s frustrating! It’s neither easy nor fun to learn in that environment — why withstand that pressure just for a free class?

If Home Depot offered a class that was all about framing power tools as being less intimidating for women to learn how to use, and which focused more explicitly on how it’s actually not that hard to learn how to cut wood or put together a cabinet or repair a sink drain, or whatever else, that would be pretty great. Unfortunately, the current delineation of the classes makes it sound like women would only be interested in home repair if it’s for an easy, one-time-only, pretty-looking crafts project. Women aren’t the only ones who might enjoy an easy, cute crafts project!! But also, if Home Depot is willing to admit that their other classes are unwelcoming to women — unwelcoming enough that women have requested their own classes — then maybe they should consider other ways to address that problem, while still offering the same level of education to anyone who wants to learn more about home repair.

Personally, when I need to fix my drain or repair a crack in my wall, I can Google it and figure out how to do it myself. (Or “herself.”) And I do! But if Home Depot offered a comprehensive class for this, taught by women and aimed at women, I think the results could be pretty interesting. I’m not inherently opposed to the fact that for the moment, “Do-It-Herself” focuses on arts and crafts … but I also think it would be interesting to see Home Depot try a little harder to understand the reasons why women might not feel so welcome anywhere else. I don’t believe the explanation is that women don’t care about home repair. I think it’s probably a little more complicated than that.

What do you all think?

(via Consumerist, image via Home Depot)

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