Compatriots, I'm in something of a huff this night about some things that have happened to me throughout my life, and it's only within the last few days that I've put all of the puzzle pieces together. Perhaps it's just whiny, in which case you can just blame it on my being a millenial.
I had a great sticky epiphany in which I started telling Mr.Infinium about instances throughout my life where I've been pushed out of contributing to manual labor/mechanical work-type things simply because I'm a girl, or because I'm not an expert concerning these things because I wasn't taught how to do them as a kid, but where people assume the reason I don't know how to do said things is because I'm a girl, and not, you know, because no one has ever taught me.
Once upon a time when I was a wee 7th grader, I somehow ended up being the only female in an otherwise all-dude group project in Tech Ed. The boys in my group didn't do much in the way of working on the project, but when I tried to help out, they told me to stop because I was doing things wrong. If I asked for something to do, they didn't give me anything to do. There was literally no way for me to succeed. I couldn't have built the project on my own, because I had never been taught to do anything of the tech ed variety (e.g., drills, even hammers or screwdrivers) before in my life. I was the only one who consistently tried to work on the bloody project, but when peer-review scores rolled around, everyone gave me awful reviews. That class was the only B I ever got pre-undergrad, and it was because no one would teach me how to do the things they punished me for not knowing.
Last summer, on an agriculture field trip with some fellow graduate students to Nowhere, Eastern Montana, the tire on our vehicle went flat. We (being one older male faculty member, 4 male grad students, and 3 female grad students) leapt out of the vehicle. I'll give you three guesses which individuals immediately set to swapping out the tire and which individuals were immediately excluded from the proceedings. Someone even commented later about the people sitting around (umm, it doesn't take 8 people to change a tire). When I tried to help out by moving the busted tire out of the way, another dude came up and "helped" me by taking it away for me. Which is to say that once again when I tried to help, none of the males in the group would let me. Hell, I even know how to change a tire in theory, but no one has ever let me try. And I still don't, because when the opportunity arose no one allowed me the chance.
A few months ago, I went to replace the oil on my car with my husband. Again, I understand in theory how to do this, but I've never been given the chance. I didn't get the chance this time, either. So instead I decided to replace the windshield wiper blade on my car. This is a thing I've never happened to do before with the particular brand of blade I purchased, and I was struggling with it. So my FIL took the blade and did it for me, instead of showing me how to do it. And I ended up doing nothing while my husband and FIL worked on my car, the car that I should know how to take care of.
How do I get the opportunity prove to people that I'm capable? I'm not going to wrench the flat tire back out of someone's hands, and I'm not going to empty out my oil and put in new stuff again. I probably should have had my FIL take the wiper back off and show me how to do it, but I didn't, because I'm awkward and shy. My dad and mom never taught me to do any of this (side note: my father, in spite of being a grumpy oldish gun-toting NRA-belonging conservative, cares very deepy about feminism, particularly the advancement of women in sciences, engineering, and math. He just doesn't do a lot of vehicle maintenance. Neither is he very good at sharing projects). My husband has kind of taught me how car things work in theory, but there's a long, long distance between theory and application. I struggle substantially because when I don't succeed I get frustrated and embarrassed, which pretty well tanks any projects for me.
Sure, it's faster and easier to let someone experienced do things. But if I don't get to try, then I'll never figure it out. And then I'll fling myself into a deep vat of self-loathing when I'm judged for not knowing how to do "manly" shit.