NEW YORK —
White's message of power-tool-empowerment is echoed by a number of other women's carpentry blogs, some of which have winking names like Pink Toes and Power Tools and Pretty Handy Girl. Home Depot's free Do-it-Herself workshops are couched in the language of Weight-Watcherian validation, inviting you to come build "an interior two-tiered wreath chandelier" while building "confidence" in a "female-friendly environment." A line called DIYVA (groan) offers an "Ultimate Tool Kit" for the "girl-on-the-go," while a company called Tomboy Tools gets its saleswomen to host Tupper-ware-style "tool parties" selling pink drills and pink jumper cables.
Putting aside the irritating assumption that grown women will only purchase power tools in a color associated with toddler girls, the trend speaks to an economic reality. Single women made up 19 percent of all first-time home buyers in 2012, compared to 11 percent of single men. If women are buying their own houses, they're also the ones fixing them up. Their growing willingness to repair a loose stair themselves, or for that matter, build a custom coffee table, represents the latest in a long line of traditionally male areas colonized (and in many cases, dominated) by women, including professional sports and lucrative fields like medicine, pharmacy and the law.
I became interested in White's website, ironically, because of my husband. He's one of her rare male readers — 89 percent of White's Web visitors are women — and built a beautiful picnic table for our deck using one of White's free designs. When he bought her book as a kind of thank-you for that design, I started reading her. White's website, which mixes her own designs with a blog about her life and a bragboard featuring work by readers, is geared toward carpenters of all levels. In her section called "tips for newbies," she posts large pictures of tools with explanations of exactly how to use them. She also writes about doing carpentry when her daughter was just born — how she'd drive around till her daughter fell asleep, then park the car right outside the garage, where she kept her tools, and work furiously till her daughter woke up.