Tag Archives: DIY

“We Can Do It!” – J. Howard Miller’s Rosie the Riveter

6 Oct

"We Can Do It!" - J. Howard Miller's Rosie the Riveter


J. Howard Miller’s image of Rosie the Riveter, the iconic factory girl of the American second world war propaganda machine, demonstrates visibly that beauty in a woman is not incompatible with brains and brawn. It also loudly shouts that women can operate just as successfully as men, even in traditional areas of “masculine” expertise. Now my housemates and I may not be about to commence work in a munitions factory, but we have recently taken on the “masculine” world of flat-pack furniture. What is more, we have tackled it without masculine assistance!

I should begin by explaining that as a child my preferred toys were Barbies, alongside other dolls, soft toys, and figurines. Lego simply did not come into the equation – although my mother informed me recently that I did possess some for a brief stint when I was very young. It was evidently a phase that did not last, for I distinctly recall in first school attempting to cheat and choose arts and crafts over building blocks above the permitted number of times. Whatever my tactic was, it didn’t work, and I was reprimanded by an exasperated teacher and forced to go and play with those dreaded bricks! Things have not advanced much since, with imaginative simulation games such as the Sims far outweighing strategic or logical computer games in my repertoire. This is not to say that I sucked at Portal 2; but it did take me rather a few attempts to finally defeat Wheatley.

The same story returns when we come to the matter of a flat-pack desk, this particular one in the possession of my housemate Clev. The first hurdle was presented in analysing whether the flat-pack boxes would fit in my car. It transpired none of us owned a measuring tape. Measuring tape duly procured, and after much configuring of seat angles, we decided it would – but only with two out of the three of us in the car at the same time. I should probably mention that my car is a Ford Fiesta, not exactly designed for transporting bulky items of furniture. Anyway, we drove to Ikea [and I wonder how many Rosie’s would even have been able to do this?], found the aisle, whizzed the boxes on the trolley to the loading bay, and after a bit of shoving and budging, managed to not only squeeze in the desk and all three of ourselves, but a bookshelf, all of our handbags and shopping, and also a French Baguette [after all this hard work we were having cheese fondue for dinner!].

The next hurdle to present itself was the actual construction of the desk [after actually getting the boxes upstairs, also quite a feat]. This was a three-woman job: Clev read the instructions and did the hammering, I did the screwing [cue hilarious jokes], and Puce, well Puce mostly just watched Jeremy Kyle. I think it is safe to say that the project was an overwhelming success. There may be one or two screws missing from the right door hinge which accidentally got removed and refused to go back in, but hey, the door opens and closes which is all it is required to do! It also looks rather splendid, in fact I think I may be suffering desk envy – my own specimen is rather battered and exudes lots of ‘character,’ i.e. a missing drawer.

Opening this month’s issue of Cosmo, it seems that all our manliness may actually have been “feminine” after all, with a statistic claiming that 72% of Britons think women are better at DIY than men. This doesn’t quite seem to tally with my experience of growing up with programmes like DIY SOS, where overwhelmingly women were left stuck with the product of their husband’s incompetence, and the men who came to rescue them were just that – men. The role of the curly-haired Deborah Drew was to pick the colours and decide where the furniture went, often coming to blows with the team; a somehow traditional duel between masculine practicality and feminine aesthetics. Perhaps the gender roles here are outdated; certainly the author of Cosmo’s article Do Women Still Need Men?, Gary Bainbridge, seems to disagree. He argues that women are not only better at “Woman Stuff,” but at “Man Stuff” too. He remarks: “it’s sobering to know that I can basically be replaced by a stepladder,” – although the notion that men are more likely to be taller and so able to reach things off high shelves [whilst admittedly completely true and relevant in my case], still reinforces a perception that men must be big and strong, whilst women are little and weak – and that that is the natural and desirable way of things. Take for instance the photograph of Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s engagement, shown to us in a lecture on Tuesday. The image shows Charles as taller than Diana, his hand placed protectively, and possessively, on her neck. He is of course standing on a step; his masculine height an illusion constructed and presented by the media.

I’ve come a bit off the topic of DIY, but since I’m aiming to try and make these posts shorter I’ll refrain from moving on to analyse Sex and the City’s Samantha and the episode when she realises she has no man to fix her curtains – instead I will offer you a very grateful and warm thanks for reading this blog so far, and for all the lovely feedback you have offered! Especial thanks to Balloon [or should your nickname be Hot Air?] for being such a sweetie and motivating me to write this instead of going to bed like I should have done!