Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dead bats and feminism

My project for today was fixing the ductwork for our bathroom ventilation fan. As I posted last week, our original "good enough" installation resulted in a dead bat inside the fan housing.

I thought I was prepared and had everything in the attic I needed to complete the job. But I kept making minimal progress before having to climb out the access hatch and wander around the house looking for tools. I didn't know where any of the tools were, because I think of them as "my husband's tools," and therefore not my responsibility.

During one of these expeditions, a recruiter calls me. Good, I think, another person helping to end my unemployment. "Well," he says, "the job I'm looking at doesn't accept women."

All tools finally collected, I really get down to work in the attic. And discover that self-tapping sheet metal screws require significant assistance to "self-tap." I kept having to take breaks to pant. I wished a man were there to do that part for me.

Near the end of the project, to let me work at a more comfortable angle, I detached the ductwork from the fan. Inside were four dead bats, furry and dessicated-looking. I pondered them for a while. Slowly, it dawned on me that they would have been unable to escape from the vertical portion. It was too small for them to fly out of. It was too large for them to chimney up, and of course too smooth for their claws to get any purchase. Becoming trapped while exploring the ductwork, they must have died of thirst inside it.

With that grim image in my mind, I descended from the attic once more, taking the duct with the bats down with me. I "buried" them in my compost pile, then finished the work that would save future bats from sharing their fate.

Later, I went to my radiation treatment. The techs asked what I had done that day, and I told them I'd fixed the exhaust ducting for my bathroom fan, and found dead bats during my work. "Wow, you must be really handy!" said one woman. The other woman expressed fear of creatures in her attic and commented, "I think my home inspector took pictures of my attic. That's the closest I'll ever get to going inside it!" My doing home repairs and being unafraid of creatures in the attic was not anything they could relate to.

Maybe they would have responded the same way to a man telling that story. But my own feelings of thinking of our tools as "my husband's" and wishing for a "strong man" during the project make me wonder if their reaction was specific to a woman doing these things. After all, as the recruiter reminded me (he was looking to fill a military position), we still live in a world where our gender determines what society expects us to do.

I guess I'll keep working on my own attitude, and trying to be an example of change. One dead bat at a time.

1 comment:

Jen said...

Good for you. Sounds like a job I would enjoy too. For some reason I'm not afraid of dead bats, but don't like live ones in my house. A few weeks ago I was pretty much useless when there was one in the bedroom. I had to ask my husband to stun and capture it.

Sorry to hear about the job - I would have been really ticked to hear they weren't considering women applicants!