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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Whatever men can do...

Written by Mary McDonald.. Guest Contributor

Whatever men can do. . .
This past weekend, my neighbors were having a little family barbeque and invited my son and I over.  Kind of a welcome back home for a woman that was working out of town for a couple of months.  Also, a welcome to the neighborhood for Ann, who is the new girlfriend of 70 year old Tom, who's lived next door for the past four years.  Little four foot nine inch Ann was opening a jar of pickles, finding it a bit difficult until she started banging on the lid to loosen the seal.  I told her she should have gotten Tom to open it while he was there.  She looked up at me and said, "Whatever a man can do, a woman can do, and usually do it a whole lot better."

Which is true.  Personally, with carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis in my hands, I don't mind asking my son (with much larger hands) to open a jar for me.  But I also have jar openers and will usually do that myself.  I also know there are far too many times when I do what other single moms do -- forget waiting on someone else, I'll just do it myself.  But I was raised by a mom who taught four kids, two boys and two girls, how to cook, sew, and do laundry.  And my dad insisted we all had to know how to change the oil and the air filter on our vehicles.  He taught us enough about engines that we can usually diagnose what's happening, or at least what system is affected, before it goes into the shop.  My brothers usually do most of the work themselves.  My sister and I usually have guys look at us strange when we explain what's happening, until they realize we actually know what we're talking about.

My dad also taught us how to shoot a single shot .22 rifle, took my brothers hunting, and would have taken my sister or I if we had pushed to go with him.  But picking up a big shotgun and bruising my shoulder, like my sister did, wasn't my idea of fun.  He taught us all to respect a firearm, something he taught my son as well.  Oddly enough, it's my 27 year old son who's taught me more about firearms than my dad.  And although my dad's been gone now for six years, I know that I wouldn't have discussed handguns or carrying a concealed weapon with him.  It was not something he felt was necessary, but it's something I feel is important in my everyday life.

I equate my knowledge of guns and gun handling to cars.  I know how they work, how to fill them with oil, gas, and air.  How to change the air filter, change a tire, replace windshield wipers. I like trucks over cars, couldn't really identify different models or some of the extras on cars, could care less about the flash and power. I just want something reliable, comfortable and economical that has the power I need when I'm ready to haul something or pick something up.  I could change the oil if absolutely necessary but would prefer to let my son do it -- he's a new mechanic, almost finished with his associates degree in automotive technology.  I know how brakes work, he knows the proper terminology, all the parts, and how each works.  He doesn't mind getting greasy, I can't wait to wash my hands.  I know bookkeeping and taxes, he could figure it out if necessary but would prefer to get someone else to do it for him.

The same principle applies when it comes to handguns -- he taught me how they work, how to take apart and clean my handgun, how to secure it, how to shoot it.  I load my magazines, load my handgun, clear any jams, then take it apart and clean it after target practice.  I know my gun well, but I don't know the intricacies of revolvers or how to identify half the brands on the market.  As a fiction writer, ideas come to me that lead me in directions I never expected.  So a new story about concealed carry had me a bit nervous, knowing the story I needed to tell but not having the knowledge to properly explain the situations involving guns.  Talking to others on forums or social networking sites, I sometimes feel like I'm totally clueless.  And some guys have a habit of making others, especially women, feel inadequate, stupid, or off base.  Which is precisely the message I try to offset in my stories.

As women, we shouldn't feel slighted because we either don't understand a subject or don't have as much knowledge on a subject as another person.  We all have our talents, and we need to be confident in our strengths while learning to offset our weaknesses.  If it means partnering with others, then find a good partner or good group.  But when it comes to a handgun, be confident in your own weapon, in how to handle and clean it.  Don't allow others to make you feel inadequate because you don't have an extensive knowledge of other firearms.  Your handgun is your partner.  You choose it based on your experience and comfort level, and not based on the recommendations or insistence of another.

I may not have an extensive knowledge of handguns and gun instruction, but I do know how to weave a good story that involves women.  And sometimes about concealed carry.  Which means, I need beta readers to read  through those sections and explain how to describe something better or correct my verbage, all without getting offended with the correction.  Something Carrie has graciously agreed to do for me.  I suggest other women do the same -- find others who can help them learn in a constructive, reinforcing environment while sharing their own talents, their own strengths.

And I have to agree with Ann -- anything a man can do, women can usually do better.  Something I am finding more and more with sites like The Well Armed Woman.

Mary "Dynk" McDonald 


  1. I am Mary McDonald's big sister and I agree with her. Our mom was raised by a strong woman who kept the farm going with the help of her 4 daughters while her husband worked either the oil fields or the railroad during the Great Depression. Our mom was the one who helped with most of the outdoor work that was needed. She said she was a "daddy's girl" because when he was home she always asked how things worked, how to fix them, etc.

    I think the way our mom was raised is why she felt no job at home was "girl's work" or "boy's work". She told the boys when they left home they were going to have to feed themselves and take care of an apartment as well as do the laundry. We girls were shown how to repair cars, riding tractors, lawnmowers etc. when we helped our dad. A lot of the times it was a matter of who was home at the time one of the parents needed help and we needed to learn.

    Because of the way we were raised, I do not feel intimidated when I talk to a mechanic or other repairmen. My brother-in-laws could not believe that a woman could help repair a car engine and not mind getting her hands greasy. I also would take no gruff from them either. My husband and I respect each other and the personal strenghths we bring to our marriage. I am not his slave but his partner.

    I joined the Army during the Vietnam War. At that time, the women were not expected to use a weapon so that was not part of our training. We were trained in military protocol and procedures, first aid, how to mediate problems so they could be resolved and how to wear a gas mask and continue to do your job. It was not until I left the Army in 1975 that women were expected to fire weapons. It was also at that time the military decided that women were not small men, so they developed separate combat boots for women to better fit our feet, after a lot of us developed acute achiles tendenitis. They also finally developed fatigues that fit a woman's body better. It was in the later 1970's (1976 - 79) that they decided when two people in the military marry, if you try to keep them together, allow the women to have children and stay in, they will have happier soldiers who will want to re-enlist together. It was only after they lost a lot of women in critical jobs that the men decided they needed to do something to keep more medical personnel, intellegence personnel, etc. It was during this time and into the 1980's when several women fought the military in order to become pilots, mechanics, truck drivers, etc. and other positions that were not typically deemed "women's work".

    As a teenager, I learned to fire a 22 rifle and tried one time to fire my dad's over and under shotgun. Unfortunately, the stock was for my dad's longer arms. While I pressed the stock to my shoulder as hard as I could, it still kicked and gave me a big bruise. Luckily he only put one shell in it since my reaction was to throw it down. I cracked the stock that was perfectly matched to the pump.

    While my sister, nephew and brothers like to fire weapons and have them in their homes, my husband and I do not. While he was in the Army he only fired a weapon once a year to qualify then he cleaned it and turned it back in. The only time he was armed 24/7 was the year he was in Vietnam. He was not raised around guns, so it is not something he thinks about all the time. To some people we are asking for trouble, but we don't feel we would be any safer with or without a gun. When he was assigned overseas and I was in the States I was offered a pistol by a brother and I turned it down. My husband also turned it down for me. Even if I had a gun, there is no guarentee that I would be any safer than without. I may not carry a weapon, but it doesn't mean I am not equipped with evasive actions that my active mind can figure out. So while you are firing your guns, I will figure out where I can call the police, or use something else in the room to use as a weapon if needed.

    Liz Bard

  2. Dream on Liz! You are not going to get a chance to call the police and if you did by the time they got there all they could do was file a death report. Why would you want to try to use something else when you can own a firearm? All that false bravado will fly out the window when a drug crazed crackhead kicks in your door. Are you trained in hand to hand combat, physicaly fit and ready to defend yourself against someone who is? Read your sisters book and maybe you will learn something.

  3. I hope your experience can inspire other women to be more independent and become more powerful without being dependent on others. :)


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