Sister Sledge began as a joke. After I had sanded and refinished a hardwood floor for the first time on my own, I started obsessively sampling mineral clay masks to try to get wood dust out of my pores. The floor sanding was the start of a period where I taught myself many of the construction skills necessary for remodeling my apartment. During this time, I also started volunteering at the Bicycle Kitchen. To counterbalance the intensive labor put into DIY home improvement projects and greasy bike wrenching shifts, I would often follow them up with self-care or skin care regimens to take care of my body or to simply relax.
The purpose of Sister Sledge is two fold: to be a resource for teaching readers new skills efficiently (skill that have traditionally been seen as “men’s work”) and how to take care of your body in the process. I do not see these skills, nor self-care, as gender specific and believe that if we lift such perceptions both men and women could benefit.
As a cis woman who identifies primarily as heterosexual, I have found that people tend toward dualistic labels when they hear about the projects I take on – similar to the Madonna and whore dichotomy. Since I am not a man, but often use tools and have successfully demo-ed my kitchen, I often hear lesbian jokes. Although I do not take these jokes seriously, I find these comments as evidence of the difficulty society has in accepting hybridized, that is to say non-binary, gender roles and the unconscious stigmas that belie even the most liberal minded.
From my own experiences I believe almost anyone can become a competent, strong, creative problem-solver and NOT have to sacrifice femininity IF they so CHOOSE. Many of the women I know are artists, fabricators using labor intensive or toxic materials, curators of alternative spaces (which requires them to install, deinstall and often build out the space itself), preparators, prop builders, bike mechanics, cyclists, baristas, chiefs, filmmakers, archivists, synth enthusiasts/builders, gardeners, printmakers and the list goes on. It is these communities’ that I intend to draw on for future posts on Sister Sledge, so as to share their individual experiences and expertise, in addition to my own.
While in college, 2nd Wave Feminism baffled me because of the tendency to historically reject men, as well as the tension around women who did identify with some traditionally feminine ideals and were shamed for it. Obviously feminism has come a long way in the last few decades, but even I have felt guilty from time to time if say I want to bike in heels or view lipstick as a layer of clothing when I get dressed. For me, learning to be more capable was not a farewell to the things I personally found made me feel like a “woman.” In a sense, Sister Sledge is my response to many of the issues I found contrary, while remaining irreverently unapologetic for how I have decided to identify.
All of this being said, you do not have to be a woman to take advantage of the content of this blog. Almost everything I plan to write about, and the skills I plan to discuss, men can take advantage of as well – even if they have never done any of these things before. These tips and insights are also relatable to men and can help them feel better by preventing unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies. I mean come on guys, it is not as if men have never used hand cream to prevent or soothe dry and cracked skin or callouses! Maybe you are a man who does not feel as though you fit in the pigeon hole of masculinity assigned to you? Whatever the case may be, take what you will from Sister Sledge freely.
I hope readers utilize this blog as a platform. Please learn from my mistakes. Or, if you have personal insights, I want to hear them, so they can be parlayed into the content found here. There is always more that can be learned. In a sense, the “function” of this blog is much like women’s groups of the 70s: to discuss and re-examine various skill sets. Many of the things I plan to write about are skills that one would previously have had to apprentice for, so it seems fitting then that an open discussion surrounding my posts will only enrich my own knowledge.
If you have never been empowered to take on labor-intensive projects or everyday fix-it jobs, I hope Sister Sledge demystifies some of these tasks and provides a resource of DIY skills to make them more approachable.