Posted by: mesabimisadventures | July 24, 2009

Does this hardhat make me look fat?

As you’ve most likely figured out by this point, I grew up a farm kid, in a family where ovaries clearly didn’t protect me from having to do manual labor.  I’ve thrown my fair share of hay bales, stacked them in hay lofts that I could only imagine were quite similar to the hell they warned me about in Sunday school, thrown pitchfork after pitchfork of manure into a wheelbarrow to roll it on out to the manure pile and picked rocks from an Earth that seemed to take great joy in depositing them on top of our fields in a never-ending fashion.  For those who think farm living is idyllic, come a little closer so I can smack some reality into you with my scarred and calloused hands.

Gender simply didn’t factor into the equation when there was work to be done on the farm.  My family didn’t believe in excuses and I knew that any excuse based on my right to mark the female checkbox would have got me absolutely nowhere, except sent back out to the barn.  My father may be a diehard Conservative, but like it or not, he’ll have to accept that he supports feminism.  It never occurred to me growing up that there were people in the world who could seriously believe that my abilities, whether physical or mental, were in any shape or form limited by my double-X chromosomes. 

The world of unlimited opportunities was my reality.  My family never questioned my choice of college degree (science, both times), my purchase of my first home at 25, my traveling or my general independence.  I grew up in a world where I never doubted that I would be seen as an equal and that I would be granted respect based on my status as a human being.

Watching the movie North Country a few years ago challenged my perception of reality.  I had, of course, heard all of the standard lectures about sexual harassment in high school and college, but none of those lectures brought the message home to me in the visceral way the movie did.

I couldn’t fathom that world and because of those women, those strong, gutsy Iron Range women, I haven’t had to experience that world personally.  The Iron Range didn’t hold a monopoly on outdated views of gender inequality.  However, we do have the proud right of knowing that our women were instrumental in changing the lives of working women throughout the entire U.S., not just at our Mines.  They stood up when others throughout the country couldn’t, wouldn’t or felt they shouldn’t.

When the movie hit the theatres, it struck a lot of nerves (to put it mildly).  A friend’s mother responded “they got what they deserved, women shouldn’t work in a Mine and take a man’s job away.”  You can only imagine the fierce barrage of curse words that flew frenzied through my mind, but stopped miraculously on their speeding path off of my tongue.  So many years later, but the nerves were still raw for Rangers.

I had no dog in that fight so I chose to believe no one and everyone.  What I do know is that I work at a Mine in 2009 (convenient rhyme) and that I look around and see double-X’s who are able to work there with pride, not fear.  We’re seen as “one of the boys” by many (especially the younger generation) but it goes beyond general tolerance.  Our complementary skills and traits are seen as an asset and are encouraged and developed. 

There aren’t a lot of us out there; we’re definitely a minority.  Let’s be honest, mining isn’t exactly a field in which most women aspire to work in someday.  It’s dirty, it’s loud and did I mention how incredibly feminine you’ll never feel in a hardhat, safety glasses and steel toes?  I go to work knowing that my ideas will be considered in the same vein as any man’s.  I know my body (and likewise my soul) is safe from unwanted advances, glances, gestures, and groping.  I know my talents will be utilized fully and that our managers will hold me to the same standards as any man just like my father did on the farm.  I know when work needs to be done, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, just get the job done.

A tip of my hardhat to those of you who did what was right, both the women in the class action suit and the men who respected the double-X’s from the beginning.  Thank you for handing down this reality to my generation.



  1. You really don’t feel feminine in that FABULOUS pink hard hat of yours?? I noticed you failed to mention you actually own a PINK hard hat so I thought I’d throw it out there for you. You know you love me.

    • Of course I love you 🙂 I don’t get to wear the pink hardhat anymore, now it’s an orange one just like everyone else (it’s about time I fit in!). My pink one is on my bookshelf now 🙂

  2. Nice reflection.

    • Thank you 🙂

    • You certainly are a rock woman. Way to state what needed to be said, although, I don’t think working on the farm is all that bad. Maybe that is because no one will let me do hay this summer. They seem to think it will details). Well stated piece love.

      • I can’t imagine why they won’t let a woman pregnant with twins make hay this summer! 😛 I would never trade in a childhood raised on a farm, it’s honest work and you feel like you really accomplished something at the end of the day. Thanks for reading Tricia!

  3. “I can’t imagine why they won’t let a woman pregnant with twins make hay this summer! ”

    I had to laugh since i had a problem just getting on a flight recently, and it wasnt even twins…..

  4. […] wrote in 2009 about working in a Mine as a woman and how 99% of the time, I feel at home.  Occasionally […]

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