How I became a feminist

Sadly, I found out that with the change of ADN ownership and the implementation of their business plan, this Sunday’s edition will include the final printing of the We Alaskans magazine. For three years I had the pleasure of working with Mike Campbell, a fine editor, who worked hard to get stories from all throughout Alaska. The paper, according to the story printed, will focus more on Anchorage and the Anchorage readership.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write and share stories with readers throughout Alaska. It’s through this relationship that I found my voice. It has and will always remain important to me to share stories of a lifestyle that is oftentimes overlooked and marginalized in the media and society. A connection, through personal and authentic stories, was always the mission.

With the end of this column, I, like I did three years ago, will find an avenue to continue creating and sharing lifestyle stories from the north and I’m excited and looking forward to learning what that will look like.

My final piece printed in We Alaskans:

UNALAKLEET – I’ll admit that I, for a long time, felt uncomfortable walking into a hardware or building supply store. But after living in Nome for 16 years, I got over it. While Charlie wasn’t very talkative, he was helpful with any questions I had from framing a shed to painting my bathroom. His longtime employee, Dave, helped too. They were nice guys.

But last summer was Phase 1 of a project called Building Our House. It started out fairly smoothly. I designed the home on graph paper and sent the sketches to the framer, who gave me a materials list. I called Donnie in Seattle and had the two-by-eights, plywood and the rest of the material shipped via barge to my little coastal town. I felt independent, strong and able. Like a person taking care of things that need to be taken care of.

Pitching in

Thankfully, I had lots of help from friends and loved ones. My dad, brother and sister-in-law helped clear the trees where the house would sit. Our family friend, Dave Cunningham, built the driveway with rock from a nearby hill and leveled the rocky ground for the foundation. Even my ex-husband pitched in and worked as the foreman constructing and leveling the foundation pads. A moment of slight panic came when my nephews, my son Joe and I unloaded material. The framer was flying in soon and I hoped to the good Lord all the material he needed was there. Living 500-plus miles from the nearest big-box building supply store adds complexity and a need for preparation. Not my strength.

But Al arrived, the house was framed in less than two weeks, he went silver salmon fishing and we ate lots of fresh blueberry pie. While a lot of work remained after Al took off back to California, I was beginning to see my house as a home.

This summer brought Phase 2. It turns out good things take time. And then, maybe, turn you into a steely feminist.

“Can you please not talk to me like I’m an idiot?” I stated, more than requested, after asking which fasteners worked with our screw gun. “I am simply asking a question,” I said to the salesman on the phone.

He did stop, but then spoke exaggeratingly kind, trying to make up for his fat-witted customer service. Having been taught to treat people with kindness even when others are rash, I thanked the man, but didn’t buy the fasteners from that place. I turned off my phone, not feeling independent, strong and able — but frustrated. Yet again, I was on the phone with a man in a hardware store who felt he could talk down to me simply because I was a woman with a question.

“Why do men feel the need to talk like that to women?” I exasperatingly asked the air when I got off the phone. “Charlie and Dave need to teach these men how to talk to other human beings who happen to have a vagina,” I told my husband. “Like they’re human beings!”

Simple request

So here’s the thing. If you happen to work in a building supply store. Or you are an attorney. Or a pilot. Or an executive, a doctor, a school administrator or an architect. And you are a man. Think about the way you talk to others. Are you talking down to them? Or are you talking to them like they’re a person? Like a person who has a lot of work to do, who needs to take care of things that need to be taken care of?

That’s all we’re asking for. Just talk to me like a person. Because I’m not just going to say thank you and shop elsewhere next time. I’ll ask for your supervisor and then shop elsewhere.

Today the house is insulated, with siding and windows. We just got the bill from the plumber and next is the electrician. Once he’s done, the work comes down to me and my husband doing the interior finish work. I’m glad because in moving forward there’s one thing I know for sure: My husband is man enough that he doesn’t need lessons from Charlie and Dave. He knows I’m just another human being taking care of things that need to be taken care of.


A huge thank you to the great men in my life who have helped in small and big ways. From my nephews who helped unload material to Dave Cunningham, who has done more than I can list. I hold much love and appreciation for you. 

2 responses to “How I became a feminist”

  1. When I lived in Kotzebue and called in to Anchorage I also got talked down to. I sensed an attitude toward a caller from the Bush. I asked friends about it and they had the same experience but assumed it was because they were Native. Over the phone you can’t tell I’m a large white man. But the worst was Ikea in Seattle. “You’ll have to call Ikea Alaska,” said the lady on the phone. “We don’t ship to foreign countries.”


  2. Laureli, I’ve enjoyed reading your columns over the past few years and I count myself lucky to be one of your readers. There’s got to be another journal out there that wants your perspective. I’ll be looking forward to your next piece, as ever.


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