The boreal battle of the sexes

The North breeds great women. For sure, nowhere else in the country will you find such a high proportion of women expert at chainsawing, handling…

The North breeds great women.

For sure, nowhere else in the country will you find such a high proportion of women expert at chainsawing, handling all sorts of engines, building cabins, changing tires and hunting.

Small seems to be the number of females without a pair of felt-lined gumboots, and yet on short notice and at the slightest opportunity these women will dazzle their men in the most beguiling attire.

For the most part, northern men appreciate that we unflinchingly use bug and smell-infested outhouses, don’t plaster ourselves with make-up and hairspray, speak our minds and have our own strongly held opinions. How else would the guys survive in this harsh climate, if it weren’t for us?

Couples out in the bush depend on each other’s skills and support even more. There simply is no way that a guy out in the woods, hunched over a broken-down part of machinery can attract that semi-circle of sympathetically mumbling males that automatically materializes in town.

Instead, the laconic one-syllable remarks, grunts and armpit scratching are left to the better half.

Constantly re-adjusting our pants like the guys do is a bit tricky and unfathomable for us girls, but other than that there’s not much to it.

I had great aspirations of becoming a real tough northern bushwoman but have to confess that I’ve fallen short of my mark and reconciled myself with just being — well, myself I guess.

Despite my best emancipatory efforts, I don’t enjoy running or tinkering with the snowmachine and motorboat.

The operation and maintenance of these have fallen squarely on Sam’s shoulders, as he had predicted.

The chainsaws are the one thing I’m dearly attached to, though. What a wonderful, if noisy and stinky tool! It does so many different things: cuts firewood, carves, notches, mills lumber and creates mounds of sawdust for insulation and chicken litter.

While the genes for cooking, cleaning and child rearing have passed me by, some sort of (female?) nurturing instinct is making sure that my main interests and responsibilities are with the animal and garden care.

Looking after the chickens, growing our seedlings and first aid on the dogs have become my exclusive domain. It seems kind of weird and outmoded that things worked out this way.

Yet if it were possible to use horses out here for moving logs and transportation, which would make the snowmachine and power boat obsolete, I’d happily pounce on that job.

I always wonder if, thanks to the industrial revolution and the displacement of horses, we haven’t lost some other, vital connection to nature.

Machinery also needs to be looked after and when handled wrong won’t work, but somehow it challenges us in a different way, not begging us to understand the ways of another live being.

Working alongside another creature, stubborn as they can be, is a whole different ballgame. Though it’s not necessarily any easier.

This always becomes clear whenever Sam and I tackle a building project together. Our opposite approaches to just about everything don’t lead to happy compromises, but generally plenty of head-butting.

It’s beyond me why he can’t say “yes dear” more often. Strange that he should roll his eyes at my dithering about and concoction of theories on how to pivot a hideously heavy log section.

He’s eager to get things done as fast as possible, involving brute force and much swearing, while I, lacking some of the muscle power, try to come up with ways to make it somewhat easier and this inevitably takes longer.

Obstinate people that we are, we sometimes wish, amid much teeth-grinding, that the other one were newly arrived, still a northerner in training.

 Oh, the ease with which such a person could be told that this is the way to do it, and no two ways about it. When we are in the midst of such a glaring contest, it helps to remember how lucky we actually are: to have the other one committed to this sort of life, to stick it out together, to be sure.

But what we can really be thankful for is our division of labour and responsibilities. Otherwise we’d have yet more bones of contention as I’d try to get my way about the snowmachine and boat, and Sam would attempt to convince me that he’s right about how to deal with the animals and garden.

Some of the old ways of doing things might actually be very wise indeed.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

Air North president Joe Sparling said the relaxing of self-isolation rules will be good for the business, but he still expects a slow summer. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)
Air North president expects a slow summer

Air North president Joe Sparling suspects it will be a long time before things return to pre-pandemic times


Wyatt’s World for May 14, 2021.… Continue reading

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

Most Read