Happy Easter and other crafty pursuits.

Hem. I have been slack. This is due to many factors, but I put most of the blame squarely on knitting, which I have been doing a lot of. Also hanging out on ravelry, because that is what us knitters do, nowadays, apparently. (If you don’t know about ravelry, it’s like Facebook for people who knit, except that it has actual, useful applications. Also, I am sorry to tell you, if you don’t know about ravelry, you are tragically non-hip.)

I learned to knit in my teens, when it totally wasn’t cool, out of a book my mother gave me which had nice, clear instructions for how to make more hideous garments than you would ever care to shake a stick at. She did this because she already, at that age, had me pegged as “crafty”; better at womanly pursuits like cooking and sewing (I was making my own clothes by the time I was 12) than she was. Which was a slight contradiction, because, in fact, she was the one who taught me to sew, but I committed the cardinal sin of apparently enjoying it, rather than seeing sewing as a chore, or a frugal duty. My mother was a pretty strong feminist, you see; not that I am not, but she definitely had that whole doing things that are gendered female is bad thing going on. At least in some areas. One day I will tell you all about her 3 husbands. But I digress.

Well, not entirely, because I kind of wanted to write about this tension between craftiness and intellect, clearly exemplified by Stephanie in this post. Stephanie is quite possibly the most intellectual person I know, and her blog is smart and funny and highbrow and sometimes very moving (and again, if you don’t read it: tragically non-hip), and yet it made me really uneasy to see her expressing that idea that somehow talking about crafting objects is inappropriate; like somehow admissions that you are good with your hands maybe means you are less good with your brain. Or maybe that’s just my issue showing.

The other side of the coin, which really doesn’t help with the whole “smart feminists can’t also be knitters” meme, is that conversations on ravelry’s forums show a tendency (horribly common in female-dominant communities) to succumb to pressure not to express unpopular opinions, because, however civilly they are expressed, saying contentious things is “not nice”. And heaven forbid that women utter any words that are “not nice”, because of course that opens them up to being labelled as bitchy.

Unfortunately, I cannot point you to the discussion to see for yourself, because ravelry discussions are only visible to members. The discussion was about Yarn Harlot, and whether her humour is gendered, but it rapidly descended into a whole bunch of shrill “You can’t talk about her! She’s a member here! You are not nice!” hysteria. Even though the discussion was exceedingly civil, and in some cases quite literary critical, rather than personally critical (my opinons were of the milder sort, but unpopular – I don’t think she’s very entertaining, but for god’s sake don’t tell anyone). You’ll notice the strong strain of anti-intellectualism mixed in with the whole “be nice” directive here, too, dear reader.

Having managed to alienate another mostly female community by (according to my adversaries) “overthinking and bringing feminism and literary criticism into everything,” I felt I knew where this was going, but at the same time, I don’t want to leave it alone. It bugs me that I cannot be a smart woman who thinks about stuff, and at the same time, a woman who is good at traditionally female activities like knitting or sewing, or who has an interest in Boarding School Stories for girls, or a Nintendo obsession.

I don’t have an answer, or a pearl of wisdom, here. Apologies if you were looking for closure.

Also, we made some kick-ass Easter Eggs.

6 thoughts on “Happy Easter and other crafty pursuits.

  1. SJ

    You know, this bullcrap is everywhere online, I think, not just in the female-dominated or knitting communities. You should see the unholy screaming that happens whenever someone criticizes a techblogger or a mommyblogger. “You can’t dooo that, it isn’t nice.” You get labeled as a rock-thrower or troll, rather than being allowed to criticize. Well, they can kick you out of communities, but you always have your own blog. Unless the host decides that they don’t like what you’re saying either.

    I have heard tales of people criticizing the people who own Six Apart and then losing their wordpad or LJs with very little explanation. And guess who owns wordpad and LJ? Yeaaah.

  2. spudsayshi

    I popped over here from ravelry… and this reminds me of something that happened at my former job. When a colleague found out I knit, his response was, “wow, I didn’t realize you were so… domestic” in a tone I still can’t entirely interpret. There was the obvious distinction he had between academic and domestic/crafty/handy. And implied was a distinction between academic and “womanly.” I think he meant the comment relatively well, but it rankled a bit, in that irritating ways that things that are meant as compliments sometimes do.

  3. Stephanie

    Sorry to give offence: meant only to sound tongue-in-cheek. I really am knitting clothes for my friend’s grand-daughter, and happily discuss knitting with people in my department office. And I sometimes do read craft blogs. And consulted some (can’t remember which) when I realised I had forgotten how to join seams.

    Reminds me a bit of the “I don’t know how you bloggers find the time” issue!


  4. Bobbie

    I loves me some Boarding School Stories for girls. And I loves me some intelligent women who have their feet rooted whilst their head fly. And, while my left-handedness has ever rendered me manipulatively retarded and therefore unable to knit or crochet (30 stitches suddenly become 27 suddenly become 31 suddenly become 43…), I envy your bent most admiringly. I believe we must be sisters from another mother. And that other chica from i, asshole, too. Such cool voices.

  5. Lorelei

    I believe “Six Apart” owns Live Journal.

    Y’know, I’m good with my hands in both an artsy and craftsy way. While I haven’t ever had my intellect disparaged for being creative, it is probably because I tend to do craftsy things solo, and not as part of a female-dominated group.

    If I wanted to, say, join a BeDazzler group, I guarantee I wouldn’t fit in, because on the rare occasions I mess with clothing decorating, I am sequining–oops, I mean studding and rhinestoning–band logos and snarky phrases on my t-shirts, not puppies, American flags or flowers. Likewise, Sculpy- or sewing-based craftwork is similarly a solo activity.

    One thing I have noticed is the difference in atmosphere and clientele in stores that are specifically for fine arts supplies and things like the Michael’s chain of arts and crafts stores. “Serious” artists–primarily male ones–populate the serious art supply stores. Fat ladies in muumuus or sweatshirts with puffy paint stars on them who collect Precious Moments figurines flock in crafts stores. How do we explain the discrepancy? First, price. Art stores are expensive. Second, advertising. Michael’s sends out holiday circulars promoting plastic flowers, baskets, paint-by-numbers kits and styrofoam ball snowpeople kits. Our local art supply store has sent out ONE that I know about, and it promoted wooden mannequin models, taborets, art desks, oil paints by the tube, and Conte pencil kits. Not one “turn a coke bottle into a vase with ribbons” instruction sheet to be found anywhere.

    Third, women tend to be craftsy hobbyists, while men tend to be construction or repair hobbyists or sport hobbyists. Tend to be. For male hobbies, there are Home Depots. It is apparently unmanly to want to learn how to fake stained glass.

    Now, I like crafts. Sometimes I want to do something creative, like make a necklace or play with origami, but I don’t want to use my expensive professional art supplies to do it, or be under the pressure to make a portfolio-worthy work of art. I wouldn’t mind learning how to knit (in fact, should I decide I am tired of occasionally having a smoking jag, that is how I plan to keep my hands out of mischief).

    I think you hit the nail on the head: crafts are seen as feminine and not “professional” in some way…more accessible. Fire art is seen as being the province of the specially-trained expert, and (though less so lately) masculine.

    Maybe people who subscribe to the stereotype just can’t imagine that someone can knit and read a book at the same time. A craftsy person knows that she can build a book holder and do both. 🙂 Also, once upon a time, doing anything “by hand” was for the poor who were less busy (or perceived to be) and made things out of need, and the assumption was that they couldn’t educate themselves into a white-collar job and just buy goods rather than making things by hand. Or crafts were for the old, who had no job, and thus had ample spare time to spend making something by hand, which takes much longer than driving to Target and buying a necklace, quilt, scarf, or pair of socks. Instant gratification seems to be more prized than pride in craftsmanship, and sleek, perfect items more prized than slightly irregular handmade equivalents.

    It may not be entirely a feminist issue, but also a classist one.


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