Crafting · Feminism

Feminism & Crafting 

I meant to share this post last week, but I got caught up stressing about a bunch of other stuff instead (including, of all things, some sexist trolls!). I’m feeling much more zen this week, and it seems fitting that I finally have this post ready to go on International Women’s Day!

Feminism is central to my identity. It shapes my work as a librarian, a teacher, and a scholar. It influences how I interact with people, from my family and friends to strangers on the street. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that feminism also has a huge impact on how I approach craft, both as a maker and a consumer.

Some people are surprised when they hear this. They see crafting as inherently domestic and feminine, which they think is incompatible with feminism (it’s not!). They also perceive the role that tradition plays in crafting to be in opposition to feminist goals (nope!).

There are a *lot* of people who have major problems with feminism (understatement of the century, but you feel me). There are those who think it’s about hating men, burning bras, and eating babies (wrong, though I would happily join in a bra burning party, feminist or no).

And there are also people who object to feminism’s history of focusing primarily on white, middle-class cis women and excluding everyone else. That complaint is totally legitimate, and one that I struggled with when I first began to think through what it means to be a feminist.

For me, the solution to this laid in intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism is interested not only in gender, but in how it intersects with race, sexuality, socioeconomic status, disability, and so much more. I’ve found it’s a more inclusive space, which in the end is most important to me. Is it perfect? No, but it’s provided me with a lens through which to view the world, a lens that I think has ultimately made me a kinder person, a better ally, and a more critical thinker.

So what does this have to do with crafting, again?  I think crafting can be a feminist act (and not just when I’m cross stitching some bad ass feminist sentiments like the one below):

Crush the patriarchy

 

For me, crafting celebrates the labor and creativity that has traditionally been devalued as “women’s work.” By sewing or engaging in some other craft, I’m claiming that there is value in something that has been dismissed as “less than” because of its connections to women and the feminine. I’m saying that this type of work has value, and the people who engage in it have value, too. 

Crafting’s potential as a form of self-care is also pretty feminist. If you haven’t heard of radical self-care, look it up right now–it’ll change your life. Taking the time to do something I enjoy and that challenges me not only helps me relax and recharge, but it also gives me confidence in my abilities and an overall self-esteem boost. Crafting also helps to combat my perfectionist tendencies, which are definitely some of the biggest obstacles standing in my way in terms of self-care and being kind to myself.

There are so many ways that a feminist lens can help us examine other aspects of crafting; for instance, I’m really interested in how privilege intersects with crafting, and how non-western/non-European artistic traditions are simultaneously devalued and appropriated. I’m also interested in how crafting can subvert gender norms. I hope to address all of these ideas in future posts. The point is that feminism can help us ask some fascinating questions and take a deeper look into our craft.

A final note, which I maybe should have included as a disclaimer at the top: just as there are zillions of crafts and differing techniques within single crafts, so too are there many different types of feminisms. Feminists are not a monolithic group by any means. One of the things I love about feminists is that they are constantly critiquing feminist theory, asking questions, pushing back against assumptions, and just generally trying to understand more and do better. Crafting and feminism are similar in that way–both are lifelong journeys, and we only get better by asking questions, taking chances, and practicing.

Do you see your crafting as feminist? If you don’t, hopefully this at least gives you something to think about the next time you start stitching. Happy crafting!

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