[Since I'm on the road, I thought I'd drag something a little different from "the vault." This post originally appeared in August 2008.
My name is Tami and I am a knitter. I have been for two years now, ever since a co-worker let me borrow a kids knitting how-to book over the weekend and I sat down with two giant needles and a ball of Wal-Mart yarn to make myself a scarf. Yeah, that's right. I like to indulge in traditional "womanly" arts. Does that put my feminist bonafides into question? Some say "yes," even as the craft has experienced a revival among hipsters and third-wavers.
In an article that appeared last year in The Guardian, Tanis Taylor writes:
Feminists are concerned that our new hobby may unpick decades of hard work fighting oppression. Germaine Greer has called it "heroic pointlessness", maintaining that for centuries "women have frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand". Greer and co want us to bear in mind that for centuries, crafts, with their delicate balance of practicality and artistry, were the only acceptable creative outlet for generations of surrendered wives. In this scenario, the kids' home-stitched gingham clothing was threaded with all the oppressions and frustrations of a million muted mothers. Apparently, today's crafters are needle-pointing a similar image of conservative domesticity. Read more...
I applaud the self-determination and autonomy that doing-it-yourself upholds, but there does seem to be a serious disconnect with the everyday lives of many women when it comes to third-wave feminism and crafting.
One of the third-wave's greatest accomplishments was its success in challenging second-wave feminism's overemphasis on the experiences of middle-class white women. In second-wave feminism, the ground for challenging women's oppression was to argue that the personal is the political; but that personal tended to be that of affluent white women.
Third-wave feminism challenged this middle-class white ground and proposed the necessity to think about the multiple locations of women, poor, indigenous, black, lesbian or immigrant. Keeping this in mind, one can then ask about feminist crafting and the assumptions therein. For example, knitting, in a sense, is a middle-class hobby. It, along with much crafting, is a luxury that many women cannot afford.
And while the DIY ethic provides women with a sense of self-reliance it's also a tad self-indulgent. Read more...
I should tell all the black, lesbian and working class women I know who knit or quilt or sew to knock that shit off ASAP. Apparently, she does not know about the wool workers of Nairobi. () Or maybe I should just point out to Ms. Juschka that middle class women, who could well afford store-bought goods, were first to abandon the "womanly arts." Poor women sewed and knitted and quilted (and some still do) out of necessity.
What's Wrong With "Womanly Arts" Anyway
There is nothing wrong with the "womanly arts." What is wrong is that society does not value the work women do. What is wrong is that things like knitting are bound up in antiquated notions of gender roles. (Men knit, too! Did you know that George Washington Carver was a knitter?)
Black Pearl Magazine