My Crafty Manifesto or how i came to stop fretting and embrace my inner craftiness!
(excerpted from get crafty: hip home ec, broadway books)
“Dear Ms. Magazine,” was how I began my first real writing assignment. It was a letter to the editor of the quintessential second wave feminist journal. I was thirteen and already angry; the letter expressed my dismay that the Catholic school I attended required girls to wear uniforms, but not the boys. Girls, declared the administration, couldn’t handle the peer pressure of dressing themselves and, they continued, boys shouldn’t be made to suffer because of our weakness. Being young, my protests were easily shrugged off as teenage impertinence by both my parents and the school. But the rule was clearly unfair and I desperately wanted to be heard.
Ms. published my letter and seeing it in print gave me the validation I was looking for, cementing my life-long passion for feminism. Sitting in my suburban home in the San Fernando Valley, listening to the punk band X and leafing through my mom’s back issues of Ms., I dreamed of a better life—a world without ugly polyester uniforms or afternoon detention, where the women were all super-stars and wore beautiful outfits and were taken seriously and, even maybe, revered. On that day I promised myself I’d become a feminist warrior; I would never marry, never be tied down to keeping a home and never find myself changing dirty diapers.
Even with this new-found politicization, I still pursued my little craft projects. I made and designed my own T-shirts, experimented with kitchen concoctions like apricot-yogurt-nutmeg smoothies and continued with the funny “art” projects I had learned in girl scouts: sculptures made from dried macaroni and spray-painted gold, Popsicle stick cabins and jean jackets with badges and patches sewn all over them. I saw nothing contradictory between my passion for feminism and my love of crafty projects My desire to be an influential woman and my enjoyment of crafts seemed to coexist in peaceful harmony.
As I got older though, I grew less and less interested in the domestic arts. Consequently, I never pursued my grandmother when she offered to share her baking secrets with me and I shrugged off my mother’s attempts to teach me how to clean or housework, doing just enough to earn my allowance. I soon began to see sewing and crafts as a waste of time; they were things that “other” women like my mother and grandmother did but not an up-and-coming bohemian like me.
My disdain for all things domestic only increased throughout my college years. I was a women's studies major at UCLA in the early 1990s, and my professors, mostly second-wave feminists, perceived the home and its accompanying activities as something from which women needed to free themselves. The subtext was that housework and the domestic arts were drudgery—work done by women who don’t know better. Smart, enlightened women became writers, thinkers; they became important, like men. They didn’t have time for silly things like cooking, sewing, knitting or cleaning. Of course, there were a few exceptions to this rule, post-modern feminists who were questioning the liberal ideology of the more mainstream professors, but for the most part, the logic of the day was work/career is good; home/domesticity is bad.
And this all made sense to me. I spent most of my twenties, defining myself as a feminist not by what I did, but what I didn’t do. I didn’t keep house. I didn’t get married. I didn’t cook very often. I didn’t knit nor sew.
Then, at age 28, I crashed. Sure, I was living on my own in New York City and had built a "career" as a writer/producer working in multimedia, cashing in on the dotcom boom. I was living the life I was supposed to live as a contemporary woman: I had my own home, paid my own rent, had a successful career, went out almost every night, slept with whomever I wanted and was utterly undomestic. Yet there was something missing. Along with the job and the social life, I had credit card debt, a crappy apartment with the requisite futon on the floor, bad eating habits, worse boyfriend choices, and no real clue as to how to be a grown-up.
Today, I feel that being a grown-up is not only making enough money to support yourself. It’s taking care of how you live: it’s eating well, having a home that suits your needs, a hobby or two that you enjoy, friends and family that care for you and a sense of belonging to the world. Being a grown-up is taking responsibility for yourself and others--being a part of a community. In my attempts at avoiding domestic entrapment, I had unwittingly become vulnerable and a bit childish; while I could pay the bills, I didn’t have a sustainable lifestyle and I couldn’t help other people because I lacked the basics of self-care. In not wanting to be a typical woman, I was waiting for someone else to come clean the house and make me feel better. But that person never showed up.
When a particularly painful bout of migraines left me debilitated for over a week, I took it as a sign that my life had to change. I began reevaluating who I was and what I wanted, including many of the things that I had always dismissed because I didn't want to be one of "those" women. Were cooking, crafts and keeping house something that would limit my life? I had always thought so, but living like a slob wasn’t very enjoyable. What did I really have to fear from domestic entrapment? I was a single girl with a job living in a tenement apartment on the East Village in New York City with a posse of girl friends who were like family. If I started knitting or even just vacuumed once in a while, the feminist police were not going to reject my membership.
So I started to dabble. Because my diet had consisted of cigarettes, coffee and beer for far too long and my health had deteriorated to headaches and lethargy, I started with the obvious. I cut back on my beloved cigarettes and reduced the amount of alcohol to a few drinks a week. I read up on nutrition and started cooking for myself, reconnecting with my family heritage of good food. I made a commitment to running and practicing yoga.
Soon I felt better. And then a weird thing happened, as I took better care of my body, I grew unsatisfied with the lack of beauty in the rest of my life. Suddenly, after years of unkempt, uncared-for apartments, I wanted a nice home and lovely things in it. So I set out to create a real shelter.
Working on my apartment got me re-interested in crafts from those years in Brownies and Girl Scouts: knitting, sewing and cooking. I borrowed old home economics books from the library and read about hospital corners, proper dusting techniques, stain removal and sewing basics. I even got secret subscriptions to Martha Stewart Living and Gourmet.
And you know what I learned? All the stuff that I had always dismissed as stupid women’s work is actually quite complicated. There are systems and rules for doing it well — and they are not obvious, nor are they being taught in most school systems. Be honest: Do you know how to sew a button or make curtains, let alone make dinner for eight without losing your mind? I sure didn't — and none of my friends did, either. We were domestically challenged, to say the least.
As I experimented with different domestic tasks, I discovered which ones I liked (cooking, building shelves, decorating my apartment and simple knitting), and which ones I hated (quilting, ironing, and dusting). I learned that my favorite thing to do in the whole world is to grocery shop — I love to be around food, to smell it, touch it, and think about all the delicious things I'm going to make in the kitchen.
I stopped fretting and embraced my inner craftiness. Yet, even with all this joyous creativity—and for me, domesticity is a very artistic process--there are times when I wonder: am I too domestic, too girly? After all, our culture continues to thumb its nose at domesticity. When I make a mean meal for a couple of friends—something I have researched, read about, shopped for and prepared—we enjoy it and then it’s gone. It isn’t important in the economic system—I don’t make money from it and it doesn’t have the cultural capital of, say writing a novel or making a sculpture. It’s unimportant.
More troubling for me is that it isn’t just mainstream culture which dismisses domesticity, but some feminists as well. When Betty Friedan searched for the cause of “the problem that has no name” affecting middle class white suburban housewives in 1963, she found it in housecleaning and caring for the family. According to Friedan, all things domestic were actually the root of women’s malaise and depression. As I read through The Feminine Mystique now, forty years later, I have a lot of sympathy and admiration for Friedan as someone who was trying to make sense of her world. But I think her analysis is too narrow. It isn’t the activity of housework that is so stifling, but rather women had so few other options and, more importantly, women’s work has always been devalued.
From cooking to cleaning to caring for children, our culture views “women’s work” as stupid, simple, suffocating—things that can easily be replaced by mechanization, crappy fast food, hiring poor women and neglect—precisely because women have always done them. Even feminists aren’t free from this type of thinking; we have internalized patriarchal thinking to such an extent that we also dismiss our own history of domesticity. And although we may not be aware of it, we have bought into the lie that women are inferior so we set out to be more like men: important, big, self-centered and good at getting ours.
Debbie Stoller, the founder and editor of the third wave feminist magazine Bust, believes that if the feminist movement wants to achieve real equality, we have to embrace domesticity. “We already know what’s respectable and fulfilling about the workplace--basically going out and making money—and there is a certain amount of pride and independence in doing that,” Debbie continues, “But I think we, as a culture, need to relearn what’s valuable and fulfilling in the private sector. The home, children, crafts and making things.”
What if, instead of dismissing it, we thought of domesticity as an important part of women’s culture? Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that every woman should enjoy knitting and cooking and embroidery. But I am suggesting that we give women’s work its props as something valuable, interesting and important, like knowing how to build a house, keep accounting records or play basketball. Skill, love and creativity go into creating a nice home, making things by hand and raising children. It’s not stupid and it’s not easy; it’s damn hard work that we need to respect. Moreover, it is our history, and dismissing it only doubles the injustice already done to women who didn’t have any choice but to be domestic in the first place. And it is as relevant as ever. Taking care of our homes and children is important for our happiness and the health of our entire society.
Paradoxically, when I learned to respect and embrace domesticity, I became reacquainted with my teenage anger that led me to feminism so many years ago. I found myself frustrated by the dismissive looks I received for knitting on the subway or the way people related to me for being so concerned with buying the right cheese or arranging a lovely vase of flowers. With this anger and frustration, I started a Web zine called getcrafty.com which is devoted to radical craftiness—a feminist home economics site, if you will. The site covers arts and crafts, cooking, relationships, home décor and finances, but only from the vantage point of living a more meaningful, egalitarian life. Our motto is “making art out of everyday life.”
The site has blossomed into an inspiring community of women around the US (and beyond) who share ideas about domesticity, feminism, politics, make-up, jobs, art, life and their favorite TV shows. We have one thing in common: we are all crafty.
Being crafty means living consciously and refusing to be defined by narrow labels and categories. It’s about embracing life as complicated and complex, and out of this chaos constructing identities, which are feminist and domestic, masculine and feminine, strong and weak. It’s painting racing stripes down muscle cars and driving them in homemade skirts and high heel shoes. It’s getting together to knit in cafes and building intimacy online. It’s swapping clothing. It’s about being both fashion-obsessed and simultaneously upset by sweat-shop labor practices. It’s about being well read and a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s not about being quiet nor demure, but it means always trying to be nice. It’s about making things with your hands. And, most importantly, it’s about living life artistically, regardless of whether or not one is an Artist with a capital A.
So here I am now at the ripe old age of thirty-three. I no longer live alone in a tenement but rather in a one-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village with a husband and a dog, and a baby on the way. My life is much more domestic and mundane, yet also more varied and interesting than I ever imagined it would be when I was as a teenager in the suburbs of Southern California. I didn’t grow up to be a famous feminist writer--instead I practice my feminism in the way I live my life, the clothes I wear, the home I live in, the food I eat, the company I keep. It’s not glamorous but it is fulfilling. Ironically, my experience is the exact opposite of those women Betty Friedan wrote about in The Feminine Mystique. For me, embracing domesticity and women’s work has freed me from a feeling that life is meaningless. Best of all, I now have simple ways to give myself and others the gift of living well.
Get Crafty is a manifesto for what I call the New Domesticity, a movement committed to recognizing, exalting and most of all enjoying the culture that women have built for millennia. In these pages, you’ll find a lot of tips and ideas to help you domesticate, but only from the vantage-point of creating a more meaningful life. In other words, you will not find chapters on creating the perfect Architectural Digest abode, making your floors so clean you can eat off them or organizing your junk drawer, because I don’t think that’s what life is about. I’m more interested in the community we experience during a long dinner party or the nourishment we get from a home that feels warm and comforting. The point of life is to take advantage of all the joy and beauty that surrounds us – and to ensure that it’s there for others to relish.
comment by go-fish Tuesday November 02nd, 2004 01:58 PM
How eloquent! Thank you.
Isn't it fun being post-modern?
comment by sissy Tuesday November 02nd, 2004 03:24 PM
this is great... i wrote an essay and made a speech in high school about this... how i felt cheated that to most women, in seeking better lives for themselves, end up devaluing those qualities and values we have always thought of as femenine... how feminism shouldn't mean you have to embrace masculine qualities and disregard crafty stuff like sewing... i don't want people to expect me to know how to cook or knit because i'm a woman, but i don't want people to roll their eyes at me when i've made an awesome sweater i'm really proud of or found a kick-ass new muffin recipe... i will not be pigeon-holed!!! hehe... well said...
comment by caitlin Tuesday November 02nd, 2004 04:00 PM
You've come a long way, Baby! ( remember Virginia Slims? Did you smoke them?)
comment by jean Wednesday November 03rd, 2004 12:22 AM
I used to smoke marlboro reds baby!
sissy, what an advanced high school speech. so perceptive at a young age.
"how feminism shouldn't mean you have to embrace masculine qualities and disregard crafty stuff like sewing... i don't want people to expect me to know how to cook or knit because i'm a woman, but i don't want people to roll their eyes at me when i've made an awesome sweater i'm really proud of or found a kick-ass new muffin recipe... i will not be pigeon-holed"
Exactly.I may or may not know how to work on my car and I might make the freakin' most rockin' turkey on earth.I'm not telling...Or am I?
comment by LizQuincy Sunday November 14th, 2004 02:18 PM
I loved this story when I read it in the GetCrafty book. I even highlighted certain parts. It's so inspiring!
comment by Mirandme Friday November 19th, 2004 01:38 PM
Great story, reminded me of questions I had had about feminism while in college...getting my degree in Home economics! I rationalized my choice because I was in the clothing and textils/interior design area. What I experienced in my coursework was knowledge of time and resource management, creativity, and a number of strong intelligent women. And what other major can you have where you use that knowledge for your whole life - even if you are not working in the field. While I would not recommend a degree in HE today (jobs are hard to find), I do wish these skills were being taught in high school to all students. these skills make your life better at a basic level (better food, no vermin), and at a higher level (dining with friends, creative expression). So I am delighted the crafty movement is here - keep up the good work.
FYI-I define my feminism as the responsibility to be able to take care of myself with the ability to choose things I do. Sewing curtains - yes, mowing lawn - no, baking bread - yes, cooking dinner every night - no.
comment by ambelina Tuesday November 23rd, 2004 03:28 PM
Huzzah! So nice to see that so many others feel as I do.
Except, why not the guys, too? My guy cooks like a fiend, and he is the cocktail-making, swank-hosting king.
And there's something more disturbing about the overall change from women-stuck-at-home-with-domestic-work to women-working-but-finding-domestic-work-a-life-improvement: we don't have time. Salary structures have changed so that the income of a family of four in the 70s is the same (adjusted for inflation and cost-of-living) as it is now - except then it was ONE salary and now it's TWO.
I don't think that women should leave the workplace so that men will get paid more and we'll have more time to cook and knit. But I think there's really a limit to how much home ec, hip or not, any of us can participate in when we're all working our tails off just to make the old ends meet.
I think it's becoming less and less of a women/men issue and more of a humanity issue. We all like nesting, it's important to us as humans, for sanity and comfort and coping with the world. We're more able to be good to ourselves and to others if we have a good home base. But everybody-work-all-the-time doesn't make room for that for anyone.
comment by slyn11 Monday December 06th, 2004 09:47 PM
Some really valid points. I think living "artistically" is a worthy goal for all - but I am not so sure about embracing the domestic. I hate cleaning, chores, and cooking on a daily basis. Why should I have to indulge in those activities because they were historically done by women? I wouldn't want to be paid to do any of those things - so why would I do them for free?
I just got married, so all these domestic issues are fresh on my mind. I am not looking forward to homeownership or parenthood. I like living without major responsibilities. I feel free. Yet because I like to cook for parties and craft; I get all these expectations to become some sort of domestic goddess.
Can't I be crafty without the urge to "nest"?
comment by sophrosune Sunday December 19th, 2004 08:31 PM
I sort of have come around from the other end. I never really understood what all the fuss about feminism was about. In high school I never felt like I had less opportunities or was oppressed because I was a woman. I was good at sports and good at math and assumed women had pretty much acheived equality with a few exceptions here and there that it was just a matter of time to overcome.
Then I got married, and had a kid. I learned how it feels to have to take care of the house and the child while your husband goes off and does something interesting with his life. I read feminist books and learned about how working mothers (who STILL get paid 75 cents to a man's dollar) have to go home and take care of the "second shift", where they still have to do the lion's share of the housework and the child care. Even if their husbands seem enlightened, even if their husbands *think* they do their fair share of the housework and child rearing. And now, as somebody else alluded to, women don't have the choice to work or not in most cases, because one income doesn't go as far as it used to.
Doesn't it feel like we just got collosally duped by the whole women's lib thing? Now we don't only have to slave away in the house, we have to slave away in the office too, all the while the media tries as hard as it can to make us feel guilty for not being june cleaver or a martha stewart supermom.
Men need to learn how to do housework, and they need to see it as their duty as grown-up people, not something they help their wives out with occasionally. Society as a general rule has to start giving respect and credit to women for raising the nation's young and keeping the country's households running, and call me a commie, but the government needs to help families with higher minimum wages, nationally instituted healthcare and daycare.
Now I definitely call myself a feminist, and realize what all the fuss was about. I will be interested to hear how the mama thing works out for you, as it was very eye-opening for me.
comment by Zoe B Sunday January 16th, 2005 01:16 AM
This is a great manifesto. I especially relate to "making art out of everyday life.” , homemade skirts and building intimacy on-line. I can't recall if I told you about our Silver Lake new Moms yahoo group. We have play dates, baby food swaps, baby clothing swaps, share advice on breast feeding and all the stuff that comes with being a new Mother. I love it. And today we raised over $2,000 having a garage sale to help with the Tsunami Relief.
You've so eloquently put words to this feminine phenomenon.
Nice to see you all and looking forward to meeting the latest Mr. S.
Cheers, Zoe (& Rob & Lula)
comment by jluvts Friday January 28th, 2005 02:57 PM
As a teenager, I swore that IF I ever got married, I would never stay home with my kids (IF I had any). I wouldn't cook, or do the cleaning, or anything else domestic, I wanted to be a career woman, or an actress, or something that would keep me out of the house. There was a girl at my school that was always talking about getting married and having kids. Her dream was to go to college for a little while to meet a man. Then get married, and have 8 kids! I thought she was absolutely insane. One of my friend's moms was a stay at home mom, and I thought that was a total waste of time. So I decided that IF I had kids, I would take the 6 weeks leave, then go back to work and plug my kids into a daycare. Thank God I changed my mind!
The first thing that happened to change my mind was meeting my wonderful husband (at 18, he was 23). He filled my heart with so much love, I would have done anything he asked. Then I met Jesus (not face to face, but heart to heart). He changed my mind (over time) about so many things that I had closed the door on. I still got angry when I read about some things concerning women in the Bible, but I have since learned the meaning behind them, and the love that Jesus has for all of us. The third thing that changed my mind was getting pregnant. After spending nine months getting to know my baby, and researching all sorts of things on development and parenting, there was no way I was going to send him off to daycare with a bottle full of formula, wondering if he is getting the attention he needs and deserves. So here I am, 16 months later, still breastfeeding, and blessed to be at home raising my son. I think we may even homeschool, at least elementary school, but maybe even junior high too. And we want to have at least three kids. I had started college, but stopped when I realized that even if I didn't home school, it would be at least ten years at home before I got to use my degree, and then I would have forgotten everything I learned anyways. So I stopped wasting the money, got pregnant, and stayed home.
Now I am not saying that I ENJOY all the things that come along with being a stay at home wife/mother. I do not like cleaning the bathroom, so my husband does it. He also likes laundry a lot more than I do. But I do cook (unless our son is having a rough time, then my husband takes over). I have even started to do the dishes more often. We were sharing a lot of the housework, but my husband now goes to work during the day, and then school at night, so I have to pick up a lot of the slack. But I don't mind, I do it because I love him, and I love our son, and I love Jesus. And my husband tells me everyday how much he appreciates everything that I do for our family. I think that is something a lot of women do not hear from their husbands, and maybe that is why they are so hateful towards the idea of domesticity.
And if I am blessed with a daughter, I am going to encourage her to be herself, but we are not going to put pressure on her to go to college, unless that is what she wants. Or have a career (although a job to get her through finding a husband and getting married would be good). And we want to encourage our son(s) to look for these qualities in a wife. Not saying that we would disown a family member for going against this, but we would strongly encourage being family and God oriented.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for that. It can't be said enough. My parents raised me with their own odd brand of feminism, espousing that true feminism was being able to choose what you wanted to do, whether it be heading up a multinational corporation or staying at home with the kids. I was understandably confused when I went off to college and the anti-feminist crowd threw their "feminists are anti-family and anti-home" arguments my way.
In retrospect, the most radical choice I've ever made was to leave the workplace and stay at home to raise my two girls. I'll be the first to admit that it's not a choice everyone can or should make, but for me - stuck in a dead-end job, unsure of the direction I wanted my career to take - it was the only choice. Here in the home, I am free to indulge my creative side in everything from art projects to knitting to my complex housekeeping system (anyone who thinks that keeping house is simple needs to pick up a copy of _Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House_.) Sure, there are chores that I still loathe - dishes and laundry are at the top of that list - but my annoyance at the little things pales in comparison to the value of the finished product: a real home, a sanctuary, a comfortable place for myself, my husband, and my kids. I've learned the hard way that sanctuary isn't something that comes easily; it takes back-breaking work, roughly twelve hours a day, for me to keep up. But it's worth it to me. (Of course, it helps immensely that I've got a husband who comes home from work and cooks dinner for me at the end of the day. Now, if I could just train him to do more housework...)
What made my decision difficult was the disapproval I received from my feminist peers. I still get the e-mails from my old professors, asking when I'll be returning to the workplace or graduate school. I don't have an answer for them. If that's where my life takes me, I won't feel ashamed or guilty to pursue a career later on in my life. But for now, I'm content to live my life as a domestic artist, bringing a little bit of beauty into everyday things. I refuse to devalue the lives of my female ancestors by decrying their life's work as unimportant and unnecessary. After all, the only thing that really separates us "SAHMs" from the "workers" of the world is a paycheck. Period. This is an issue that goes beyond just sexism; it's an issue of economics, as well, because in our society, if it doesn't make money, it's just not important.
There are times when I want to throttle the people that shake their heads and pity me for "wasting my life" like this. It's their loss, after all, for not being able to see the Zen-like bliss of a simple act like sweeping the sidewalk or stirring a batter. Granted, it's not always coming up roses around here, but I'll take vacuuming the carpets over lab work any day of the week.
Please forgive the long and rambling reply; with two toddlers underfoot, I'm amazed I can form a coherent thought at all. ;)
Hella-f*ing-luha! Jean and this blog have validated my existence and the many questions I stifled for years of second-wave feminism. While I agree that we must pay homage where it is due to those women that came before us, we needn't axault them as having had all the answers. All these years later, I say we keep what works for us and throw out the rest. I'm grateful to have the option to work outside the home, but I feel it's important to respect the choice that some women (and men for that matter, darnit!) make to stay home or be domestic to any degree they so desire. When I think of all the times I have repressed my urges to be domestic and crafty...Oh, if only I hadn't snubbed my mother's desire to teach me to sew...I'm looking forward to living an enriched life as an opinionated, empowered AND down-to-earth woman, making my way in the world, making it prettier, and unabashedly indulging in domestic bliss! Thanks, for re-liberating me.
comment by 3IGMom Friday April 01st, 2005 09:01 AM
Jean, your manifesto CHANGED MY LIFE!
I bought your book because I like to create, but I've been in a serious rut for several months. I was looking for artistic inspiration, and walked away with a new perspective on my ENTIRE life.
Just want to say THANKS for putting in to words and perfectly describing a general unsettled feeling I've had for a long time, but couldn't explain. You've flipped on the light bulb so I can clear out the cobwebs and dust--not only in my house, but in my life in general!
Wow! I can really relate to everything in this article. What a manifesto! Cheers to you!
comment by oscine Monday April 11th, 2005 04:21 PM
i am still so so so torn about this whole thing. i LOVE art and i love crafts and i love baking. but i dont know if i can be a stay at home mom.. i've thought about it, and i suppose that if i do become a stay at home mom- it's only if i can work out of my home. and do all the things that i want to accomplish with my life.
i suppose that leaning over a potter's wheel or painting while the kids are at school or taking a nap would be an interesting life to lead.
and then there's music. my role models are mates of state.. i love that a married couple can be a talented band i love that they left their jobs (she was a biochemist) to pursue their music full time, and i love that they toured during her pregnancy, with smoke-free shows, and i love that they just had a baby girl named magnolia. i guess i'm interested in how they balance their careers with parenthood, since that's a goal that i have in my life too.
i have a few years until i have to figure this out, anyway. :sigh:
i spent too many years resenting my mega-crafty housewife mom, who knew how to cook, sew, knit, embroider, make anything really.
i spent too many years showing off my urban stereotype of woman with a career, who goes out like mad, eats crap and doesn't care about all those unimportant things.
time to grow up!
my heartfelt thanks to all the jeans, the debbies, the lenas who realized this before me!
comment by sheralove Thursday May 12th, 2005 03:53 PM
I am an artist and a feminist and I have to say I like the article. While this deals with craft, my art deals with fetish in postmodernism--who says that "mother goddess" is all nice and loving or some psycho with a complex? Why can't a perfectly sane woman KNOW and grow up with the idea that clothing (like bras) we were a slave to, then burned, now...what? Some women use clothing, whether they make or buy it, like hair dye or lipstick, as a means of exploiting the idea of stereotype and showing it for the contradition it is...
Being crafty isn't pigeon-holing anymore--not with trading spaces and lord knows HOW many of those shows out there...but its not just women either. Men are getting crafty too. I shunned sewing for YEARS, thinking of the old feminist rhetoric, but now we have post modern, third-wave feminism! Horrah! I can be as contradictory as I want, even wear a bra, red lipstick, high heels AND sew, and still kick some gender butt.
I have have enjoyed domestic tasks of all kinds since I was in grade school. I enjoy them not because I could "make someone a great wife someday" but because I could express myself through my chosen crafts.
Yes, I was a brownie and a girl scout. Along with learning domestic "craft stuff" I went camping, horseback riding, etc.
I enjoy the thrill of the hunt in a thrift shop or at a garage sale. Especially when I find exactly what I was looking for, pennies on the dollar. I prefer to repurpose some old bits of edging in to a cool chandelier than go buy something new.
I'm a great wife and mother because of my ideals and my craftiness!
comment by Brutalis Thursday July 21st, 2005 05:51 AM
Thank you for your manifesto Jean. For further inspiration I'd like to link you to another craft manifesto, written by my friend Ulla-Maaria: http://ullamaaria.typepad.com/hobbyprincess/2005/03/draft_craft_man.html
comment by jenie Monday August 15th, 2005 09:32 PM
I realize that this comment is a bit belated, but I just had to respond to this beautifully written statement on TRUE feminism - that is, embracing those things about us that make use feminine, and make us different from men, not the same. All my life, I was a crafty girl, and I used to daydream about cooking, cleaning, and knitting and sewing clothes for my family. As I entered high school, I realized what an unpopular idea this was, but I stayed as far away from the argument as I could. I hid my knitting and sewing and other crafting projects from my more militant-minded friends. However, even though they habitually scorned such practices, I never saw anything wrong with it. To them, I appeared to be a strong-willed, powerful young woman, and I wondered how they would react to see me knitting a scarf for my dad for Christmas.
When I graduated high school, everyone had such high hopes for me - that I would go to a good college, graduate with honors, go on to run a company, and be at least 33 before I got married, and 36 before I had children. Instead, I was 20 when I got married and 21 when I had my first child. Now, at 23, I'm pregnant with my second. I dropped out of school, and while I am working, and my husband stays at home with our daughter during the day, he works at night, and I am responsible for a large number of our chores. I don't like doing many of them, but I do them anyway because they have to be done. Not because it's my "job" as a woman to do the dishes. If neither of us does the dishes, we get flies. Simple as that.
When I was pregnant, I was very vocal about my desire to stay at home instead of going out and working. I was met with a great deal of resistance from the older women in my life. A friend of my mother's even said, "We fought very hard for you to be able to go out into the world and work."
I said, "I thought you fought that hard so I could have a choice." However, even though I'd like to stay at home, it is very true that a 2-income household is practically necessary for comfort today, a fact which basically eliminates that choice altogether. My husband and I never see each other, and our marriage is suffering from it. I believe that if we lived in a society where the "woman's role" was taken more seriously, and women WERE, in fact, given a choice to stay at home or go and work, there would probably be a lot less divorce in this country, and perhaps people would be happier.
I am a firm believer that the depression women experienced in this country for so long was not because of the work, but because of the lack of respect that work received. I think that now, more than ever, is an excellent time to review how people regard housework and child-rearing as a "profession."
comment by DesignerPea Thursday November 10th, 2005 03:15 PM
All "work" is a profession - whether it is a paid job for which you interview, a volunteer job for which you graciously give of your time and energy or a rite of passage to which you give all of your love and understanding.
You do not "have to" do anything, but what you have chosen to do, you should do with a full heart. Don't waste your life doing something that you hate - ever.
comment by NewMexicoMom Tuesday December 20th, 2005 10:01 AM
I love this manifesto. I suspect I'm a little older than most of you, but let me tell you that life is sweet.
I was always a high achiever - loved outscoring the boys in school. I was a National Merit Scholar, test scores through the roof. Got my engineering degree in four years even though I had to work a couple of jobs during school to put myself through. Funny thing about that - my natural talents lie in the history/literature/language areas. I took engineering just to prove I could do it. Plus I enjoyed friendships with the guys more than with most of the girls I knew.
I swore I'd never get married (I wasn't the airheaded flirt that seemed to attract men) or have children (I babysat just enough to know I didn't want to be stuck with brats.) I did love crafts (my dad's father as well as my no-nonsense mom did tons of art and high quality crafts so I never associated it with oppression or whatever.) I asked for the top-of-the-line Bernina sewing machine when I graduated from college because I wanted to make my own clothes rather than rely on the cookie cutter, poorly made junk in the stores. Best gift I ever got!
I met my husband and boom! we knew we were soul mates right away. We got married and because of the crash in the engineering market at the time, I stayed home. Wow. I was smart as a whip and couldn't figure out how to keep a path to the front door or how to cook so that most of the dishes were ready about the same time. I spent the next three years learning to sew and quilt and hook rugs and tat and make gifts that didn't look homemade, practice the bare basics of housework, experimented with baking and cooking (tried lots of off-beat and foreign dishes), taught myself to draw and paint, discovered cross-stitch (the artsy, not the cutesy, type), made it a game to save money (we had student loans to pay off), and read tons of books when my husband traveled with his job. (poor dear kept telling me he wished he had time to do anything other than slave for the corporate drones.) I even figured out how to do yardwork and garden.
Had our first child (was that a huge adjustment to our lifestyle or what!) and couldn't believe how much we could love that little thing. We realized that the only things that will last beyond our deaths, that will carry a piece of us on through the years to come are our children. So we decided to go for it! We now have nine children, some homebirthed, all breastfed, all natural births... We homeschool them all - hey, do you think I want my seven daughters to be taught that they are the sex kittens of pimply boys or that they can't achieve whatever they put their mind to or that they are limited by society's expectations or that they have to diet or cut themselves or wear makeup or whatever to fit in??? Plus they have tons more time to actually learn the subjects at their own pace and pursue interesting rabbit trails.
I now have lots of helping hands with the housework (none of us are clean freaks but we keep the health department at bay.) We all love to eat good food, read interesting books, and have lots of stimulating conversations. I set my own schedule, my own agenda, my own goals. We shop at thrift stores for eclectic wardrobes, household items, and more books.
My husband and I have been active politically, in the home school movement, in the community, (we just dragged our children along with us). We discipline our kids so they won't be whiney brats, we talk to them as though they were real people, and we just sit back sometimes in wonder. How blessed we are!
One of my girls taught herself to knit and is designing her own patterns (I knit enough to know I didn't like it), we make homemade books and cards, they are all currently making artist trading cards during our group school session (I read history, current events, and make my own comments on everything). We've done tons of arts and crafts, I go in and out of different jags, they try stuff and decide what they like, they are making capes for Narnia in the theater, the older ones have learned Elvish from Lord of the Rings obsession, the piano is played all day long, we've tried making soap and homemade paper and beaded our own jewelry. Some are more domestic than others, my older son is a great cook, we all wish we had more time in the day because life is so interesting and full. They watch very little network TV - just videos we buy or check out of the library - who has time to waste brain cells on piffle?
My husband continues his corporate drone job - he hates it, but he is good at it and it makes enough money to support us all. He helps teach math and science and logic and chess and speech and debate. He used to help with housework when we had lots of little kids, now he builds more bookshelves and networks our computers together.
I love seeing the creativity on this website and the openness to doing what you enjoy - not worrying about what society tells you is "women's" or "men's" work, not falling into the cookie cutter pop culture. I get lots of ideas from all of you and say, "Keep it up, girls!!"
comment by Pokey Monday January 23rd, 2006 02:20 PM
One of the most amazing things I'm noticing in the majority of posts is the growth and transformation in so many women! I too had my years as a teenager swearing to myself and anyone who'd listen that I would never become one of "those" women who did crafts. I would have much more intelligent and meaningful ways to spend my free time. And now pushing 30, I love nothing more than to sit down with my knitting after a hard shift at work (I'm an ER nurse) and crank out a baby blanket or booties for an expectant friend. I do knit other things as well (hats, mitts, scarves..you get the idea).
I tend to bring my work home with me, I pour over conversations with patients and co-workers. I think about various physical presentations, lab work, treatments. I find myself coming home and spending hours on the internet researching medical conditions, nursing interventions, etc. In short, I'm a bit absorbed in my career. Knitting helps bring me out of it. I can come home, put my hands to work and concentrate on a pattern--->not on work.
Like most of you, I choose to express my feminism in the way I live my life. I also work at an abortion clinic, I am the primary "bread winner" in my relationship, I agreed to marry my boyfriend to make him happy, although isn't it funny that most people will find a way to comment on me "finally" being able to get him to settle down. We've been together and settled down for six years already. What the hell is a piece of paper going to change? And he's taking my last name. (His is long, hard to spell, and difficult to pronounce. Mine is easy.) And I fantasize about how sexy my man will look with a baby-snuggly strapped onto his chest. Grrrrr......
What was I saying......oh right!
Regardless, I think that non-crafters fail to see just how rewarding making something for someone can be. When I used to think about crafts, images of overweight grandma types with glue guns and popsicle sticks came to mind. Now I wish I was creative enough to know what to do with them. But I'm willing to try. I inhereted (sp?) my Grandmother's sewing machine and have purchased some books to help me get started. I figure with enough practice, someday my kids will have the coolest halloween costumes EVER!!!!
I'm totally going to recommend this website to some of the cool crafty ladies in my life!!!
Being a Chic Rocks!
comment by andrenna Saturday June 24th, 2006 06:28 PM
I've noticed myself try so hard to avoid something I percieve as "bad" (ie - domesticity) that I do the complete opposite. I avoid the "bad" thing completely. I try so hard not to have any of the "bad" thing in my life, that I end up with a deficiency. I've learned that even things I percieve as "bad", are not wholy bad. Life is about balance. A little "bad" is a good thing.
comment by blargady Sunday August 27th, 2006 02:21 PM
My senior year in Catholic school I constantly was protesting the girls only uniform policy and refused to wash or iron my uniform the whole year. They fought me, oh yeah...going as far as giving me a detention for not pulling up my socks. But I did triumph-kind of...the next year they made the boys wear uniforms, too.
comment by Hearly Thursday December 04th, 2008 02:58 PM
Thank you, thank you for "feminism and the new domesticity!"
I crave more of this realistic approach to life - i love embracing and allowing for contradictions within yourself, allowing for things to be complicated and dynamic and INTERESTING!
Giving yourself (and others) the room to change your mind is a beautiful thing.
Thank you for sharing and for starting getcrafty! Reading your story made me so excited for whatever new revelation is next in my life!