Funnily enough, I didn’t intend on making this a 3-part blog post when I first wrote about Craft and Privilege last week. However, it opened so many cans of worms, that I felt like there was more to add.
First off, as asked in a comment to the first post, I want to talk a little bit about class privilege. The type of privilege I am addressing here. Of course, not every crafter in the whole world is privileged; however, those most represented and known on the crafternet are. We’re the type of crafter that can afford to buy $80 a sweater for yarn and not have to worry about how we’re going to eat and/or pay the electricity bill that month. And because of that reality, we have a privilege that a lot of people don’t have. And since people tend to have friends that are similar to themselves, it’s entirely possible you don’t even think you’re privileged because everyone in your world is just like you. Does that mean that this is applicable to everyone? Heck no. But it’s applicable to many people.
If you’ve ever heard me speak or read any of my essays, it won’t come as a surprise that I think that Riot Grrrl had a lot to do with setting the stage for the craft resurgence to happen. It allowed many of us to realize that we could do anything we wanted, and was incredibly important for many women, as it allowed us to hear, see, and understand, some of us for the first time, the power of our own voices. (For more about my position on Riot Grrrl, go look over here (2005) and here (2015), two posts about RG written a decade apart.
However, Riot Grrrl’s importance and legacy was tainted by the fact that people viewed it as something only applicable to privileged white girls. I mean, it’s such a negative part of it that people have written papers on it. According to that last link, even Corin Tucker criticized Riot Grrrl, a movement that she was earlier involved with:
Corin Tucker’s song “White Girl” addresses her own privilege and disgust with the Riot Grrrl movement but envisions a solution: one that suggests change will only occur once criticism could be directed inward at the movement’s inherent lack of inclusion.
And with all the blog posts about making all the pretty things and $80-yarn sweaters and items that in 2001 would have been DIYed and been imperfectly perfect are done professionally by teams hired to churn out blog content, we are heading down that road. Meaning that the craft movement will not be seen as helpful and exciting and freeing and post-third wave (feminism), it will be seen as privileged and boring and perfectly milquetoast.
By buying into the idea that we have to be perfect, we are becoming a microcosm of what the Industrial Revolution brought us. We are becoming enemies of our imperfections in order to get more likes and shares and blog hits. And yes, some of our handcrafted goods have had all the “good” sucked out of them because we’re reaching for a perfected conflation of our very selves.
And that the craft resurgence could be seen as anything less amazing and powerful and strong breaks my fucking heart. In two. Because in the beginning (2000-2002), it was about curiosity and being proud of yourself because you could make things and about reclaiming something that a lot of us were taught to avoid given what the second wave taught us. It was about reclaiming our power, not about privilege. The more we go astray from that sense of power and wonder that the craft resurgence was fucking founded on, the more we teeter on the edge of possible whitewashing the whole thing.
Because craft, true honest craft, was about utilitarianism and learning new things and providing yourself (and loved ones) with things that were made just how you wanted. It was not about money or competition or likes. It wasn’t about stress or working yourself into the ground. It was about everyone (every color, gender, age, income) making things.
And around the beginning of this century, craft was fun. And reclaiming it meant we were at a point where we could make things and pay our own bills. But now, everyone has professionalized things to a point where there is no room for play. Or making a mistake. Or deep, honest, fucking visceral authenticity. And I’m beginning to feel like Corin Tucker, you guys. And my heart is in pieces. So here, to the handful of you that read this on my newly-resurrected blog, I ask you, to making craft fun again for you. For us. For our legacy.