Tag Archives | privilege

Craft and Privilege, Part 3: Looking at our Legacy.

If you haven’t already read them, I suggest reading Craft and Privilege Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this post.

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.

Craft and Privilege, Part 2: Redefining What Crafty and Creative Mean

So to follow up to last week’s 5 Ways Crafters are Privileged… And What To Do About It post… Earlier today this lovely post by Pip Lincolne came up on my radar about prioritizing creativity. And truth be told, I was actually disheartened by the comments.

Because I started wondering, “How many people commenting are the sole breadwinners for their families?” And I felt like a jackass. And an effin’ giant pit grew in my stomach that literally made me nauseous. Because I do believe in creativity and beautiful things and that they’re important.

I also started wondering how many of the commenters have worked minimum-wage jobs. Then I checked out this survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which put things in perspective and made that argument kind of moot, for the most part.

And talking about this sort of thing is so difficult in the creative (especially the craft) world because it is heavily divisive. Or maybe we just don’t want to check the weight of our own safety nets. Because many (I won’t go as far as saying “most”) of us have options. And like I said last week, we will never have to choose between the electricity bill and food.

Part of ingesting this means understanding that this is not about feeling (or being made to feel) guilty. We were all born into our unique circumstances with our own unique struggles. It’s not as if we orchestrated our own births, so there’s nothing to feel guilty over if we utilize what we have. If we give back. If we understand that not everyone has time to prioritize creativity. They might want to do so, but may not have the same resources or support network that we have.

We need to realize that that reality exists and then we need to give back where we can. Donate handmade (and bought, yet no longer worn) clothes of good quality to shelters and organizations so that others can wear something and shine and feel special. Donate your time to volunteering so that others (two-legged and four-legged alike) can benefit. Yarnbomb that abandoned lot so that it turns into less of an eyesore for neighbors. Make a basketball net for those empty hoops and hang it up. Speak up where others are afraid to. Share stories of how to help others within your networks.

The point here is to not demonize the craft community for having access to resources, but to realize that not everyone is in the same position. That through your/our enthusiasm to handmade things, you can show others how they can be more easily attainable by teaching them, donating supplies, and showing how being creative doesn’t necessarily meaning taking hours out of your day, but can take minutes.

Because many crafters and creatives have access to resources, those terms have become ones that some people believe they can’t otherwise embody. And as some people think, “being creative” doesn’t equal “wasting time,” because it is invaluable. We just need to help reframe it. You can just have an online masters degree, be skilled and Voila – the perfect concoction of getting famous with recognition.

We are creative when we take a different walk home from work each day or make tidying up a fun game or heck, find a new way to lace up our shoes. We are “creative” when we bring ourselves into what we are doing, which can cost nothing and take up no extra time. We are “crafty” when we do something fun with the empty toilet paper roll or weave pine needles into something or make a daisy chain out of flowers.

Therefore, it’s time to make “creative” and “crafty” more accessible again by remembering their roots. And in doing so, we can remind people that it’s not about having your own craft room or website, it’s about taking the time to make your day more enjoyable. But first, we need to realize our own circumstances, own that not everyone’s may be the same, and come up with ways to lessen that gap.

P.S. And, ha! Be sure that when typing in frustration/bewilderment, you ALWAYS check your titles! There was some rearranging, hemming, and hawing on this, but alas, “means” even though edited to be the correct “mean” in the title, remains forevs in the actual link!

P.P.S. I decided to write a third (and final) post about craft and privilege, which you can read here.

5 Ways Most Crafters are Privileged… And What to Do About It

The other week I spent $80 on yarn. True, it was to make an absolutely amazing vest called Goodale by Cecily Glowik MacDonald. (Go check it out here.) A vest that I saw a friend wearing and immediately asked who designed it. I am making it with Tangier by Cascade in Seascape. It is my jam.

However, I’m not exactly rolling in the dough seeing that I just started freelancing. More like skipping among the crumbs as I get the word out… But I bought it. I bought the damn yarn, the damn beautiful yarn. Given my strong support network, I will most likely never be in a situation where I have to choose between food and the electricity bill. And I am forever grateful to be in this position. As in humbled daily by it, because it allows me to sleep better at night as I have a solid place to call home.

But, still, I bought $80 yarn. It is pretty and soft and is doing that really cool stripey thing which non-knitters may think I engineered myself. (Yes!) And, I would expect that most of the people I know in the craft world could also buy $80 of yarn (more on that below). I also think that most of us will never have to make the decision between food and the electricity bill. Or at least not for our whole lives. By this standard, we are all privileged.

So what do we do with this privilege? Act like we don’t have it? Act like we’re a super diverse group of people and just ignore the fact that the majority of us are privileged?

1. First of all, given what the Industrial Revolution started, that we knit or otherwise craft for pleasure is an example of our privilege. Because those without are too busy working to put food on the table to monogram a pillow. (Yes, there are exceptions, but not everyone has an evening free for some crochet and a Netflix binge.)

What we can do about it: We can accept our privilege fully, and in doing so, we may start thinking about doing things for others who are less fortunate. By not trying to ignore it, we can make a difference by the fact that we’re admitting it to ourselves.

2. Secondly, that we have the income (or the credit card limit) that allows us to buy craft supplies at all makes us privileged. Not everyone has the extra money to spend on organic beets and nice yarn. To many, those things are luxuries, well, maybe not the beets so much.

What we can do about it: We can donate what we’re not using to worthy places, because there schools and shelters (along with other groups and organizations) out there where those supplies would be used and loved, instead of taking up space in your attic. Start with this Google search and reclaim your space by allowing your unused supplies to have a brand new adventure!

3. That we have the power to either ignore or kvetch about our privilege means we’re privileged. I know it may sound crazy, but dude, millions of people do not have internet access. And some of those people may live just down the street. In fact, check this out, according to Slate, “less than 40 percent of people worldwide have connected to the internet.” While the reality of this may be lost on your kids, it should be very clear to us adults.

What we can do about it: Stop complaining about our old laptop or shitty internet provider, expecting to get honest sympathy from real grown ups. Donate our old technology (that still works) to charitable organizations who really don’t care if it takes that YouTube video 30 extra seconds to open. Have a look here for where to donate if you don’t know where to start.

4. That we have the option to hoard all those craft supplies means that we’re privileged. It’s not just that we hoard them, but that we don’t have to always use what we bought right away.

What we can do about it: We can make sure that what we have, we use or donate (see above). We can make smarter decisions about what we buy and not just buy something because it’s a good deal. We can use the privilege to make better choices.

5. That we have so many options around us all the time makes us privileged. We’re not making things by hand because we have no other choice.

What we can do about it: We have a learning opportunity in front of us to see how clothes are made as we learn how to construct them. By seeing how much time goes into the process, we can start to question how that top with all the hand beading at Forever 21 is $10. Then, we can learn more about where our clothes are from and support brands that are paying their workers well and caring for their wellbeing when we do buy readymade clothes. We can educate others on the dangers of fast fashion by sharing how long it took to make that top. Opening this dialogue can really make for some interesting conversations.

This is just a short list of the many ways our community holds privilege.

And as crafters and creatives, I think it’s important to also be mindful of what we’re consuming while making things by hand. And therefore we should use the lessons that we learn from crafting and creating to help others become more aware of so very many things we take for granted. And there are ways to do so that aren’t annoying, just like in #5, talking to someone about how you made that scarf or skirt. Doing so creates dialogue, which can change minds, which can change behaviors.

ETA: I decided to write more about this issue; therefore, you can see Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

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