I’m A DIY Cupcake Feminist
Posted by Cate on August 26, 2008
I quite enjoyed this article in The Guardian recently by Viv Groskop. It’s about the apparent ‘resurgence’ of feminine pastimes such as baking, knitting and sewing. The article details the ‘rise’ in retro and ’50s kitsch and pastimes traditionally enjoyed by stay at home mums such as tea parties, baking cakes and having a liking for tablecloths and aprons and debates whether this is a throw back to pinny imprisoned women of years past or an example of women spending time together engaging in ‘feminine’ crafts because they want to. I have divided opinions on this.
I should state my personal bias up front. I have always been crap at sports and elected to participate in all things crafty from an early age as a sanctuary from physical exertion. I run my own craft business and I run workshops on crafting. I’m in the middle of organizing a sewing bee making pads for women in Africa. But onto the article…
Firstly, the article offers numerous examples of ‘subversive’ crafting such as a cupcake drop, burlesque and naked afternoon teas and the like. Is there anything that can’t be made sexy? Sexing craft up doesn’t necessarily make it any more subversive an activity if the focus is still on the fetishised, sexualised women. But is it any better if the crafty burlesque is for a female audience? Is the wearer of those DIY nipple tassles a crafty crusader or does her presence serve to offer women yet another opportunity to compare their body to other women’s and find their sadly inadequate? But fear not readers, there’s a whole spectrum of subversive and radical crafts out there that you could do knitted or otherwise really (here’s a pattern for a knitted vagina if you feel the urge and you might enjoy this site whilst waiting for the GST on tampons to lift.
Secondly, there the issue of context as the author offers the typical contrast between second and third wave feminists. Is baking such great fun if you have to do all the cooking?.
According to a 2008 study by the [UK]Institute for Social and Economic Research, for instance, men do four to five hours of housework a week, compared with 12 hours for married women and live-in partners (single women do seven hours a week). And when it comes to cooking and washing-up, 2005 figures from the Office of National Statistics show that women spend double the amount of time in the kitchen that men do.
I can’t say this is my experience. My feminine crafting hardly extends to an immaculate house of my own efforts. Actually, my partner kindly vacuums up my dropped threads from the carpet and makes me cups of tea whilst I’m crafting. But I do agree that some crafts such as knitting and cross stitch can take a long time. I think that in some respects traditional female crafts are the luxury of middle class women who are meaningfully employed. With time to go and trawl the charity shops for their ‘reusable’ materials of course. Any woman who’s checked out the prices of Japanese or retro fabrics knows that it isn’t a cheap hobbby.
I would have liked the article to go a bit further into the ethical considerations of crafting. Is DIY baking and crafting still a valiant attempt to have a social conscience? Is it better to buy handmade if it is made from fabric woven in sweat shop factories? Are my labours as a crafter any more valued since I don’t have to sew to survive? (Perhaps not, judging by the masses of painstakingly cross stitched dollies residing in charity shops all over Australia).
I agree with Jazz D Holly statement that craft is about
”a chance to carve out their own space away from men, a place where they can gather to celebrate and enjoy traditionally female crafts”.
It can also be a good time to talk about your vaginas and plans for anti-beauty burlesque.