reactionary images conveyed in the craft community?

Today I had a lengthy debate with two friends about crafty weblogs and what image is conveyed by them - about women, mothering and gender roles.
There is this kind of "pink bonbon girlie image" with lots of flowers, little ruffles everywhere, where "everything is sooooo cute and I'm not a woman but a little girl age 30something".
There is this "I am a mother and my home is perfect and everything is in perfect harmony and the sun is shining everyday" kind of weblog... and stuff like that.

I'm not sure if my english is good enough to really explain what I'm trying to say.
In Germany, there is definitely a trend away from feminism and its achievements towards other topics while the role model of a woman being a good homemaker and going "back" to "traditional" values seems to be used to make the backlash taste better for women.
To be a feminist is considered uncool and to my astonishment, it's considered to be a synonym to "prudish". So there are some "new feminists" around whose mission is to prove to the world that they are not prudish at all. Well.

Anyway, I wonder if that was ever an issue to crafty women - what kind of gender cliché is broadcast through the public sewing of many pink litte flower-ribbons-purses-cuties on the internet?
I wonder if the crafters who build up an image about a cute girlie home life are aware of that problem that it's a female cliché. And if they are, I wonder if they see the need to do something about it.
I mean, being cute, doing cute things, wearing cute stuff - why reduce oneself to the status of a child - and that is effectively happening when being cute. Why not stop being cute? or why not being cute and doing cute things and explaining why?

Another friend of mine said that all of this can also be seen as Drag or costume. Everything is drag. Even if you don't know it. So this self-directed movie someone is making about a pink princess in a fairytale sewing happily on her stuff, maybe that's sometimes so overemphasized that you can only call it drag.

I have personally some issues with my own gender role, I find that many things traditionally ascribed to be womens business are also looked down upon in society in general. And for example, doing crafts at home like knitting, sewing and embroidering is looked down upon. Maybe not anymore elsewhere, but here it still is. But as a human being, I don't want to be looked down upon. I want to be respected. So where is respect in calling oneself "girl" - does a man call himself a "boy"? Where is self-respect in doing things that are really great and take skills like crafting and reducing that activity to have a production of basically useless, but cute things? Like: "Oh I have 20 cute handbags already, but this pattern is so cute - I must make it for the sake of cuteness, and because my hobby has not the least bit of prestige anyway, I don't have to think about it if someone finds that crazy."

Of course this is very exaggerated. I think the caricature I am drawing here doesn't exist as a real person maybe, but caricatures are sometimes helpful to make a point, especially if one doesn't speak the language too well and can't express that more subtly.

For me, I found that my hobby is more respected if what I make is useful, like "Wow, you've got the power to make something like pants or a bag and you don't have to buy one!" And if i value it myself a lot.

But maybe that's just old-fashioned Germany. I've heard that (despite having a female chancellor) we are very far behind social developments, as good as this country might be in technical inventions, it's a lousy place for social reforms and doing something to have more equality. Maybe from the german perspective I just find it weird if women actively embrace the cute knitting sewing homemaker image.
Because I know there are famous designers like Amy Butler who make pink pastel flowery cute fabrics and do that with very much success, self-respect and expertise. Maybe there are a lot of self-conscious empowered women who reclaim the color pink and get respected and cute is becoming a cool thing?
And I just don't see it because I live in an old-fashioned country? I mean, women from other countries, scandinavian countries, for example, keep telling me that this is really strange here, how women are still sticking in the same old position and don't even mind it.

My conclusion is: I like this pink doll princess girl - cliche when it's used with an ironic smile, and with humour. That makes it a drag performance, and I like that.
If not - then is just too cute for my taste, I mean, I would use it myself eighter as a humourous statement or I wouldn't use that image at all. Because I'm with Jane Elliot who said in the film "Blue Eyed" that being cute is not helping at all when you are a woman.

I had posted a statement in german on my german blog where I basically said that feminine style is cool and I hate it if people look down on it. Because it separates us women. I'm still of the opinion that "feminine styles" should and can be reclaimed.
A friend of mine commented making these two points:
1. feminine, cute style is to be respected like every other taste and style.
2. copying of a femnine cliché is boring, it's better to include humour and irony, and also it's good if the "doll-image" has got some cracks that make people look, listen and think.

I couldn't sum it up much better!
distelfliege - 21. Jul, 00:15


I just read an article that adresses this point much better than I could with my broken english, along with some very interesting other points:
Columbia Chronicle on Craftivism via Craftivism

E.D.B. (guest) - 21. Jul, 12:57

Uses of crafting.

I found both your comments (about crafting in German culture) and the article you linked to pretty interesting. I think crafting can be fun and useful, although I agree that in America it's become temporarily popular for reasons that have more to do with trends and less to do with with the more worthwhile cause of creating a more egalitarian domesticity.

Your points relating "cute" behavior and an attempt to portray one as being more childlike is also accurate. In America it reflects a greater trend (at least in urban areas) to "reclaim" childhood -- in the worst possible way. Any woman under 50 is a "girl," any man a "boy." People revel in regressive behavior. It seems related to a disappointment with contemporary culture and life.

distelfliege - 21. Jul, 20:41


Thanks for your comment! I was not so aware of that trend to "reclaim" childhood. It just jumped in my eye on one place or the other that there seems to be an overload of cuteness.
In Germany we had some trend like this in the early 90ies. What had been the "rrriot grrl" trend in the U.S. became a "girlie" trend here, and the revolutionary taste of "rrriot" became totally lost. There was even a music hit "Weil ich ein Mädchen bin" (Because I am a girl) basically about a woman, who calls herself a girl, who gets everything and every guy because she's such a cute girl.
What surprised me was that the trend to reclaim childhood you mentioned extends to men. I thought this was a problem that concerns mostly women.

About crafting in general, I just thought about another example: there is a german version of "etsy". It's like etsy, but people selling there don't get as much money for their handmade stuff. I think that's because the crafting trend is not so strong here and crafting has less prestige in general. Friends of mine who are spinning yarn are selling on etsy because you don't get a fair price for your stuff on the german equivalent.

Personally, I can relate very much to the term "craftivism" and to the things Betsy Greer (who coined the term) writes about it. I would also like to connect crafting and my idealism.
Claire (guest) - 15. Aug, 04:57

I think Amy Butler's designs and fabrics are quite sophisticated - I don't see a lot of pink or cuteness in them. These days I think we have a new William Morris style "arts & crafts" movement, where people value things that are beautiful and useful.

For Canadians the resurgence of crafting seems to be tied to our interest in the environment and ethics. It's not just about cute, it's about reducing how much you consume and buy, and knowing that something you use everyday comes from a good source, not children who work in factories.

That being said, I also love cute things. And I work at home and love to do traditional homemaker things. But I guess I don't feel looked down upon for it in our culture so it's just a reminder that we're lucky. Because it was like that when I was growing up in the 80s. It helps if you're confident in yourself and just do the things you like.

distelfliege - 15. Aug, 10:16


Amy Butlers designs are sophisticated! When we had this discussion (me and my friends) we also talked about Jane Cumberbatch, whose style is, in contrast, about simplicity. and we compared that to other styles.

Thanks for mentioning William Morris, I never heard about him and when I've got more time I'll do some reading about him.

You're mentioning two things with a political importance, that are not reactionary, but quite the opposite about the crafts movement: the "green crafting" and giving "homemaker things" meaning and value them more. That's also something I like about it.

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