Happy international women’s day! 100 years old today!
‘Hey girls we’re nearly there so we might as well stop swimming’
(The Indelicates, Flesh)
I’m un-ashamedly feminist. I was very lucky with my upbringing and schooling and I never believed there was anything I couldn’t do because I was female. I went to a school that wore Suffragette colours in our tie and celebrated international women’s day each year.
I wrote this a while ago and have cleaned it up a bit for this blog. Sorry if you’ve read it before, it’s my take on gender and craft. But first some links
I love Kate Beaton. She says she’s going to update with another comic today because, you know, Charlie Sheen. But she’s wonderful. (Female comic artists FTW!)
The 15 most important women in tech history. (Can you guess who’s number one???)
Beyond Victoriana’s history of International Women’s Day I love this blog. It is a steampunk blog looking beyond the imperialistic ideas of a lot of steampunk.
My friend Libby’s blog on books and literature is currently doing a series on Feminism for early starters. Highly recommended.
I wanted to try and get my thoughts on gender and craft down, and I guess the best place to start is explaining my own sex and gender with the disclaimer that I am not a gender specialist, I am a feminist and have a good understanding of feminist literature but I’ve never studied gender on its own. I am talking from my own experience.
I am female, I’ve never really felt like I wasn’t female and I am reasonably happy being female. (Apart from occasional ‘wouldn’t it be fun to be a boy for a day’ and ‘everything is easier for boys’ emotional impulses.) What I understand to be my gender (on a scale from very masculine to very feminine (though I think I’d be hard pushed to give a definitive definition of either.)) usually moves around on a daily basis. I don’t think of myself as a very feminine female (I am not sure how anyone could entirely live up to a feminine ideal) but I don’t think of myself as particularly masculine either.
Several of the things I love apparently live in the masculine section of the scale. I personally think this is a really weird approach to loving something. Apparently having a geeky love of music or liking comics or sci fi or electronics is ‘a boys’ thing’. I’ve lost count of the number of women I have heard saying they are rubbish at being a girl because they like ‘insert generic boy thing’
In my opinion liking something outside the prescribed gender roles for your sex is important. (Unless you really do only like blowing stuff up or baking, in which case can I have an explody cake?)
No one is a stereotype, it doesn’t make you rubbish at being female or rubbish at being male. It makes you well rounded. Obviously there are things that prevent women and men from accessing certain hobbies. Homophobia (Don’t let him play with a doll he’ll grow up gay.), peer pressure (There is a reason why I stopped reading comics after the Beano and my brother kept on, his friends were reading them and my friends were playing My Little Pony.) and all the other varieties of social and self imposed pressure (I can’t like that, the boys in the comic shop will laugh at me.) can stop you accessing things you could love.
I am aware that gender is not just made up from thin air. Everything feeds into it, including hard scientific fact of what goes on in women’s and men’s bodies. Of course it is different and it is naive to believe this has no affect on our gender. (There are plenty of medical examples of this with regard to ambiguous genitalia if you want to look it up.) I can’t tell you how much affect it has, I can only talk about my experience.
So craft and technology! We learn CDT at school, and it’s all one big gloop of understanding. My CDT GCSE also included electronics. That class showed beyond doubt that girls can like ‘mathematical’ things, can like logical things and could do just as well as the boys at it. I’ve notice a tendency to believe there are logical, unemotional types and creative emotional types. I am not sure I believe the cut between the two is that strong. That you either live on one side or the other. I think emotion is a bit of a red herring, you can be very logical and very creative. Many people on the autistic spectrum make beautiful art and writing. It’s all creative.
I’ve noticed that when I get my knitting out it’s understood as a grandmother thing, a female thing, something to be ridiculed a bit, because it’s old fashioned and a bit silly. Putting together a sweater is geometry. The patterns involve an understanding of shape and dimension; of how the body is shaped and how to clothe it. I have never understood why my interest in electronics is a BOY THING and my interest in making a sphere out of crochet just using my brain and sight and seeing how I can make a curve is a GIRL THING and how it is ridiculed for being that.
Baking involves an understanding of science, it involves experimentation, it involves the creative impulse. And so does creating a computer game or doing any other programming or putting together an electronics circuit.
Understanding science isn’t just logic, it is jumps in logic, it is creative. Obviously you aren’t going to create ‘science’ that doesn’t already exist in nature, but similarly you aren’t going to be able to create a jumper that defies the 3 physical dimensions that exist. But in order to come up with an idea to experiment on you have to ask yourself ‘what if I do that’?
I was good at science at school and when I realise how to do something creatively I feel the same ‘Oh yes! That’s amazing!’ feeling that I had when something scientific was explained to me and everything else I’d been taught started to make sense.
I just want to say that before you arbitrarily thing of an activity as gendered, have a deeper think about it and never be put off of trying something because it’s what the opposite sex do because I’m not entirely sure I believe we are quite so opposite.
International Women’s Day 8 March, 2011
Happy international women’s day! 100 years old today!