Possibly the sickest feminist art blog you've ever read. Possibly.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Craft v. Feminism?

As you can see, it's cross-stitch day. I've been reading Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"and was thinking about 'housewife's fatigue', about how feelings of love for family but also frustration with lack of opportunity and mental exercise could oppose each other. 
 What is thought (and I agree with) is that the dissatisfaction with life felt by the housewife of the 1950s was a result of well-educated women being cooped up and restrained from exercising their true mental capacity in anything more taxing than organising the sock drawer. Of course the reaction of the misogynistic society of the time was to claim that women were experiencing unhappiness because they should never have been educated in the first place. Hence, I wanted to use the husband not only as the loving and (not necessarily sexist) other half, but also as a metaphor for a society that was paternalistic to the point of suffocation. 

  Another thing that got me thinking was an article I read the other day (linked at bottom of the page in red) that quotes Gisele Ecker in saying;  "What has been imposed on women through oppressive social conditions or prejudice should not be made part of our definition of woman’s art and thus be further perpetuated" (Feminist Aesthetics 16). She does go on to say that part of the reason she feels this way is because many women of less-priveleged countries are still forced to carry out tasks of this nature for meagre pay. However, I think that this is too much of a condemnation of an activity that thousands (maybe millions?) of modern-day, free women choose to participate in: many find that it is a link; valuable albeit tenuous,  to their female predecessors or just a fun way to make something that is not only attractive but also has a use. 

  The argument that 'art' is about ideas, whereas 'craft' is about practicality is no longer valid when we consider what the 'contemporary art' bracket includes. Take as an example, Anna Barriball's 'Black Wardrobe', exhibited in the Saatchi Gallery; a bureau wrapped entirely in black tape. The concept of this piece is not the idea, or the skill involved in it's creation but just pure, mind-nimbing labour. If we can classify this piece as 'art', why should anything that falls under the 'craft' bracket be excluded? 
   The fact that craft is still treated as something that can be done by anyone and that requires no particular talent leads me to believe that it is discounted, not because it was once a household chore, but because men as a whole have never shown any interest in doing it (I hate to generalise in this way, and genuinely, if anyone knows any man who knits; (and admits) I'd like to know!)
 Compare it to cooking for example, once a household chore, now an art form; and the number of internationally renowned male chefs is substantially larger than the female. 

   I think that it's a huge pity that women are still trivialising the hard work of other women; and that anything women can share together should be embraced. 

On a more practical note, the cross-stitch isn't great. Is there any way to cross-stitch diagonal lines without just doing a straight line of stitch? I tried to do diagonal crosses on the 'Y', but it's obvious how well that went. 


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