Riot Prrrls [Women's Crafts and Feminism]

By O'Connor, Jennifer | Herizons, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Riot Prrrls [Women's Crafts and Feminism]


O'Connor, Jennifer, Herizons


CAST OFF YOUR STEREOTYPES

I was trying to make Lemon Fluff, a delightful dessert from my grandmother's recipe box. Comprised of evaporated milk, lemon Jell-0 and a graham cracker crust, it would be easy-or so I thought. As I beat the evaporated milk, which Grandma said would "whip right up," a few bubbles gathered at the edge of the bowl. I added the Jell-0, hoping it would cause mighty peaks to rise. They didn't. I poured the sloppy mixture over the crust and put it in the fridge. Maybe the cold caused the fluffifying? An hour later, I still had Lemon Flat. Retreating to the bedroom, I cried over my lack of domestic prowess.

Home economics never interested me, so I was shocked by my reaction. I could cook simple meals, but there was obviously a lot of know-how I didn't have. I decided to expand my culinary knowledge. At around the same time, I took up crafts such as sewing and knitting, started turning thrift store finds into new pieces and supplied myself with a wide variety of garter-stitched scarves. I found inspiration on the feminist craft site getcrafty.com and in the pages of BUST magazine.

Obviously, I'm not the only feminist who is embracing domesticity. BUST editor-in-chief and co-publisher Debbie Stoller has written two books about knitting: Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook and Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. Jean Railla, founder and editor of getcrafty.com, has written Get Crafty: Hip Home Ec, which she calls a manifesto for the New Domesticity, "a movement committed to recognizing, exalting and most of all enjoying the culture that women have built for millennia." Numerous other examples-yarnharlot.ca, craftychica.com-can be found on the web.

What does this crafty activity say about the feminist movement? Strange as it may seem, the fact that feminists are now choosing to reclaim the trappings that Betty Friedan referred to when she described "the problem that has no name" is proof that the sisterhood is powerful indeed. Through Grafting, feminists are exercising their options, honouring women's history and finding empowerment in an often hostile culture.

The popularity of Grafting shows the growing richness of women's roles and is a credit to feminism. "I think it's because it's not expected of them," writes Lynn Peril, author of Pink Think: Becoming a Woman in Many Uneasy Lessons, when asked why so many grrrls are taking up the domestic arts. "I think it's a matter now of choice, not a matter of, This is a feminine craft that you must learn to please your husband and to knit socks for your children.'"

Sure, an activity such as knitting is super-trendy, but there's more to purling's popularity than hipster cred. It proves, says Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, author of The F-Word: Feminism in jeopardy, that we're definitely riding the third wave of feminism. "The third wave is showing that again there's no one way to be a feminist and that yes, we can succeed and do well in the professional workforce-and that fight isn't finished-but at the same time we're not pigeonholed into all of us being one type of a woman." Plus, says Railla, there's great opportunity in Grafting communities, as many people take part in stitch 'n bitch groups or online chats. "I think that there is a lot of potential in all this women's culture-because it mostly is women.... I think the community aspect of it is really ripe with possibility for talking about other issues besides crafting, and I think that there are possibilities for all different sorts of movement there." The forums on getcrafty.com, for instance, include topics such as "IUDs and periods" and "Ms. magazine's mustread list."

Also important for feminists like Railla-who, in addition to being a writer and a mother also holds a degree in women's studies-is that skills that have not traditionally been considered important are neither ignored nor forgotten. "From cooking, to cleaning, to caring for children, our culture views women's work as stupid, simple, suffocating-things that can easily be replaced by mechanization, crappy fast food, hiring poor women, and neglect-precisely because women have always done them," writes Railla in Get Crafty. …

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