Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy

By Herman, Deborah | Canadian Woman Studies, Summer-Fall 2018 | Go to article overview

Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy


Herman, Deborah, Canadian Woman Studies


Bonnie Burton

Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2016

REVIEWED BY DEBORAH HERMAN

In his late-career lecture on the woman problem, Freud reluctantly admitted that women have offered one contribution to Western culture, and that is the invention of the textile arts. Even that achievement, however, is a manifestation of shame. Women are ashamed of their "genital deficiency" and so their unconscious motive is to weave and plait their pubic hair in order to disguise their castration.

Bonnie Burton's Crafting With Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy will have none of that. She takes the traditional Kinder, Kuche, Kirche to task in a witty and winsome way. Her book is quirkily subversive, saving women's work from charges of being childish, regressive, sexually repressed or representative of arrested development. "Bonnie has taken many cliches about feminism and turned them into wonderful exercises of whimsy," writes Felicia Day in the book's Foreward. "The projects embody the spirit of optimism and determination that I associate with feminist activism--a spirit, that, sadly, has fallen out of focus thanks to reactionary politics." Despite the "Heroes of Feminism Finger Puppets," many of the projects are quite shocking. This is not your daughter's Klutz book.

Burton opts instead to tear apart stereotypes of domesticity or girly frivolity by being playful with her politics. She's crafty. Burton has hosted the YouTube channel shows Geek DIY and the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club and has published popular books like The Star Wars Craft Book, Girls Against Girls, and Womanthology. She takes part in the current renaissance of hands-on handicrafts as seen in the programming of second-tier cable channels like Makeful's Craft It Yourself Post My Party, and Crazy Beautiful Weddings, or in Debbie Stoller's needlework books, The Happy Hooker and Stitch and Bitch. Bust magazine is currently hosting a "Craftacular" in Brooklyn that pulls together groups of like-minded artful types for workshops in macrame, marble painting, DJ'ing and even witchcraft. Burton provides a calendar for the reader to host themed parties to commemorate events like Glitter Day (the second Saturday of January), Galentine's Day (February 12th), or International Yarnbombing Day (June 11th). Yarn-bombs are blowing up Pinterest and other social media sites--public statues and buildings are being wrapped in wool like the Reichstag. "We make things happen by making things," writes Felicia Day. It is reminiscent of the Greenham Common Peace Movement's women who established a Peace Camp outside a U.S. Air Force base in Britain in 1980 and knit wool condoms for the nukes.

There are no anti-Trump pussyhats in Burton's repertoire, however; knitting is out of the scope of the DIY spirit anyway. The only cost involved is a quick trip to the dollar store for pipe cleaners and embroidery floss or simply raiding the recycle bin for supplies. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. There is no expertise required; Burton offers an appendix listing around-the-house supplies and instructions on how to do the basic running stitch or the whip stitch. No sewing machine required cither (although that is a female invention!).

Freud's shame is taken to task with cheeky crafts like vagina-shaped Christmas tree ornaments made from an easy-to-make salt dough, "Tampon Buddies" with embroidery floss hairdos and little fabric dresses or a "Huggable Uterus Body Pillow" with a pocket to house a heating pad for cramps. …

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