Skepticism

Friend or Foe of Feminism?

While scrolling through Google reader earlier today, I noticed an interesting change of roles – at least for 2 articles in particular. What I found intriguing about the 2 is that the contents of each pander to the opposite side of the spectrum, in regards to feminism, as they usually do.

This is obnoxious: DoubleX.com hosted an article today which claimed that EtsyPeddles a False Feminist Fantasy.”

There’s just one fly in the decoupage: There are virtually no male sellers on Etsy. If the site is such a great way for anyone to market handmade goods online, then why is it such a female ghetto?

etsyhandmadeI’m not even going to go into the ways that “female ghetto” could be interpreted, considering the writer’s obvious disdane for Etsy.com. Okay, so we know a couple of rad ladies with Etsy stores (Surly Amy and Noadi – I’m sure there are more that I just don’t know off the top of my head). Well it turns out there’s a Men of Etsy blog with an extensive list of male sellers. A couple of them stood out as particularly nifty to me (Accents by Dave, John Clark and Spaghetti Kiss).

There’s little evidence that most sellers on the site make much money. This, I suspect, explains the absence of men. They are immune to the allure of this fantasy. They have evaluated the site on purely economic terms and found it wanting.

Really? Women fall for fantastical illusions that, as you put it, are “akin to the lottery”? A great deal of sellers on Etsy are stay at home moms, selling their handmade goods as a secondary income. To them, spending their day with their children while putting naptime to good use is a perfectly suitable lifestyle, and it’s a bit brusque to damn them for doing so.

*Ahem* Rant over.

This is really cool: The Iranian Presidential campaign is rallying around women’s rights.

“Iranian women can be a major force and now candidates are realizing our support can deliver them victory and credibility,” says Elahe Koulaee, a professor of political science at Tehran University and a former parliament member.

IRAN-WOMEN-DEMOOut of the Middle Eastern countries, Iran has the highest percentage of educated women and eligible female voters. Women in the area must still abide by dress codes and rules of conduct, but with a rise in women’s rights activism, the idea of equality may finally be making some headway.

In April, a spectrum of secular and conservative women’s-rights activists formed a coalition and made a list of demands from Iran’s next president.

That’s right, secular feminists in the Middle East are trying to get their voices heard. What an incredible jump for an area in such constant turmoil! I will definitely be keeping an eye on this story. I hope you will, too.

Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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81 Comments

  1. @Gabrielbrawley: I knew someone was going to say that. :P I’m not saying men can’t be or aren’t crafty, but statistically speaking, more women do crafty things and therefore more women have crafty things to sell. That’s mainly because being crafty is seen as a woman thing and not a man thing.

    But I’ve known crafty men (and I do know a man with an Etsy).

  2. Out of the Middle Eastern countries, Iran has the highest percentage of educated women and eligible female voters.

    Is it me or are we hearing more positive things about the middle east lately? This information about Iran really surprised me when I heard it on NPR last a while ago, and it still does.

    Me dumb American.

  3. That article has really riled up the Etsy community.

    The sexism in that article just pisses me off to no end. What gets me is the site claims to be feminist yet it’s perpetuating some really sexist sterotypes. Men are better at business, women can’t make rational decisions, etc.

    I actually do agree with some of the criticism that Etsy does make it sound like anyone can quit their day job selling on Etsy when that’s really not the case. You can make a living selling handmade stuff (I do) but it takes a lot of work, good products, and diversifying by selling online, at shows, in galleries or shops, etc.

    It’s not a career choice that’s likely to make me rich but I’m REALLY happy. If I have to make a choice having the modest lifestyle but doing something I love will always win.

  4. @Noadi:

    I actually do agree with some of the criticism that Etsy does make it sound like anyone can quit their day job selling on Etsy when that’s really not the case.

    Yeah, they do do that, but that’s pretty common. They have to make their site seem attractive. :)

  5. @marilove: I agree, but I think it is because of post hoc definitions.

    If the people who do some kind of home or small scale creative project are women, it is a craft. If primarily men do it, we call it a “hobby”.

    Most woodworkers I know are men, but we don’t consider woodworking as a “craft”. I know a couple of different men who make outdoor grills, but they won’t be going to the crafts fair.

    My guess is that if quilt makers were mostly men, quilt making would be considered a “hobby” rather than a “craft.”

  6. @marilove:

    statistically speaking, more women do crafty things

    Statistically? really, there have been actual studies of this? I can read about this somewhere?

    I would really be surprised to find out that there is a stastically significant differnce between men and women in the arts and crafts movement. Never heard of etsy before this post so I checked it out because I love to buy homemade stuff and the first featured seller on the website was a guy.

  7. @Gabrielbrawley: I don’t know if more women are crafty than men or not, but it’s clearly true that more women sell crafts than men do. Maybe it’s that men rarely consider trying to make money from their hobbies. Etsy isn’t the only craft venue female dominated, same is true of craft shows, boutiques, etc. Maybe 10-25% of sellers at craft shows I’ve been at are men.

  8. @Noadi: Okay, if we accept your numbers of sellers as correct, why would this be? Is it neccessarily that the women are more crafty or are there other possible explanations?

    To claim that women are more crafty seems to be claiming a gender related difference that I am not sure there is evidence for. It is akin to saying women are better cooks or are more suited to being maids or secretaries.

    It may be possible that the woman who are selling their crafts have more time to create and then sell them from the original article I take this quote of Chlesea’s

    A great deal of sellers on Etsy are stay at home moms

    I was lucky enough to be a stay at home dad for two months after my daughter was born. I was able to get all of the house work done before lunch and then I had a lot of time to fill. This time could be filled by making something. If you make enough stuff you can then sell it.

    Perhaps this is the explanation. Maybe there are others. I could be missing the real answer by a mile.

    I just think to claim that women are more crafty than men is as falacious as saying that men are more logical than women.

    I brought that particular example up because of this quote

    A great deal of sellers on Etsy are stay at home moms

  9. I don’t claim to know if women are more crafty or not. I definitely don’t think women are more creative than men, that seems to be pretty evenly spread around. There are any number of possible reasons societal norms are high on my list of possible reasons but alse fewer men wanting or thinking they can sell their work, women being more likely to have the extra time, etc.

  10. @Gabrielbrawley: I think that I didn’t explain well. I was not saying that men lacked the creativity or imagination that women do. I was saying that it seems to me that creative, crafty hobbies have been divided into “men’s hobby” and “women’s crafts”. (However, you provided a couple of good examples where this was not true. )

    As far as Naodi’s comment about the prevalence of sellers at craft shows, it matches the experiences that I have had. Since I agree with you that men do as many creative, money-generating things as women, I’m curious about how this happens. You’re point about stay-at-home moms and your experience as a saty-at-home dad is a good one.

  11. @Noadi: yes absolutly. I am having trouble saying what I want to say clearly.

    @durnett: Another possible reason and once again let me state this is just a guess on my part is the level of acceptance may be higher for women to sell their crafts. I have known men and women all of my life who made things. The men who made things were sometimes very shy about the fact that they made stuff. The women were proud of it. This by no means was a universal truth and I could so easily be wrong. At this point I am only tossing out ideas.

  12. The reason I don’t sell stuff on Etsy is because I don’t have anything to sell. Granted, I’m a small polling sample but, so far, it’s

    “Don’t have anything to sell”: 100%
    “Not buying the fantasy”: 0%

  13. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Statistically? really, there have been actual studies of this? I can read about this somewhere?

    Okay, it’s all anecdotal, but I definitely know more crafty women than I do men, but durnett made a VERY good point about the hobby/craft difference, and my own ingrained sexism was probably at play by not considering that. Can’t deny that. If that makes sense. It makes sense to me, but that doesn’t mean a dang thing.

  14. @Noadi: Yeah, that was more my point–more women obviously sell their crafts, and I’ve definitely known more crafty women, but you’re right Gabriel. Again, my own pre-conceived notions obviously got in the way. I have been corrected. :) Even proud feminists aren’t perfect ;)

  15. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Another possible reason and once again let me state this is just a guess on my part is the level of acceptance may be higher for women to sell their crafts.

    And that was part of my point, too, you’re just better at explaining what I’m trying to say. Damn you. :)

  16. Oof! I’m here, I’m here! Sorry everyone – I’ve been nursing a killer migraine all day.

    @MiddleMan: It’s not just you and frankly I’m loving it. I’m certainly not one to foster false hope about the state of the world, but things are looking better (in some ways)!

    @Noadi:

    It’s not a career choice that’s likely to make me rich but I’m REALLY happy.

    That’s a really good point that I think the author of the article didn’t (or didn’t want to) take into consideration. Yes, some people use Etsy as their primary income – for richer or poorer – but a lot of the sellers (is it safe to assume most?) maintain their stores as a side gig. In some cases their main gig is craft show events, but there are some with 9-5 corporate jobs, using their craft as their artistic outlet. One of the things that left me scratching my head over the article was that she seemed to imply that women fell for this cruel joke set up by men, in which they’d give up their money making jobs to sell crafts on the men’s website, and that just isn’t the case.

    @durnett:

    If the people who do some kind of home or small scale creative project are women, it is a craft. If primarily men do it, we call it a “hobby”.

    I think that in some instances it depends on who you talk to. A great deal of the men I’ve known who did something artsy (e.g. painting) called it a hobby, but the ones who built things (including sculptures, jewelry making, woodwork) called it a craft.

    @Gabrielbrawley:

    I was able to get all of the house work done before lunch and then I had a lot of time to fill. This time could be filled by making something. If you make enough stuff you can then sell it.

    That’s an excellent thing to keep in mind. One of the reasons that there is a female dominance over the craft world could be that there are higher instances of SAHMs than SAHDs.

  17. @Gabrielbrawley: No no, no offense at all! This is a very good discussion.

    I think I’m not explaining this well. I’m REALLY tired and out of it today, so excuse me for being kind of obtuse.

    What I mean is … there are probably plenty of “crafty” men. HOWEVER, they aren’t as visible as crafty women, and they don’t sell as much as crafty women do. You’ve made some good points as to why this is.

    Does this make sense?

    I know plenty of creative men, btw.

  18. @Gabrielbrawley: It’s hard to offend me. My parents instructed us early in QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.

    Generally, if someone wants to insult me, they have to preface the remark with the statement “This is meant as an insult and not a comment:…”
    If they don’t, I might embarrass them by agreeing with the insult.

  19. And clearly, as someone who rails against sexism, I’m not perfect either. No one is. It’s good to recognize that, and discussions like this help to work out those random kinks. And, Gabrielbrawley, you are one of the best people to work those kinks through with.

  20. @Chelsea:

    the ones who built things (including sculptures, jewelry making, woodwork) called it a craft

    Hmm, never noticed that before but I think you are right. I don’t know if the word craft had a negative connotation in the past but nowadays it is very positive. High end, small batch, expensive items are often advertised as “craft made” it seems to indicate an attention to detail, quality, personal, unique and well made.

    Sorry to hear about the migraine. I still get them sometimes. They are terrible. Do you get the audio and aural sensitiviy along with the nausea?

  21. @Gabrielbrawley: You’re welcome. :) It’s just really easy to discuss things with you, even if we don’t necessarily agree, and it’s clear that you aren’t “stuck” on your own opinions/biases — you are more than able to see someone else’s side, and to even agree with them if they are logical.

  22. @Gabrielbrawley:

    High end, small batch, expensive items are often advertised as “craft made” it seems to indicate an attention to detail, quality, personal, unique and well made.

    Yes that does seem to be the case in more recent years. I’m not sure exactly when that started, but surely the idea of buying locally/buying homemade/etc didn’t hurt. Also I think that, like you said, the craft made items are made in small batches, which leads the buyer to consider it higher quality due to the attention to detail and hands-on workmanship.

    Thank you BTW, it seems to be getting a little better today. I’m still getting used to the frequency of the migraines (I used to get them every once in a while, but preggo hormones have made them daily visitors). Yup, I get aural & light sensitivity, dizziness, nausea, the works. Argh.

  23. Do people who make craft beer count as crafty?
    I’d like to say as an outsider to the debate: I really don’t think anyone meant to imply that there is something in the genetic code of women that makes them better crafters, but rather women tend to fit into the “crafty” catagory from a societal standpoint. We can stand here and be as open minded as we want, but i would bet large sums of money that if you interviewed 100 random people walking down the street and asked them to picture a crafty person and make a description that the result would most likely be a 30’s -40’s house wife.
    One problem here is that it seems to me that a “craft” seems to be a term thrown around to avoid giving something the title of art. I frequent my local craft store regularly and there is only one man on staff and most of the people in the store are women or accompanied by women. I also love to look around my local artist co-op and the staff is about 50/50, as is the selection of artists. I might get myself WAY in over my head here by even suggesting this, but is it possible that the concept of the “craft” as we know it is something that had evolved around our society’s generations of stay at home moms, where the little wifeys had to find something to keep them busy while the men folk were off smoking cigars and doing important business? I mean what is it that separates an art and a craft anyway? It just seems to me that this sterotype doesn’t connect to the “artist” the same way it connects to the “crafty person”

  24. @intimeoflilacs: Well the craft beer thing was brought up by me twice as an illustration of a crafty thing done by men. And I think we have more or less hashed out most of what you brought up to one extent or another. But please don’t think your comments aren’t welcome. One of my favorite things about this site is that everyone can say something.

  25. @Gabrielbrawley:
    actually i completely missed your comments on craft beer and was just trying to be funny. Fail.
    Also i didn’t interpret anything in this forum discussion so far as the difference between art and craft. The word wasmentioned a couple times and the difference with hobbies was. but i just re read the thing AGAIN and i really don’t see how my question was answered here in anyway. I guess that’s my second fail that marks me to EPIC FAIL I’ll go back to my cave now.

  26. @intimeoflilacs: I think craft beer falls into the category of small batches, which leads to the customer considering it higher quality. But yes, as far as I’m concerned, crafting beer is a craft. You make it yourself and do with it as you please (to the extent of the law).

    if you interviewed 100 random people walking down the street and asked them to picture a crafty person and make a description that the result would most likely be a 30’s -40’s house wife.

    You’re absolutely right. Unless we were walking down the street in the artsy section of a city, most people would conclude that the most crafty person they can think of is one that matches the stereotype well.

  27. @Chelsea: But the stereotype brought up by 100 random people may not be the best way to determine how accurate craft is in realty.

    I am really wanting to get into crafting in the next few years. I want to take old console televisions and take out the CRT and install flat screens, wifi hook ups, dvd and mp3 players, clean up the brass shine up the wood and sell them on the net.

  28. @Gabrielbrawley: Certainly not! i def agree the stereotype may not be accurate,all i was going for there was saying that just because a stereotype isn’t accurate doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. and i suppose it was just my lead in to say that was the stereotype created in the first place as a way to take away artistic merit?
    Also that sounds like a really neat project. would it be possible to some how hook in old video game systems such that the could power hidden new ones too? Turn on the atari, on comes the xbox? a gamer nerd like me would eat that up.

  29. @intimeoflilacs: I’m trying to think of a way that I could just hook them all through one box and hide the actual systems. There has to be a way I just haven’t figured it out yet. Me and the boys have been looking at getting an old arcade box and puting all of the systems into it and fixing the display so you could just toggle from one system to the next.

  30. Regarding the word “craft”.
    Hmm, never noticed that before but I think you are right. I don’t know if the word craft had a negative connotation in the past but nowadays it is very positive. High end, small batch, expensive items are often advertised as “craft made” it seems to indicate an attention to detail, quality, personal, unique and well made.

    I tend to think of two different definitions of the word craft. Things like building furniture have a are described as having craftsmanship or craft-made. And indicate durable goods and have kind of a masculine connotation and not Etsy material. Things like scrap booking or beading or popcicle-stick-art are artsy-crafts and have kind of a feminine reputation and produce things that are pretty-but-useless make me cringe at the thought of Micheal’s Crafts.

    Of course that all falls apart with hobbies like knitting that have a feminine reputation and produce durable goods. Honestly, I don’t think I’d use the word craft to talk about knitting or sewing.

  31. @Noadi:

    What gets me is the site claims to be feminist yet it’s perpetuating some really sexist sterotypes. Men are better at business, women can’t make rational decisions, etc.

    I first read about Double X on feministe.us, and it seems that the target audience of the site (and the site’s writers) are those women who like to loudly proclaim they hate feminists, because apparently feminism is about hating men and wanting to be victims of the patriarchy. Because that’s a new trope nobody’s ever heard before /sarcasm. Ooh, edgy! Hey, Double X, how about running an article about the vote in Iran explaining that the women who want to be involved in politics are ugly and unmarried!

    @intimeoflilacs: I think that the difference between arts and crafts is kinda one of implied skill and training: art>crafts. It’s the difference between being a chef, and being a cook. Culinary schools are renowned for their sexism toward women; I’ve heard from a woman who was told “the [restaurant] kitchen is no place for a woman!”, by a head chef without a hint of recognition of the irony in that statement. (I find it similar to how when I used to ride in hunter jumper shows, it was considered really girly and lame, and there was only one – teased for being gay – boy at my riding studio; yet all the pro riders are men).

    Crafts are art – they’re just not respected as such because somehow, somewhere, women were doing them more often than men, and that devalued their worth in our society. I guarantee that if men suddenly decided en masse that knitting was cool, it would become an art form overnight, and there would be displays of the latest so-and-so’s wool-media creations in art museums around the world.

  32. Surly Amy chiming in. Sorry, I was at the Los Angeles Museum of Art which brings to mind a particular point about context. If the handmade piece is on Etsy or in a fair it is considered craft, if the same piece is in your garage, its hobby and finally place the same piece on a pedestal in a museum and then it is art. Whether we like those definitions or not, it is the way that it is. Gender has nothing to do with these contextual definitions. Gender also has nothing to do with talent or a propensity for creativity at least no link has ever been shown. It is essentially the same argument that states that girls are less likely to pursue a career in science. It is not because they are less capable but more likely that societies pressures are more likely to push them in other directions.

    As for making a living on Etsy. I do it. Yes, of course I supplement my income with art shows, craft events and I sell my work wholesale to boutiques and a few museums. An Etsy business is like any small business and it requires dedication and sacrifices to keep it going. In my opinion you are making a bad business decision if you solely depend on any one avenue to sell you work. Will I ever drive a mercedes and live in a mansion? I doubt it but it is a labor of love and I am happy and well fed and my business is slowly growing from year to year.

    So the assclown who wrote the original article clearly doesn’t know much about craft as business, gender politics, feminism, art or the fact that there are plenty of men on Etsy. There is even an all men Etsy team. Here is the link to that http://team.etsy.com/profilest/moe.shtml

    luv
    Surly Amy

  33. I’m not an artist really, but i volunteer at an art museum and spend a lot of time here, and around these halls craft is most certainly a dirty word. Something that accomplishes a task but doesn’t really show talent. I was thinking about how i don’t use the word crafts when i describe etsy to people. I looked at their website main page just now and it says “Your place to buy and sell all things handmade.” nothing about crafts. i suppose this was an intentional title to pull up the stereotype. at least thats’ my opinion.

  34. @Amy:

    If the handmade piece is on Etsy or in a fair it is considered craft, if the same piece is in your garage, its hobby and finally place the same piece on a pedestal in a museum and then it is art.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  35. @constantlyconflicted: I’m going to go with the idea of “useful art” as my definition of crafts unless a better definition is suggested. Now, my idea of useful art varies with yours slightly. I consider furniture making a craft, like you. However, I can’t agree that “pretty-but-useless” describes the crafts sold on Etsy. I suppose if you’re not into cool jewelry, shoes, clothes, handbags, pottery, candles, music, glassware, etc then Etsy is not for you. But if you look at their categories, woodworking is one of them, so there’s something that you think is a craft. In one way or another, everybody wins. :)

  36. @Chelsea: Thanks.

    Now as for “female ghetto”. This is a new term for me. The last time I heard this was when carr2d2 was on the Atheist Radio program. Does anyone really think that women are that segregated to their own websites?

    This is another thing I’m learning in my old age.

  37. @SaraDee: Hah!

    Ooh, edgy! Hey, Double X, how about running an article about the vote in Iran explaining that the women who want to be involved in politics are ugly and unmarried!

    Can Skepchick writers vote for COTW? If so, this one.

  38. Damn, there are great big parts of the world slipping past me and I don’t even notice. I look at the last severl comments and wonder if I ever even understood what we were talking about. To me “Craft” in relation to “art” was something akin to an artist who is self taught and working in a medium they know compared to an artist who was trained in an art school or college and working in a medium they learned in school.

    So when I go to a blacksmiths shop in Medicine Creek Oklahoma and admire the roses he hammered out by hand I think of them as a craft because he taught himself how to do it. Same with when my wife knits me a scarf. It is a craft because she learned how to do it from her next door neighbor when she was a kid. To me they are both amazing things.

    Someone actually took raw unformed material and created a wholly new thing from it.

  39. @Chelsea: I suppose my jewelry could be considered pretty but useless and you know what? I don’t care because people love to adorn themselves. Save with the gorgeous shoes a seller on Etsy is decorating with tentacles for me.

    But that describing all of Etsy? Unless you live naked in a bare room that’s a ridiculous statement considering all the clothing, furniture, ceramics, glassware, kitchen utensils, etc that people generally consider to be useful.

  40. I generally think of a craft as something functional (in a broad sense, such as jewelry being functional in that it has a role in social display) made by hand, while art is something that has no function other than aesthetics and possibly provocation. A craft might be artistic, it might not. A hobby is doing any of the above for your own entertainment. Knitting scarves might be a hobby, they might be crafts in that you’re making something that can keep you warm, and it might be aesthetically pleasing, or it might be a purely functional, minimalist piece of fabric.

    I would imagine more women would be crafty for some of the reasons already mentioned, like there more stay at home moms finding slivers of time on their hands during the day, and looking for a use for their hands and minds between various responsibilities. A lot of the functional crafts are also traditionally associated with women, and taught in the family to women, but not so much men. Fewer parents teach their sons to crochet than teacher their daughters. Fewer people have the tools and skills to teach woodworking at home. Maybe my definition of crafts might actually have more to do with household goods, that would include furniture, beer, jewelery, sweaters, and candles all in one. I’m not quite sure, yet.

    As to the actual articles, bullshit to the first one, hurray to the second.

  41. ART

    1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
    2.a. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium.
    2.b. The study of these activities.
    2.c. The product of these activities; human works of beauty considered as a group.
    3. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.
    4. A field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature.
    5. A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts.
    6.a. A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building.
    6.b. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer.
    7.a. Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of the baker; the blacksmith’s art.
    7.b. Skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties: “Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice” Joyce Carol Oates.
    8.a. arts Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks.
    8.b. Artful contrivance; cunning.

    CRAFT

    1. Skill in doing or making something, as in the arts; proficiency. See Synonyms at art1.
    2. Skill in evasion or deception; guile.
    3.a. An occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or skilled artistry.
    3.b. The membership of such an occupation or trade; guild.
    4. pl. craft A boat, ship, or aircraft. tr.v. craft·ed, craft·ing, crafts
    1. To make by hand.
    2. Usage Problem – To make or construct (something) in a manner suggesting great care or ingenuity.

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