GUEST BLOGGER – LAURA PJ
A woman stands in her kitchen in a summer dress. Her hair is tied back and her sleeves are rolled up. She wears a floral apron and she hums to herself as she stirs the cake mixture. Once the cake is safely in the oven, the woman sinks down into an armchair. Leaning back against the cushions that she herself has sewn, she pulls a hand-crocheted blanket over her knees, takes her needles and yarn from a patchwork bag and begins to knit.
In the collective consciousness, there is an idea as to what a feminist looks like. There is also, I suspect, an idea as to what a feminist does not look like. This woman probably comes close to that idea. Yet the woman in question can be a feminist, she should be a feminist. I can tell you with all certainty that the woman in question is a feminist, because I am that woman.
My principles are, and always have been, that of a feminist. In fact I was a feminist long before I was a knitter or knew what to do with a crochet hook. It came as a shock, then, to realise that some people – knowing of my interests in craft and my enjoyment of the domestic sphere – have made the assumption that I am not, nor could I conceivably be, a feminist.
Sometimes described as the ‘domestic arts’, crafts such as knitting and sewing are part of the sphere of activity which was once seen as running directly counter to feminism. Historically, these activities were part of the female domestic realm. Their significance and purpose varied over time and according to circumstances: sometimes they were a financial necessity; sometimes a ‘proper’ and desirable feminine activity, but rarely were they seen as either a valuable commodity or a valid artistic activity.
There has been a huge resurgence of interest in craft, and yet the perceived taint of these traditional domestic associations has yet to completely fade. The difference, however, is the all-important element of choice. On the whole, women no longer partake in these activities because they must, or even because it is expected of them. They do so because they choose to. Indeed, not only does such a choice no longer conform to societal expectations of women, rather it runs counter to them. As a part of Third Wave Feminism, women are reclaiming and reconnecting with the undervalued domestic sphere. They are taking up, mastering, enjoying and celebrating hitherto marginalized crafts and in doing so, they are validating and celebrating the creative work and significant skill and artistry of their female predecessors. Of course neither should these interests and skills be considered to be solely feminine. The feminist reclamation of craft has taken place in synchrony with a growing number of men, both amateur and professional, who stitch and who knit.
When I sit down in the evening and pick up my knitting, I do not usually think of myself as engaging in Craftivism. I’m generally too busy counting rows or trying to remember whether I need to knit or to purl. Nevertheless, underpinning my interest in and enjoyment of crafts is an understanding and appreciation of the skill, and knowledge, and artistic vision of those women who have engaged in these same crafts before me. The woman who taught me to knit and the woman who taught her to knit and so on back through a tiny strand of history, I am a feminist, and I craft because I want to; I craft because I love to; I craft because I choose to.