Monday, October 18, 2010

Crafting selves

Really interesting QOTD (from a few days back...) and discussion at martinimade - I agree with the comment that there might be a book that Adrienne Martini ought to write about the meaning of craft/s for American women today :)

Earlier this summer, Adrienne's most recent book, Sweater Quest, had me pondering, as an anthropologist will, why are these particular people doing what they do at this particular moment? Which led me to consider the political economy of craft.

It might be true, at least in part, that American women today turn to craft/s b/c they have the means to do so (including time and / or a certain amount of money to be able to do so, as hand-crafted generally is recognized not necessarily to be more "economical" than store-bought...) Or, as I had suggested, that we are experiencing a particular political economic moment in which other forms of productive work (e.g., paid labor) seem to lack a certain kind of meaning and importance that renders it unsatisfying in part b/c it is unsatisfying in terms of creativity, discovery, and autonomy.

I think it is interesting that American women ponder whether or not crafting is "feminist" - and consider what they learned (or not) from their mothers and grandmothers. There has been a strand of feminist discourse that salvages and celebrates "women's culture" that I think is being evoked here.

However. What especially strikes me now in the recent discussion at martinimade is the women's references to their age or at least stage in life: I realize that young women, too, are interested now in craft/s, but I wonder whether or not the turn to craft/s might be part of that continual process of crafting our lives / selves, esp. as women face age 40 and 50 and beyond.

For whatever reason, I find myself thinking about medical anthropologist Margaret Lock's book, Encounters with Aging, which compares women's experiences of menopause in North America and Japan. The book makes the rather surprising (and controversial) claim that women in Japan do not experience (or at least do not report complaints about) hot flashes, which are practically synonymous with menopause in the United States. Instead, Lock found that women in Japan reported other complaints, which in turn were linked to changes in their social identities.

What does crafting say about what kind of women we imagine ourselves being or wanting to be? How and why is it connected to becoming and being women, mothers, and grandmothers? How does becoming a mother (or grandmother) rewrite what it means to be a woman? Might crafting be a way that we remake ourselves?

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