Friday, 25 November 2011

I'd Just Like To Say...

*** For quite a long time I've wanted to add some opinion pieces to this blog, I loved writing articles at school and have really missed it, so I have decided to start posting an opinion piece every other Friday. These will always be about something relating to the craft/fashion world and I hope you enjoy them, please leave feedback as to whether you like the idea! So here is my first opinion piece on this blog, the first ever "I'd Just Like To Say..."***

... why is picking on other women suddenly feminist?

Kirstie Allsopp (Source)

Recently I have read a few rather biting articles online about TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp. I know that there are others around the blogosphere who won’t share my opinion, but I am quite a big fan of Kirstie. I have always enjoyed her no nonsense, blunt turn of phrase, and I’ve enjoyed watching her even more since she started all her homemade/handmade programs. 
For my international readers and those of you who haven’t caught these programs, over the past three years Kirstie Allsopp has released a string of different crafting type shows, ranging from learning new crafts herself, to bringing crafts into the lives of others and, most recently, taking the skills she has learnt and entering her handmade offerings in various competitive events (“Kirstie’s Handmade Britain”). 
I know that there are mixed opinions out there about some of the crafts that Kirstie tackles on these shows, as to how useful or stylish they may actually be, but as far as I’m concerned she’s a woman who enjoys making something from nothing, a woman after my own heart, and for that she has my respect and admiration. She’s like all of us who choose to blog about our crafting exploits, sharing our love of creating with the world, although of course she does so on a much more public platform. I think it’s these similarities that caused me to feel a bit disgruntled after reading the recent articles of Liz Jones and Janet Street Porter. Although their comments were directed at Kirstie, I couldn’t help but sense the general negativity that was being sent towards women who craft as a whole. I hope you’ll indulge me as I felt a real urge to put my opinions on this subject forward.
Liz Jones - who declares “I want a life, not a homemade beeswax candle” - takes a very dim view on people like myself, i.e. people who enjoy crafts and baking, calling us “passive aggressive nightmares” who seek praise for our “icing-sugar-dusted self-flagellation”. And here was me thinking that I just enjoyed making and eating cakes! She makes some really quite petulant comments about private education, polka dot aprons (shock horror!) oh and also did you know that most women who indulge in home crafting have high-earning husbands who all have affairs and get drunk? I know, me neither, I must inform my Sweetheart...
Lorraine Pascale (Source)

I honestly don’t know where all this negativity comes from, other than that Liz Jones has some hidden issues that she is trying to deal with by getting at crafty folk in general, with particular venom being aimed at Kirstie Allsopp, Lorraine Pascale and Nigella Lawson (and I own cook books by both of the latter, so I suppose I’m well and truly doomed in Liz’s eyes!). She goes on to say that women like her “who care about personal grooming (say, the female cat of The Only Way is Essex) get a lot of flak from these rotund baking types with their blue striped milk jugs” (even the milk jugs are getting blamed! Poor old milk jugs...) 

Nigella Lawson (Source)

Well, firstly, rotund? How rude. But more to the point, I have watched all of the above women in their various programs and not once have I heard any of them make reference to anything other than the task at hand, which is most probably just making a cake of some kind. I have never been watching Lorraine or Nigella whip up a sponge to then hear them berating anyone who chooses to fake tan and wear hair extensions a la TOWIE, and to be honest if they did I probably wouldn’t watch them or buy their books. After all, if a woman decides that dressing in that way makes her feel happy and confident then that is entirely her own choice and nothing to do with anyone else. I personally would look ridiculous with a fake tan (I would pretty much be the same colour as my hair all over!) but that doesn’t mean that I look down on anyone who does just because I choose not to. And anyway, who says that the cast of TOWIE can’t get their crafty on once in while? The way you look or your “personal grooming” habits do not determine what you choose to do with your personal life.
I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I don’t feel that crafting or cooking shows like Kirstie’s Handmade Britain or the Great British Bake Off are designed in order to make the viewer feel some how inferior or less of a woman if they don’t take part in these types of activities too. Surely if you’re not interested in the subject matter you just wouldn’t watch the show! 
Janet Street Porter is known for her biting remarks and her strong feministic viewpoint, but I think that in her recent article she’s rather missed the point a bit. She berates Kirstie Allsopp for her “empire” which sells us weak minded members of the public the “dangerous myth” that “women will be happy and fulfilled if they spend every spare moment busily making jam, repainting furniture and sewing cushions”. Now, forgive me for saying so, but that doesn’t sound half bad to me, not really all that dangerous but actually quite fun. Of course that may be just me... She then goes on to ask, in my opinion, an unbelievable question: “If she’s (Kirstie’s) such a relationship expert, how come her chap (and the father of her two children) hasn’t popped the question?” Excuse me, but in an article in which you put someone down for being “pre-feminist” are you going to then to make an argument based on the fact that the woman in question is not married? Now who’s giving an archaic point of view to the female public. 
This is my point. Why should any of us feel that our way of living our own lives is in any way inferior or superior to another’s? I was once asked by an acquaintance if I ever felt guilty about knitting because I was playing up to a female stereotype that was anti-feminist. At the time I was quite taken aback and didn’t know how to reply, but given my chance again I would say that the most feminist weapon in my artillery is my right to choose. I choose to sew, to make my own clothes, to bake cakes, to knit because it makes me happy. Crafting and making things brings me a lot of joy which in turn, whilst trying not to sound too cliche, allows me to give more joy to others. People may look at the way I live my life and think “I would NEVER do that. Not in a million years. Not if you PAID me” and that’s an opinion that they have every right to have, but the point is I don’t feel that in doing the things that make me happy I’m pressurizing others into living the same way. Maybe I’m naive but I really do think that when Lorraine Pascale, Nigella Lawson and Kirstie Allsopp started their shows they wanted to take something that they loved, something that they had a passion for and pass it on to a wider audience. That’s it, no strings attached, no hidden agenda. And yes, they capitalize on their passions and loves, but surely that’s something to be admired, after all who wouldn’t do the thing they adored for a living if they could? 
I am a woman who believes in women’s rights, and I believe in a woman’s right to choose to live in whatever way that makes her happy and fulfilled (as long as that life doesn’t involve mass murder or something like that...). I promise you that I won’t judge you if you look like you’ve stepped off the set of TOWIE (quite a few of my good friends do and my goodness they are beautiful!) and I trust that you’ll look beyond my second hand, handmade attire and maybe we could be friends. I'll bring cake :)
Now if you’ll excuse me I have a sudden urge to run and buy myself a nice blue striped milk jug...

( For those who are interested Liz Jones' article can be found here and Janet Street Porter's can be found here)

26 comments:

Rachel's Kitchen, Cakery and Crafts said...

I really enjoyed your post and I wasn't aware of those articles. I'm a mid-twenties girl who gets a fair amount of stick for baking, sewing etc. I often hear "i couldnt be bothered doing that, not for love nor money" etc. I think crafting in all its forms is beautiful and should be encouraged, just like women are beautiful and should be encouraged to do what ever they choose to do. And you are right. It is a choice, not an obligation, not an homage to an out dated stereotype. Women are damned if we do and damned if we don't! :)

faith said...

Sometimes I feel like JSP goes out of her way to offend me personally. Like the time she said the depression wasn't real and was just a trendy made-up illness to make middle class women who were a bit sad feel better.

And I love Kirstie too. She's adorable, very down to earth (considering her incredibly lush upbringing!) and is always amazingly well put together. So what if she crafts? It's a hobby. To her, and to all we crafters, it IS a part of her life. I often wonder how people who don't craft spend their time - what do they do with themselves? I don't think they can have lives ;) Unless, of course, they spend all that time campaigning for equal rights or reading improving literature. Or rescuing wounded kittens or helping old ladies cross the road. Seriously, sitting in front of the telly/getting drunk at the bingo is NOT a better way to spend your time than crafting. It's certainly not more of a 'life'.

seamlessblog said...

Excellent post!

Put blunty - Liz Jones is a (insert bad word here). Couple of weeks ago she wrote an article about how she tried to get pregnant by pinching her ex boyfriend's sperm. Yep, you read right. She then went on to insinuate all women are just desperate to get pregnant, even telling boys they should worry about what their girlfriends do if they go straight to the bathroom after having sex. If I recall correctly, she began that article with 'As a feminist...' If she's a feminist, then I'm the Dalai Lama.

Feminism is about choice, it is about recognising that all avenues are open to women INCLUDING the 'traditional' women's role, if there even is such a thing anymore. It's not about making women feel small for their life choices - whether they are high powered executives or looking after the kids.

Isis said...

Hear hear! I sew and do embroidery because I find it relaxing and very satisfying to see something transform under my hands. Most perople have a hobby and I can't see why something should be worth less than something else. I enjoying cooking and baking and I'm the one who do most of that in our home. On teh other hand, I haven't touched the vaccum cleaner since my darling and I moved in together, so I figure it evens out. Just as I do most of the ironing, but very rarely do teh laundry.
That snarky comment about not being married made me laugh. it says more about the woman who made it, in my view. Not everyone wants to get married, be they male or female. That is also something that ought to be repsected and not assumed that the man, for some reason, haven't "popped the question". (Actually, it was I who proposed to my ex-husband, not the other way around. It worked too)

mala-14 said...

The "right to choose." THIS! This is what it's all about. Not being shunted into any kind of stereotype about what makes a woman or a feminist or whatever. If I like to bake and sew as well as write articles discussing misogyny and patriarchal oppression, that's my choice. Who cares if it doesn't fit into someone else's idea of what a feminist should be or a woman should be? That's just who I am. And feminism is about having the right to choose what I want to do. Something that I think everyone should support. (Following your condition of excluding things like mass murder, of course.)

I like the idea of having opinion blogs once in a while. I think it's important to discuss these sorts of issues, even if it's just to increase awareness. Sometimes you learn really interesting things that you wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. So I say, keep on!

Foodycat said...

Liz Jones' issues are hardly hidden.

Auntie said...

At 60+, I lived through decades of Feminist noise.
As a young wife, I traveled with my husband ("Oh, you are SO LUCKY not to have to work!" - and - me in a 3rd world country with out electricity)
As a young mother who struggled, budgeted, and yes, chose to stay home with my baby (You'd be a much more effective mother if you got out once in a while.)
As the mother of a scholar, I owned a custom sewing business and worked out of my home, and what did I hear?? (Why don't you get yourself a REAL JOB.)
When my 'baby' went off to the university, I got a real estate licence and managed a land office for 10 years. (Oh, you KNOW you'd make so much more money if you SOLD real estate.)
My parents grew old, became infirm, needed care and frankly, I couldn't work, manage my household, and care for them. I didn't retire, I just quit. (How can you spend so much time with just your family? You won't have a pension! etc. etc. etc. as if it was their business)
Now, my husband of 41 years (Did I mention I married MUCH TOO YOUNG???) and I live in a small house and have few need or wants. I sew, I knit, I bake, I read, I take walk, I pet the dog, AND I have a pleasant relationship with my daughter.
Many women WANT other women to be miserable. Will criticise another woman no matter what she does. I've worked and not worked, traveled the world, seen and done a lot. Nothing outside my home has ever given me as much happiness and pure pleasure as the things and the people inside my home.
I deduce there is little joy and much sadness in the lives of women who denegrate home arts and hearth and home matters.
Regrets?
Oh yes. I sincerely regret not having had at least 4 more children. I absolutely regret weaning the child I had before she was 2.

Corrine said...

Like Auntie, I have survived and prospered via the feminist movement. I have been fortunate to have had a diverse professional and personal life, but it is mine, my choices. That said, this post does indeed strike a note for those of us who prefer our sewing, knitting, etc. I would suspect that when these two snarkettes look in the mirror there are lamentations beyond belief. They are projecting their low self esteem and poor self satisfaction into their writing. Sad. Oh Well, get over yourself!

LandGirl1980 said...

What a grand post.

I have to admit I am not a fan of Kirstie's programmes. Not because I don't like her. I do. A lot. Not because I don't like crafts. I do. A lot. There is just something about it all that doesnt gel with me. But that is just me. I would not dream of being negative about it - I just chose not to watch.

As for Nigella - I have more than a healthy girl-crush on her. That is because I find her easy to relate to, beautiful and inspiring.

That said - I am also a fan of Janet SP. I like her because she speaks her mind, albeit it disagreeably & negatively at times. But that is how she has always been and I accept her for it.

However - there is a lot of nastyness out there. Degrading and derogatory comments and press always get attention. I feel it is aimed to make you question yourself. Those that are sheep will bleetingly follow and join the "hate" bandwagon. It all seems to be about boxes and which one you fit in. Which I find incredibly dreary.

Those that are truly feminist will make a CHOICE to do what they want to, and move on.

Excellent post :)

Kate said...

Excellent post!! Very well written and I agree completely with the points you made! I can't wait for your next "I'd just like to say" :)

Rhonda said...

what a great post. live and let live, i say

A.J.A. said...

Right on! My MIL, who was a part of that women's movement of the 60s and 70s (Masters in Chemistry in the late 60s when that wasn't super common) said recently that she thought a lot of "feminists" had gotten confused- she said what you said. The point of it all was not to belittle women who chose to be at home with their babies or liked participating in domestic things, it was about giving women the choice to do what they wanted to do. You summed this all up beautifully! Right on, sister!

Liz said...

"high-earning husbands" Pah! I am the earner in our home and we would be grateful if he had a job at all!

I would like to think that feminism means we can celebrate the differences among women rather than be threatened by them or belittle those who choose differently from us. Feminism does not mean we all have to fit into the same mould. Diversity makes life interesting.

xx Nicki (home bird)xx said...

Great post. I get stick from my friends and family all the time because I bake, crochet, drink sherry and enjoy home-making. The thing that always annoys me is when people say "oh, I don't know how you have TIME to do all that... I'm just so busy..." It's as though they think I don't have a life! I don't watch much TV so always want to say that I'm busy baking whilst they're sitting on their bums watching I'm a Celeb but that would be offensive and judgemental so I keep schtum. Ha!

Ignorant women who like to write offensive articles just to create an outrage - pah! I kind of like them, they get me fired up! It would be a pretty boring world if we were all the same.

Looking forward to the next post.

Nicki x

Rhia said...

Excellent post! I had no idea such hatred against crafty women existed. But I have noticed that here in Finland the hatred has raised it's head. A lot. We even now have a term called "hatred talk" because there has been so much articles, interviews and internet posts about people hating. Hating gays, hating immigrants, hating women, hating men, hating handicapped etc. All these people have the nerve to say these things, "I don't want handicapped people on my backyard, it puts the apartment prices down", or "I won't accept the invitation to the presidents independents party because there will be gay-people dancing and it offends me" or "Women have the power because they refuse to mate with SecondRateMen, but they really should give men more sex without excuses". Yes... it is shocking to realise this is now the world we are living in.

I just don't get why these women who call themselves feminists fail to see that knitting, baking and doing crafts aren't excluding feminism and female rights? Options and freedom to choose is the most important thing in feminism. Every woman is allowed to choose what they do. If they choose knitting and baking, things that make them happy, that doesn't make female rights go away. Forcing them to do the opposite does!

Miss Magpie said...

Great post. Liz Jones is a deeply unpleasant woman in my opinion and clearly has many, many issues! She never has a good word to say about anything or anyone.

Nattie said...

I'm so glad you've addressed this, we all feel the same as you. Money in our household is always tight, and always will be. But that's our choice. I chose not to work, to be with my girls growing up, to bake and make and tinker because it pleases ME. I don't feel like I'm missing out, not having a super job in the city, and i some times think....these grumpy women just need to pick up a knitting needle or get the sewing machine out, and realize it IS an a great thing! Everyones different, if shouting out about how pathetic us crafters are floats you boat, then poor you. I feel sorry for them.......

Fab post......well done you x

Sarah said...

This is a really excellent post! I have run into negativity at my craftiness several times and find it quite startling. At the end of the day, it was my husband who showed me that these women are jealous of creative/traditional abilities and can find no way to vent, but to belittle those they secretly desire to be.

I am a huge fan of Nigella Lawson and Kirstie Allsop. Not many things please me more than preparing meals or making things for those I love. An investment of time and care is a huge expression of the love the creative person holds for the recipient.

I feel sorry for these catty women who choose to attack others living a creative lifestyle. Clearly, they are envious but cannot or will not allow themselves the freedom to explore their own creative potential.

Jessie said...

That is just crazy! I mean I love making things with my hands. It started when I was a senior in college and it was so grueling I just really needed to make a physical thing that I could touch and feel. My passion and enjoyment of hand crafts grew out of that. I like my hobbies but I don't look down on my sister (my actual sisters) because they don't. Goodness it just makes them appreciate the things I make them as gifts all the more. This woman your talking about (I'm in the states) just sounds bitter for some reason. Sorry to hear the crafting world is at the brunt end of her anger right now.

Jessie said...

Also I don't find magazines and television shows like the ones mentioned (that would be Martha Stewart here) make me feel inferior. They give me great inspiration and new ideas to try.

Alice said...

Fantastic post! I consider myself a feminist and have never seen this at odds with my love of crafting, baking etc. As others have said, feminism is about being able to choose your your path in life whatever that may be.

Colleen said...

I am a 59 year old feminist. I believe that sewing is a feminist act, not a selfless one. Also, I work full-time and plan on a huge garden this year. So, watch this space for preserved jams, etc. Sewing has, literally, saved me from a very deep despair. These women make their living writing this stuff and I could write a book about how perhaps their dreams were dashed and they meant to really be novelists. But, I won't. That wouldn't be very sisterly.

LinB said...

Oh, well said! (Well-written?) There is a solution for anyone who violently disagrees with any point of view televised or broadcast, or written in a newspaper, book or magazine: Stop watching or reading or listening to that program. Find another program with which you agree, and sit down in front of it, instead. Let the rest of us enjoy our simple pleasures -- don't castigate us because we are not you. Life is short and mean people are everywhere, but you will be constantly surprised by the niceness that showers itself upon you if you only let it.

The Postcolonial Rabbit said...

The Rabbit would like to compliment the Squirrel on an excellent post! I do get so depressed by all the backbiting women who identify themselves as "feminist" can inflict upon other women (I also get depressed at women like someone on Twitter I had an argument with who said International Women's Day was pointless because women bitch and can't run things as well as men). I'm also a feminist and someone who loves to cook, run my home (shock, horror!) and am looking forward to being a wife and mother (certain feminists are now positively fainting). But it is indeed about choices - and having the freedom to choose. That's what women didn't have just a hundred years ago, and what women in a lot of places still don't have. I think it's easy to lose perspective of wider inequalities in bitching about TV personalities. Gosh this ended up being a bit holier than thou, didn't it? Your post responded in a much more fun way :)

Tina said...

I find the female-one-female verbal attacks both fascinating (in a sick way) and sad. I'm fascinated because it's become clear that we live in a society that rather than congratulate and lift people up for accomplishments, it's much easier to undercut and belittle them. I find it sad, because so-called "feminists" of this ilk have missed the point. Why must a woman act like a man in order to be feminist? Why can't one be a feminist, like to cook/bake and sew? History shows, over and over again, that women have "taken back" these traditionally "women's" activities and roles and reinvented them to be feminist. And, besides, WHO CARES what you like to do for fun? And BULLY TO THOSE WHO CAN TAKE A PASSION AND TURN IT INTO A LIVING.

Sarah said...

Well written, this was a really interesting read! I can't wait for your next opinion piece. xo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...