I know! Nitpicking at three whole sentences out of several thousand words is kind of a dick move! But it's a move I am going to make.
Yeah, diss knitting and I will blog at you.
Meanwhile, the most brain-bleedingly pointless domestic tasks have, for some young women today, become so alien and fantastic that they are now a lifestyle option. Cookery classes and knitting circles encourage young, trendy western women to indulge in a sanctioned fantasy of glamorous domesticity that never really existed, an arched, kinky fetishism of the trappings of a drudgery that is still the reality of many women's lives. I know plenty of women my age, educated and emancipated, who view the baking of immaculate muffins and the embroidering of intricate scarves and mittens as exciting hobbies, pastimes which should be properly performed in high-waisted fifties skirts and silly little pinafores.
So the overall point - that white western women have the luxury of employing cleaners, shopping in supermarkets and buying clothes made by sweatshop labourers in third-world countries, and so can perform an imaginary version of Mad Men-lite housewifery as a retro quirk - is solid. But the examples picked interest me.
For centuries, the task of making clothes so the family didn't freeze fell to women. While this was often a boring chore, it was clutched at as an outlet for creativity. Incredible intricate and inventive techniques like Aran cabling (where each motif has symbolic meaning, asthetic beauty, and the practical advantage of keeping rain out) seem to be a way of sneaking art in to lives which didn't have much opportunity for self-expression. No one could criticise you for wasting your time on fripperies, because clothing your family is a necessary task and a virtuous feminine activity. I'm not saying it's always a rhapsody of creative joy - any knitter whose heart doesn't sink at the instruction work five acres in stocking stitch is made of sterner stuff than I - but if "time-wasting" activities like art or music or writing are frowned upon because look at her messing around with a paintbrush; five kids, you'd think she could find summat to do, then you'd take your pleasures in any socially-acceptable work you could find.
And over time, they become part of the mythology of femininity: Good Women know how to knit. Good Women spend hours creating delicate cross-stiched handkerchiefs for no earthly purpose. Good Women cook proper meals, because they care enough about their kids not to resort to microwave ready meals in an emergency. What started as drudgery and blossomed into creativity can become part of the system of oppression again (I'm thinking of Laura Brown obsessing over cake icing in The Hours).
But taking up the needles - even in the space age year of 2011, when there's no material need to - doesn't have to be about idealising that imaginary 50s housewife past. When I'm knitting (usually in my jimjams, actually; not so glamorous) I'm not picturing myself as Betty Draper, whipping up some darling little bed-jacket for my abused and acting-out daughter. And if I'm strictly honest, I'm not usually basking in the glow of participating in a centuries-old tradition handed down from mother to daughter, either. I'm just making stuff. Because it's fun, because I like clothes, because it's something to do with my hands to stop me chain-smoking myself into oblivion. People knit for a lot of reasons, is what I'm saying, and just because something looks regressive, doesn't mean it's spearheading the assault on feminism.
All of which is in no way just an excuse to say I MADE THIS WITH MY OWN HANDS I AM SO PROUD.
|It's a fox. If you were wondering.|