Last week the feminist blog Vagenda, which I usually love to read and to which one of our writers even contributes, posted an article that really pissed me off. Entitled Why Twee Needs to Die a Death, its writer went through the various reasons why twee culture has permeated the cultural mainstream, turning otherwise sensible women into silly little girls who care about little else than baking, sewing and looking pretty. Here is one choice nugget of wisdom:
“There are certain things that go hand in hand with becoming an adult and one of them is learning not to let this stuff affect your identity. This can be taken as a more general point with regards to any ‘trend’ but is especially important when it comes to women and the twee explosion…women are actually in danger of turning themselves into real life Manic Pixie Dreamgirls and not living breathing entities with thoughts and ideas and opinions. Twee girls don’t have screaming political arguments about capitalism at dinner parties. Twee girls don’t do shots, or have zipless fucks, or basically do anything fun. I’m not saying that because you enjoy knitting or baking that you’re some kind of traitor to the feminist cause, but when your identity is so wrapped up in it that you’re beginning to become an archetype then that’s when there’s trouble a-brewing.”
The author then went on to list certain qualities that comprise tweedom, including using Instagram, owning a Polaroid camera, riding a pink bike, doing crafts, baking and enjoying sickly sweet cocktails. As I read the article, I was amused to realise that I personally ticked pretty much every single box on the author’s list. Oh dear, I thought. Does this make me some kind of sad, gullible auto-bot, incapable of having an independent thought or political view-point? Then I realised, God no! I’m a kick-ass feminist with a lot to say for myself who just happens to really enjoy doing all this stuff.
In need of some reassurance I asked my (newly wed) hubbie if he thought the only reason I liked baking and sewing was to impress him. To which he laughed, “No I’d prefer it if you spent your time in the pub with me.” (So, If anyone out there is actually dumb enough to think baking is the way to a man’s heart, you’re wrong. It’s beer.)
The thing that really and truly pissed me off about this article is that the feminists writing it were partaking in the exact kind of judgmental and women shaming behavior as the bigots they hate. No one needs to be judged on the way they dress or the hobbies they enjoy. Most of the women I know who do crafts or bake do so because they are creative types who love to make things. That doesn’t make them bad feminists. Ditto, if they choose to wear floral tea dresses, they should not be treated any differently than if they choose to wear biker jackets and have shaved heads. And the ironic thing is that plenty of them are using their skills to set up small businesses or engage in political activism via craft and design, which is empowering to them and to women generally. This idea that you have to distance yourself from traditionally ‘feminine’ pursuits and activities to be a feminist is taking us back decades.
This brings me to an excellent Craftivist event I attended a couple of weeks ago. The women I met there were using craft to send out a political message by supporting Oxfam’s Grow campaign, which seeks to change Western food practices that mean millions go hungry while our supermarkets waste food. They were cross-stitching messages onto jam jars and sending them to their MPs to ask them to support the campaign. The women I met that day were one of the most passionate, talented and interesting groups I have had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with for a very long time. And yes it was lovely to sit down and do something creative while promoting a good cause. I’m sorry Vagenda if you feel we should have been having a “screaming political argument”, but there is more than one way to change the world.