Tool of the patriarchy? Me?


This editorial was  was published back at the end of January. It got under my skin at the time and I don’t really feel any better about it now. Consequently I just have to have a little rant.

I have always been someone who likes to work with my hands (crafter, cook, DIY, gardener). My parents were the same and raised me and my brother to ‘have a go’, even at things we’d never done before (especially those, in fact), and that behaviour stuck. My husband is a ‘build-your-own-robot’ type of guy, so our life together pretty much revolves around making time for our numerous hobbies. We latched on to the Maker movement when the magazine first came out and have been to several Maker Faires. They’re a great time and they allow you to meet extreme hobbyists who make stuff just because it’s fun.
In her editorial Chachra says “[t]he problem is the idea that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it’s almost always doing things for and with other people,”. This may be how she sees it, but she is wrong. The alternative of making is actually consuming.
It’s no coincidence that many of the things you buy are now meant not to be opened or repaired. The people that sell you these things don’t want you to fix them when they break, they want you to buy a new one. This is how the economy has been designed to chug along. The Maker movement had its genesis in repairing the unrepairable, and one of it’s tenets is “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.”
Chachra goes on to say that, because historically people who made things (or, as she says, “ordered them made”) have been men, then making is male and valued because of it. What she considers the opposite of making, care-giving and educating, is devalued because it is the province of women. Strong words from a female Professor of Engineering.
So yes, in the middle ages, the builders of the great cathedrals were men, but that was because being a woman in the middle ages was so labour intensive it left no time for anything else. Women were, you know, homemaking (which includes making food, clothes, bread, and the hundred other things you needed on a daily basis). In fact the generic word for an unmarried woman, which is still used, is spinster – female who spins. Because women were always spinning thread in whatever little spare time they had, the two became synonymous.
It takes very little time on the internet to see that women are passionately involved in making: ceramics, glassblowing, beadmaking, quilting, lace-making, cooking, embroidery, rug making, weaving, knitting, engineering, crochet, historical costuming, leatherwork, batik, needlework, stained glass, papermaking, decoupage, bookbinding, woodworking, metalworking, jewellery making, lapidary, cosplay, YouTube videos, blacksmithing and, yes, coding. The list goes on.
Like this editorial got under my skin, I think someone (or several someones – I’m under no illusions that being a female engineering professor is a fun ride) has said something to Chachra that got under her skin, and helped form this world view of hers. But there are plenty of women makers and I’m sure they don’t consider themselves tools of the patriarchy.


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