Archive for June 16, 2009
So I think I might be just a teensy, tiny little bit obsessed with Etsy, the magical place on the interweb that brings you spiffy handmade goods from independent sellers all over the globe. I know I’m I’m not alone in my DIY shopping zeal. The Etsy obsessed may number in the thousands these days. There’s even a guy who keeps a blog about about being an Etsy widower, the phenomenon that occurs when your significant other becomes so Etsy-absorbed that she forsakes all other things in the name of craftiness. Dude, you and my boyfriend should totally start a support group, I’ll give you his phone number.
Some people are so into Etsy that there’s a whole website about planning your wedding with it. I used to make fun of people who had their nuptials devised before there was even a proposal but I’ve gone through the website and bookmarked every invitation, feathered bridal fascinator and crocheted wedding bouquet I liked. I said it was for a friend who’s getting married this summer, but no, it was all for me and my future awesome totally DIY wedding that is taking place, oh I don’t know, somewhere between now and 2085. I’ll send you a handmade letterpress save the date printed on recycled bamboo with soy based inks when I get around to it.
Shopping on Etsy just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I like that I’m keeping my dollars out of the big box stores and supporting independent businesses. They even have a search feature that allows you to buy locally. I like that many Etsy sellers use recycled, upcycled or eco-friendly materials and I like that when I buy something from Etsy I’m buying something unique that everyone else in the world won’t have. So what ruined my feminist wet dream? Listen in, oh daughters of the revolution! According to Double X, Etsy is peddling a false feminist fantasy.
That’s right, every time you buy an all natural yoga mat carrier, handmade set of stripper pasties or pouch for your menstrual cup you are contributing to the system of oppression that is keeping women down. Why? Because Etsy was founded by men. And we all know know everything that men are in charge of is inherently corrupt and evil. And also, did you know that it’s difficult to get rich running a business on Etsy? Yeah, and making it on your own as an artisan, renting gallery space and touring to craft shows all over hell and creation is a really lucrative business model, much more lucrative (and environmentally sustainable) than working from home. And did you know, the majority of people who sell goods on Etsy are female!? Obviously, this makes Etsy bad because if it was really so great, men would be selling their stuff on Etsy too, right?
The writer continues on to bash the typical Etsy family, who reportedly has an average household income of $62K, well above the national average, This, she theorizes is because the male partner is out working his high paying corporate job enabling the woman to stay home, chained to her knitting needles creating low cost goods all while being duped into believing that she’s living a feminist fantasy.
That last bit is where I really start to to take umbrage. I am so sick and tired of being told that I’ve allowed my pretty little head to be tricked into thinking that oppressive things are feminist. Fuck you, I’ll decide for myself what’s oppressive with my own well educated, independent, feminist little head thank you very much. Wake up Double X, there is a whole network of independent businesswomen on the web. Most of the savvier ones use Etsy as a vehicle to sell their crafts in tandem with several other on-line venues. Etsy is just one of many ways for a small business owner to get her product out there, not some kind of monopolizing sweat shop. I fail to see how providing a low cost platform to start a business and get your product some exposure is a model of oppression. If anything it is exactly the opposite, allowing more women independence by providing a way to build a business with very little start-up money or experience.
Second of all, this post touches on my absolute least favorite subtext in some feminist writings, the idea that we’ll never be truly equal until women live their lives exactly like men do. I’ve never understood why being more like a man was supposed to make me a better woman or a better feminist.
The problem with the “old” feminism is that it leaves out 50% of the population. As long as we are solely focused on women’s rights in the narrowest sense of the word (gaining the right to take on stereotypically male occupations) we will fail to create a world where all people can live free from the rigidity of traditional gender roles. We need to move the debate beyond the same old arguments. If we focus on creating a world that is more equitable to all people, where the concerns of those from all walks of life are being addressed as equally important, we will see a world where gender disparities are lessened.
Do I want to live in a culture where having a child won’t be career suicide for a woman? Absolutely. But I don’t think we’re ever going to achieve that until men can take paternity leave without facing criticism for it. I’m sure that some of those so called “Etsy Husbands” would love to focus on being partners, parents and artisans but we haven’t yet created a system where that is a very acceptable choice for men. Of course, this whole argument can be viewed as cyclical too. We may hope for the time when more men can be stay at home dads, but until women are given equal pay, it will be difficult to make that dream come to fruition. That 100% pay gap between working moms and child-free women isn’t exactly helping things either.
Even though the women of Etsy may not be getting rich, I still believe their business model can be in line with feminist ideals. To me it doesn’t have to be all about who’s making the most money. It is also about spending my money in places I feel good about. Etsy gives ethical consumers alternatives. Now I have the ability to buy things that fall in lines with my social and environmental ethics, support small businesses and keep my money out of the pockets of big companies that hurt women. Did you ever think of that, Double X?
I believe that DIY mentality of companies like Etsy can only have a positive impact on society. I don’t need no stinkin’ hammer to smash the patriarchy. We crafty women will take it down one knitting needle at a time.