I’ve often asked myself how something so quintessentially feminine aligns with my identity as a feminist. When you think about sewing and knitting, it often conjures images of women relegated to housework. Now, for better or worse, we are not responsible for making our own clothes, and women are not as directly responsible for clothing their families (I won’t get into fast-fashion in this post, which is a completely different can of worms). Making clothing is a choice for most of us in the United States, and choice is the essence of feminism. Feminism isn’t about rejecting things that are “feminine,” so I’m letting go of the notion that knitting and feminism don’t align. Creating things for yourself, family, and others can be extremely powerful, and it is a very feminist act.
Here are some ways I have found making your own clothes can be tremendously powerful from both economic and personal perspectives:
- It gives us a choice of where we funnel our money. Many of our LYS and small fabric stores are female-run and owned. There are also all of the pattern designers, indie-dyers and yarn producers that we can support through our purchases.
- It frees us from conforming to fashion trends and norms. We get to pick colors and fabrics that we like and are not limited to what is made available in the stores, which is often dictated by people who are not representative of the wider population
- We also get to customize our clothes to fit our unique bodies. It allows us to free ourselves from concerning ourselves with numbers and sizes. It frees us more from attempting to conform to sizing standards that are out of touch for many of us.
- By making clothes, we are decreasing our dependence on countries and factories where women are exploited for their work. The fast-fashion industry is, in many ways, very anti-woman, and it profits tremendously from our dollars.
- Making, for many of us, is an act of self-care. It gives us identity and balance outside of our roles in our households and jobs, which is tremendously important.
- It does allow us to connect with the women who came before us, and it gives us something to leave behind. One key example of this is the Pussyhat; it will be a long lasting symbol for the women’s movement, and it will provide inspiration for generations of women beyond ours.
I hope everyone is spending this day thinking of the women who came before us, the women who we know now, and the women who will come.
Inspired by the marches taking place around the world today, I have been thinking a lot about how to continue supporting the long fight that is ahead of us. It seemed appropriate for this forum to discuss how I can use my crafty dollars to make a statement and support the causes that I believe in. Given that crafting is largely associated with women (for better or for worse), we can really use the things we buy and the things we make to bring attention to the causes that are important to us. I know I spend hundreds of dollars each year on my crafty habits, and I want to make sure that money is going to businesses that promote women and women’s issues. More than that, I want to make sure that I am not putting my money into the hands of businesses that are actively working against minority groups and/or women.
Disclaimer: there are all types of businesses and organizations, and these are causes that I believe in; do your research and support the ones that promote the values you see as important.
- Shop with businesses that give a portion of their proceeds from their sales on a certain item to an organization that you support. I’ve recently found multiple Etsy sellers and Pin Cause, who give a potion of their sales to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
- Shop with local businesses. There are multiple locally owned businesses, which are also owned and/or run by women, who have shown their support in the fight for equal rights. They were collection points for the Pussy Hat Project, gave discounts on pink yarn, and openly supported the march and movement. I know some businesses prefer to stay quiet in politics for fear of losing their customer base, so it is important to support the ones that take a stand to support things that you believe in. I am proud to give them my money and will continue to shop with them long after the marches are over. Some of these businesses are: Weaving Works, Knitty Purls, Bizarre Girls and Whidbey Isle Yarns and Teas, among others.
- Not all of us have access to amazing local stores, but do your research on the big box stores or major online retailers that you shop with. Make sure they are not funneling their money toward organizations or causes that are in opposition to what you support. There are certain big box stores where I will not shop because I do not agree with the way they treat their employees or their stances on women and minorities.
- Donate your handmade items when you can. There are a lot of charity knitting organizations. Do your research, and find a place where your crafty talents will be appreciated. I have knitted items to donate to cancer patients, babies in the NICU, and to moms who have lost babies because they are near to my heart.
- Display the items that you buy in a place where people can see them. I have my buttons displayed on my knitting bag that goes just about everywhere with me. I also spent time knitting Pussy Hats in public. It can also show people that share your views that they are not alone; this can be an isolating time for a lot of people. Talk about them and discuss your views openly with the people who ask. This is a time where respectful, open dialogue is important.