During his visit to Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, my 23-year-old friend from Los Angeles looked around at the designers, jewelers and artists and commented, “Hmm. People making stuff and selling it. Pretty cool.”
Humans have been actively making stuff and selling it for millennia, but this is newly cool in 2013. Some of us are aware of the ravages of mass production. We recognize the personality of the handmade object and the lasting value of original work – art for the masses rather than for élite collectors. (Whenever a sentence contains the word “masses”, you know it’s time to brace yourself. Ready?) I believe that the Maker Movement is largely feminist in nature, presenting an alternative to patriarchal capitalism. It’s happening right in the middle of the tech revolution, and it IS pretty cool.
The Maker Movement is also referred to as the Handmade Revolution, Etsy Entrepreneurship, DIY, the creative economy, selling art online, and Not Your Grandma’s Craft Fair. Forbes recently published an article about the potential of integrating the Etsy model of entrepreneurship into the public education system.
As Brit Morin said in Huff Post Tech, “Can we all agree on the fact that a trend is happening here? Welcome to the Maker Movement, an evolution of millions of people who are taking big risks to start their own small businesses dedicated to creating and selling self-made products.”
I’m not prepared to write about micro-economies or the national growth of entrepreneurship. I don’t know about economics. I teach writing about artwork to entrepreneurial artists. What I do know is I look around the Maker Movement and I see women, lots of women.
School House Craft teaches business skills to Makers. I taught my class at their Fall Conference, and started kicking around my observation during our happy hour. I sat next to one of the school’s founders and asked her, “So, does anybody ever talk about how women are at the center of the Maker Movement?” She laughed, gestured toward the 30 women in our group and said, “Yah, we kind of noticed that!” I continued, “No, I mean, does anybody talk about how women are creating an alternative to the patriarchal system of economy?” She looked at me as if she were thinking, “Hey girl, I’m just trying to have a glass of wine after a long day of teaching women how to run their own businesses. Don’t be all theorizing on me.”
I get it. Gloria Steinem called, she wants her speech back.
Allow me to reinforce a little caution. Feminist men and women, don’t let patriarchal values corrupt our values. Women are at the heart of this movement and we can support and encourage each other rather than compete. We can live by our own definitions of what it means to be rich, we can create wholly different benchmarks for success. We don’t have to step on anyone to get what we want. We know what work is, and it includes family, community, and self-care.
To quote bell hooks,
“Feminism stands opposed to oppression…
Patriarchy reinforces oppressive systems, such as sexism, racism, classicism, imperialism, homophobia–systems in which one group dominates over and seeks to control another.”
As we continue in the Maker Movement, watch out for the thinking that is the old patriarchal wolf at the door. Most often, he gains entry through self-oppression.
You own this movement. You make it.