I just got home from my daily spa treatment, feelin’ all relaxed, only to be greeted by two confronting blog posts about men, gender and quilting. Ooh, la, la, a hot button topic for sure! So straight up, I initially wasn’t going to write this reactive post, and add more fuel to the fire. I just didn’t think I had the energy; I mean, I have a binding to sew on a quilt tonight. And isn’t that the goal for all of us, really? We want and need to explore our passion through the quilting processes. While I appreciate this dialogue about men infiltrating a traditionally women-dominated craft, does it need to happen? I get it, as a man, I have privilege, in so many arenas. There is no possible way I could ever know how many, and to what extent. But the engagement from these blog posts seems over-the-top hostile.
Indie Quilter – “Men and Quilting”
Dawn Chorus Studio – “Luke Haynes, Quilter: that gender question”
I’ll be clear. I’m not about to pander to reverse discrimination because some people (women or men) think I shouldn’t receive acknowledgement for my quilts because I have a penis. Guess what: my penis is not going away. I like it right where it is. If someone wants to give me media exposure, or accolades, or a giant fucking teddy bear because I am a man who quilts, I am more than willing to accept them all. Both women and men, in all industries, have been accepting far more, for far less, for a very long time. I believe in the body of work I produce, knowing full well some of it is better than others, and am excruciatingly happy that anyone would love it for any reason they like.
However, to imply that the men who have successfully “made it” in the quilting or craft world, have done so simply because of their penis is ignorant, judgemental, and condescending. I would also add here, that even if that was the only reason, well then “shake what your momma gave ya!” The men who have successfully made a financially viable career out of their craft are few and far between. I don’t have a single hard statistic about this though, so I think we will all just have to assume for the best. Those that do succeed, (and I personally know a few) have done so through hard work, determination, and fighting for every penny they can get. Their dick may have got them in the door, but it was their perseverance that kept it wedged open.
If I was a woman who read those blog posts above, I’d personally be insulted by someone belittling me by calling me out on fawning over someone simply because of their gender. We’ve all had our fanboy / fangirl moments: I remember the first messages I received from David Butler and Pat Bravo, and nearly wetting myself! I was shocked that someone of their calibre would have a minute to spare on me. I sincerely hope that if I have the chance to meet any of you, Glitterati, that we engage each other on the basis of admiration for the craft, and not because of our genitalia. If I am ignorant on this situation, please excuse me, but the flirting, I’ll still allow it!
If you don’t know, years before this whole museum faux pas happened with the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum’s upcoming exhibition
featuring only male quilters called “No Girls Allowed!” I had started an international quilting bee called, get this: No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee
. (#NGAQB) Hmpf! It was titled that with tongue planted firmly
in cheek, with reference to The Little Rascals “He-Man Woman Haters Club.” Now, calm down, none of us in the quilt bee hate women. Some of us are married, and I have whole-heartedly considered myself a feminist since my teenage years. Regardless, consider me guilty for instilling any resentment, hatred, or division between the genders by gathering a motley crew of men to take up needle and thread and make beautiful quilts. (#sarcasm) As for this museum show: applause all around! Imagine the little boys (and girls) who might go to this show and leave with a sense of self-worth, or creative energy, or a breakdown of gender stereotypes.
Likewise, I also started a Facebook group called Men Who Quilt, which as of today has 621 quilters who identify as men. They come from every walk, skip, and jump of life. They make quilts for every possible reason you could imagine. Some suck at it, but they keep going. Some are amazing, but they keep going, too. Some of them use traditional patchwork, and others use nothing but modern, negative space. They teach each other, they learn from each other, they share their successes and their failures. They organise quilting retreats, quilt shows, one-man art exhibitions, and their art practices. They talk about where to buy fabric for cheap, how to up-cycle clothes, which battings to use for what, where to find a long-armer, which sewing machines to buy, how to stitch in the ditch, and what it means to be a man who quilts. In short, they do exactly the same things that every woman who quilts does; they just do it with a penis. No, they’re not asking for privilege, they’re just asking to be accepted into a craft world that many would rather deny them entry in to. Forming a group when you’re a minority isn’t about division, it’s about creating a network of support.
So if you want to pin Luke Haynes against the wall (as did previous blog posts) for not choosing enough feminist language, or for believing in himself (and penis) too much, or for using what was given to him biologically and creatively to his full potential, then know this: you’re gonna need a helluva lot more pins. Because male quilters aren’t going away. I don’t believe there is space in this world for us to have a gender-binary-only system of craft. Despite the even bigger fact that genders are not binary, and that really fucks up any arguments made about the true recognition and appropriation of quilting by solely men and/or women. So yes, I believe in, and respect the predominant female history that men who quilt stand upon, but let’s start thinking about the future history we can make together!
Whew! I guess I did have the energy for that after all. Now, me and my hostile penis are going to go finish that binding.