Quilt Finish: Gender Kisses

Perhaps now more than ever, gender is fluid. It’s become situational, with ideologies of masculinity and femininity regularly fading into the background. Gender can be self-identified, self-imposed, and self-regulated. My blog, Molli Sparkles, for instance, takes a stab at subverting gender normative behaviour. A man quilting, under a female pseudonym, with pink sparkles everywhere, sometimes referring to himself as he, and other times she, two kids and a fiance, from Oklahoma and still fabulous … These are all conscious decisions to push my own gender boundaries in an online persona. That’s ultimately what this quilt is about.

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When I began to design with the The Raspberry Kiss block, I was immediately inspired by correlating thoughts of the X-chromosome. Pause! A bit of a science breakdown: the X-chromosme is joined with another X- (female), or Y-chromosome (male) for sex determination. That’s about as far as it went though, as I didn’t want this quilt to be about biological sex. However, it’s important to be aware that traditionally, sex has heavily influenced gender roles. Males act like men, females act like women. See the difference in the nomenclature between sex and gender? But what happens when a male starts “acting like a girl,” regardless of whatever type of gender-stereotyping “girl” implies? Looking past the historically, negative connotation of this phrase, the word “acting” has always intrigued me. It’s like we’ve known all along that gender can be assumed like a mask, we’re just not supposed to be proud of doing it.

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So when Pantone announced their colours of the year for 2016, Serenity and Rose Quartz, with their all too brief explanation, I applauded. Yet, it seemed that the quilt world didn’t. “Why two colours?” people asked. “It’s just baby blue and baby pink, boring.” I read so many times. “Way to perpetuate stereotypes!” others went a bit further. What? What! Pantone actually broke historic ground with choosing these colours, by imbibing them with a social message reflective of what is happening in our developed worlds. Not once did they say Serenity is only for boys, and Rose Quartz is only for girls. In all promotional material, they actually blended the colours together to show the fluidity between the two. Hell, Pantone even straight up told us, “The prevalent combination of Rose Quartz and Serenity also challenges traditional perceptions of color association.” I very much read this as everything we’ve taken for granted about gender-normative-colouring is changing, and we should be apt enough to take note.

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The rules of this quilt challenge dictated that we only use solid fabrics. Serendipitously, I had a bit of yardage of both Serenity and Rose Quartz in my stash. So my idea was about showing a gender spectrum, and how any imaginary lines that exist can be crossed, blurred, or altogether obliterated. However you gender-identify, there’s a place for you in this quilt; actually, there are multiple places to describe your current gender-identity at any given time. Some of us stay in the blue area, some in the pink, and some wear pink and sit in the middle of the blue! You see, it’s not a colour that determines your gender-identity, it’s your gender-identity that tells a colour to fuck off, and you’ll determine whatever the hell you want! Live it, love it, take some more of it!

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When it came to the quilting, I wanted to keep playing with this idea of gender fluidity, and how we have been conditioned to wear it, quite literally, on our sleeve. I decided to use a selection of sparkling threads (the synonymous relationship of “threads” to “clothes” is not lost on me) to provide a translucent cover and/or reinforcement to gender-identity. Because isn’t this what clothes do for our gender, disguise us, or set us free? I, of course, used Aurifil Brillo in three shades of blue, and three shades of pink, with my stitching lines about a quarter to a half inch apart. In the predominately blue corner I started with the darker shades of blue thread, in the pink corner the darker shades of pink, and then subtly transitioned to the lightest of both in the middle. Fluidity. I then went back and placed random thread lines through out, because as I said before, when it comes to gender, anything can happen!

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Creatively, this quilt allowed me to really pursue a theme and express it through my process. It’s like an art quilt without being purely representational. I’m much more fond of a metaphor, and a quilt that says something subversively, well you can only imagine how much fancy that is tickling! Technically though, this was also the first quilt that I have ever blocked. (You know that process where you wet it, stretch it, pin it … which just sounds like something you’d do in an S&M flick, but anyway!) After all that matchstick-esque quilting on the diagonal, I thought I was going to have a diamond-shaped quilt on my hand! The blocking allowing me to manipulate the quilt back into a nearly-square shape that I’m quite happy with. I used Kona Bleached White for the backing, binding, and background, so that the floating X’s remain the focus of the quilt.

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Four months ago I was put on a defensive Louboutin heel, which set off a stir of gender-related quilt discussion. After much screaming and hair pulling (never!), Stephanie and I just decided to quilt it out. This was never a competition though, nor did either of us ever say with this activity that one gender was better than another. A lot of people have commented, “…but it [sex or gender] doesn’t matter,” and that’s true. Gender doesn’t validate anyone as a quilter, however, I still hold the belief that gender (like any other characteristic) can inform your quilt process. I see quilting as art. So like any other art form, knowing about the creator, allows me to understand more about the art itself. Remember how I stated earlier that I liked to push gender boundaries in my online persona? Then it makes perfect sense that I would make a quilt about the fluidity of gender. So see, in that sense, it matters to me.

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As for the results of the poll, it should be pretty obvious by now that Quilt B was mine. I followed the polling pretty thoroughly over the past week, and from beginning to end the percentages stayed within +/- 2 points of the final result. Interesting! I do hope you’ve enjoyed this exercise that Stephanie and I put together. Thanks for keeping it civil here on my blog, and for interacting with our poll. I hope some part of this has given you pause to your own views, consideration of others, and the ability to see gender as a construct, and not necessarily attached to your body parts. Now, if only we could get North Carolina to play along.

16 Responses

  1. charlotte m. says:

    I wasn’t going to comment, but your last line about North Carolina got me. I would like to take this opportunity to let the world know that all this crap is the republican lawmakers in our state. Most of us are trying hard to get this law repealed. #wearenotthis

  2. Trude says:

    I just wanted to personally thank you…once again…Molli…for a fascinating dialogue…I never, ever speed read your blog…it is always a fascinating read…and makes me ponder…I find myself thinking all day about comments you make…and often go back and reread it. I love that…and bottom line…I LOVE THIS QUILT…IT IS GORGEOUS! Being able to see the quilt close up and the thread choices…make me appreciate it all the more…just lovely…

  3. The quilt is stunning. Your words are impeccable. I appreciate that you were able to quilt out your differences and both make statements.

  4. Ioleen says:

    Great quilt and a wonderful read. Thanks Molli!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Well said. Beautiful quilt.

  6. melissa says:

    Well said, Molli. Thank you

  7. Katie says:

    Gorgeous quilt. Yes, living in North Carolina at the moment is a real downer…….to say nothing of the awful presidential campaigns. What will tomorrow bring. Sigh.

  8. Anne says:

    So, Pantone has since cleaned up their initial language, but when they first announced the colors, they said “we chose pink, but felt it was too feminine for many men, so we also chose blue.” THAT’S what pissed me off. It was said in the same breath as “we’re trying to push the boundaries of gender and color” which was confusing as hell. I do applaud that they’re at least talking about it.

    Anyway, your quilt is lovely, and I totally picked it was yours and like I said, it makes me want to do some more research on this topic. Would you be interested in chatting with me more about it? 🙂

  9. Anne says:

    Oops, I forgot to say, I love the modern-inspired art quilt. You know I love when people challenge boundaries (gender or “modern” or whatever) and I’m excited to see more people playing outside the lines. Love all the thought that went into each decision.

  10. Leena says:

    I love the quilt and the post. Such a nice way of writing. Better still, such a lovely way to interpret the Pantone colours of the year. Even i though initially that its just baby pink and baby blue as compared to the lovely rich jewel tones of prior years. But with your quilt, I realize that the limitations, whether they are that of a quilt or of gender is just in the mind 🙂
    Leena(India)

  11. Daphne says:

    I found out about this blog post from Abby Glassenberg’s newsletter. I love that you use a medium like quilting to make a statement and start conversations on gender. This post gave me a lot to think about. I must admit when I first heard about the Pantone colors of the year, I thought, eh pastels and I didn’t look into it beyond that .I now realize they were trying to do a lot more than just posting colors. Your quilt is lovely and it is so interesting to read the thought that went into putting it together.

  12. Helen says:

    Great post and although it sounds so obvious the key is be true to yourself and tolerant of others selves

  13. Beautiful beautiful quilt! I love the Pantone colours and love that you point out that associating the colours with gender is done by the audience. The quilting is perfection and I adore those two colours. Very clever pattern and concept. Awesome work!

  14. Amy says:

    AGAIN, with that diagonal quilting, killing it!!!

  1. May 15, 2016

    […] some release! You see, I was forced to keep these threads under wraps as I was using them in my Gender Kisses quilt. I know you savvy stashers out there would have linked one bit to one bob and then […]

  2. May 23, 2016

    […] Molli Sparkles Blog Post about Gender Quilts […]

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