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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.