Monday, April 27, 2009

Crafting Queer: The road less traveled

Let me begin this post by saying THANKS(!) for the break. I think I really needed it...in some ways, to confirm that I'm still into QD and everything I'm doing here, and also to just give my overworked brain a rest. I don't even know if you noticed, but nevertheless, THANKS!

Contrary to what you might think of me, I'm not really a homemaker. I desperately long to be the half of my relationship that takes care of all things domestic...everything from bills to casseroles. Five years ago, if any part of my brain had considered this, I would've smacked myself senseless. But now that I'm more settled into who I am, I really can't see it any other way. I'd like to have a kid, hopefully, one day and live in the city or the country in a decently sized home with Em, who is much more career-ambitious than I (which isn't a slight against myself, because I'm fully equipped to be a career girl, I just can't stand having a day job). Em and I, as a couple, want everything that straight couples want - from the picket fence to the little doggie and the weird mailbox embellishments (don't worry, dear, I don't mean a Mallard duck sticker or anything). Knowing this, and working towards this, doesn't account for the extra amount of energy I'd like to focus on my "business" - that being oh ginger, Queering Domesticity and any other trouble I aspire to get myself into. The simple act of wanting this doesn't take into account numerous frustrations mapped out before us.

It's just so much more complicated, because we're queer.

Jena over at Modish's Biz Tips wrote a really interesting post the other day (she provides some really great links, too) about self-employed crafters, artists and entrepreneurs and how the features and interviews scattered about the internet would suggest that they are predominantly blessed to have supportive (financially or otherwise) boyfriends/husbands/partners in their lives. She asks her readers to elaborate on this, too. It really goes without saying that these supportive male-counterparts, to an overwhelmingly female-driven field, undeniably help to see that one's entrepreneurial aspirations become functional realities. I would even say that most "mainstream" craft/art supportive communities gloss right over this reality, rarely deconstructing how this happens and who might not benefit from such an arrangement. I read Etsy's Quit Your Day Job and Featured Seller blogs fairly religiously, and while there are sometimes interviews where the Etsian seems single (or its unclear), I cannot recall one covering a queer crafter, for example. But I know Etsy loves queers! What's the deal?

What lies between the gratitude reminiscent of an Academy Award speech and the stressful, creativity-sucking reality of an unrelated day job are the queer people like me and many of my counterparts, who have to negotiate a much less flexible series of life supporting necessities in order to see a business from concept to fruition, is essentially heterosexual privilege. There isn't a softer way to describe this; also, before anyone throws up their defenses, this isn't a harsh judgment. If you examine the landscape before me, for example, you have to account for the inconsistencies and simple lack of access available to me as a result of my being queer.

I cannot go, for example, without health insurance which means Em would have to have a job with a company that offered domestic partner benefits, or I would have to work into my business plan the incredibly high cost of being self-insured. Also, I live in a state that does not recognize contractual relationships between people that could insinuate or mimic same-sex relationships, so if Em and I ever ended our relationship, I could not access the benefits provided by her employment such as supplementary income, health insurance, retirement, etc. Additionally, the benefits of marriage would not apply to our relationship regardless of whether we were married in a same-sex marriage supportive state, as our current state does not recognize them. The very matter-of-fact break down is that I would have to do it all myself.

I'm not afraid of trying to do it all myself, and I don't doubt for a second that there are successful artists, crafters and entrepreneurs who do it all by themselves. What I do not see are blog posts, stories, interviews and other press covering these people as it relates to crafting, art and the general creative experience. The basic tenets of feminism suggest that we (as women) should desire to be self-supportive and sustaining, and that we can in fact create those realities for ourselves. I find it disabling, however, to constantly be exposed to a version of success that I cannot readily aspire to emulate. Where are the stories about single people making it big? Where are the stories about queer crafters fighting to carve out a life for themselves by doing what they love? Why aren't these the bigger success stories? I challenge the people who are queer and coupled, single and queer, or single and straight, to stand up and tell us your stories. Is it possible? Ever the optimist, I believe I can do it. Everyone else needs to see it's possible, too.

I suggest you visit QueerCraft, a blog dedicated to queer crafting, and also the Queer Crafter Collective, an organization I started with some friends to uplift and support queer crafting in our Nation's Capital. Ideally, I think QueerCraft and/or the QCC going viral like the Craft Mafia family would be a fantastic platform upon which queer crafters could address issues, find support and change the face of modern craft worldwide.

I encourage an open dialogue here, which might turn into an impetus for change for bloggers and creative sites, or (ideally) more visibility for queer crafters!

2 comments:

  1. Amen. The untold secret of so many people who appear to be succeeding at the nexus of craft/art & commerce is that they have a silent partner: a spouse with a traditional full-time job. A spouse with a full-time job makes it possible for the arty-crafty person to do things like: take financial risks a single person could never take, live in a home with a mortgage the self-employed crafter would never be approved for, and avoid profit-gobbling healthcare costs. These hidden legs-up are so rarely made clear when we read about successful artists and crafters. Kudos to you for pointing this out...

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  2. Thank you so, so much for posting about this. This is something about the crafting community that I've been frustrated with for a while. As a queer woman, having a husband with a steady, full time job just isn't going to be a part of my business plan! Like you said, I have to do everything myself, and I can't afford to assume that'll change.

    I'm sure there are sucessful single and/or queer creative entrepreneurs out there. (Sadly, I'm not one of them.) For some reason, they just don't get interviewed/featured/whatever.

    -S.G.

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