Before I get started with this post, I'd like to issue a disclaimer: This entire series of "craft ponderings" is just an example, within a niche, of how I am constantly questioning the status quo. I do not endeavor to offend anyone, but I'm well aware that it happens. I do this because I am instinctively compelled and because there is some part of me that believes the world will be a better place for everyone if we lift the veils and remove the blinders that prevent us from living to our full and rewarding potential. You might feel that I sound like a righteous pessimist, but in fact I am the complete opposite. I am an optimist of the highest order and I do this as a means to an end...that being a better world.
The craft world, specifically those tethered in some way to Etsy.com, is all abuzz (or intentionally ignoring) about an article recently published on the online newsmagazine Double X (which appears to be by and for women and simultaneously managed by the overlords of Washington Post/Newsweek/Slate). I say that because I generally find it laughable that women, who are tethered to such enormous news machines, feel like they've founded something novel and new, something devoid of a relationship with or support from the patriarchy. They are all puppets attached to strings, given a platform for entertainment and pseudo-intellectual purposes but still inexplicably connected to a machine (like our government?) who can remove their right to publish at any time (does this sound familiar?). Locally, we have The Sexist. What I'm trying to say is that these online newsmagazines portray themselves in a way that would suggest they are somehow authorities on feminism and modern women's issues, but this is only relevant if you're middle class, 20-40 year old white women who buy into the patriarchy, even accidentally.
Moving on, Double X published an article, which should ignite the craft world and Etsy patrons (sellers and buyers). There are some substantial, frustrating and annoying generalizations/errors/overstatements. I cannot deny that I am tired of white women placing "feminist judgments" on the shoulders of other women, white or not, because they are not acting in a manner that would suggest they care about feminism. Ultimately, nothing about Etsy is about feminism...not in its business/community practices OR in its outcomes. It's capitalism and consumerism in a really, really magical, handmade disguise.
Last night, when I was pondering this article and this conundrum currently plaguing me (don't know about the rest of y'all), a Subway commercial came on television. That insipid marketing plan, with the repetitive melody and brain-snatching hook, is just another way for a big company to convince me that I need what they're selling. In the case of this economy, I need a big sandwich for my buck...I need a $5 footlong so I can still stand in line with the other drones and not get judged for bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to my boring and inspirationless cubicle. And a few years ago, Subway made me feel bad about being fat, and they tried to convince me that if I just went into their store everyday at lunch and bought a sandwich with certain ingredients, I could be just like their venerable spokesman, Jared Fogle. Because wouldn't I love to lose hundreds of pounds eating processed meat, cheese, cheap oil and vinegar and nutritionless iceberg lettuce?! Wouldn't I love to believe that with just a little work and commitment to Subway's suggestions, that I too could be a slim celebrity!?
Kirstie Alley and I are here to tell you what's what.
Etsy is just as much a capitalistic/consumerist machine as Subway is, and they are taking the same shameless approaches to engage you in sugar-coated dreams. The Quit Your Day Job series is one example of how Etsy continues to sell us a dream of virtual impossibility. The cast of characters in the series almost always fits a certain number of requirements: female, heterosexual, married, SAHM/SAHW, white, educated. I know that a number of those descriptors that don’t fit who I am, so I’m inclined to believe that they are also not representative of the diversity that must exist in the sellers and patrons of Etsy. Why does Etsy care if I quit my day job? They care because they will make more money. Yes, yes, of course they can and will tell you that the more people who employ and sustain themselves without the need for corporate involvement, the better…for you and for the world. But their responsibility is to themselves first, and the more sellers clamoring for sales and for the ability to sustain themselves, the better off they will be. When Maria Thomas, CEO of Etsy, says that their number one goal is to bring buyers to sellers don’t be fooled into believing that it’s just for the seller’s benefit. They make money on every sale, too.
Personally, I am not opposed to the concept of quitting my day job. I think it is a noble goal, but I think that Etsy has a lot of work to do if they actually intend to create an entire universe full of self-employed crafters. I think the first responsible move Etsy should make is to label all Quit Your Day Job stories with a disclaimer: Results Not Typical. We demand this of corporations such as Subway and Weight Watchers, and the FTC has entertained the idea of insisting that testimonial results be representative of typical outcomes and not incredible feats of magic and perseverance. Etsy has that same responsibility, in my opinion. The results are not typical when women are financially bolstered by part-time jobs, husbands, trust funds and the like…they are unusual, rare and extraordinary. Painting them as anything else is disingenuous and Etsy should be culpable for this misrepresentation.
Optimism is a fantastic and energizing fuel that a person can engage in order to achieve their dreams, but sadly it is not all we need. I am optimistic that by writing these posts, and speaking out against the potentially corrupt and misleading tactics used by the consumerist machine, that the world can and will change for the better. And when the betterment of the human race is the goal, I am confident that the opportunities for crafters and artists to financially sustain themselves will open up like a sky after a particularly strong summer storm.
Image courtesy BeeListy.com