Monday, July 27, 2009

Left on a jet plane: Came back again

Given that my life over the past five or so years has gone from bad to great, I [almost] without reservation believe that things happen for a reason. Whether it's the sympathetic nod of a stranger on the bus or a dramatic shift in living space or work, I'm confident that there is something to be learned from everything life hands me. When I suggested to my mom that I come visit while my aunts, her sisters, were in town, I did so without truly thinking about how it could benefit me. Now, I'm no martyr or saint, but I genuinely wanted to help my mom through a long family visit as much as possible. I also knew that reuniting with my aunts would be a fun and exciting experience, especially as I transition into my 30s in just over a week. Once upon a time, I found family draining and difficult, but as I've grown more certain of myself, I have found them to be uniquely restorative and grounding in really profound ways.

It should have, given this, come a no surprise to me that upon my return from the hot hot heat of Arizona, I'd feel more settled than I have in many months. There's been so much tumult in my head and heart about crafts, work, this blog, friends and even just myself. I have set many unfair and unattainable goals for myself and I've classified their completion in terms of optimism versus pessimism, never once considering that not completing a goal might be just what I need rather than an example of failure. My mom works so hard at keeping her home, satisfying herself with baking, crafting, mending and her papercraft/scrapbooking endeavors. She involves herself as much as she can, or wants, and doesn't get involved in cliques and groups of people who don't feed her soul.

It's with that in mind that I'm giving myself a break. I've closed up Oh Ginger on Etsy for a the foreseeable future and while I will try to post as regularly as I can or want here at Queering Domesticity, I can't make any promises. The coming weeks and months will be filled with Seamus loving, keeping house, visiting with friends and family, cooking, baking and crafting for friends (and me...I never craft for me!). I guess you could call this self-imposed Summer Camp. I'll be by the campfire, making s'mores and singing camp songs. Follow your bliss, right?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Levity: Political Analogies

It has come to my attention that often, when one is angry, they are not often regarded as having a sense of humor. Recently this has been the case at Food Network Humor, where the assclam editors make a living off of teasing Food Network stars and guests in a variety of ways; there preferred methods of teasing generally revolve around race, sexual orientation, gender identity, body type/size, education, intellect, fashion and addiction. Those ladies sure are a riot, and it shouldn't surprise you that I would rather eat a shat upon leather shoe from 1864 before I found any of their bigoted "humor" funny. Now, there are some people who are tit-for-tat arguers. They're the folks who want you to come back with an equally lengthy, sassy, 25 cent world filled reaction to what they've said or done in order to prove your argumentative viability. Pffffffft. I do what any self-respecting humorless feminist does and I report their image thievery to the legal department at Food Network.

Nevertheless, and back to the point, I'm hilarious AND I love to laugh. I've been committed to listening to the Judge Sonia Sotomayor hearings the past two days, and will listen through to the end if I can, because it's a rather momentous occasion, don't you think? But I can't help but get distracted with the Republicans. For some reason, my brain immediately began finding TV personalities to associate their voices and manners of speaking (and faces) with...I suppose it must be Al Franken, who many years ago mocked the Supreme Court Justice nominations proceedings on Saturday Night Live.

Today we've heard from Jeff Sessions, whose middle name is Beauregard. That's very fancy, right? Naturally I compared him to Leslie Jordan's character on Will & Grace, Beverly Leslie. A Southern, conservative, seemingly-closeted, constipated little man who managed to make everyone giggle despite being deep in denial and oh-so-politically-incorrect.


Secondly, we have a double analogy. If only I could use this one retroactively to score that much higher (read: lower) on my SATs. The ENTIRE time Utah's Orrin Hatch spoke, I was completely uncomfortable. He had this deep, mono- yet scolding tone and I couldn't figure out why this skeeved me out so much. While considering the reasons why a scary Republican Mormon named Orrin would terrify me, I began to grow giddy with excitement about the inquisition we're all expecting from South Carolina's Lindsey Graham. That man is ridiculous, and I'm sure that he's got Beverly Leslie-esque "business associates" much like our friend Jeff Sessions seems to have. Who on Earth could I compare him to? As luck would have it, my commitment to popular television, specifically the HBO series Big Love provided the perfect comparisons. I give you, The Greene meets Hatch-Graham Analogy.

Lindsey Graham is to Selma Greene as Hollis Greene is to Orrin Hatch

I assure you, dear readers, I do have a sense of humor and I engage it quite regularly. I also do not spend every waking moment thinking about how much Etsy enrages me, nor do I spend every moment thinking about my blog, my business or my craft. More than anything, this post should illuminate WHY I get enraged about those topics WHEN I do...because I care about the world around me, the people who are calculatedly attempting to corrupt it, and how I can educate myself to be part of the difference.

Local Review: Paper Cult @ Tyson's

Never in my wildest (and I mean wildest) dreams, did I think that there would be a shop other than Williams & Sonoma that I would actually be excited about visiting within the confines of a mall. If you're not from the DC Metro area, you might think that the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN is as [terrifyingly] big as a mall can get; but while I haven't done the actual square footage measurements, I'm inclined to think that Tyson's Corner, the metropolis that has taken over McLean, VA, is a close second. Filled with every store you can imagine, from corporate to regional establishments, Tyson's Corner is a shopper's dream and a anti-consumerist's worst nightmare. Yet I found myself in that behemoth of a mall a few weeks ago, stocking up on some last minute supplies at Beadazzled for a show I was doing the next day, and Em "just really needed" to stop by Lids for a new baseball cap. We compromised and stopped by Lush and Williams & Sonoma too, because if we were going to enter the insanity that is that mall on a Saturday, we might as well make it worth our while (shut up, I can't help it!). While Em was entranced with one of those little trolley's in the middle of the walkway, I spotted something potentially amazing: Paper Cult.

I slammed my bag into Em's hand and said, "I'll be there!" while I gestured wildly and took off like a bat out of hell (or a teenager on her way to Claire's? I don't know.) for what I had already imagined to be, in my head, Stationery Nirvana. You see, when I lived in Switzerland, I made a meager 500Sfr. monthly for my nannying gig, and since I had very few expenses, the majority of my income that year was spent on stationery and postal fees for friends and family. What began as an obsession a few years earlier with fun papers and things from bookstores and Hallmark turned into an all out design hysteria when I walked the streets of my favorite European city. Chat Noir and Ordning & Reda were my frequent haunts...the latter so much that the shop girls knew me and sometimes gave me a sample or two of the latest designs. There was a portion of my suitcase reserved for the stationery I carted home after my trip too. I haven't been able to stop since.

Paper Cult provides, in the midst of consumeristic choas, a haven for people like me who cannot get enough stationery, paper, office supplies, and magazines...all with a particularly keen eye to design, function and color. While the shop is small, it is neatly organized, fairly priced and wildly inspirational. As you walk in, you're greeted with racks displaying magazines from every global locale you can imagine, especially with a heavy dose of Asian and European publications.

Much like Papyrus, Paper Cult has a number of racks displaying individual sheets of [wrapping] paper (about 2'x3'), but the distinction here is that the papers Paper Cult provides are UH-MAY-ZING. Everything from the vintage-inspired to psychedelic pop art, subdued to bright, flat to textured, serene to mind-blowing...I insisted that Em wrap a birthday present to me in a "super girl" paper and got the shop owner giggling. The walls are filled with greeting cards that you've never seen before...hilarious, simple, sarcastic, graphically astounding, inspirational and just plain beautiful. On a hefty and minimalistic table, of sorts, there is a bevy of boxes filled with more paper delights, journals, notebooks and ribbons, and in the far corner, unique desk accessories and little knick-knacks from around the globe.

Malls need stores like this, frankly. Malls need stores that inspire you, that get your creative juices flowing, and that are owned by local folks who endeavor to bring awesomeness to your hometown. People shouldn't have to travel downtown in order to find places like this, and it honestly makes me incredibly happy to see that a boutique like this can thrive in a malltroplis like Tyson's Corner. As a special treat to all local folks, Paper Cult is have a 30% OFF SALE through July 19th on EVERYTHING (except magazines) and I highly encourage you to get your fannies out there and buy yourself a stationery treat.
Or...and here is my Mister Roger's moment of the day...buy a card to send it to someone with whom you've lost touch. Write a sweet note inside, affix a stamp to the envelope and send double goodness into the universe. Stationery is a multi-fold blessing and letter writing a lost art...merge great design with the two and you have a revolution in the making.

Paper Cult is located on the lower level of Tyson's Corner Center, across from The Limited. Check their blog often for new store updates!
1961 Chain Bridge Rd
McLean, VA 22102
www.shoptysons.com

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bad Blogger: Frustration is not a muse

I'm sure there are some people out there who can fire off an e-mail or a blog post when they're in the thick of anger and frustration and somehow manage to remain coherent, intellectual and thoughtful. Once upon a time, I think I was one of those people (specifically: when I was breaking up with really awful people in romantic and friendship arrangements. Man, I could make people HURT.). Now, not so much. Perhaps there is some small sliver of hope in my old and haggered soul which permits people the opportunity to be saved from my Leonine tempestuous rages. Perhaps I lack confidence in my ability to succinctly and intelligently convey my thoughts and feelings on the page. Perhaps this platform prevents me from engaging in full disclosure, because everyone and anyone can react *with words* to what I'm saying. Nevertheless, I have been very frustrated lately and subsequently have avoided any vulnerability that this blog could provide.

Now I'm sure you're saying, "OH JESUS Meaghan, just post recipes and your favorite Etsy links and stop being so sensitive." After a gesture of kindess and goodwill (note: the gesture is neither kind nor good, mmkay) in your general direction, I will tell you that when I am stuck in a bout of anger, I'm not particularly moved to care about the things that I consider frivolous. Recipe Tuesdays and fun crafty bits are included in that frivolty as I am under no illusions that they sustain my soul in an enduringly satisfying way. I am nothing if not an overthinker and constant analyzer, and despite the gargantuan size of my head, I cannot handle more than one task when the primary focus is giving a shit about other people.

What the hell am I talking about and why am I always writing two paragraph-long introductions? I suppose the psychological explanation is that I'm a disclaimer junkie...in order to not offend anyone, I issue a litany of disclaimers so as to confuse you with my brain warfare and make you nod your head in agreement once I get to the meaty stuff. Right? Oh, no. In all honesty, I'm kind of wimp and coming right out and saying that I didn't apply to Crafty Bastards and that I'm considering ending my relationship with Etsy makes me feel scared. But I did that, and I'm thinking of doing the other and I have some very fundamental and important reasons why. The acknowledgment of privilege, and subsequently the acknowledgment of diversity, is much more important to me than playing the "game" of mainstream/indie crafts and feeling like I belong to the pack.

I've posted a series of mini-diatribes about these topics...diversity, racism, and the general disinterest the crafty movement At Large seems to have in uplifting people who might not fit into the standard mold of "crafter". I think that Etsy and many other crafty machines are willingly and destructively ignoring the ability they have to be not like every other consumeristic and capitalistic machine and do the right thing by the people who might not have the same number of opportunities as other crafters. As it stands, Etsy's membership is 96% female, and I can only assume (with great accuracy, I bet, because I'm good like that) that the majority of that membership demographic is also heterosexual, cisgendered and white. THAT is a problem. As I've said before, feminism doesn't stop with uplifting women. And while there are a lot of women on Etsy and in the craft community, I also don't think it's inherently feminist.

When you operate from the belief that feminism is the fight to end all oppressions, and you also believe (acknowledge?) that all things are political and should be, to some degree, entangled with the fight to erradicate oppression and level out privilege, being a part of the Etsy and craft community is very, very hard. At every turn I do not see positivity and light, I see room for growth and change. The direction I (personally/generally) want things to move in is the place from which all of my energy is derived. In this case, I cannot be tethered to a movement that resolves to stay apolitical, that is systematically being absorbed into the mainstream machine (please read this article from Forbes which notes that Etsy has received [a lot of] money from a Wal-Mart magnate), and also seems ambivalent about supporting the oppressed groups that function within it. In my case, I am a queer person and I generally see very few on the face of Etsy or the craft movement who are out (or comfortable being out) and also I have received little support from Etsy or the craft movement when I point out this reality. While I am not a person of color, I will say that the lack of exposure on Etsy is lacking (severely). Also, the degree to which the white hipster contingent has appropriated fashion, aesthetic and even artistic inspiration is offensive.
Note: Last year, I did receive a batch of buttons and stickers from Etsy for a queer music and arts festival I was co-producing because they seemed to be drawn in by the allure of marketing to gay people. And subsequently, I have been an Etsyvangelist for years because I somehow thought being loved was enough.
Being loved, adored and generally tolerated is not enough. In my specific case, I'm not interested in Etsy or any other facet of the craft community being my fag hag. General technological and programming issues aside, it seems like no matter how hard we try, most of us won't be chosen to be among the Etsy/Craft elite. Daniellexo, Etsy admin, said in a recent Virtual Lab entitled Feature Friendly Tips For Your Shop, "Don't make it a goal of yours to be a featured seller." This further illustrates my suspicion that there is an agenda, if you will, a prescribed method by which Etsy selects its featured sellers and that quite honestly, no matter how hard you try, you might not ever get there. Do you understand how sad and unmotivated that makes me feel? I mean, sure, I could join ArtFire or set up my own selling website, or just sell locally, but I shouldn't have to constantly choose. I shouldn't have to inconvenience myself nor should any other person who has the shoe of oppression smashed in their face constantly have to move on or away from things that perpetually disregard their (our) very real, uh, realities. Don't you get it? This is why oppression is bad...because it doesn't, in the end, help anyone.

Conforming to that persistent uphill climb that Etsy and the craft community establishes for people, and striving to be successful (also "happy", "positive", "optimistic"...as though I am none of these things already) according to their terms, and only really being the recipient of mondo sales and exposure IF I'm on the right page at the right time is EXHAUSTING. And it's also devaluing. Because if we're all artists, to some degree, conforming to the popular machine should be the least of our worries. At this point, I'm considering making it the least of mine.

**While I support an open dialogue on my blog and in my life, the one thing I will not tolerate here is face-fanning offense and insults directed at me from basically anyone, but specifically the white, cisgendered, heterosexual women I have discussed above. Consider the fact that my experience is in many ways radically different than yours. Also, consider that this is my space and that there is a general expectation that you would, at least, take into consideration the fact that I have very carefully constructed my own personal dogma and that devaluing that, in many ways, is akin to taking a crap on my doorstep. Which, as we all know, does nothing to support your perspective in the end.
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