In college I took a class called Sociology of the Arts. After a semester’s worth of learning how sociological trends influence art, it led me to write a final paper on knitting and it’s renewed popularity among young women (and sometimes-though less frequently– young men). It was a novelty back in 2007 that hip ladies in their 20’s and 30’s were starting to knit again when it was still largely considered something grandmas did when they were expecting new additions to the family. This was way before the advent of the crafty hipster, and maybe the beginnings of the movement towards its creation. After reading the (somewhat surprisingly) substantial body of literature available on the subject, I came up with three main established theories about why knitting and crafts of that kind were becoming more popular. Number 1, in a post-911 world of danger and instability, people turn back to traditional activities as comfort from the threats of modernity. You could sub in unstable economy, or the current event of your choice, and this argument is still applicable. The second linked body of theory supposed that in the face of this instability, there is a return to the traditional roles of the past (including gender roles) in which women care for the home and family. Third, it was a taking charge of a traditionally female thing, and making it subversive and edgy instead of tame and ladylike. This was in response to the sudden abundance of skull crochet patterns and kits for making your own knitted bikini tops rather than the typical baby clothes and pastel shawls of yore.
Then finally another group of researchers supposed that modern post-feminism allowed young ladies the freedom to engage in activities traditionally associated with female roles without fear of being labeled anti-women. Simply put, after the feminist movement, women didn’t have to prove they were equal to men by entering into traditionally male spheres like the upper echelons of the workplace. They could instead follow their interests and do what makes them happy (even if it was a traditionally feminine activity). While some will always say any activity that reinforces traditional gender expectations is bad, I just don’t see the same scrutiny applied to men who enter traditionally gendered occupations or hobbies because they like them (hello professional athletes?).
This article on The Daily Beast got me thinking about these sociological trends all over again in the context of small businesses popping up pedaling handmade goods. While some will always say it’s due to women’s preference to be in the home, and love of homemaking activities to me, it looks more like enterprising people who choose to take a difficult road to do what they love when the alternative isn’t making them happy. If this happens to coincide with a craft that gives them more time for their families, and may be a gendered activity, so what?
What do you think about the crafty hipster trend?
p.s. if you happen to be a crafty hipster, the cross stitch pattern pictured is available for purchase here!