Stop Shaming Handmaking As Lesser Work

I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism lately.

It’s become quite a loaded word in our society, hasn’t it? It feels fierce and fiery the moment you utter it from your lips.

Although it’s definition is pure — stating that women should have the same rights as men — it’s emotional meaning brings up all sorts of discomfort in the greater collective around power and what it means to be a woman today and where we fit in the fabric of our communities.

My mother’s generation was one of revolution.

They grew up watching their mothers feel forced to assimilate into the role of 1950s housewives to accommodate their post-war husbands (even though many of them were the ones that worked on the factory line to keep the economy moving), and resolved to never feel pigeonholed into a disempowered role of less-than wife ever again.

So they took on the patriarchy with such ferocity and demanded equality in every form. And, in the process of all that, a confusing gray area was formed — one of viewing men as evil oppressors while also believing that the only way to be successful and seen as truly equal was to be fully in the masculine.

…meanwhile the soft, embracing, wild feminine was sitting on the sidelines wondering when someone would remember that she was there.

Note: I’m somewhat generalizing here, but this has been the overall trend I’ve witnessed in my own lineage.

Let me also just clarify here that when I speak of the masculine and feminine, I’m not referring to specific genders. I talk more about that in this post.

I believe that, when we remember the creative wisdom of our great grandmothers and work with our hands to make beautiful things, we are reclaiming the feminine back in our lives and balancing the strong masculine that so many of us have been programmed to embrace and lean into to live a “successful life”.

That was my experience 5 years ago when I started working with herbs and cooking more in the kitchen — it opened up my awareness of this other side of life I had previously rejected and I felt more connected to the women of my lineage who used to bake bread together and forage and dry herbs and make medicines for their communities.

It felt good.

But I also felt some shame.

Shame that I was being drawn to becoming a homemaker or artist or someone who didn’t value intellect as highly. I was looking at hand-making as the lesser work.

And when I left my job as a successful marketing manager to pursue my creative passion of working with my hands, I worked diligently to re-wire that part of my brain that thought those things. Because, deep down, I knew the truth — that this was my path to coming back into balance. What I was doing was so much more than crafting out of boredom or to avoid the hard work that makes you worthy of male praise (and male pay).

This was feminine ancestral artistry.

Today, the belief that creating with your hands and knowing how to nourish yourself and your community doesn’t make you powerful seems crazy to me.

The other day, I was having this conversation with my friend (and podcast co-host) Maia and she told me about her European travels and being around old Italian women — ruling from the kitchen with a wooden spoon. “You wouldn’t call those women weak,” she said. “They are powerful — just as much as those sitting at the table in a boardroom.”

Women have been isolated.

We’ve been put into our own homes and taught to avoid appearing vulnerable or un-polished in front of each other. As a result, we’ve forgotten our communal, hand-making ways.

When we come together to do our handwork in community and remember that we are sisters, we heal and knit the fabric of our community even tighter.

It is then that we realize just how powerful we really are.

I want to be clear that I am, in no way, shaming you for your chosen career path — be it stay at home mom, CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or part time barista/part time artist. I celebrate being alive in an era where we women have so much choice in who we want to be and the many career paths we can take in life.

I just don’t want anyone telling you that working with your hands in community with women makes you weak. Because that’s some Grade A Bullsh*t.

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