An Open Letter to the Craftivism Movement
I first encountered the craftivist movement after learning to knit so that I could send in hen sweaters for a group in the UK that used them to help keep their abused, featherless rescued hens warm. I was in a new country, isolated and alone. Making things for others while getting to know a foreign culture and learning a new language would become one of my greatest pleasures. However, this wasn’t solely a new concept as charity knitting was something easily found outside the craftivism sphere.
I did have reservations about some aspects of craftivism and especially claims of gently changing the world. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I had fully embraced the concept because I really wanted to believe in a movement that seemed altruistic. It wasn’t until January 2017, that I finally realized what bothered me.
The craftivist movement is one that takes pride in some of the most nonsensical white feminist privileged stances that actually works to silence people of color, like myself, instead of actually doing the work to create real change.
The biggest example? Still flaunting the offensive pink pussy hats and creating badges in its honor despite being told how excluding they are to transpeople and to women of color.
I did bring these issues to the table only to be met with “we must be patient and understand the other side.” And that’s just it. Tone policing and pushing nonviolence rhetoric on oppressed people, like myself, further showed me that the craftivist movement isn’t truly on the side of the oppressed. This rhetoric stems from a place of privilege and further helps the oppressors oppress.
(…and making money from my and other PoC’s or anyone’s oppression?Unacceptable.)
What I can say is that the craftivist movement fails to recognize its privilege and uses it to take actions that don’t truly accomplish anything. It kind of reminds me of Tina Fey’s failed sheetcake skit. Instead of cake, y’all have yarn and needles.
Search for a pussy hat post on Instagram and you will find white craftivists around the world using tags like #fuckTrump #fuckwhitesupremacy #charlottesville etc…and I find this incredibly frustrating and a further sign of the privilege behind the movement because oppression and white supremacy did not start with Trump and isn’t a USA only issue. The oppression of indigenous and aboriginal communities are very much real and still present issues in Canada and Australia as is systemic oppression of all nonwhite people. The same goes to Europe, including the UK, where its past relationship to colonialism helped spread white supremacy across the world. Yet, here you are still with your pussy hats and embroidering “have a nice day!” squares as the most radical actions you can make. And these efforts would be all good and well if you were actually making a difference and putting in the work to fight oppression in your communities and yourselves. However, that’s not the case (well, unless you are creating useful things that are needed by the oppressed). And single issue advocacy without having a concept of the whole story just doesn’t work — neither does not being inclusive of all human and nonhuman oppression.
As a woman of color, I’d like the craftivist movement to have a dialogue about what it wants to be and how it can truly change things for the oppressed without hiding behind empty and self-congratulatory actions, such as the creation of symbols that don’t really change anything.
This movement could be so much more. I know most of you are coming from a good place and simply need to listen and understand.
However, it’s your call.
And I hope you take note because I won’t invest anymore emotional energy to help direct you unless you are paying me for my time to educate you since I am a person of color and have given you free labor several times before. I can only approach you so many times before burning out.
And No, craftivista. Pussy hats (described by people of color as peak white feminism) wouldn’t still be in my face constantly if you had actually spoken about them as you should have — as failed and a terrible example of any activism.
There are no “all sides” or “different sides.” There’s only the side where you are actually listening and taking concrete actions under the leadership of marginalized groups or not.
When a person of color calls you out on the problems in your movement, you don’t justify the problems. You self-crit and think about why the movement and your actions are being called out as failing people of color. It’s not about coming from all sides. It’s about actually using our time and energy efficiently instead of following up with empty actions and symbols that really don’t do anything. It’s about LISTENING to the oppressed instead of telling US what we need or what we should tolerate.
Otherwise, you are part of the problem.