Thursday, November 29, 2012

If you read this rant about Michelle Obama & crafting, there are links to cute pictures of Bo, I promise.

Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama had some military families to the White House, unveiled the holiday decorations (Bo ornaments!), and did some crafts with the kids. Nice, right? Fun? Cheery? Probably something those kids will remember for a long, long time? Apparently not. Commentary immediately started circulating on social media decrying this crafting as anti-feminist, saying it was "depressing" to see these pictures because the First Lady went to Harvard.

So. Oh. This again. For the millionth time: Crafting - or cooking, or breastfeeding, or whatever - is only anti-feminist if you are accepting as an underlying premise that activities viewed as traditionally female-dominated* are intrinsically worth less (or worthless) to begin with. That is the only way that this "it's sad to see a Harvard-educated woman making ornaments" thing is coherent at all, and saying "smart women should only do things traditionally seen as male" is far less feminist than making some ornaments with some kids. And don't say that you'd protest any Harvard-educated person spending time on something outside of their field, because a) That's completely ridiculous. Everyone does something on their down time, and b) I have never, EVER heard ANYONE say it was sad to see Ivy League-educated men spending time watching sports. And you don't even have a fun ornament at the end of that.**

Now, if the complaint is that the First Lady is pressured into maintaining a traditionally feminine image for political reasons - THAT's something worth discussing. That may well be happening, in general, but this isn't even necessarily a good example, because all sorts of people do things outside of their wheelhouses for the benefit of children (and not just parents or women - think of Tom Hanks in that street fair scene in You've Got Mail, say), and any polite person who invites guests to his house will likely spend some time in non-ideal activities in order to ensure that those guests enjoy themselves. That's just basic courtesy.

Did the First Lady enjoy her crafting? I have no idea. Should it be a Big Thing that the First Lady does children's activities at an event for children? I don't think so. Is it anti-feminist to expect political wives to fit one specific, traditional mold? Absolutely. Is it anti-feminist for any well-educated woman to enjoy crafting or cooking or whatever hobby she wants? Absolutely not. Now look, here's Bo checking out the Christmas tree.

* Even if they really aren't - knitting, say, was an all-male thing in certain places at certain times - I think we can agree that they are commonly seen that way now.

** I kid! I have nothing against watching sports. I just don't like the way some people claim crafting isn't "productive," when you END UP PRODUCING A THING. But hobbies shouldn't HAVE to be productive. Obviously.


  1. Hey Kate, great post. I didn't know this was a thing, and I hate to play a political card, but I once told my mother that if President Obama where in our living room and sneezed, no doubt she would feel he did that wrong too. Although this is quite a stretch and I can't really imagine how people could be critical of someone's choice of hobbies, I think it may just be one of those things where a certain portion of the country is going to dislike Michelle Obama because of the political party her husband chose. It is nothing that she is doing wrong per se, other than breathing while a Democrat. Although this particular attack is odd, because it more seems to be coming from some sort of leftist elite feminist contingent. Anyway just a few thoughts that don't necessarily mesh. Good blog.

  2. Kate, you can't see me, but I am currently giving this blog post a standing ovation.

  3. Kate, this is a great post you've contributed to the discussion surrounding Michelle Obama and the crafting thing.

  4. Yes, all of this. Taking the critics at face value, for a minute, tho, I'd love to ask at what rank of alma mater is crafting ok? Just to establish the scale. :)