Why I Am a Maker
The readings and videos for this week were all interesting, but the one that caught my attention the most was “Why I Am Not a Maker” by Debbie Chachra. The first time I read it through, I believed that she had made a pretty good argument. Reading it again, however, helped me find several holes in her claim. I thought of her argument in terms of yarn graffiti and realized it did have flaws.
“It’s not, of course, that there’s anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff).”
I don’t fully agree with Chachra here. From an environmental perspective, yes, thrifting and minimizing garbage is good. Buying stuff you don’t need and wasting stuff that you bought is bad.
But sometimes stuff must be made, and sometimes everyone must make something in order to change ways that people “teach, criticize, and take care of others.”
Sometimes darts of stuff need to be thrown into the over-stuffed dartboard that is the world today because there will still be some darts that hit bull’s eye and change the way we think.
What about the “makers” of the #MeToo movement? According to Chachra’s logic, these people just made stuff. They didn’t “teach, criticize, or take care of others” by manufacturing their posts because manufacturing implies making. Yet, every person who participated in the #MeToo movement did “teach, criticize, or take care of others” by spreading awareness across the Internet about sexual violence. They didn’t just “make stuff” but created a lasting message, one so powerful that “The Silence Breakers” became TIME’s Person of the Year.
This cover featured all women, including a musician, a strawberry picker, and a hospital worker, which brings me to my next point:
The strict divide of masculine and feminine, and maker and caregiver
When Chachra genders creation as being masculine and caring as being feminine, that makes sense in an unfortunately ingrained, outdated, and traditional sense. But when she claims that the act of making can’t be the act of criticism, the act of caring, or the act of teaching, I believe she is wrong.
Take the act of knitting or crocheting: the task to this day is gendered as a feminine and widely considered domestic. Traditionally, women were expected to stay silent and keep busy doing housework while the men went to work, because what was better than having a quiet women who would stay out of trouble by knitting sweater for your fourth son to keep warm? Or teaching her daughter the act, so she too would keep quiet?
“Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system.”
As time went on, these makers wouldn’t stand to have this task gendered. No, they took their creations out of the home and onto the street, where in some ways they were more bright and more prominent than those architectural achievements allegedly all designed by men.
They didn’t deny the title of ‘maker’ because of its masculine connotations; they reclaimed it as their own act to criticize (something that makers apparently don’t do) the gendered role crocheting and knitting implied. If this wasn’t a rebel movement, then I don’t know what is.
“Describing oneself as a maker . . . is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.”
Then Chachra goes on about money for a few paragraphs, condemning makers for producing more income than non-makers. Okay, but don’t people who ‘make’ food at McDonalds get paid minimum wage?
Again, I believe she’s thinking too broadly. Yarn graffiti artists make zero profit from their works (actually, they lose money on materials and time). Other makers can claim the same: failed novelists and musicians who perform for nothing on street corners.
Meanwhile, work that requires caring almost always pays. I mean, don’t babysitters get paid exorbitant amounts of money? Doesn’t every kind of tutor and teacher ask for a sum? And I’m guessing that Chachra made some money off of her critical article she wrote for The Atlantic.
I don’t dismiss her argument that in the workplace, women are seen as less. But female makers continue to make impactful products, whether they’re a chef, a novelist, an architect, or a yarn bomber.
While I fully agree with her that a stereotype remains around makers being better than caregivers, teachers, etc. she is thinking too narrowly, maybe even as narrowly as the people who value makers over others.
Lastly, she does not make a point of mentioning any overlap, or someone who is both a maker and a caregiver. I believe there are people who are both.
Chachra, Debbie. “Why I Am Not a Maker.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 23 Jan. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/.